The last substantive motion of CRC Synod 2014 came from the floor. The restoration of the ethnic advisors.
Ethnic advisors have served Synod for a number of years due to the lack of ethnic diversity. The plan was for there to be advisors until 25 delegates were from non-CRC-majority culture, and that milestone was reached this year so the ethnic advisor program was paused.
David Kromminga from Classis Grand Rapids East brought a new motion to the floor to restore the practice. This led to a surprisingly long discussion on the floor and finally to its adoption by an overwhelming majority.
How Synod Can Change You
While I hope classes continue to prioritize sending non-majority culture delegates to Synod I believe a significant benefit of sending additional non-majority culture advisors is not simply for their voice in advisory committees or on the floor but for leadership development and denominational identity.
The impression Synod seems to leave on most new delegates is a respect and enthusiasm for the CRC and a level of trust in a process that from the outside sometimes seems exclusive and byzantine. Even with hours of meetings and deliberation Synod actually manages to often be a “feel-good” experience for many. Delegates leave Synod with an appreciation for “the system” that often feels too Dutch, too insular, too exclusive.
The advisor program might just be one of the best things Synod has done to help a new diverse generation of leaders inherit a sometimes strange system.
Should We Bring Back Female Advisors?
A lot of attention on social media was paid to the paucity of women at Synod 2014. There are a lot or reasons for this I think, most of them unintentional. Synod 2015 might want to consider bringing back Female Advisors for the same reason they brought back Ethnic Advisors, to not only strengthen the voice of women in the denomination, who are probably over half the CRC, but to also continue to develop female leadership in the church.
Female and Ethnic Point Leaders
The CRC has struggled to see diversity at the highest levels of its leadership. This year we presented two middle aged guys of Dutch ancestry for top positions. They are both great choices but having served in search processes at various levels I know that the men in our system vastly outnumber the women and the reasons are sociological. The kinds of experiences needed to develop the institutional memory and understanding take not only time but also access. A vibrant, diverse pool of leaders is grown over generations and time within the institution and its assemblies is required. Synodical participation is just this kind of experience whether as a delegate or an advisor.
The Meeting Outside the Meeting
Once again at this Synod I was struck by how important the unofficial gatherings around Synod are to the development and life of the CRCNA. What happens in the dorms, the dining halls, the Canadian Bible Studies and the committees are sometimes more important for leadership development, networking, for knowing and being known than what happens on the floor.
If the CRC wants to prioritize developing a deep pool of diverse leaders the advisory positions are probably one of our better ideas.