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A commentator suggested that for younger Quebecers sovereignty is not the burning issue it had been for a previous generation. Could the same be said about the CRC?
April 15, 2014 0 2 comments
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In a classical discussion the people arguing against a proposed classical staff position pointed out that churches already have lots of resources available to them. Now, there is one less resource for congregations to access.
April 1, 2014 0 1 comments
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A phone call asking what to do with “papers” raises questions about the nature of church membership a highly mobile society where people move from country to country and church to church.
March 18, 2014 1 1 comments
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One of the recommendations in last year’s Diakonia: Remixed report was that the Christian Reformed Church allow for longer, more flexible terms of service for elders and deacons. I recently discovered that the Presbyterian Church in Canada had taken a step in the opposite direction.
February 25, 2014 2 2 comments
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I can hardly remember seeing or hearing a church visit report that was anything less than glowing.  Does this reflect the questions visitors ask?  Do we only find what we are looking for?
February 18, 2014 0 0 comments
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Classis was postponed because of a winter storm warning.  When a meeting is postponed we begin to wonder whether meeting is even necessary. 
February 4, 2014 0 0 comments
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Maybe it was just January, but we were weary and the churches we served felt the same.  What can classes can do to help weary churches, and what resources do classes need to do this?   
January 28, 2014 0 0 comments
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I have only served as a church visitor once so I cannot claim any deep insight into the position.  However, for most of my term I wondered whether classis really cared whether or not visits were made.  
January 21, 2014 0 1 comments
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The role of a classical counsellor is simply to see that “ecclesiastical regulations have been observed” in the calling of a minister. Is something more needed in a time when the relationship between congregation and pastor is a cause for concern? 
January 14, 2014 0 2 comments
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If a person is willing to lie to self, a spouse, a church council, a congregation and to God, why do we expect that person will be honest and transparent in an accountability group?
December 13, 2013 0 2 comments
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The day began with worship, classis has been declared constituted and the chair for the day says, “Okay, let’s turn to item IV, B, 3, e”. You spend the rest of the day flipping pages trying to figure out where you are. Classical agendas are shaped with different goals in mind.  These do not always include user friendliness. 
December 3, 2013 0 0 comments
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At a Council meeting it became clear that most members had little experience with or awareness of classis.  What can classis do to spread the word? 
November 18, 2013 0 0 comments
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When I was ordained into ministry, the assumption was that a call to ministry was a call for life. In the years since then, that assumption has been challenged. 
November 5, 2013 0 3 comments
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On a flight home from classis I wondered why the six churches in our region didn’t meet as a sub-classis from time to time.  To the best of my knowledge this is an idea that is rarely implemented. 
October 25, 2013 0 1 comments
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In 2006 the synod of the Christian Reformed Church changed article 41 of the church order.  To the best of my knowledge there has never been an evaluation to determine whether the revision has proven to be an effective way to encourage mutual accountability and address issues of common concern.
October 17, 2013 0 1 comments
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Classis does many things well, but sometimes there are too many people in the room.
October 11, 2013 0 0 comments
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There is much I like about the shepherding model.  I especially like the emphasis on listening.  I just think that the listening should take place sooner.  
October 2, 2013 0 0 comments
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I told the construction worker that I was a little jealous that my sons got to go to work wearing safety boots and hard hats.  With a knowing grin he said, “The grass is always greener.”  Then he stopped himself and added, “But I wouldn't want to do what you do.”
September 18, 2013 0 2 comments
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The time for fall classis meetings is fast approaching.  In the past I have written about letting go and not speaking too much at meetings.   This time, both for my benefit and for others, I’d like to share some ideas about speaking at a classis meeting. 
September 9, 2013 0 0 comments
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In my experience deputies usually perform their task with the wisdom and decorum that is called for. Not everyone agrees.  
September 3, 2013 0 3 comments
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Churches that tell stories tend to be healthier than those that rely on more traditional means of communication.  How might classes incorporate storytelling into their deliberations?
August 22, 2013 0 0 comments
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He was from a generation that viewed delegation to classis as an honour to be embraced, not an obligation to be avoided.  
August 15, 2013 0 0 comments
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Pastors who experience article 17 lose their worshipping community. We sometimes hear that classis ought to do something. But, can a classis provide pastoral care? 
August 5, 2013 0 4 comments
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People in the stands see things that might not be noticed on the playing field.  But no one is helped by someone yelling from the stands. 
July 29, 2013 0 0 comments
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At synod this summer I could not shake the feeling that some things were not discussed.  Issues of structure and culture, leadership and trends are difficult to address, but an approach for dealing with questions like these can be found in a report that synod took note of without noticing. 
July 16, 2013 0 1 comments

