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For full reports and exact statements of the CRCNA position on a particular issue, see references provided below.


Mark 10:35-45 displays two very different approaches to the use of power. The disciples are exposed as being power hungry and vulnerable to a worldly expression of power. Jesus intervened by clarifying that a worldly view of power “lord[s] it over” those whom it influences. Jesus proclaimed, “Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant” (v. 43). Jesus displays that power and influence are not negative in themselves but are a gift of God for good. However, Jesus also insists that a misuse of power is not acceptable for leaders in his kingdom. Rather, he demands that they lead as humble servants for the glory of God and the thriving of others. After all, they follow the one who “did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (v. 45).

All of us who are united to Christ by faith and who serve in the life of the church are called, in this passage and others (Phil. 2:1-10), to this way of being. Jesus himself, in response to the desire for power expressed by his disciples, called them (and us) to use power to bring glory to God and serve people—a way of holding power that confronts and contrasts with the ways that the world uses power.

Not only do we have this call from Christ, but we actually have Jesus living and growing within us (Gal. 2:20). As a result, we find ourselves being transformed into the kind of people who hold and use power in a Christlike way.

That being said, until Christ returns and brings us to perfection, we will continue to wrestle with the urge to misuse power and abuse others. Ugly realities such as verbal, emotional, psychological, physical, sexual, and spiritual abuse are found among us. The power that we hold by virtue of our person or our position can always be twisted into the project of building up ourselves and our own kingdoms at the expense of others. This is true for pastors, lay ministry leaders, and church members alike.

In awareness of these ugly realities and in the beautiful hope of Christ’s transforming work, a code of conduct is offered for ministry leaders. It is shaped by Scripture and by commitments found in our confessional statements and contemporary testimonies. (See Belgic Confession, Article 28; Heidelberg Catechism, Q&A’s 55, 107, 111.) It emerges out of a response by Synod 2018 to patterns of abuse that had been brought to its attention and is aimed at preventing such abuse in the future. May God’s peace be among us. (See Acts of Synod 2023, p. 1000.)

See also Abuse.


In response to an overture asking synod to address issues related to abuse of power by church leaders, Synod 2018 reaffirmed actions by Synods 2010 and 2014 on abuse awareness and called for annual reporting to identify classes and congregations with and without Safe Church teams and policies. Synod lamented “the ongoing failure of some classes and congregations to implement safe church practices” and urged all classes and congregations “to learn from the best practices of others and to utilize the resources available through Safe Church Ministry” (Acts of Synod 2018, pp. 474-76). In addition, synod called for a team to bring recommendations to Synod 2019 “regarding how the CRCNA can best address patterns of abuse of power at all levels of the denomination” (Acts of Synod 2018, pp. 523-24). In response, Synod 2019 called for several measures toward creating a culture that prevents abuse of power. Such a culture would affirm the core values of (1) mutual respect for all persons as created in God’s image and responsible to use their gifts in building up the church, (2) servant leadership that emphasizes mutual submission in honor of Christ, and (3) mutual accountability through checks and balances built into governing structures. Synod 2019 called on the Council of Delegates to develop training for pastors on abuse of power, to draft a code of conduct and review abuse-prevention training for CRC ministry staff, to strengthen Safe Church Ministry, and to develop a policy regarding nondisclosure agreements that limits their use to serve the best interests of abuse victims. Among other recommendations, synod also urged classes and congregations to conduct abuse-of-power training and to ensure that abuse survivors have access to appropriate counseling services (Acts of Synod 2019, pp. 794-99).

Meeting on behalf of synod in June 2020, the Council of Delegates endorsed a proposed program and timeline for abuse-of-power training for all ordained ministers of the Word, commissioned pastors, and candidates for ministry in the CRCNA (Minutes of the Special Meeting of the Council of Delegates 2020, p. 423). In June 2021 while again meeting on behalf of synod, the Council of Delegates adopted a code of conduct for ministry leaders and a report completed by the Abuse of Power Ad Hoc Committee, including recommendations for updating abuse-prevention training and policies for CRC ministry staff, for improving the appeal process regarding complaints, for the use of restorative justice practices as additional support, for evaluating conflict of interest or bias, and for developing a Dignity Team. In 2021 the COD also noted the completion of Synod 2019 directives regarding nondisclosure agreements, abuse-prevention resources for culturally diverse churches, recordkeeping, and implementation and monitoring (Minutes of the Special Meeting of the Council of Delegates 2021, pp. 633-37). When synod convened again in 2022, it adopted proposed revisions to the following Church Order Supplements in order to improve the appeal process: Supplement, Article 42-b, section b; Supplement, Article 30-a, sections A, 3 and B, 8 (Acts of Synod 2022, pp. 851-53). Synod 2022 also directed that an implementation plan for the Code of Conduct for Ministry Leaders, including a proposed amendment to the Code of Conduct, be forwarded “to the classes for study and input, and that these be revised in light of feedback received for consideration by Synod 2023” (Acts of Synod 2022, pp. 931-32). In 2023 synod adopted a revision of the Code of Conduct for Ministry Leaders and Frequently Asked Questions that were deemed helpful to churches and leaders in understanding the Code of Conduct. Synod 2023 also proposed changes to Church Order Supplement, Article 13-c, section c for adoption by Synod 2024.

References to Agendas and Acts of Synod

Agenda for Synod 2010, pp. 475-509, 707-708, 717
Acts of Synod 2010, pp. 862-67, 870
Agenda for Synod 2014, pp. 30, 72-84, 237
Acts of Synod 2014, pp. 559-60, 569-70
Agenda for Synod 2018, pp. 282-307
Acts of Synod 2018, pp. 474-76, 523-24
Agenda for Synod 2019, pp. 554-57, 587-615
Acts of Synod 2019, pp. 794-99
Agenda for Synod 2020, pp. 25-26, 40
Minutes of the Special Meeting of the Council of Delegates 2020, pp. 345-46, 371-74, 423
Deferred Agenda for Synod 2020, pp. 113-16
Agenda for Synod 2021, pp. 29-31, 44-71
Minutes of the Special Meeting of the Council of Delegates 2021, pp. 633-37
Agenda for Synod 2022, pp. 41-42, 52-56, 83-90
Acts of Synod 2022, pp. 707, 715-17, 739-53, 851-53, 898-904, 931-32
Agenda for Synod 2023, pp. 54-71
Acts of Synod 2023, pp. 998-1002