The 'Resignation' of Our Executive Director

  1613 views

Recently, our denominational Board of Trustees (BOT) told us, "Rev. Jerry Dykstra informed the CRC Board of Trustees of his desire to resign as Executive Director of the CRCNA for personal and family reasons." However, in an interview with the Grand Rapids Press Rev. Dykstra said "the BOT made the decision this was a time for us to part company, so I accepted that and resigned.” Quite a difference!

Representatives of the denomination assured the Press that there was no wrongdoing involved and that “Jerry remains a member in good standing in the CRC.” Fifteen days after its original press release the BOT informed the denomination of that. It would have been helpful to state this in the original press release. A day later the Banner posted a story in which Jerry said he was not “forced out,” a term used in the Press article. He said, “The Board and I came to a mutual agreement that it was best that I leave.”

So, what is synod to do?

In 2006 our executive director-designee resigned, and the BOT informed synod that it was “prepared to provide synod with a full accounting of the circumstances that led to the decisions made” (Agenda for Synod 2006, p. 25). Synod went into executive session, and it appeared that all the details would be discussed. However, on the basis of an error in procedure a delegate made a motion that the matter be sent back to the advisory committee, that an elder from the executive director-designee’s church, who was prepared to speak to the matter, meet with the committee, and, if possible, that the matter come back to the floor with the disagreements addressed so the full synod wouldn’t need to hear every detail. The delegate said, "The more you stir manure the more it smells." Fortunately, the matter was successfully handled in advisory committee.

Synod 2011 should learn from Synod 2006. All synodical delegates don't need to know and make a judgment on all the details that caused the BOT to ask for Rev. Dykstra's resignation. As Rev. Mark Vermaire, president of the BOT said in the Banner article, “the reasons are properly confidential between Dykstra and the Board.” Nonetheless, the Board is responsible to synod, and the advisory committee to whom this matter is assigned must be convinced that the BOT had legitimate grounds for its action. If it’s convinced, synod should accept its recommendation without seeking to know all the details.

Whether the BOT had legitimate grounds for its action is the major issue. Unfortunately, the nature of the press release has created another issue. Hindsight is 20/20, but it seems that a press release immediately assuring the church that Rev. Dykstra remains a minister in good standing and indicating that the Board itself initiated this action would have raised less questions and built more credibility. Surely, the BOT and Rev. Dykstra could have agreed on wording sensitive to both parties. Perhaps the BOT needs some guidelines for these unfortunate situations.

Posted in:
  • Synod
  • Blog

Let's Discuss…

We love your comments! Thanks for your help upholding the Community Guidelines to make this an encouraging and respectful community for everyone.
Community Builder

Interesting thought on one of the first pages of the Agenda...a preface or an epitaph:

May we together experience “the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:3) as we strive to know and to do the will of the Lord.   -Gerard L. Dykstra, Executive Director of the CRCNA; Agenda for Synod 2011, p7

 

 

I don't know where is an appropriate place or way on here to express appreciation for what Jerry Dykstra has done for the last five years for the CRC.   I don't know him personally, nor do I know exactly the details of what he did, nor do I know whether or not I would agree with everything he did in all aspects.   But at this point that doesn't really matter.   I would like to express my appreciation for the time and energy and committment he made to this position and to this task.   It is important that people accept the call of the Lord to provide leadership, and Jerry has done that.   As far as I know, he has done that very well, and I admire and appreciate his optimism and positive attitude.   I would think such a task is never easy even though it may also have many rewards.   It may be possible that some of the rewards of such a job well done may come many years later, when a particular endeavor begun now finally comes to fruition.  In any case, thanks for serving, Jerry Dykstra, thanks for serving the Lord, and may God bless you in your future works of ministry in His service!   

 

John Zylstra

John (and others).  Let me give you an appropriate avenue for you to express your appreciation directly to Jerry either in person or via written communication.  LInked below is the invitation given by Jerry's calling church for you to share your appreciation directly with Jerry and his wife Linda.

Rev. Jerry Dykstra Celebration

I have no idea about what went on here, nor do I have a need to know.  I trust Synod will do right by Jerry.

