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Synod Has Spoken — Are We Listening?

The Christian Reformed Church’s annual synod is in the books. After reflecting on the week long meeting some noted that this was a “pastoral” synod. There was an openness and a willingness to listen. Several brave people shared their experiences and testimonies of abuse, not just in private conversations, but also on the floor of synod.  The impact of the #MeToo and #ChurchToo movements were felt. The committee reporter addressed synod saying, “There could hardly be anything more relevant than what we are addressing this evening culturally as well as in our churches.”

The committee considered together two items, both related to Safe Church Ministry. One was the report from Safe Church Ministry (Agenda to Synod, pp 162-3). In addition, the director and associate gave an in-person update to the report (the deadline for submitting the report is January, so an update was in order). The second item was an overture submitted by an individual, Bev Sterk, from Classis Pacific Northwest.

Some of us think that these church polity meetings are long and perhaps drawn out too long. However, we invite you to not only read some of the pronouncements of synod below, but to watch how the delegates of synod came to these conclusions through a careful process of hearing so many different voices of the church. Synod has been recorded and we have added some safe church related links; here is the link to the start of the video recordings.

Synod 2018 adopted the following recommendations regarding Safe Church Ministry:

I. Safe Church Ministry:

That synod receive with thanks the work of Safe Church Ministry as reported in the agenda and commend their work to the churches.

II. Response to Overture 2: Address Patterns of Abuse of Power that Violate the Sacred Trust Given to Leaders and Recognize How these Hinder Due Process and Healing (Video link to the beginning of these discussions)

1. That synod grant Bonnie Nicholas, director of Safe Church Ministry, the privilege of the floor while Overture 2 is discussed (Video 3 minutes).

2. That synod receive with thanks the work done by the author of Overture 2 (Video 1 minute).

3. That synod reaffirm the action it took in response to the Abuse Victims Task Force (Agenda for Synod 2010, pp. 475-509; Acts of Synod 2010, pp. 862-66) and instruct the Executive Director to continue allocating resources to provide support for pastoral care and healing (Video 1 hour) (And Video 10 minutes of next day after various recommendations brought by delegates on the floor).

4. That synod also reaffirm the five goals that were approved by Synod 2014 (Agenda for Synod 2014, pp. 237; Acts of Synod 2014, pp. 559-60) to guide Safe Church Ministry, namely (Video 12 mins):

          A. Each church has implemented a written safe church/abuse prevention policy.

          B. Each church includes abuse prevention in its church school and youth education. Programs such as Circle of Grace, which teach positive respect in relationships, are recommended.

          C. Each church has protocols in place for responding to misconduct and is aware of the recommended “Guidelines for Handling Allegations of Abuse against a Church Leader” approved by Synod 2010.

          D. Abuse is acknowledged as an important issue and can be freely discussed.

          E. Leadership at all levels is supportive of Safe Church Ministry, and each church is represented on a Classis Safe Church Team.

5. That synod instruct the Executive Director to have Safe Church Ministry report annually through the Council of Delegates to synod regarding the number and names of classes with and without Safe Church teams, and the number of congregations with and without Safe Church teams and policies (Video 13 minutes).

6. That synod lament the ongoing failure of some classes and congregations to implement Safe Church practices, and encourages all classes and congregations to learn from the best practices of others, and utilize the resources available through Safe Church Ministry (Video 1 minute).

7. That synod instruct the Council of Delegates, in consultation with the Executive Director, to appoint a small team to bring recommendations through the Council of Delegates to Synod 2019 regarding how the CRCNA can best address the patterns of abuse of power at all levels of the denomination (Video part 1 - 6 minutes; part 2 - 8 minutes).

8. That this be synod’s response to overture 2 and council of delegates supplement section 1E (Video 3 minutes)

Acknowledgement and prayer (Video 4 minutes)

Next Steps - We Need You:

Synod delegates seemed to understand, in light of the discussion, that overtures to synod only go so far. These issues belong to all of us, to our congregations and to each classis. Does your classis have a Safe Church Coordinator to help promote, support, and encourage the work of safe church ministry? Contact us to find out more about the Safe Church Coordinator position. And if you'd like to donate to this cause; Safe Church has a special fund designated to support the Classis Coordinator position; 100% of the funds will go directly to classes. We invite you to prayerfully consider how you can help safe church ministry at the classis and congregational level - it can't happen only from Grand Rapids - we need YOU.


The whole conversation on the floor of Synod when the Advisory Committee spoke was amazing to watch. The stories that were shared, the pain that was disclosed and the incredible sense that something needed to be done was so very uplifting. I hope that everyone there goes back to their classes and home church and reports on what happened at Synod.

Thank you Safe Church for putting this together with the relevant links!  very helpful and practical!  much appreciated!  bless your hearts!  Bev

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