What's Up With Deacons Going to Synod?

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A Letter to CRC Deacons from members of The Task Force to Study the Offices of Elder and Deacon for Synod 2015

Dear Deacons,

What? Deacons go to Synod? Are you kidding?

I imagine that may be the response of a number of deacons when they read the report that is before Synod 2015. That feeling is understandable. More meetings are the last thing deacons need, especially ones that have topics far removed from the daily needs experienced by the families and communities deacons relate to.

However, let us share with you our diaconal journey and the vision that we believe is incorporated into the Synod report on The Task Force to Study the Offices of Elder and Deacon.

I, Andrew Ryskamp, have been involved with World Renew since 1974. I was sent to Bangladesh at that time as a “deacon at large”, a designation that the local church invented. It helped me to see my role as an agricultural specialist there in a missionary context.

Later, when I was asked to lead the Diaconal Ministries division of World Renew, I was able to see that unless deacons were included in ministry at a classis level, the focus of the classis was often limited to ecclesiastical concerns and less on impacting their region in all areas of life.

Now, as Director for World Renew U.S. for the past 17 years, I have been at Synod each of those years. I long for more diaconal discussions and plans to be laid out at our denominational level. For instance, how can the denomination do more to foster the community development work that so many local churches are taking on? How can we work with sister organizations of CRC’s in other lands to address refugee needs in Northern Iraq and in Syria? How do we speak as one voice endorsing national policies that promote justice and compassion? Can you imagine what Synods would look and sound like if we could be part of a discussion like that?

I, Moses Chung, have been a pastor in both California and South Korea. Having persons in my church that care deeply about the needs of the community has always been a vital part of seeing our churches grow. That heart for the community is the essence of the call that deacons in the CRC have.

Now as Director of Home Missions, I have the privilege of seeing churches develop a passion for community transformation – seeing the power of Gospel impacting all aspects of community wellbeing – spiritual, economic, educational, political, etc. We need diaconal leadership to shape and guide this movement at local, regional and national levels.

In the context of Canada, Diaconal Ministries in Canada (DMC) and World Renew have different expressions of diaconal ministry while each connects with congregations to extend their diaconal reach in both local and global communities.  As leaders of these organizations, Hans Kater (DMC) and Ida Mutoigo (World Renew) recognize the importance of bridging together the ministry of “word” in the office of elder and “deed” in the office of deacon for a more full expression of the church.  With the assumption that the assemblies of Synod and classis will move in the future towards agendas that more intentionally focus on discerning strategies and practices to become an effective missional church, there is value in having both offices of elder and deacon represented. 

The Diakonia Remixed Synod report of 2013 (links to the recommendations below along with related Banner article) led to Synod adopting the recommendation to seat deacons at Classes’ meetings and at Synods. That decision needs to be affirmed at the Synod meeting of June 12-19, 2015. That is coming soon. We would love to hear your comments of either support or concern as we prepare for Synod. You can also place your comments on the CRCNA Network website at either the Deacon or Synod link.  http://network.crcna.org/

All of us see this report as part of a fresh wind blowing through the CRCNA. While simply sending deacons to meetings of Classis and Synod will not create change on its own, it is part of a new future. This future has our churches living out our Reformed heritage in vital ways that claim every square inch of this world for our Lord.

As you read the report, look at it from the perspective of the whole church fully engaging the world. It will impact who we select as deacons and most certainly will affect how we work at Classes and Synods. We encourage you to discuss this report and send your reflections to the people who are representing you at Synod and/or to us directly.

You are invited to connect with us or the chair of the TaskForce.

                                    Andrew Ryskamp: aryskamp@worldrenew.net

                                    Moses Chung: mchung@crcna.org

                                    Terry Woodnorth: t.woodnorth@computer.org

                                    Ida Mutoigo: imutoigo@worldrenew.net

                                    Hans Kater: hkater@crcna.org

Recommendations from Synod 2013

Banner article: Synod 2016 May Include Deacons

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