Exciting things can happen when a large group of people sit behind computers and listen to long speeches that are guided by somewhat arcane rules of order. That’s true every year at the annual meeting of the Christian Reformed Churches, which we call Synod.
This year, to me, the most exciting decision came out of the Faith Formation Committee report. This committee was charged with the task of giving churches guidance on how best to form faith among church members. To their credit, the committee considered intentionally the formation of faith of people with disabilities in their discussions.
Traditionally, the CRC and most of us in the Reformed tradition have zeroed in on intellectual assent to faith principles as the key markers in faith maturity. As a result, people with intellectual disabilities in particular were thought to be less mature as Christians because they could not give an in-depth articulation of the fundamental principles of Reformed Christianity. But theological acuity does not necessarily indicate spiritual maturity.
Therefore, as the Faith Formation committee formulated their proposed guidelines for who may appropriately partake of the Lord’s Supper, their formulation for new church order wording kept people with intellectual disabilities in their purview. The Committee’s proposed Article 59 of the Church Order reads:
All baptized members who come with age- and ability-appropriate faith in Jesus Christ are welcome to the Lord’s Supper and called to obey the scriptural commands about participation in an age- and ability-appropriate way under the supervision of the elders.
The Synod approved this change, and the decision may now be implemented by churches immediately. I praise God that we want and welcome all God’s people at the table!
In addition, the committee issues several statements of principles for faith formation which include a paragraph on “Persons with Disabilities and Profession of Faith” which states, “Healthy congregations include all who seek to belong to the body of Christ by professing faith in him, including persons with disabilities.” That section concludes with this call, “We call on each other to practice the full welcome of God to all whose disabilities make it necessary for them to express their faith in their own appropriate way.”
Will your church fulfill this call? I hope we can all say in unison, "We do, God helping us!"