I just want to thank Jerry publicly for his support of Chaplaincy ministries.  About a year ago Jerry visited the Seattle area.  I was assigned to Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) Nine in Everett at the time.  I invited Jerry to the base on Saturday, after an open meeting at First CRC in Seattle.  He graciously agreed, and I gave him a tour of one of the ships.  His interest in chaplaincy in general and my personal work in particular was extremely encouraging.  I was asking some very hard personal questions at the time, and Jerry listened carefully and gave some honest and valuable feedback. 

As Chaplains we often feel left out in the denomination.  This is especially true for those of us in the military, who are often stationed far away from the nearest CRC (I think I'm currently a couple of thousand miles from the nearest CRC-- either Hawaii or Guam).  We have a very wide perspective, one that is not always appreciated or included.  Jerry very much undertood this, and understood the unique opportuities we have as chaplains as well as the unique challenges we face.  I am personally very thankful for his support and wish him God's blessing in whatever future ministry God has for Jerry.

LCDR Douglas Vrieland, CHC, USN 

Yokosuka, Japan

Community Builder

I think the churches do in fact need to know, at least in general. There is a troubling amoung of opacity at the "top," compounded now by the resignation of the director of denominational ministries. Transparency is in order. Otherwise, the chasm between the churches and the head office and agencies will only widen. The stakeholders in the CRCNA are the congregations; we have a right to know, and a right to make decisions based on what we know. If it is a difference of vision, we need to participate in the defining and affirming of that vision. The agencies and boards have been operating in a way that is both too independent of and opaque to the congregations and classes of the church. Too much power has drifted to the top.

Participant

Call your regional BOT representative.  I did, and it was helpful.

While staying within the boundaries of confidentiality and the separation agreement that was made with the EDM and the BOT, my representative was able to fill in enough blanks that I think I understand the situation. 

I am not saying that I agree with everything, but  I think I do understand some of what happened.

I think the article by DeMoor/Postma outlined the main issues well and informs this particular situation.  The current model of organization at the denominational level isn't working well.  As the article points out, it never really has.

Reading between the lines, this is my informal evaluation of what I think happened:  There is a turf war between the ministry offices at 2850.   One of the responsibilities of the EDM is to mediate/facilitate so that they all play nice.  It was perceived that the EDM took sides.  The atmosphere was growing more and more toxic there, so the BOT decided that something needed to change.  The EDM was the one to take the fall.

There were no moral or ethical issues involved.  It was the BOT determining that the EDM was providing leadership that was detrimental to the long term health of the organization/denomination.  It was judgment call.  We are free to agree or disagree. 

Community Builder

Note the important editorial by Bob DeMoor and Gayla Postma:

http://www.thebanner.org/departments/article/?id=3296

It would be helpful for me, in understanding what happened with the resignation of Rev. Jerry Dykstra, if the delegates of Synod 2011 would pose these questions to the BOT and encourage them to answer the questions as appropriate.

1.  Before coming into the April 5 meeting, did the BOT plan on pressuring Jerry Dykstra to resign even before the meeting began?

If the answer is no, was the pressured resignation by the BOT based on how the meeting was going, on the emotional intensity of the involved parties, or about insubordination on Jerry’s behalf?

2.   Were the BOT’s concerns about Jerry’s performance previously addressed and are there documents that show that both parties signed off in knowing exactly where performance levels were at and what needed to be changed?

3.   Because of the significant impact this abrupt resignation has on our churches and the negative public exposure it caused, what prevented the BOT from working out an exiting process with Jerry so that the name of Christ and His Church could maintain the respect and honor it deserves?

4.  Can it be said that Jerry was doing such a bad job, that the BOT could not keep Jerry on for one more day?  

5.  With respect for Jerry, our churches, and involved parties, how could have this matter been handled so that Jerry leaves the office feeling respected by the denomination he is a ordained pastor for and also feels that he was treated with dignity in the departure process?

6.   If this is a matter of a judgment call made by the BOT, can’t a judgment call include a show that we do things with integrity and respect for Jerry?

7.  If this matter is about “turf,” is pressuring the resignation of Jerry a respectable way of showing how to handle church leadership issues of power and control? And what if there are individuals/agencies/directors who remain that continue to push for their own need to control?

8.  What prevented the BOT from keeping Jerry – and begin the process of restructuring the chain of command at 2850 - with him there?   How does Jerry’s resignation solve a structure problem?

9.  Are there other leaders – paid or volunteer – at the denominational building that need to be dismissed?  How will that be addressed if there are?

