The Christian Reformed Church in North America is a denomination made up of people and congregations across the United States and Canada. It is governed by an annual assembly that includes representatives from a classis—regional groupings of the congregations. This annual meeting is called synod and is a time of worship, prayerful discernment, discussion, and decision-making.
Each synod is made up of 196 delegates: one minister, one elder, one deacon, and one other officebearer from each classis. Sometimes, individuals have expressed apprehension toward allowing their name to be considered by their classis as a delegate to synod. We hope that what follows can answer questions you may have, alleviate worries, and provide you with a clear overview of what to expect at synod so that you can prayerfully consider this important and oftentimes rewarding opportunity!
Why should I serve as a delegate?
There are many benefits to participating as a synod delegate. First, synod is the church—when synod delegates come together, the church comes together. It is a blessing to be a part of this. Second, delegates are given the opportunity to hear and experience the joys and the excitement of ministry in the Christian Reformed Church. Third, the work of synod impacts the future of the church—our denomination. The decisions that you make, the things that you bring to the table, the ideas that you share will have an impact on the future of our church.
What is the time commitment and cost involved?
Delegates receive the Agenda for Synod (option for print or digital) in late April and are asked to complete their registration so that we can plan for their participation. Because delegates are assigned to an advisory committee that is responsible to review a particular portion of synod’s agenda, delegates should focus on reading materials for their advisory committee work prior to arrival at synod. This may take several hours. In addition, delegates are asked to listen to a series of orientation segments prior to synod. These orientation materials help to prepare delegates so that they know what to expect from their time at synod. Synod 2022 will include virtual meetings for prayer and how to participate in challenging conversations, in addition to a virtual convening session (May 25) and advisory committee introductions. Delegates should plan to attend all of these virtual sessions. Synod meets in person for a full week (Friday though the following Thursday) in June. The Synodical Services Office covers the cost of travel, lodging, and meals during synod.
What is the unique synod schedule in 2022?
Because synod has not met since 2019 due to COVID-19, we anticipate a very full agenda. This prompted a decision by the Council of Delegates (functioning in the interim of synod) to add virtual aspects to Synod 2022. Delegates and advisers to synod are strongly encouraged to participate in the following virtual gatherings/meetings, especially the Convening Session on May 25, and the Advisory Committees on June 1 and 2:
Wednesday, May 25; 6:00 - 9:00 p.m. Eastern – Convening Session of Synod, including election of officers, adoption of Program Committee Report
Wednesday, June 1; 7:00 - 9:00 p.m. Eastern – Advisory Committee meetings for introductions and prayer
Thursday, June 2; 7:00 - 9:00 p.m. Eastern – Advisory Committee meetings for further planning
In person synod Friday, June 10 through the afternoon of Thursday, June 16, on the campus of Calvin University
Synod 2022 carries unusual weight. The Council of Delegates has approved set times for listening to the Lord and one another. Synod will begin with a virtual prayer meeting for all delegates on March 30, and on April 27 and May 11 times have been scheduled for continued prayer and listening to the Spirit's leading. Our prayer is that these special times of prayer and listening will build up the body to be guided by the mind and character of Christ (Phil. 2: 5-11).
All delegates will participate in orientations virtually before synod begins, including technical training on voting and use of the speaker queue. The advisory committees will meet virtually for introductions, prayer and planning only—decisions and consideration of the reports will take place in person on the Friday and Saturday, June 10-11. Sunday is reserved for the Synodical Worship Service and learning through receiving reports from our ecumenical guests, as well as the third session of the Challenging Conversations Group Engagement. Synod meets in plenary session (all delegates and advisers) all day Monday and the following days until adjournment on Thursday afternoon. During these plenary sessions, delegates hear the reports of advisory committees and deliberate on the recommendations presented to the assembly.
The officers of the previous year’s synod (Program Committee) appoint each of the delegates to an advisory committee (approx. 20-22 members ea.) to address a specific section of synod’s agenda. The officers also appoint a chair and reporter (normally experienced delegates) to the advisory committees, who lead the meeting and record the recommendations of the committee. The reporter presents these recommendations to the full assembly for consideration by way of the “advisory committee report.” Examples of advisory committees include Synodical Services, Education and Candidacy, Congregational Ministries, and Financial Matters.
What are “rules of order?”
Synod conducts itself using an agreed upon set of rules of order to help ensure a smooth flow to the discussions of the business at hand. The “Rules for Synodical Procedure” (found at crcna.org/SynodResources) provide definition and explanation of rules of order such as main motion, motion to amend, motion to defer, calling the question, and so forth. While it is helpful to review these rules before you attend synod, please know that there are others who will also be unfamiliar with these procedural rules. You’ll learn more about the rules during the orientation before synod begins. In addition, you will find many gracious people in your committees and around your table in plenary sessions who can answer questions and assist you throughout the week.
Do I need to be computer savvy?
Every synod attendee should have some basic comfort with computers. Delegates are expected to participate through the “Synod Site,” including marking themselves present for roll call, voting, and using a speaker queue. If this sounds intimidating, have no fear . . . our tech staff is near! Not only do we have well qualified staff to assist you well before your arrival at synod, we offer “loaner” devices during synod—you don’t need to have your own device to be delegated to synod. Upon arrival at synod, our IT staff will take the time to sit with you and teach you how to start up the device, save quick links for easy use, and ensure your comfort with the device before synod meetings. With that said, in this unique synod year with some virtual sessions in advance of June, it will be very helpful for delegates to have access to a library, church, or family member’s computer/Wi-Fi leading up to synod.
