The Christian Reformed Church in North America is an ecclesiastical body that includes a collection of charitable organizations in both the United States and Canada. The denomination also has three assemblies as recognized by its Church Order: council, classis, and synod.
Local church councils delegate authority to classes to make decisions for a regional group of churches, and classes delegate authority to synod—the broadest assembly—to make decisions for all the classes and churches in the denomination, but those decisions vary greatly in “their extent of jurisdiction, in their nature of authority, in their distinction of purposes, in the measure of agreement expected, and in their use and function.” When synod is not in session, the Council of Delegates (COD)—a body comprised of representatives from each of 49 classes (regions) of the church—functions in the interim of synod to provide governance by means of the authority delegated to it by synod, addressing any matters that cannot wait until the next synod or to carry out any decisions as assigned by synod.
There are two important dimensions of governance: church ministry discernment and legal corporate governance and decision making. An important role for the COD is to develop a culture, practice, and expectation of actively discerning God’s mission, primarily in the U.S. and Canadian context, and also in the North American context. The denomination and its governing boards must respect and implement to the highest standard U.S. and Canadian laws regarding corporate governance and decision making, respectively, for the U.S. Corporations and the Canada Corporations.
As a group of charitable organizations, the ministries of the CRCNA within each country are governed by the following corporate boards: the CRCNA Canada Corporation, the CRCNA U.S. Corporation, the ReFrame Ministries Canada Corporation, and the ReFrame Ministries U.S. Corporation. In addition, the ministries of Calvin Theological Seminary, Calvin University, and World Renew are governed by their respective boards of directors.
The purpose of the COD is to provide ecclesiastical governance in the interim of synod. That includes doing the work delegated to it by synod, providing ecclesiastical oversight to the agencies and ministries of the CRCNA (e.g. ReFrame Ministries, Resonate Global Mission, and Congregational Ministries) with regard to their synodical mandates and their contributions to the ministry plan of the CRCNA, and developing a collaborative, congregational-centered culture in leadership and governance.
The COD also cooperates with the educational institutions affiliated with the denomination and World Renew as well as other CRCNA boards toward integrating the respective missions of those institutions and functions into the denominational ministry plan (Our Journey), bringing their reports and any recommended actions to synod via the COD.
Across both countries, the ecclesiastical matters of the CRCNA, such as doctrine, ethical issues, and church life, are governed by an ecclesiastical structure that includes local church councils, regional classes, and a denomination-wide synod.