The Why in Synod

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Two years ago, members of Sunrise Community Church provided a music video highlighting the work of Synod 2012. Watch it here.

[video:http://vimeo.com/23903322]

“I don’t know why, synod is spelled with a ‘y.’” It’s catchy, right?  However, lacking all requisite skills (beat-boxing, carrying a tune and rhyming to name a few) I will not be producing another such video this year. 

Instead, I want to throw another thought out there.  Are you ready?  Here goes:

I don’t always see the why in Synod.

Sure, Church Order can teach us a few things:

Who is Synod?

Article 45

The synod is the assembly representing the churches of all the classes. Each classis shall delegate two ministers and two elders to the synod.

When & Where is Synod?

Article 46

a. Synod shall meet annually, at a time and place determined by the previous synod. Each synod shall designate a church to convene the following synod.

b. The convening church, with the approval of the Board of Trustees of the CRCNA, may call a special session of synod, but only in very extraordinary circumstances and with the observance of synodical regulations.

c. The officers of synod shall be elected and shall function in accordance with the Rules for Synodical Procedure.

What is Synod?

Article 47

The task of synod includes the adoption of the creeds, of the Church Order, and of the principles and elements of worship. Synod shall approve the liturgical forms, the Psalter Hymnal, and the Bible versions suitable for use in worship. No substantial alterations shall be effected by synod in these matters unless the churches have had prior opportunity to consider the advisability of the proposed changes.

Article 48

a. Upon the nomination of the classes, synod shall appoint ministers, one from each classis, to serve as synodical deputies for a term designated by synod.

b. When the cooperation of the synodical deputies is required as stipulated in the Church Order, the presence of at least three deputies from the nearest classes shall be prescribed.

c. Besides the duties elsewhere stipulated, the deputies shall, upon request, extend help to the classes in the event of difficulties in order that proper unity, order, and sound doctrine may be maintained.

d. The synodical deputies shall submit a complete report of their actions to the next synod

Article 49

a. Synod shall appoint a committee to encourage ecumenical relationships with other Christian churches, especially those that are part of the Reformed family, as articulated in the synodically approved Ecumenical Charter of the Christian Reformed Church so that the Christian Reformed Church may exercise Christian fellowship with other denominations and

may promote the unity of the church of Jesus Christ.

b. Synod shall designate the churches with whom the Christian Reformed Church is in ecclesiastical fellowship, the churches with whom the Christian Reformed Church is in dialogue, and the ecumenical organizations in which the Christian Reformed Church holds membership or significantly participates.

Article 50

a. Synod shall send delegates to ecumenical bodies in which the Christian Reformed Church cooperates with other Christian denominations, particularly those sharing the Reformed perspective.

b. Synod may present to such gatherings matters on which it seeks judgment of churches throughout the world.

c. Decisions of ecumenical bodies shall be binding upon the Christian Reformed Church only when they have been ratified by its synod.

All of these things outlined are laudable goals and important issues for the life of the denomination: ecumenical relationships, orthodoxy in belief and worship.  (Sidenote: strictly speaking, how many of the reports & overtures in this year’s agenda adhere to this definition of purpose?)

But I still don’t see the why in Synod.

Consider that I have never been a delegate to Synod, I imagine I could learn a thing or two from those of you who have.  I may be missing the point and you may have experiences that counter this line of argumentation.  I’d love to hear from you.

However, given the disruption of ordinary lives, given the expense attendant to travel costs and lodging and facilities and catering, given the abundance of media technology, given the massive amount of work done by the Board of Trustees throughout the year, not to mention the work of many on staff with various CRC agencies, is it really & truly necessary for us to the do the work of Synod in person?

  • Is it possible the day might come when we recognize a thriftier and swifty-er way of doing the work commissioned to us?
  • Do we need to be at table together to decide whether we are going to use the KJV or the NIV or the NRSV?
  • Do we need to convene to bastions of CRC higher-education to appoint delegates to handle our ecumenical relationships?
  • Is there another way of doing this?
  • What is there to be gained and what might be lost?

Last week in California, members of the Christian Reformed Church met for a second annual Prayer Summit.  I can’t find anything in church order about it but, pretty intuitively, it feels like a good idea.