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I believe that ship has sailed some time ago.  Denominational loyalty is virtually irrelevant to young people today.  The comment about seeing what is said and what is done is so true.  This was already hinted at a long, long time ago in a short story by James Schaap.  If memory serves, it was about the worship wars going on in a church where the anger over opinions of right worship flared to the point where one person on the committee hollered, "If I had a dime, I'd quit this committee!"  Whereupon a young person who up until now had sat silently amidst the arguments, stood up and slapped a dime on the table and walked away.

posted in: Referenda

I believe that ship has sailed some time ago.  Denominational loyalty is virtually irrelevant to young people today.  The comment about seeing what is said and what is done is so true.  This was already hinted at a long, long time ago in a short story by James Schaap.  If memory serves, it was about the worship wars going on in a church where the anger over opinions of right worship flared to the point where one person on the committee hollered, "If I had a dime, I'd quit this committee!"  Whereupon a young person who up until now had sat silently amidst the arguments, stood up and slapped a dime on the table and walked away.

posted in: Referenda

Likewise, the same thing can be said for Elders.  The same principles apply to both.

posted in: Revolving Door

Thanks for this post Norm. No matter how we address the issue of terms and need for training for deacons, I think there is a growing consensus that the CRC in general and congregations in particular need to look at how we develop and sustain a more vital and effective diaconate.

Jack Kooyman, Deacon Guide for The Network

posted in: Revolving Door

Do most church councils know these resources exist?

Anyway, the verse chosen for the article title is an argument against the infalliablity of the Bible. Why? It probably represents the best biological science of that day, We now know that dead seeds don't sprout.

 

I agree that "membership papers" may be a thing of a past generation, but the fact is we still have them in the CRC Church Order.  Does anyone have a better approach?  What can be done in such a transient society where denominational ties are weakening and where moving to other communities seems inevitable?  I would doubt the CRC is ready to drop the concept of membership at this point.

posted in: Papers

Thank you for your summary of this book. Some CRC pastors are implementing the seven dynamics of being led by Holy Spirit. They are also facilitating the training.

There is a one day overview, of the 4 day workshop, in Guelph on March 22/14. I am asking a number of people from our church to attend. As one pastor said, "this must be a grassroots initiative and the leadership must be fully invested".

John A. Algera, in his book, "Signs & Wonders - page 97", states, "In reformed circles, an underemphasis on the work and power of Holy Spirit has tradionally existed, along with a fear of any manifestationof Holy Spirit that cannot be controlled or predicted".
As if we could control God.

John, Norman mentioned the Presbyterian Church of Canada. We don't have PCUSA up here. There are several PCA church plants though... to appease the conservative contemporary worship people who don't want to remain CRC nor are they willing to jump to the URC. The Presby Church of Canada operates a differently from the PCUSA and PCA.

Thanks for turning our attention to this challenge/ opportunity again, Norm!  I do believe more and more classes are being proactive about restoring this practice and strengthening it so it really counts for something.  I know of a few who are doing that, and I think some best practices are developing!  I hope we see some good dialog here about what can happen !

posted in: Valuing Visitors

Norman, you do not indicate whether the Presbyterian church was PCUSA or PCA.  I have heard of big differences between them.  That aside, calling a church vacant, when presumably there are several elders likely present, and there is a congregation present, seems presumptuous.  Precisecly because the church is not vacant, but merely has a pastoral vacancy, is why each church needs to determine its own need for a counselor or advisor.  The assumption that the only relationship or significance is between a pastor and a congregation is harmful, and does not recognize that there are significant relationships between various parts of the congregation, as well as between members and elders, and deacons, etc.  It is not as simple as you make it sound.  An overbearing counselor or interim moderator leads to an immature body of believers, never able to take on the tasks God has given them. 

