Do Not Worry About Synod

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Therefore do not worry about Synod, for Synod will worry about itself… 

I’m about as big a church order nerd as they come in the CRCNA. I’m postponing my family’s vacation in order to be present at Synod this June. I read the Agenda for Synod…for fun. I have Calvin Seminary’s professor of Church Polity on speed dial.  I tell people the difference between an “overture” and a “communication” as part of my job. I’m deeply invested in doing what I can to help every council, classis and Synod discern and decide well

But I also interact regularly with churches across Canada and the US who are having their own, internal challenging conversations, discernment, and decision-making around the Human Sexuality Report. And as the deadline for materials to classis and Synod approaches, some folks in these churches are feeling a lot of pressure to get some kind of communication or overture into a classis or Synod agenda. They want to add their voice to the chorus of those “for” or “against” adopting the report and some or all of its recommendations. And now they’re rushing to forge a sufficient consensus to get something into classis before deadlines pass. 

But you know what my advice is to such churches? “Don’t worry about it.“

Don’t get me wrong. 

I strongly encourage you and your congregation to dive into the issues, read the report, pray, study and discern together how to live faithfully with respect to human sexuality. If you have a clear request or communication to offer classis or Synod, by all means, share it. I’m grateful for the thoughtful deliberation that’s gone into the many overtures and communications submitted so far. But if you don’t have a clear request ready to go, don’t force it just to meet a deadline. Your council and congregation’s energy is probably best directed not toward telling classis or Synod what you think they should do.

Instead, use that energy to delegate wise, godly and discerning leaders to classis and Synod. Pray for them. And then, invest enormously in your local church’s life together in Christ.  

…Each church has enough trouble of its own.

What I mean is, while the decisions we make at Synod will be consequential and warrant our sincere attention and prayers, each church will still need to determine exactly how they will live faithfully in light of those decisions and scripture. And to do that, you’ll need to have a community that knows how to listen well to God and to one another. You’ll need to build a foundation of faith and trust now through practices of communal prayer, study, listening and discernment to be able to withstand whatever challenges may come AFTER Synod. 

We can do a lot of good work through Synod. But Synods come and go. Sure, our work at Synod gets the headlines (in the Banner and Christian Courier, anyway) but our local churches and ministries are engaged in witness of great significance, too. Each of our churches has a unique opportunity to live and proclaim the gospel in our neighborhoods, towns, cities or regions. Doing that well, especially with respect to the thorny issues addressed in the Human Sexuality Report, will require resilient communities that know and love God and know how to listen to each other and work together. Invest in those communities first. 

Pray for Synod. Pray for classis. Delegate wise and discerning leaders. Then exhale and attend to the ministry God has placed immediately before you. 

Next Steps

Consider signing up to learn how to facilitate a Challenging Conversations listening group around the Human Sexuality Report at your church. 

Experiment with listening circles in your council or youth group (they’re a great way to build trust and understanding with conversations about all kinds of topics, not just human sexuality). 

Ask your council or classis how you can pray for them and support them in the decisions facing them in the future. 

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Participant

"Instead, use that energy to delegate wise, godly and discerning leaders to classis and Synod. Pray for them. And then, invest enormously in your local church’s life together in Christ."

 

This is the key issue and very good advice! The selection process for this Synod will be critical. Sometime back I suggested that the various Classes select double the number required delegates and then draw lots for the the four (or  whatever number) that will attend. With God in charge of everything that may be the way to go.

It is hard not to worry. Truly hoping that Synod does not raise the report to confessional level. It seems we could allow for differences of opinion and be united in Christ. I do not believe sexuality is a salvation issue. Jesus summarized the law as love your neighbor as yourself. More important to demonstrate that love than to "be right."_

Community Builder

This report will never be confessional, and nobody is asking for it to be. The confessional part is just clarifying that yes, our confessions (and even more so Scripture) do have standards and expectations for how we are to live. No, we aren't going to ignore those (and let a publicly serial adulterer for example) continue in their office, serving a church. The Gospel message is for adulterers to hear, and turn to Christ. But any living in unchastity is certainly not "above reproach," and thus barred from leadership, or even a member in good standing. They are to be called to repent!

Good words, and good advice! Thank you, Sean.