What would it look like if, rather than meeting to pray in April and meeting to work in June, we got a little Benedictine up in the CRC and did some ora et labora (pray and work)?

What if we nominated delegates, not first of all to decide for us, but to pray for us?  And, after praying for us, doing a little bit of committee work and calling it a day.

  • What if we prayed – not as salad and dessert – but as the main course itself?
  • What if Prayer Summit = Synod? Why not?  
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Participant

Amen!

Thanks for raising these important questions Meg. It really comes down to a question of stewardship, don't you think? 

Meg, may I call you Margaret, good to hear your thoughts. We miss you in K-zoo. Thanks for the post. Having served as delegate once before and heading there again this summer, and having just returned from the Prayer Summit, I must say both were uplifting experiences as a whole. Obviously they had a bit of different focus and while the Prayer Summit didn't have any committee meetings, I did find that synod did have plenty of solid prayer and attention in a worshipful way to the needs of the church. This can continue to grow and I trust the movement of the Prayer Summit can help that happen. Having gone to synod, I see the necessity of it. Just as a church community must continue to worship together, a council meet face-to-face and a classis do the same, it is vital for us as a bi-national denomination spread across a broad continent to do the same. Stewardship of finances is one thing, but stewardship of relationships and face-to-face meetings that help bring understanding is way more valuable. I remember talking about that at the Prayer Summit, of the need for face-to-face meetings to encourage and equip one another for greater ministry strength. Blessings to you. Ben

Well said, Ben!

Participant

wow, there's so much to say on this article, so I'll mostly respond to this line   BOQ...intuitively, it (prayer summit) feels like a good idea." EOQ 

you're right...

that's because it's scripturally Acts 6:4...  and it opens the door to the prophetic table mentioned in I Cor 14:26-33 (NKJV) 

historically -I think if we are honest with ourselves, prayer and the prophetic gift of the Spirit have not been strong marks of our denomination for various reasons.  The extent of our limitations in each area is debatable - I'm not saying these haven't been there at all, because God as a generous and loving Heavenly Father has given us His Spirit to help us, even though we are often unaware and not intentionally seeking Him, and even though we have not been eagerly pursuing ALL the gifts of the Holy Spirit due to cessationism.   These gifts include those unexplainable "mystical" promptings that in the natural we have no way of knowing, which it seems often still receive much skepticism, if not outright unbelief that God doesn't do that anymore. 

So, Roberts Rules and Church Order is the default method of operations... again, not saying the Spirit doesn't work through these... He does, because of God's generous nature!  But there is a more intentional, more purposeful prophetic table of having the Holy Spirit lead, where leaders come together, worship, pray, listen to God and to each other and discern what God is prophetically telling them for this time, this place, this situation, these people... 

now do we throw the intellect out?   no, wisdom is part of the gifts as well... but sometimes we have let the intellect/man's way/human effort/human agency, etc trump the Spirit's way, for various reasons.

I seriously hope we/crc are shifting to a more intentional leading by the Holy Spirit, especially through the prophetic gifting, and that will be released through prayer... If one studies the OT prophets, one key characteristic, is that they were intercessors.

and yes, the face to face interaction/sharpening/testing is very important... I've had wonderful discussions with people on the internet and i'm thankful for those opportunities, but the relationship goes to an entire different level, it is so much more, when I get to meet with them face to face.  It is a rich dimension of relationship/fellowship that we cannot experience very well through technology.  The face to face connection is priceless!

and yes, it's quite possible, that as (not if ;) the crc continues the prayer summit, it will transition and converge with Synod in some Spirit directed way ;)

would love to engage on the rest of the article, but that's enough for this comment!

DV I will be following synod online again this year...

 

Participant

I have to say that after spending a good part of the week listening in on synod via the webcast, discussing it over twitter, and meeting up with some of the younger delegates at a few post-Synodical brews, that I can see the value of this yearly gathering. 

While there are still things I think could be done more efficiently to save some time and money, I think that it is still time and money well spent. I do hope that down the road the number of delegates is increased and diversified so that more people can come to be a part of the gathering and enage in all of the fellowship, debate, and worship that comes along with it. 

I know I was blessed by being a part of the conversation, even if it was only over twitter.