As a member of this denomination, I want to be a good follower.  Good followers are the ones who require accountability, responsibility, and answers from their leaders, especially when things don’t make sense.  Good followers also have a responsibility under God not to just let leaders do what they want – but when necessary, require leadership to answer what happened, as much as allowed and is appropriate, to ensure that we together, leaders and followers, are doing right. 

When good followers question leadership, leadership feels threatened and uneasy.  That is good because that says the leaders’ power is held and contained by those they represent.  That accountability prevents, hopefully, misuse of power by leaders and is a quicker assurance that their next step in leading will be carefully weighed. 

 

 

 

 

 

  

The BOT really botched the departure of Jerry Dykstra and Sandy Johnson.. Again the main agencies came on top and get to keep their little empires instead of being properly integrated.. As a layperson, I'm tired of ministers trying to hide things from the membership. The pewsitter pays the bills and they should be told what's going on at our denominational HQ. The Synod 2006 approach mentioned by VanderWiet should be avoided. There should be full disclosure and not hide behind advisory committees, confidentiality agreements, and executive session. 

Executive sessions are not designed to "hide" anything.  Synod goes into executive session when issues involve persons, and you can be assured that Synod 2011 will discuss this matter in executive session.   Indeed, there should be full disclosure, but full disclosure can best be heard and addressed by a 20 member advisory committee rather than by a 188 member synod.  The advisory committee should ask for all the details, should consider all the details and then make its recommendation.  Synod should not redo the work of the advisory committee unless it's evident that the advisory committee has done a poor job or if the advisory committee comes with a majority and minority report.

Thanks for your post, George, but the procedure you describe is not full disclosure and is old-fashioned. The membership of the church needs to have more input into the direction of the denomination and that can't happen without all of us knowing why Jerry was shown the door by the BOT, The executive director position belongs to all members, not just a select few in the BOT and  synodical advisory committee. The minute we get a full understanding of Jerry and Sandy's departures, the sooner we can move forward in renewing and reviving a declining denomination. Now we have someone in the ED position that is on the verge of retirement who may be a great preacher but has no management experience in running organizations. What we need at the helm is a dynamic younger leader with a passion for revival, a track record in successfully managing a complex ministry organization, and a proven ability to connect with youth as the future of our denomination. There is no time to waste with a two year appointment  to smooth over some feathers at the denominational office. 

Community Builder

I have to agree with PDR on this one. I appreciate James Dekker's comments, as reported at Synod:

Initially, synod discussed going into executive session to talk about the resignation. But Rev. James Dekker, president of Synod 2011, said he urged delegates not to discuss the issue behind closed doors.

Dekker said it was important for synod to be transparent, since a seeming lack of transparency had already caused concern in the denomination and led to rumors and gossip.

“I would like to deal with this report in candor and appropriate love and remain in full session as long as possible,” said Dekker. Should the discussion get too personal, he said, he would call for an executive session, but both he and the advisory committee thought it would not be necessary.

Although we still have no idea what's broken in our denominational leadership, and we have a right to know, because we are stakeholders in this church.

We do not have the right to know because we are stakeholders in the church.  It seems to me that such rights come from an idea of democratic governance.  We are a part of a spiritual body called a church.  In that body the Lord Himself is the head and He delegates authority to elders.   The elders are not accountable to us, "the stakeholders".  They are accountable to the Lord.   As members of the body we too are accountable.  We have an obligation to trust those who are called and appointed by God and through the affirmation of the body of Christ.   In this case the Board of Trustees and the Advisory Committee of Synod are the one who have been called and appointed to deal with this painful situation.  I am grateful for their work and pray for God's blessing and peace on all involved.   Signed Jon Westra

Community Builder

"We have an obligation to trust those who are called and appointed by God and through the affirmation of the body of Christ. In this case the Board of Trustees and the Advisory Committee of Synod are the one who have been called and appointed to deal with this painful situation."

In other words, the boards are not really accountable to the churches. I don't think so. It sounds like you are describing the Vatican. Our councils (where church authority is original, according to our Church Order, art. 27) and Classes need to hold those at the top accountable,and to be aware of how institutions (including church institutions) tend to be come dysfunctional. We have the responsibility to hold our leadership accountable, not to follow in blind trust. And we need enough information to do so. Moreover, we are stakeholders in the ministry of the denomination; this idea is not the incursion of some democratic ideal, but the basic principle of presbyterian and reformed polity.

