Agendas for Synod arrived in the mail last week. How are we doing with our reading?
Every year, I have the best of intentions.
Every year, this replacement for a 3-lb dumbbell sits on my desk for months.
Every year, the sermon writing and pastoral visits and advanced planning and even, if I’m terribly honest, the rearranging and organizing of the worship closet takes precedent.
Every year, I file it away on my shelf, a shameful reminder that I will never be an elder stateswoman of the church.
And every year, I miss the opportunity to look up from my own navel long enough to remember that I am part of something greater than myself – the Kingdom of God by way of the Christian Reformed Church of North America.
But this year – THIS YEAR-- dear brethren & sisteren, I have done it. In a feat of institutional fortitude, I have thoroughly skimmed the entire agenda, even marking pages for further consideration. So you might ask yourself (with apologies to the beautiful Hebrew Seder) “How is this year unlike every other year?”
Well, dear reader, this year I am your official Synod blogger!
By way of introduction, I currently serve as pastor at The Christian Reformed Church of Washington DC, where I was installed this past November. Prior to that, I served 4 years as Minister of Congregational Life & Witness at Third CRC in Kalamazoo, MI. I graduated from Calvin Theological Seminary in 2008. I am a relative newcomer to the CRC – it was little over 10 years ago that I first attended a Christian Reformed Church. Since that time, I have built an unenviable reputation for saying more than I should via blogs and twitter and just, you know, in real life. That is, I fear, my greatest qualification for pre-Synod journalism.
I want this blog to be a place of conversation – respectful but disparate comments are expected here. Consider this your invitation to submit guest posts on topics of particular interest to you and/or your faith community. We do the work of God best when we do the work of God together.
To get the ball rolling with some highlights from the Synod 2013 Agenda & topics of conversation for future blog posts:
- Winner of the Cleverest Title Award and recipient of the most overtures and communications in response to their work -- A completed study committee report proposing the expanded role of deacons in the life of the local church and at representative classical & denominational meetings – Diakonia Remixed
- The study committee in second place for overtures and communications in response to it – Diversity in Leadership Planning Group II (awarded NO points for clever title) – creates a plan for intentional hiring with regard to ethnic diversity.
- Is your classis half empty or half full? Overtures 1 & 2 request a transfer of church from one Classis to another on the basis of language. Overtures 3 & 4 request a transfer of two churches into a yet-to-be-created Classis on the basis of theological affinity.
- Overtures 5 & 6, a significant portion of the study report on structure within the denomination and a groundswell of frustration are all clamoring for us to consider – again – what it means to live out our bi-national identity within the Christian Reformed Church.
- Several of the most interesting overtures – in my humble opinion – surface out of the needs faced by churches tasked with the frontline ministry of the denomination. On the front lines, we ask more practical questions:
- What is the Christian churches’ proper response to or adoption of Eastern mystical practices?
- Where are we to stand in the intersections of religious persecution & liberty?
- What are we going to do about the worrisome decline in church membership?
- What are the practical implications to growing support and legalization of gay marriage? Has the CRC given its pastors, office-bearers and members all the tools we need to faithfully address this question?
Finally, two big-picture questions that seem to hover in and through the entire agenda:
- Is Synod tasked with the work of social activism? In recent years (with climate change/creation care), this year (with an overture regarding capital punishment and the Doctrine of Discovery) & in the future with myriad other social concerns, what is Synod’s role? In a Reformed denomination where personal piety, Kuyperian Kingdom aspirations and doctrinal orthodoxy all come into play – this seems like a conversation worth having (guest post submissions very welcome.)
- Does the denomination serve the church or do the churches serve the denomination? An entire study committee report is dedicated to the answer but you need look no further than the budget to ask the question. When reports and overtures demand costly solutions from the top down, a worrisome voice in my head begins to wonder, “Have we become ‘too big to fail?’ And what would a bail-out require of our churches?”
Okay, Synod junkies & polity wonks, what have I missed?