This piece is neither a report nor an evaluation. It is an account of my own feelings and reactions to Synod 2012. Feelings, as we all know, are fickle. Some of mine are not as vibrant as they were that first week in June. But they continue, nonetheless, so I am taking the risk of sharing some of them with you who are reading this now.
This was an “editing” synod. Frequently one of the first voices from the floor suggested an amendment to the motion that had just appeared on the screen. While it may have appeared that delegates were saying, “I can say it better than either the study or advisory committee,” I do not believe that was actually the case. But it did seem that we were sometimes, at least, more eager to improve the statement than to grapple with the issue. Nowhere was that more evident than the inordinate amount of time we debated whether the Belhar Confession was “excellent” or, as it turned out, (merely) “significant.”
Speaking of the Belhar, I had feelings of deep pain over what happened the night we dealt with it at Synod, feelings that persist until this moment. The debate was almost entirely about whether or not the document constituted a confession, while little, if anything at all, was said about what the document actually confesses. And the matter of its confession-ality was debated enthusiastically and vigorously in the presence of several delegates and many observers and some fraternal delegates whose hurt was palpable but who were almost totally ignored during the process. Whether the Belhar ought to be a confession or not, those to whom it referred were wounded again during our consideration of that issue and our apparent indifference to them. In this respect this was also an indifferent synod.
This was also a referring synod. Issues like fighting pornography and intervening earlier in intra-congregational tension and turmoil were referred too easily to the Board of Trustees for implementation. Maybe it is a function of the workload of synod. Maybe it is a function of the limited time. But the reality is we often referred issues to other destinations and did not really deal with them as a body. Synod did not accede to an overture to form a union classis with the RCA in Arizona, not because synod objected to the idea, but because Classis Arizona had not done enough homework. Synod was reticent to do homework, too, and we need to deal with issues more fully.
That was also evident in the debate regarding the Creation Stewardship Committee Report. More than 30% of the debate concerned whether or not a majority of scientists actually believe in global warming. While that matter can be discussed at some point, the more important matter of how to care for creation was minimized and diminished. It seemed that many delegates had come with minds made up rather than to engage Christian-ly in a discussion of how to be more Christian with regard to the creation we all agree we are obligated to steward. There was confusion, too, over what the church as institute and the church as organism was allowed to do and say. But that issue does not mean the church has exceeded its bounds by bringing up an issue like creation care. A denomination that prides itself on saying, with Abraham Kuyper, “There is not a square inch of creation over which Jesus Christ does not say, ‘I am Lord.’” needs to remember that as it seeks to live in the world for the Christ who owns it.
Please do not think I saw and heard nothing good at synod. The worship was fabulous. The singing was inspirational. The fellowship was enriching. The church was alive and at work. Most of the decisions were right on target. But we are flawed people and we showed that, too, that week in June. We talked sometimes more than we listened. Frequently we criticized more readily than we praised. We sometimes referred what we should have faced. And more than once we injured others without noticing
I pray that God will be praised by what we did right, and that we will be forgiven for what we did wrong.