Clear the Decks

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Something I once read suggested that organizations should periodically clear the decks, disband every committee, and run lean for a season before asking what structures are really needed to carry out the mission of the organization. Classes may be given the opportunity to do something like this if Synod 2015 grants them the freedom to disband their home missions and diaconal committees.

That’s not quite what the agenda for synod says, but the report of the Task Force to Study the Offices of Elders and Deacons does recommend that the explicit requirement for these committees be removed from Church Order Article 75. Instead, the report recommends a revision specifying that “classis shall implement a ministry plan that advances evangelistic and diaconal witness” and that “each classis shall ensure that deacons and elders are incorporated into the structure and plans for ministry in a manner consistent with their respective mandates.” These revisions are meant to assure that diaconal participation in major assemblies is meaningful, while at the same time allying fears that the presence of deacons at classis might somehow impinge upon the work of elders. In light of other developments, however, these changes may be too narrow and come too soon.

The recommendations may be too narrow because being focused through the lens of two offices, elder and deacon, they refine two areas of mission, evangelism and diaconal outreach, at a time when the CRC is trying out the idea of channeling its ministries through Five Streams (faith formation, servant leadership, global missions, loving mercy / doing justice, and gospel proclamation and worship). The recommendations may come too soon because another major report before Synod suggests that something more than tinkering is needed at the level of classis. While suggesting that the future role of classes in the CRCNA be studied, the report of the Task Force Reviewing Structure and Culture says that the broad question for study is “what structure best supports the ministry of local congregations ..?” 

I think it is too early to answer that question and I am not sure what a Classis structured around the Five Streams might look like, but perhaps this is a time to encourage experimentation. Perhaps classes could be encouraged to see this moment as an opportunity to clear the decks and try out new ministry structures. Then when we return to the question of the role of classis, we might have working models of classical ministries that empower local congregations. 

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