BOQ...I mean, if a person is willing to lie to self, a spouse, a church council, a congregation and to God, why do we expect that person will be honest and transparent in an accountability group? EOQ

Oh wow, does that hit the nail on the head.... what I have found in researching porn issues, is that those with addictions are experts at lying, deceiving and manipulating...  unfortunately, but not unexpectedly, they go hand in hand...

I believe one of the ways the Church is meant to expose these "secret sins" is through prophetic revelation from the Holy Spirit.  Due to our cessationist history, we/crc are not very experienced in that for a number of reasons.  I would recommend reading "Surprised by the Voice of God" by Jack Deere a pastor trained in cessationism, who had his spiritual eyes and ears opened to the Spirit (so he's no longer cessationist).  In the first chapter he shares a testimony of how God gave him the word "pornography" (a word of knowledge) when he was meeting with a student, and through that the student confessed and the LORD used that to free the student from his sexual sins.

I look forward to when when the Church is walking more fully in the gifts of the Spirit, including the revelatory supernatural gifts, so the the Bride will be pure, without spot or wrinkle.

posted in: Accountability

The essay makes an indirect argument for a "confessional" priesthood. Protestant Christians do not have anyone to whom they can talk "off the record" and be assured the conversation will not cause legal or personal problems. the CRC has no tradition which would prevent an entire council and council minutes from being subpoena'd into court.  

posted in: Accountability

When I entered Calvin Seminary, the great majority of candidates accepted calls by August (many had multiple calls).  

After I graduated Calvin Seminary four years later (2005), the majority of candidates accepted calls by January of the following year. 

Today my impression is that candidates wait at least a year, more likely two to receive a call.  

Yeah, we need to revisit that two year "shelf life".   Our system was designed in the days of short vacancies, short pastorates and a lot of moving around.  As a pastor's kid, I can appreciate the benefit of slowing things down (at least let the kids graduate high school where they started!), but we need to adapt our culture of calling accordingly.  It may be the case that someone is called to preach for a season, but then another season comes.  If we can help our ministers in that discernment (and maybe networking/job placement), it will be a great help in reducing a pastor's anxiety (and that of clergy families too).    

posted in: Best Before

What happens to your ministry calling when you can't find a ministry job?

Perhaps you're looking in the wrong place. Not everybody who is ordained to the ministry belongs in the pulpit. The late Rev. Carl Tuyl used to say, 'We recycle ministers', when he referred to pastors who left the pulpit to become chaplains.

We seem to be missing the notion that we are all engaged in ministry, whatever the profession or occupation. When someone leaves a career in business to 'enter the ministry', it's seen as a step up; a noble gesture.  When a minister leaves the pulpit -- even after an Article 17 separation -- for a career in business, or agriculture, or teaching, it's seen as a demotion.

I think that we as a denomination need to re-examine the notion of 'call'. A medical doctor undoubtedly experiences the same sense of call as a minister does. Same with teachers, police officers, secretaries, entrepreneurs and actors.

I am most troubled by those men and women who feel a sense of call to the ministry but who don't really exhibit any special gifts, and their friends and church councils don't want to discourage their spiritual enthusiasm. I am wondering if Pastor Church Relations has any statistics on Article 17 separations that could be traced back to a lack of giftedness. 

How is that initial sense of call to the ministry affirmed ... even before one enrolls in college to pursue the theological track? And I wonder how many seminary graduates make it by the skin of their teeth, eager to spend the next 40 years in The Ministry?

 

posted in: Best Before

You raise important concerns, Norman. Personally, unless a person is truly unfit for service in the church (e.g., through moral issues or doctrinal ones), I do not get why there should be a limit to ordination. In some Reformed/Presbyterian churches, elders are ordained for life, though they may not be functioning as elders all the time. Why not pastors/preachers ordained for life? If they were at one time declared qualified to preach, that should remain.

posted in: Best Before

When I served with an RCA church in South Dakota, the classis was so large that they had smaller "clusters." That is, churches in specific regions that would meet on a regular basis. our cluster of just pastors met roughly once a month and then we had a leadership training event once to twice a year in our cluster. Good thoughts. Keep them coming and doing.

posted in: Clusters

In my experience those credential concerns have led to a number of educational events where a special speaker has come in to talk about a specific topic (say faith formation). The questions have helped change the focus of some classis meetings from business only to education/sharing of ministry concerns. I think it has been helpful.

