Most of us need advice when it comes to topics about which we are not experts, or issues with which we have no experience. Sometimes getting advice from an expert or hearing another person’s perspective makes all the difference for understanding an issue or making a decision.
Synod, the denomination’s annual leadership assembly, often needs advice too.
Synod consists of 188 delegates, four delegates (two ministers and two elders) from each of 47 classes, or regional groups of churches. They come from all over the United States and Canada, so they represent very different churches and contexts.
As a group, however, the delegates tend to be similar in age, gender and ethnicity. So in order for a broader range of viewpoints to be represented at synod, advisers are appointed to bring more diversity to the group.
Synod started appointing ethnic advisers in 1995 out of a desire to have more ethnic minority persons involved in synodical discussions. Synod 2005 decided to keep doing so until there are at least 25 delegates in this category — a goal that has been reached this year! For the first time in almost 20 years, Synod 2014 will not have ethnic advisers because it has 27 ethnic minority delegates.
Synod 2014 will not have women advisers either, but this is because the practice of appointing women advisers, begun in 2000, was discontinued when women were allowed as delegates by Synod 2007. No goals were set for the number of women delegates, since our denomination allows different views on women’s ordination and allows classes to not have women delegates at their classis meetings and in their delegations to synod. Synod 2014 will have 16 women delegates, all of whom are elders.
But Synod 2014 will have seven young adult representatives, as it has since 2009. Though they have a different designation, since some cultural communities consider it unfitting to appoint young people as advisers, these 18- to 26-year-olds function like the other advisers. They participate in advisory committees at synod and can speak to the whole synod, but do not vote.
Additionally, a new category of advisers will be present at Synod 2014: deacon advisers. While a committee is studying whether or not to have deacons as delegates to synod, some deacons will be included at synod as advisers for a couple of years.
The final category of adviser is the oldest one — faculty advisers, who have served at synod for most of our denomination’s history. Faculty advisers do not represent a particular group of people, but bring expertise from theological and historical perspectives.
As experts on how the Christian Reformed Church has viewed Scripture and applied it to various issues and situations over the years, these seminary professors are helpful to synod as it deliberates on new issues. Like all other advisers and representatives, faculty advisers give advice and information to the delegates of synod, but are not directly involved in the decision-making process because they do not vote.
This is also true for the presidents of Calvin College and Calvin Theological Seminary, who advise synod on issues that affect their respective institutions, and for the Executive Director who gives procedural advice for all matters on synod’s agenda.
All advisers are asked to remember their role at synod — which is to help the delegates from the classes and churches to make decisions for the whole Christian Reformed Church. Synod 2014 will consider a report that more clearly defines these various advisers and their roles, with the goal of continuing to provide good advice to synod.