The Christian Reformed Church in North America has two governance structures. One deals with ecclesiastical matters such as doctrine, ethical issues, and church life and practice. The second is in place to govern the ministries undertaken jointly by CRC congregations.
The ecclesiastical structure involves the church assemblies: the council (local assembly of the elders, deacons and minister(s) of a congregation), the classis (regional assembly), and the synod (bi-national [Canada and U.S.A.] assembly).
The ecclesiastical structure is as follows:
Council — Classis — Synod
Note: We speak of our major assemblies as broader, not higher, assemblies. Therefore, the grid is horizontal, not vertical.
A classis is a group of churches within a geographical area that comes together to seek, discern, and submit to God's will, offer one another mutual support and accountability, find ways to live out a collective calling in the region, and allow for a healthy and sustained connection to the wider denomination.
A classis has the authority to deal with matters that concern its churches in common and its decisions are binding on the churches in its region. A minister, elder, and deacon from each congregation are delegated to attend each classis meeting.
View a list of all classes.
The synod of the CRC represents the churches of all the classes. Synod meets annually in June with 196 delegates: one minister, one elder, one deacon, and one other officebearer from each classis. The tasks of synod include responsibility for creeds, the Church Order, liturgical forms, hymnals, principles of worship, and moral/ethical positions.
Synod also provides general oversight for the ministries undertaken jointly by CRC churches. These include educational institutions, a broadcast ministry, world and domestic mission agencies, a world relief agency and a publication ministry, as well as pastoral ministries such as chaplaincy, disability concerns, pastor-church resources, race relations, safe church, and social justice and world hunger concerns.
Visit crcna.org/synod for news and information from the annual synod.
Although the synod maintains general oversight of CRC ministries, it has created a system of boards to govern individual ministries and agencies, or educational institutions. Currently there are three boards, each governing a different ministry, with authority to make the necessary decisions for the respective ministry.
In addition to these three, another board has been established with the authority to supervise the management of the agencies and committees established by synod, including the planning, coordinating, and integrating of their work. This board is known as the Council of Delegates of the Christian Reformed Church in North America. It operates as an agent of synod and reports yearly to synod on its work.