Norm,

Enjoyed your article...a lot. Reminded me of our son's running up and down the street saying, "My Dad's got a job! My Dad's got a job!" because I was heading to work at a factory after being on staff at a church and carrying a lunch pail.

As one who now looks back, although still riding a tall horse yet, I am glad that I thought I was on the greener side of the grass most of the time. Oh, those days when someone wrote an anonymous letter or two were days of burnt grass, but most often when I saw the freedom of hours, I thought, who else can come and go as I do? Writing sermons is still easier than doing what I thought God's Word was suggesting and sharing people's lives at their best and even worst  remains a privilege that only their Dr's or spouses get to do.

The grass of a shepherd involved in the lives of his/her charges has been something that I've enjoyed most of the time, and consider myself most blessed to be able to say it. As I told a son once on his 10th anniversary. "Well, son, what a blessed and happy ten years you've enjoyed." and he answered, "Well, Dad, be realistic, let's say 9 out of 10 years in total. " Well, that's still  90%, a passing grade and pretty good showing, don't you think?

posted in: Greener Grass

Thanks for the reminder to open my eyes, Noman.  Well-written and well-said.

posted in: Greener Grass

Agreed, an excellent, pastoral approach to the work of those sometimes-dreaded SD's. As one who's served in that capacity for over 30 years,I concur that there have been cases of abuse and misunderstanding of the SD's role. Good judgment and a working understanding of the Church Order's wisdom is essential and appreciated by the classes served.

 

posted in: Gone Rogue?

My experience has been that SD's served with competence, sincerity and sensitivity. They are typically well experienced, mature and pastoralily sensitive. My most difficult situation was my own interview to enter the ministry. One of the SD's was from a very conservative classis and asked several complex questions that I had to respond, "I am sorry but I do not understand the question! " It ended up working in my favor as the delegates took sympathy for me. On total I found the SD's a positive in the process.
Blessings!

posted in: Gone Rogue?

Excellent post. I witnessed misuse of the SDs when they engaged in the debate over a ministerial candidate. They did not concur in our decision, though not on grounds of procedure, but because they didn't like the candidate's performance. Some of us responded that we would file a complaint of misconduct against the deputies. They reconsidered their decision, and relented, concurring contingent upon some remedial action. Most drama I've ever seen at a classis meeting, and I was right in the middle of it all, as the sermon critic.

Now I'm a synodical deputy. Got a good lesson on how *not* to conduct that office.

posted in: Gone Rogue?

Thanks for these thoughts and these thoughtful questions, O Former Mentor of mine!

Dave Vroege

posted in: After 17

I am a woman and I would definitely not want to attend a Church that has a woman pastor.  It is not a case of men better than women.  We have God ordained roles.  For example mothers have babies, not fathers.

1 Timothy 2: 12 But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. 13 For Adam was first formed, then Eve. 14 And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.

In the garden of Eden they had such yummy fruit etc.  They were definitely not deprived.  There was just one fruit they were not to eat and that is the fruit that Eve was deceived into eating.  Similarly there are Biblical roles for women.  However the one role that is reserved for men, some women insist on fighting against the Word of God to do the one role not designed for them.  

What I have noticed is that Churches that allow ordination of women seem to go downhill from that point.  An example is the United Church of Canada.  Look at their 'PR' campaign  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9D-sIqcdGzA

Another example of why women should not be ordained: Female vicar causes stir with obscene car sticker ( Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2386791/What-The-F--Would-Jesus-Do--Vicar-causes-stir-car-sticker.html )

The analogies that have been posted here are not related at all.  Women are NOT being denied membership of any Church.  Of course slavery is also totally unrelated.  

Actually what happened with the Blacks brought to America as slaves is far beyond slavery mentioned in the Bible.  Exodus 21:16 "And he that stealeth a man, and selleth him, or if he be found in his hand, he shall surely be put to death." In other words what they were doing was a capital crime.  Slavery in the Bible is either due to the person/family's debt or to make amends for stealing.

