Back in the tumultuous 90s a pastor in the Classis I was then part of started musing about the possibility of the whole Classis leaving the Christian Reformed Church. This might have just been a stray remark, the conversation certainly didn’t go anywhere, but it still unsettled me. As I reflected on that I realized that this was not just because I had different views than the pastor who voiced the subject of secession. My discomfort also came because my relationship to Classis was different from my relationship with other ecclesiastical bodies.
I had an attachment to the congregation I was serving at the time. In the typically complicated relationship a pastor has to a congregation it was both the body that employed me and the body that welcomed my family into its fellowship. My children were born into that church and I had lived in that community longer than I had lived in any other place since I had been eleven years old.
That last fact also partly explains why my attachment to the Christian Reformed Church rests on something deeper than the fact that “Responsibility” is one of my five Strength Finder "signature themes.” In a somewhat peripatetic youth spent in three different countries, I’d been a member of different Christian Reformed Churches, had hung out with Christian Reformed missionaries, gone to Christian Reformed sponsored schools, and played in a Christian Reformed hockey league (yes I really did say hockey league). In short, the Christian Reformed Church was always there.
Classis, on the other hand, was a meeting that I attended a couple of times a year. My relationship to Classis was administrative, not personal.
I wonder whether this might help explain the challenges of classical renewal. Though we might agree that Classis does not often function at it's highest potential--though we might believe that Classis is in a better position to support local congregations than other institutions--we are trying to renew an institution that people only have a passing and not very personal relationship with. Very few people see themselves as members of a Classis. We need to take that into account when trying to make Classis better.