What Happened at Synod 2010?
This year’s synod took a big step toward welcoming children to the Lord’s Supper! By approving the following guiding principal, synod sent the message that they approve of the direction of the Faith Formation Committee’s work:
“All baptized members are welcome to the Lord’s Supper for age- and ability- appropriate obedience to biblical commands about participation, under the supervision of the elders. The elders have responsibility to nurture grateful and obedient participation by providing encouragement, instruction, and accountability in the congregation. Requiring a formal public profession of faith prior to participation in the Lord’s Supper is one pastoral approach to consider, but is not required by Scripture or the confessions.”
—Agenda for Synod 2010 pg. 590
Next year we will likely to see the Faith Formation Committee present recommendations that ask Synod 2011 to actually open the table to kids. The Faith Formation Committee will not be advocating a public invitation to the table; they want to see pastoral oversight by the elders. But they also want to avoid the idea that children (or anyone) should arrive at a certain level of comprehension before participating. They affirm that the invitation to the Lord’s Supper is offered by grace because we are members of God’s covenant people, not because of our profession or comprehension of faith. Requiring a public profession of faith for children may be the best pastoral approach in some churches and not others.
The committee favors a milestone approach to marking the faith journey, which would make room for different kinds of professions and affirmations of faith all throughout life. Pat Nederveld, a member of the committee, affirms that public profession of faith is an important milestone in the life of a teenager or adult. It’s a bold step to affirm and accept the creeds and confessions of the CRC and to take on responsibilities like voting and officebearing. The committee wants to see public profession preserved and strengthened by unhooking it from entrance to the Lord’s Supper to allow churches to explore new ways for the elders to receive expressions of faith from children and welcome them to the table.
Currently we celebrate baptism and profession of faith as milestones; the committee is considering other times in life when we could also profess our faith by testifying to God’s faithfulness and ongoing grace. Welcoming children to the table is one example; others may include acknowledging when a child learns to read (which many churches do by giving children a Bible), going on or returning from a mission trip, becoming a Sunday school teacher, graduating from high school or college, getting married, having a child, being ordained as an elder, facing a major change in life, and many more. All of these transitions offer a chance for us to deepen our baptismal identity by remembering that we belong to a faithful God who promised his love and grace at baptism and continues to keep that promise to us today!
What Should We Look For at Synod 2011?
Next year, Synod 2011 will have the opportunity to adopt the committee’s recommended changes that are suggested in the guiding principle quoted above. They will also have the chance to approve changes in the CRC Church Order that will align it with the practice of welcoming children to the Lord’s Table.
If you wonder how the recommendations of the Committee and the decision made in 2011 may affect your congregation, speak with your elders and your pastor. Begin talking with them about the current practices of your church and whether a childhood profession of faith or another pastoral approach might be best for welcoming children to the table, should Synod 2011 adopt the committee’s recommendations. Visit the Faith Formation Committee
website and read a summary of their report to Synod 2010
, which includes helpful discussion questions for congregations to consider.
In the future, we can also expect to see more resources from Faith Alive for pastors, elders, parents, Sunday school teachers and coordinators, and children regarding participation in the Lord’s Supper. In this year’s report the committee recommended these resources that focus on faith formation:
(Agenda to Synod 2010, pg. 578).
The guiding principle quoted in the article is not the one endorsed by Synod, at least not according to my records as a delegate. I don't know the details of who changed what and when before the principle got to the Synod floor, but the approved principle reads this way:
"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 (e.g. to 'examine themselves,' to 'discern the body,' to 'proclaim the Lord's death,' to 'wait for others') 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."
Three additional statements about profession of faith were added also to help clarify that principle.
The approved principle is similar to the one in the agenda, but contains some noticeable differences: the mention of "faith in Jesus Christ" (a critical requirement, according to Reformed theology), the examples of commands to be obeyed (which help clarify), and the expanded clarification regarding profession of faith (which also help clarify).
Thank you for the helpful update!
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