Thanks for telling your story, Norm,  You give me hope that the Body of Jesus can indeed be a place of healing and renewal.  You say "These are things no classis could provide."   I suppose in a sense I can agree, but I also want to say that I think there are some important things classes can do, and we need to get much better at doing them.  When classes are a safe and supportive place, where morale and hope are high and anxiety and stress are low, we will have gone a  long way toward creating the new culture we'll need to deal with the inevitable storms of change.   Idealistic?   OK, I am.  But the more I learn about the Holy Spirit, the more hope I have for a new day in our denomination.

posted in: After 17

I tend to agree with the second paragraph of Keith Knight's comment.  At the same time, I can understand why it is hard to deal with your former colleagues after they have assented to the request for an Article 17.  I think a related problem for such pastors is that often the root causes of the Article 17 are not addressed.  

Even though I am a great fan of the expression "it takes two to tango," it has seemed to me that classis often does not address the congregational side of the issue because of the fact that we are "congregationalists", in other words, keep your nose out of my affair.  When this is coupled with local congregational dymamics, we see intolerable situations. 

 

posted in: After 17

The classsis which I serve as stated clerk recently dealt with three Article 17 'incidents'. One of the immediate actions by classis was to appoint a pastor to provide pastoral care for the person involved. and a three-person ad hoc committee was also appointed to work with the congregation in question and to determine what next steps the church should take and when the congregation is deemed ready to consider calling another pastor.

Pastoral care for the pastor who has been released according to Article 17 is a classis' response to the pain that exists in those situations. It's the least a classis can do. It is, however, a two-way street. Some pastors are open to pastoral care from a respected colleague. Some -- perhaps those who need it most -- move away or close their door to any offers of pastoral assistance.  And this pastoral care needs to happen apart from any work being carried out by the regional pastor.

 

posted in: After 17

Norman, there are probably two ways of making progress on a discussion for change, just like there are two ways of learning.   One way is to examine all the theoretical angles and possibilities at length.  This way is great for philosophers and abstract thinkers.   The other way is just to start doing something.   Trial and error.  If it works, great, if not then try again.  For example you mentioned that we seem to be getting less devotional generally in the denomination.   If you don't get much uptake in abstract undefined discussion, then perhaps it would be more effective to simply propose some change in focus for devotions.  For example, we used to make mealtimes the primary focus of family devotions, but now mealtimes seem both hurried and disjointed in many cases.  Perhaps it makes more sense for some to have family devotions with their children in the evening just before the kids go to bed.  To allocate at least twenty or thirty minutes to bible reading, story telling, explanations, questions and singing.   So here is a concrete proposal which can be debated or discussed as to pros and cons.  

Or, for others, they might get up thirty minutes earlier every morning so that they have time for morning devotions before or during breakfast.  

Perhaps some added impetus could be added as well, both in regards to teaching children who are entrusted to us by God, and who we would like to see in heaven, not in the other place.  Some added impetus would also include the fact that if we do not spend time in devotions, perhaps we are lying when we say we love the Lord?   and likely God will take note of that lie?   Devotions are not just a side issue but they are foundational.   Living without devotions is like being married without kissing your wife or husband;  it can be done, but you might wonder if this stale life contains any love. 

posted in: Take Note

"...not only would he come to know.."

Let's not forget the shes who are elders and deacons at classis.

I would like to advocate that if it is possible for each church to delegate one elder to attend the classis meetings, not only would he come to know the various personalities present, but more importantly he would be able to follow the history and process of the classical agenda.  Very often matters dealt by the classical body take multiple meetings and may take as much as a year to deal with.  If the elder delegates know this history they can act with more confidence.  If they are present for only one meeting, many matters simply do not make sense to them.

Speaking honestly as one who was an elder long before I became a minister, I confess that we as ministers enjoy spending time with each other and because the church is our full time interest feel that we know and understand the problems and challenges of the church better than elders do who have their full time interests in other areas.  However, I have never observed at a classis meeting that an elder's opinion on a matter was unimportant.  I also confess that when I was an elder delegate to classis, I felt very intimidated speaking about spiritual or organizational matters in the presence of ministers whom I respected and believed to be far more qualified to speak to issues than myself.

I further believe that IF each council would throroughly discuss the agenda of the classis before the meeting, the elder delegate would be more prepared to deal with the matters that come before him and speak when appropriate.

