Synod 2010 considered some basic questions around the church offices of deacon and elder. Synod was guided by a concern for the revitalization of those offices and how they are to relate to each other. One important question: shall deacons be delegated to the meetings of Classis and synod?
Synods never rushes matters. Synod 2013 decided to move in this direction and proposed two significant Church Order changes for Synod 2015 to adopt. Synod also asked for further study. Now this upcoming synod will hopefully make final determination. And only the upcoming Synod of June 2015 will, hopefully, make final determinations. And even then implementation will take some more time.
The report of the study committee is found on pages 380 – 410 of the Agenda of the 2015 Synod (which found its way into my mailbox earlier this week). A summary of 30 pages can only deal with some main facets.
Central to the committee’s observations are the following:
a. Pastor(s), elders, and deacons form a Church Council, which assumes responsibility for the administration of the church (Church Order, Art. 35).
b. Each of the offices have their own distinctive tasks.
c. The three offices share in the same dignity. Art. 2 of the CRC Church Order stipulates “parity” of office.
Throughout its' history, the CRC has only delegated elders and pastor to the meetings of classis and synod (the ‘major assemblies’), a privilege that was denied deacons. However, as early as 1967, the CRC Synod stated that the delegation of deacons to the major assemblies is neither prohibited nor demanded by Scripture and the Reformed Confessions. (Acts, p. 93).
The study committee now proposes to the Synod of 2015 that it declare that deacons be seated at classical and synodical meetings. The committee observes that the focus is not on equal representation as much as it is on a full representation of the whole church which these offices represent. In the absence of deacons, the full voice of the church is not heard, nor is the full ministry of the church under discussion. The purpose of the major assemblies (classis and synod) is not simply governance but a deliberation of the church’s character and ministry in which deacons ought to participate.
We await the outcome of synod’s deliberations with interest. Should synod accept these proposals, significant changes in the CRC Church Order would need to be made before they can be implemented.