With all the talk of a dysfunctional "culture" that is coming out of the BOT and the Synod, it is obvious we need some serious intervention with our agency leadership. Agencies that are battling each other over turf (which is widely reported, even in The Banner) have not earned our trust, and again, need to be held accountable. Simply demanding people follow in blind faith (faith in agencies, not faith in God) is neither responsible nor effective in creating denominational awareness and loyalty, which is seriously eroded among the membership, who are indeed the stakeholders of the denomination. The widening gap between congregations and the denomination is a matter of serious concern.

I hope the task force set up to review the denominational structure will take seriously Bob De Moor and Gayla R. Postma's editorial in The Banner, "Denominational Governance: Time to Get Back to Reformed Basics."

They report that former Calvin College president Anthony Diekema spoke to the BOT and observed that the CRC structure  was “ 'the most bizarre organization I’ve ever seen. . . . The governance is redundant, competitive, independent. Administrative authority is shared at best, nonexistent at worst.' Diekema said the agencies would need to shift from a culture of independence to one of common cause."

http://www.thebanner.org/departments/article/?id=3296

I really appreciate Jon Westra's comments.  I am very uncomfortable with the idea that I am a "stakeholder" in the Christian Reformed Church.  It sounds too much like business or institutional language.  What makes me a "stakeholder"?  The fact that I contribute money-- i.e I have stock in this orgainization?  Or is it the fact that I maintain membership within this institution-- I'm a customer and as such if I don't like things I can move my busness to another church?

When the Heidelberg Catechism deals with the church, it calls her "a community".  This is, of course, the Catechism's definition of the "holy catholic church"  (q&a 54).  But for me it is also true of my relationship with the CRC.  I am a member of the US Armed Forces, a Chaplain stationed in Japan-- I seldom worship in CRC churches.  Yet she is the communitiy of God's people that has ordained me, and that both offers guidance and support for my ministry.  "Of this community I am. . . a living member"  

Community is built with such materials as trust and love, and is strengthened by prayer.  The trust is not in the institution itself, which is made up of sinful human beings like every other institution.  The trust is in the Holy Spirit of God, through whom (along with the word) this community has been gathered (q and a 54).  This is God's church.  The BOT and the Synod are accountable to God.  I don't know much about the BOT, but in my experience Synods have been very aware of their accountability to God.  I trust God loves this church more than even I do-- in Christ He died for her.  "He who did not spare his own Son,but gave him up for us all-- how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?"  (Romans 8:32)

According to the Catechism (q &a 55), my role as a member of the CRC is not to hold the church "accountable" (which I agree is an American democratic idea) but "to use. . . [my] gifts readily and cheerfully for the service and enrichment of the other members."

   

This is not the Vatican, nor a democracy, nor a corporation.  It is a Spiritual body.  Perhaps it would be helpful to describe who is meant when we use pronouns like "we".   I get the impression that sometimes folks as individuals think they have a right to knowledge about the inner workings of a board.  They want to demand openness and transparency or they will pull up their stakes.  Isn't this the implied threat when we use words like "stakeholder"?   Perhaps I am reading too much into things.

I understand Reformed church governance to be not so much based on the individual, but rather to be based on elder leadership.  

God appoints elders through congregations to form a consistory,  consitories appoint delegates to make up a classis, classis appoints delegates to make up a synod,  synod appoints members to various boards.  Synod reports it's work back to the councils and members.

My point is that  I personally, as a member, have voice only through respecting and engaging the Spiritual Authority of the eldership.  This is not the Vatican, neither is it a democracy.  Jesus is the head of the church and He delegates authority to the elders.  I, as an idividual, am not a stakeholder in this institution, but rather I am a member of it, the body.  I as a member of the body do not have individual rights nor do I demand an explanation or I will pull up my stakes.  Does the toe say to the mouth, give me an accounting or I will walk off?   The toe may ask the elders for wisdom and guidance, and if they won't take up its casue,  it can make a personal appeal to classis, and if they won't take up the casue, it can make a personal appeal to synod.     

© 2014 Christian Reformed Church in North America. All rights reserved.
For website questions or corrections, use the feedback tab at right or contact us.