(Note)  It was at a meeting of Classis Florida that I attended as an elder that was partially responsible for my decision to attend CTS and enter the ministry six years later.  I also thoroughly enjoyed the meetings of Classis where ever I served.

thanks, Norm!   Valuable antidotes to pride, and my hidden conviction that of course I'm indispensable.   

posted in: Letting Go

A well put important reminder.

posted in: Letting Go

Norm, 

"We can let go!"  Thank you for these powerful words! It is a privilege to know that we can let go and trust God!  

posted in: Letting Go

Great insights, Norm. Thanks for sharing them.

posted in: Letting Go

Thank you for your 'welcomes'.  It is encouraging to hear from each of you.  

Especially when I wonder whether classis renewal has lost mometum, it is good to hear from those classes that have had positive experiences.  I really like the three clear values from classis Hamilton.

Ben raises very good questions when he says that classis suffers from a lack of interest and offers good suggestions for improved communication. I hope to follow up on these in the future.  Thanks again. 

Welcome Norman.

Classis, and Classis meetings, suffer from a lack of interest - or should I say a lack of knowlege - of what classis is all about or what it does or what makes it interesting. 

As a frequent elder, deacon, or ministry representative, I attended almost every classis meeting.  I got caught up in the activities, the pains, the successes, the challenges, the excitement, and the good the classis could do for the region of churches.  I tried to convey these things to my home church.  However, now retired and no longer an "office-bearer", I am quickly out of the loop.  Our delegates do not report back to the congregation, rather our bulletin reprints the "Classis Highlights".

The reported "Highlights" of the last meeting were:

1. opening devotions

2. all 28 churches present

3. appointment of chair and vice chair

4. treasurere reported 100% of budget income received

5. Bob xxx re-appointed classis treasure

6. classis youth consultant will soon be choosen and introduced at next meeting

7. schedule classis for a Saturday once a year

8. an out-of-work pastor was given another year to receive a call

9.  next meeting date

Be still, my heart, I can hardly stand the excitement. Only one item - classis youth consultant - could be described as exciting IF it would have been accompanied by a overview of how this person will help our churches with dynamic input for our youth programs.

Classis suffers from a "who cares" illness.  But there is a lot of good happening.  Lets at the very least report it in a positve, vibrant way.  Have your church representative write the bulletin notice.  Have your delegate give a verbal update at your following Sunday service.  Have the delegate send a note, email, visit, whatever,to all in your church who might be remotely affected by what happens at classis.  Tell of the wonderful ministry in your regional churches.  Connect your outreach team to an adjoining church to begain working together.  Learn from other churches.  Consider area projects with a few churches.  Yout get the idea.  I really don't care who chaired the meeting - I care more about what ministry has happened, and how we as a congregation can learn from it. 

Good communication can create excitement.

Blessings

Great  to hear from you Norm.  I am part of a team in classis Hamilton that has gone through significant changes/discovery at how we can be more effective as a classis.  It started about six years ago when the delegates adopted adopted a new mission statement namely "classis Hamilton exists to be used by God to renew the greater Hamilton region through a gospel movement of healthy and vibrant churches, ministries and member".  The values that we adopted were community  (less isolation), ministry (less administration or at least completing administrative matters well but in short order) and mission focus (less maintenance orientation in our meetings).  I am part of the Classis Ministry Team that explores how we can have reports at classis done in a more meaningful way.  We have done so through greater dialogue  and attempted to build in ways for churches to be able to take the experience/learning back to their congregation.  It has been an exciting work in progress.  

Welcome Norm!

Welcome Norm!

Welcome Norm. Unlike Karl, I have no words of wisdom for you. Just hearty thanks for taking on this work, and a prayer for God's blessing on you in it.

Some time ago, as part of the Classical Interim Committee  of Classis Eastern Canada. I developed a short questionnaire to attempt to assess the extent to which deacons should be seated at Classis as well as the deacon's reaction to having three delegates from each church.  The current practice in this classis is to have one third of the churches send 3 delegates to a given classis meeting.  Unfortunately, the number of responses received was too small to draw any valid conclusions.  Of those who responded (not a valid sample), two themes that came through clearly, 1) those deacons who attended enjoyed the experience and thought it was worthwhile and 2) that classis was something of an "old boy's club".  The classis delegates (largely clergy and elders) then voted to keep the existing system.  Elsewhere I have referred to classis meetings as local clerical union meetings or meetings of the professional clerical association (some one else suggested the term guild) and this perception of classis came though in the responses that we did get. 

