Denominational Structure

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It is both interesting and telling that there isn't a category to talk about the denominational structure, given the fact that this occupied a considerable amount of time at the last meeting of Synod and it certainly occupies a lot of the BOT's time.

That seems to send a strong message that denominational structure is the sole responsibility of the BOT and, ultimately, Synod. While it is indeed BOT's responsibility to present a report to a future Synod, I would hope that pew-sitting CRC members have an opportunity to provide input into the process. If ever there was a need for a denominational 'town hall meeting', this seems to be it: What should the CRCNA look like? How do we talk about accountability? Why does the CRCNA need to emulate Corporate America when it creates a structure for a binational church? And is the binational church still a valid notion, given differences in culture and stewardship.

The CRCNA seems to thrive on structure: the more boards and committees we have, the more 'efficient' we pretend to be. We do all we can to preserve and refine and tweak the structure, and many of our bureaucrats devote considerable time battling issues around accountability and authority.

The church is all about mission and ministry and it seems to me that structure often gets in the way of doing ministry. We have it all backwards. We need a minimalist structure to support and encourage and facilitate the mission of the church.

The CRCNA is, I believe, the only binational denomination in North America. That served us well for a generation or two as a fledgling Canadian presence was established. Now we have strong offices with strong leadership in both Burlington ON and Grand Rapids MI denominational offices. There are ministries that are unique to Canada -- a strong focus on social justice and a vibrant ministry among the aboriginal community. There are ministries that are unique to the United States -- a strong ministry among native Americans, a strong focus on race relations, military chaplaincies.

Theologically, our perspectives are different: American piety and Canadian Kuyperianism. When it comes to stewardship and giving, the CRWRC in Canada, for instance, receives most of its support from CRC members. In the US, most of the CRWRC support comes from corporations.

Government regulations, especially, have become tightened so that funds raised within Canada need to be accounted for within Canada. Canadian government regulations resulted in a significant change in the denominational pension plan ... further underscoring the fact that we are two nations and that there is an increasing demand to separate out Ministry Share between those two nations.

Part of this denominational discussion on structure, therefore, needs to consider today's reality. The time has come to look at creating two separate, sister denominations ... with structures and ministries that reflect their uniqueness.

More importantly, it is time that Americans and Canadians became engaged in this signficiant discussion. The Board of Trustees and Synod need to hear from us.

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Participant

Having served six years on CRWRC's board, I fully understand that our binational structure can seem like a burden. But as a U.S. member of the CRCNA, I am thankful for our strong Canadian contingent. Wherever I have gone in CRC circles, I have constantly been reminded of the amazing contributions of our Canadian sisters and brothers. (One of my proudest moments during my service on the CRWRC board was being declared an "honorary member" of the "Canadian Caucus.") Rather than thinking of the red tape and additional structure that occasionally annoys us, I hope we instead think of how much being a binational organization has helped us. We U.S. folks need the Canadians. I hope they feel the same about us.

I've been traveling for over two weeks, but can't believe that there are only two posts on this matter.  Or is it that this is not the "official" site?

At any rate, while I can understand observations that stem from being a "bi-national" denomination, my concern is much more with a denomination that has a bi-furcated witness because of separate agencies that should be carrying out one single and integrated mission for the Kingdom.  Apropos to that, we need the holistic emphasis of the Canadian churches, and they need a little more of the "pietistic" emphasis that the American dimension can contribute.  Let's work together to get it together.  To that end, please see my other blogs under Global Mission.   - Lou

Good discussion!! I was a delegate to Synod 2010, and heard much about the structure.

Change is needed--as is obvious by what happened to two top people who were very good at what

they did.   I discussed with Bob DeMoor,  at synod one day, the editorial he had written in The Banner, (quite some time back now) and it seemed to me that he hit it right.  Things were OK up until a certain point ,and the things got screwed up, probably be the BOT making changes.

Has anyone in the "heirarchy" of the CRC ever considered retaining---Arrow Leadership, of Vancouver & Portland

to help us walk through a "redo" of our denominational leadership structure?  These are Christian people who

have helped restructure such organizations as World Vision, Salvation Army, etc. to be the most effective they can

be.  Just some thoughts.  Alan

Participant

Hi uncle Keith!

Good thoughtful post!

I do agree that from a structural perspective (including the legal aspects of our respective incorporation papers), as well as some issues with Canadians dealing with visa and employment issues to attend seminary, it seems wise to at least seriously consider separating the Canadian and U.S. CRC's.

There are lots of reasons to remain united too, and you mention many of them. I would add that our overseas efforts (CRWM, CRWRC, BTG, etc.) are better because they are bi-national. (BTW, CRWRC Canada receives huge amounts of money from the Canadian government, not only from Canadian CRC members.)

As one who believes form should follow (not define) reality, the bigger question is this: do we have 2 defacto denominations that cooperate by a joint-venture agreement, or do we have one denomination that needs 2 structures to legally operate in our different legal systems?

In my (very limited) experience the CRC in the U.S. and Canada are becoming less alike (not more alike) as time goes by. This differentiation is mostly cultural. I sometimes hear my US counterparts talk about Canadians as being a bit 'weird' or 'strange.' This is more than merely where you put the spoon when you set the table, or whether it's called a napkin or a serviette. The spiritual milieau is different and so is the 'feel.' Being in a classis that borders Canada, we often have Canadian synodical deputies. Occassionally a Canadian deputy will ask a question of a ministerial candidate that has us in the U.S. shaking our heads and looking at each other with the (sometimes) unspoken question "Where did that come from?" I suspect the 'weirdness' is felt from the other direction as well. There are probably other ways to describe our different cultures, but you get the idea.

