The task force mandated by Synod 2006 recommended the appropriate Church Order changes to Synod 2007, but that synod decided to appoint a Faith Formation Committee to take another comprehensive look at the matter of children at the Lord’s Table. Unlike the usual study committee that considers a matter for a couple years and then reports to synod, this committee was mandated to report to each synod for the next five years. Chairperson Rev. John Witvliet reported to Synod 2008, “We are tasked with a lot of listening, corresponding, and encouraging” and to Synod 2009, “We’re very grateful for the very strong responses from congregations.”
Synod 2010 approved a guiding principle recommended by the committee: “All baptized members who come with age- and ability-appropriate faith in Jesus Christ are welcome to the Lord’s Table and called to obey the scriptural commands about participation…in an age- and ability-appropriate way, under the supervision of the elders. The elders have responsibility to nurture in the congregation grateful and obedient participation through encouragement, instruction, and accountability.” Synod concurred in the committee’s observation that “a formal public Profession of Faith prior to participation in the Lord’s Supper is not required by Scripture or the confessions” but “is a vital practice for faith formation and is one pastoral approach to consider prior to participation in the Lord’s Supper.” Synod also reminded congregations “that changes in local practice arising out of this principle should be delayed until changes to the Church Order are adopted by a future synod (Acts of Synod 2010, pp. 810-11).
Synod 2011 will consider those long-awaited Church Order changes. Because the churches received these changes last November, they can be immediately implemented unless some “substantial” revisions are made. Though not substantial, hopefully, synod will revise Article 59c and Supplement Articles 78-81b to delete “rights” language (“the right to vote,” “the right to present children for holy baptism” - Agenda for Synod 2011, p. 573 & 6). As Article 59c indicates, these are better identified as “privileges and responsibilities,” not rights.
Though “rights” language is popular in our secular culture, it’s generally inappropriate in the church. It’s also inconsistent with proposed Article 79b: “The consistory shall encourage a spirit of mutual accountability, calling the congregation away from favoritism, division, and selfishness toward hospitality, forgiveness, and unity within the body, especially in conjunction with participation in the Lord’s Supper as mandated in I Corinthians 11:27-29” (Agenda, p.575).
The wait has been longer than some of us desired, but the committee has served the church well and is to be commended for its work.