An Officer and a (Gentle) Delegate?

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One of the most interesting events that goes on during the first morning of Synod is election of officers—President, Vice-President, 1st Clerk and 2nd Clerk. Before the days of computer voting, the President pro tempore led that session as nominations were heard from the floor. In some cases voting could take almost the full morning .

While the ballots were tallied to narrow the field, other significant, yet routine agenda items were dealt with—announcements of committee members, schedule of events, visitors and staff introduced and so on. No wonder synods often lasted the full two weeks allotted. You can say this much for all that time spent, though: delegates got to know each other fairly well, if only because they had to sit together for so long.

In recent years procedures have changed. With synods pared down to a week and with the aid of electronic communication, the tense tedium of waiting between ballots has disappeared. Elections are done in one almost uninterrupted process. Usually by 10 AM on the first day the synod officers step to on the podium and the process begins.

But how are officers elected? Nominations may still come from the floor, but most nominations already have been made. Delegates will have submitted their nominations after perusing information sent by denominational staff. They learn from forms all submit beforehand what experience in local, regional or denominational work other delegates have. The forms also ask if delegates are willing to serve as officers. As the Program Committee (previous year’s officers) met in April, I was taken aback by how many first-time delegates were naively willing to serve as an officer. I know from my first few synods that I would never wish being an officer on a rookie. Experience does count.

At last year’s synod I was surprised and a bit shocked to be elected president. I had been nominated on three previous occasions, but never before elected. Of the four officers only one—Rev. Sheila Holmes—had been an officer before. Rev. George Vink and Rev. Bert Slofstra had also been nominated earlier, though never elected. All four of us had attended more synods over the years than we could accurately remember.

Serving as officer is a remarkable experience. At first it is an almost unnerving honour to be entrusted with leading fellow delegates through twists and turns of issues and process for six days of ten hours a day. Not infrequently debates repeat things too often. Spirits and passions often run high. No one or no four people can lead without much help from all fellow delegates, from staff and always from the Lord of the Church. Prayers are often fittingly uttered that God guide our thoughts and words. God’s Spirit seems most of the time to keep delegates respectful while also discussing with humour, humility, winsomeness, candour and engagement even the most potentially divisive of issues.

The best part of being an officer? We were privileged to meet and chat with many interesting people from several nations and churches over lunches and dinners—fraternal , youth and ethnic delegates. (I think we even were served food from some special menus that others never saw!) It was moving to hear other Christians’ experiences and again to recognize that God places us all in different parts of the Church and world not to boast, but to serve faithfully, patiently, hopefully. (The worst part? I never once got to take a noon-time bike ride or run.) 

So whom will the delegates and God choose to lead Synod 2012? Several delegates have previously served as officers. Many have attended previous synods. Fewer are first-time delegates than last year. It will be enlightening to watch from the sidelines whom, I pray, God’s Spirit moves delegates to elect. May they all be humble officers and gentlepersons.

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Jim,

Said as a naïve, frist-time delegate: please don't mistake willingess for desire.

Plus, I thought you did a great job last year, for what it's worth.

Also, while I'm on here, I threw you a question on the CRC pastor's facebook page about a program committee decision. If you're interested/able - I'll ask it here again. I don't fully understand the process so I was curious, is there a reason the overtures from Columbia (#3) and Grandville (#6) are split up between the synodical services advisory committees? I see that the two committee's have different focuses (polity and programs), but the overtures seem closely related...

Maybe a differnt blog post is in order for us new-timers. Cheers,

Mark

Community Builder

Mark--Thanks for your response (and your compliment). If you're a grandson of two ministers, you probably shouldn't be naive anymore, but I'll give you the benefit of the doubt. Naivete is probably OK most of the time; it's closely akin to idealism--which should not be confused with or miscontrued as utopianism. Maybe I'll think of another blog for first-timers. But in a way I already tried to cover that base by asking my friend and young colleague Chris de Winter to post a blog, He did and maybe you've read it too.

Anyway--where was I? Oh yes, you asked a question that you said went to CRC Pastors FB page. I did see that several weks ago. But Rose and I were in The Gambia doing a spiritual retreat. Though I could infrequently get on-line and check emails and postings, it was impossible with the intermittent service to respond. Hence I forgot about you question till now.

I'll try to respond, without remembering in detail our program committee discussion about the separation of the two overtures. There are a couple of things I recall about that brief discussion. You're right: Overtures 3 & 6 are related. But if I recall correctly, we considered that they should go to different committees because they asked different things. Overture 3 requests a broader course of action--a study committee on a large, significant issue of ecclesiastical definition and polity.  If granted, that overture could require the normal three year period for study committee work. Overture 6, on the other hand requests specific and presumably, immediate synodical action to BOT and agencies. Thus, while the topics are related, their scope and range are different. 

Additionally, the Program Committee tries to consider balance of work load, resulting in dividing up what some might consider united. That does not, however, preclude changing workloads as the deliberations of committees proceed. Officers are always in touch with committee chairs and reporters about how their work is going and asking if there are materials that might readily be passed on to a committee whose work is nearing completion. Still more: it is not unheard of for committee chairs and reporters to kibitz among themselves and request re-alignment of assignments and documents. We won't exactly call that horse-trading or lobbying, now, will we? Seriously: there is some flexibility and the Program Committee's work prior to synod is able to be changed by synod itself. I hope that's sufficient (and accurate--from my memory).