What if I am new on council or don’t have a lot of experience attending classis meetings?
This is totally ok. If you have a love for the Christian Reformed Church and its ministry, you’ll be in excellent company! Attending synod will further awaken your passion for the church. There is business to attend to during synod—addressed first within advisory committees (each delegate participates on a committee), then presented to the full body of synod for consideration and many times decision. Synod and its officers are guided by the “Rules for Synodical Procedure” (described above in “rules of order”), providing means for order in how it conducts its meetings. Your delegate orientation will provide explanation of the various rules prior to synod.
What is a typical “pre-synod” timeline?
Note: A special schedule was adopted for Synod 2022 in anticipation of a weighty agenda due to deferred agenda matters from 2020 and 2021 (refer to crcna.org/synod for dates to reserve in the calendar).
January – March
• During their winter meetings, classes appoint delegates to synod
• Synod Credentials and Delegate Information forms due
• Initial “Welcome” email is sent from Synodical Services Office in early April
• Email sent regarding access to Synod Site
• Agenda for Synod available mid-April
• Program Committee meets mid-April to make assignments to the advisory committees
• Important synod information is posted to the Synod Site mid-April for delegate response
• Review Program Committee Report (contains delegate assignments to advisory committees and materials assigned)
• Plan travel (refer to Travel Guidelines before booking flights)
• Complete delegate and adviser to synod registration form (due by mid-May)
• Submit nominations for synod officers
• Watch/listen to synod orientation series
• Log-in to Synod Site by end of April
• Delegate and Adviser registration and nominations for synod officers due mid-May
• In 2022 – Synod convenes virtually, including initial advisory committee meetings
• Synod gathers in person
What if I’m appointed as the alternate delegate?
Alternate synod delegates should "be at the ready" in the event that the regular delegate is unable to attend the meetings of synod (with the approval of the synodical services office or the officers of synod after elected). Prior to synod, if a delegate realizes they are unable to attend synod, they communicate with their stated clerk of classis, who contacts the Synodical Services Office. We take into consideration feasibility for the alternate to attend (timing, cost of flights, etc.). The alternate is contacted with the request to attend if applicable and provided with all the necessary information for the meeting.
An alternate would serve the advisory committee that the regular delegate had been assigned to if the regular delegate is unable to attend the advisory committee meetings. An alternate serving in place of the regular delegate votes both in the advisory committee and in the plenary sessions.
Alternate delegates should familiarize themselves with the synod agenda materials when they are posted to www.crcna.org/synodresources to be prepared in the event they are asked to serve - which at times can be just days before the meeting.
What advice would former synod delegates give to first-time delegates?
Don't be afraid to ask questions about what's going on. Synod is very procedural and runs by a specific set of rules, so if you're feeling confused, there's a 100% chance that someone else is also confused and is afraid to ask for clarification. Speak up for their sake! —John. M.
Pray a lot!
The place to help shape what is done is in your committee meeting, and those start on Day 1. Come prepared to offer your input.
It’s a deliberative body, not a political contest. Come with an open mind, a listening ear, and an understanding heart.
At meal times, eat with strangers.
If you are reticent to offer an idea, just blurt it out. If you can’t wait to share your idea, keep it to yourself.
Rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn.
Pack a large towel!
Have a cool ringtone for those embarrassing moments when you forget to silence your phone. —Rod H.
Ask your church to pray for you. Come to Synod ready to listen. Pray. —Sheri B.
Read. Watch. Listen. Think. Pray. Speak.
Read as much as you can from the agenda and other denominational material to learn about present and past decisions.
Watch as much as you can. Body language. Movement within the body of delegates. It speaks volumes about what they are feeling.
Listen to words and emotions. To arguments and hopes. Passions and desires.
Think about what is said and acted.
Pray for the Holy Spirit to move powerfully. For God's will to be done. For love to flow. For unity.
Only after all this should you speak. —Richard B.
Read the whole agenda and speak up/ask questions during advisory committee sessions. That is where you will have the greatest impact. —Roger S.
Prepare! As much as you can, familiarize yourself with much of the Agenda before synod. —Doug M. and Scott G.
Read the Agenda, celebrate what God is doing among us, and as you encounter things among us that you're less thankful for: pray for God's grace to love His church--your church--our church--deeply and well. Then, take a deep breath and squint harder to see how God might just be moving among us anyway (as well as how the Spirit might be lovingly calling us to change)! But do remember: your fellow brothers and sisters in Christ (including agency staff, "the denomination," and people you deeply disagree with) are not the enemy. By God's reconciling work in Jesus Christ, we're all in this thing together! —Anthony E.
Read ahead of time - do your homework and ask lots of questions before you arrive - and watch the orientation videos - they are really helpful! And pray . . . for wisdom, humility and surrender. —Elizabeth V.
In our fast changing world and in dedicating yourself to Jesus, try to have fewer fixed expectations and be truly open minded and hearted to listen not just for views and perspectives that you are comfortable with, but for promptings of Holy Spirit, Scriptures, sisters and brothers that could be calling you to change your mind, your thinking and your previous devotions. —John T.
Read the materials carefully, including the orientation materials and Rules for Synod before you arrive at Synod. —George M.