Personally I would prefer to see the church order changed so that all three offices attend classis and synod meetings.  This would have a beneficial effect that voting at classis and synod would no longer be dominated by our paid employees, i.e. our clergy.  I would like to see a refinement so that in order to have a measure pass, a majority of two of the three office delegatges have to vote in favour of a motion for it to pass. 

Hey, welcome, Norm!   Great to see you are already writing.  As things now stand, I'm still the Classis Coach, working with the Classis Renewal Ministry team, one day per week, encouraging and assisting classes to experience renewal.  Within coming weeks we anticipate that a few more structural issues will be clarified in the denomination, and that will shed light on my role and the classis renewal journey.  We'll keep you posted here.  We certainly don't anticipate any reduction in the momentum of classis renewal - it's too important for serving and empowering  congregations.   

       You point out a very important issue when you mention losing momentum.   One of the things I"ve noticed is that the renwal process needs regular attention, because it's easy to slide back to business as usual, and then things look a lot like they did before renewal!   Disheartening for the classis that worked hard to bring about change.  Sustainable positive change generates its own energy and continuity and persistance.   The Holy Spirit is a power source, even in the middle classical machinery.   Learning to listen and follow -- that's the journey we're on!

Thanks Karl.

You've described a practice that our classis has allowed to fade away.  I'm eager to hear stories from councils who were visited and found their visit helpful.  In what ways was the visit helpful?  What benefit did the council receive?  It would also be great to see what format church visitors are using.  Which brings up another matter.  The questions asked on the back of the Classis credentials seemed to be the kinds of questions that shaped the visits.  I'm not sure those questions serve as the best questions to ask a council anymore.  What format might make for a healthier visit?  Perhaps this is a question Henry DeMoor or one of the church polity people can help answer and engage with.

John

posted in: Mining for Old Gold

Thank God.  The Spirit is working.   I love getting good news.

From the floor of Synod: I am pleased to see a spirit of finding a way together through changing times, even though we may see things differently. We need each other.

 

 

Hungry for hope!   Thanks to you who posted comments!  It sure is easy to focus on the  problems, isn't it?  Yes, we have work to do to strengthen the CRC, and even more important, yes we have work to do as we listen to the guiding of the Spirit and watch for the opportunities, and follow in faith and obedience and joy.  May God grant that we do that together - at synod this week, in our congregations and classes, and in our personal lives.  More and more I look to my congregation to be a community that facilitates my listening, my obedience, my joy.   I need them.  And our congregations need each other.

Keith Knight and other commentors: 

Permit me to suggest some constructive guidelines from someone who has "been there and done that" (Retired, former church visitor, pastoral mentor, unofficial "pastor's pastor", and Article 17 casualty).  Two wonderful Christian princilples/goals jump out at me to address the issues you so wisely are raising - Resolution and Reconciliation.  Pastor-church issues need to be resolved, settled and put behind us if meaningful ministry is to be done in the future by all parties.  Reconciliation by mutual agreement is primary (whatever the resolution) as testimony to Christ's Love and Unity in the church.  I also believe a proper understanding of our present Church Order, Article 17 can be made to function even better in both a Christian and Reformed manner.  Therefor I would suggest the following:

1. Some Classis could appoint a classical study committee whose membership would include all facets of extertise appropriate to study this issue, making recommendations for Synodical adoption either via changes to the C.O. 17 or guidelines to govern its use.

2. Such a classical study committee would focus on strengthening and empowering both the classical and synodical approval requirements before any enactment of Article 17 separations.

3. Reformed polity is not congregational even when we say that the essential autority resides with the eldership; but this eldership authority is not defined by just one congregation, but rather by the office of elder as one on all levels - classical and synodical.  For this reason we have required both classical and synodical consent before any final action submitted by a local church.

4. A sudy could be made, as someone else wrote, of the various reasons for proceeding with Article 17 (doctrinal, moral, professional, personality, whatever) of past cases to highlight that not all Article 17 separations are created equally.