This would suggest that our structures will eventually follow that trend, should it continue.

I suspect that some Canadian CRC members feel held-back, restrained, or directed by their U.S. counterparts in ways that are not always entirely comfortable. The U.S. CRC is more than 2X the size of the Canadian, and with the cultural differences, sometimes (often? always?) the U.S. CRC emphasis wins the day.

Yet, we don't hear a call by any in the leadership of the CRC of Canada to separate (unless I'm missing something). Until we do, it seems we do have one denomination in two countries and two (similar but distinct) cultures. As long as we do, our structure should reflect that unity.

Community Builder

I deeply appreciate your profound thoughts, Richard. You must be family!

I like the notion of two separate denominations -- the US and Canada -- with a partnership agreement covering the overseas work of CRWRC, World Missions, Back to God, etc.

These are two separate nations, two unique cultures, each with their unique perspectives on ministry and opportunities for ministry. But we're united when it comes to overseas mission opportunities.

It is not surprising that we don't hear much from the "Canadian leadership" about the notion of two separate structures. As it stands, the Canadian leadership is accountable to the American leadership, ad it just wouldn't do to complain to the 'boss' about going on your own. When I last checked -- a few years ago -- the Canadian CRCs account for one quarter of the delegates at synod. Any suggestion to part ways will need considerable American support and that hasn't happened in past attempts to raise the issue at synod.  That notion therefore needs to come from BOT as part of its structural review.

I acknowledge that creating two denominations won't solve the larger issues around authority and accountability, but it may help shape the response to those issues.

I think the task force would miss an excellent opportunity if it did not address the binational nature of our country. We are the only denomination that covers both sides of the border. Presbyterian denominations have split down geographic lines and so did the Reformed Church in America with the creation many years ago of the Reformed Church of Canada. If the CRC continues to talk with the Reformed Church in America about eventual union, would we leave out their Canadian counterpart -- the Reformed Church of Canada .... a more conservative wing of the RCA?

Everything needs to be put on the table, including the value of our binationalism.

I completely agree with you Kieth. Our current structure is not working and tinkering with it will only drain resources which could be used elsewhere.

Working together  on common ministries can work, but only as it seems right for us in Canada, We are all grown up here. Let's start with a Canadian regional synod .

 

The simple truth as I see it .

 

I was disappointed in the synod just held . The Canadian question was simply dismissed as a noisy child in the room!

 

 

Community Builder

This denominational structure issue just won't go away ... and Synod's decisions (or indecisions) didn't help the situation. There is, more than ever, a cultural divide along the U.S.-Canada border. We are bound together in overseas ministry but our 'kingdom response' ... within Canada and the United States ... is and needs to be different. The Canadian regional office and committees are more politically engaged and are more ecumenical than the U.S. counterpart. Each country has specific needs and focii (Canadian churches can't get their heads around the need for quotas to guarantee racial equality within boards)

There is value in remaining together as one binational denomination for the time being, but operating as two separate and equal regional synods. Each has an executive director and each has a board of trustees. Each holds its own biennial synod (The CRCNA is one of a very few denominations still meeting annually) and sets its own agenda. Both should continue to share joint ministries overseas such as World Renew, World Missions, Back to God International and others.

We can try the two-region approach -- U.S. and Canada -- for a decade, each legally autonomous to meet IRS/CRA standards. By then we will be in essence two separate denominations.

The problem is -- and here's the rub -- no denominational task force will ever recommend that kind of separation and no synod will ever approve such a plan because three-quarters of the delegates are American and they simply don't understand what all the fuss is about.

I can't envision an amicable separation, even though I am a deeply loyal Christian Reformed member. I envision some future synod, when confronted with a reasonable proposal for Canadian autonomy, to once again turn down the recommendation. But then I also envision Canadian classes refusing to send delegates to the subsequet synod as a 'final straw' .. the ultimate protest that we've had enough. Sadly, I think it may come to that.

 

Lastly, and this also has to do with the future structure, I think it's time for Canadian churches and classes to hold one of those Canadian Ministry Forums such as we had in Edmonton many years ago. A properly called, delegated meeting (four from each classis, if I recall correctly), where we identify what makes us uniquely Canadian when it comes to a Christian Reformed presence in Canada.

We had a hastily called conference in Toronto a few months ago, called by one classis, that seemed more political than visionary. That won't  do. Let's do it right; have the Canadian Director of Ministries call the meeting, set the agenda, and moderate the discussion. And give each classis the time to properly choose and send their delegation to this national conference.

The Christian Reformed Church (in Canada?) has a prophetic word for Canada. That kind of message cannot be crafted and sent from a synod meeting held in Iowa or Illinois or Grand Rapids. Semantics? Not at all.

Thank you Kieth. My thoughts , very well expressed.

In the latest issue of The Banner, there was an insert  called," Ministry report 2013".

when you come to Canadian Ministry, you would be led to believe we are only about Aboriginal Ministry north of the 49th parallel . It seems our interim Ministry Director has not made much headway in the year since his appointment. Another item that points to the broken bi-national structure of the crcna. Let's fix it or forget it. The congregations already are becoming dis-engaged to the denomination