5. A study committee could evaluate if there have been any weaknesses in the Article 17 process on several levels:  How much couseling and conflict resolution sessions were there from the beginning?  Was there a failure on the part of regional pastors and the Pastor-Church relations to do all it could do to resolve and reconcile?  Was there a "cooling off period" to avoid premature decision-making?  Did classis properly and adequately participate in the process before making final consent?  How much did the Pastoral Relations try to encourage another church or ministry to give an open door to a minister before being let go?  How much time was given for the pastor to try and find another ministry?  How involved was the entire congregation involved (the silent majority) or was this a "one council decision" not representative of the full body?  Many more questions could be asked.

6. An ad hoc pastoral committee could be appointed by classis, composed of persons with expertise in all the necessary areas to objectively evaluate each situation, give pastoral guidelines, and work toward resolution and reconciliation.  This pastoral committee would give classis reports and finally its recommendation to proceed before any Article 17 may be effected.  Elders rightly "take it slow" in the discipline process (often more from neglect and lack of meaningful counseling and discipling).  Article 17 needs to be slowed down and broadened out to reflect the multitude of counselors among the eldership (church, classis and synodical). 

More could be said.  I empathize with classical delegates, church councils and as I know all too well the personal pain and frustration of seeing such separations take place in the beautiful Body of Jesus Christ.  We can not settle for anything less that the best Resolution and Reconcilation in these matters; and we must see more loving and meaningful corporate involement on the classical and synodical levels regarding Article 17 separations.  I think I hear you saying, and I totally agree - "There has to be a better way - and there is".  In light of the above, I hope we can move ahead and give evidence of Christ's Love and reconciling Spirit among us; plus we are not ignorant of the Devil's devices who rejoioces in unresolved pain, bitterness, abandonment, displacement, and casting aside of many who still desire to serve the Lord and just don't understand what happened.  Lord, give us Wisdom, Love and Unity.

 

Keith, I don't know what the grounds for Article 17 have been in all these cases, and it is impossible anyway to comment on circumstances about which one knows nothing, but it would be interesting to know whether the "new wise" council as you put it, was able to convince the old "unwise" council, as you put it, that they had made a mistake.   Now, that doesn't mean that some kind of apology is not appropriate;  often words and communications around these issues could be poor, I am assuming (having never been involved in one).   But as susceptible as the approach is to mistakes, there is no guarantee whatsoever, that a different approach will be susceptible to fewer mistakes.   Was it Churchill who said, "Democracy is the worst of all systems of government, except for every other one."  ?   Not that this is about democracy, but rather about local congregational authority as being original.   If I was bishop, of course I would think it was the best system, because I would never imagine that I could ever make a poor decision.   But perhaps most of us think that, except you, of course.   Just joking a bit, but you see that who is wise and who is unwise is sometimes a matter of debate....  and of course you are right, sometimes it is obvious.   It would be interesting to categorize the various disputes of Article 17:   which were doctrinal, which were personality, lifestyle, work habits, mission and vision disputes, etc.   How many of each type, etc.  

Ah, and there's the rub, John. Local councils have the authority. They usually make wise decisions. Sometimes, especially when there are power struggles, they make the wrong decisions. And when they make wrong decisions, despite the 'right advice', the pastor is ousted via Article 17, a congregation may become split over the issue, and a few instigators within a congregation delight in having that power.  I speak generically, without any specific reference to any specific case.

I've chaired a council during a vacancy where one of the first things the new, wise council did was to sit down and write letters of apology to past pastors, confessing that those pastors were mistreated.

If we are content to celebrate the notion that final authority rests with the local council -- and I respect that -- and that nothing needs fixing, then we need to accept that we'll be seeing an avalanche of Article 17s whenever a majority of a local council feels that their minister has been there long enough.

There was a time when the pastor was seen as the shepherd of the local flock, and the sheep followed. We are increasingly witnessing rebellious sheep -- whether justified or not. We are also increasingly seeing pastors who fancy themselves as CEOs of the local church corporation. All of this has the makings of increased conflict. The growth in demand of services from Pastor-Church Relations is witness to that.

The denomination needs to respond with a stronger approach towards pastoral care -- for the health of both pastor and congregation. That needs to happen before we need to become deeply involved in crisis management.

 

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