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Delegates from classis voting opposite from classis'  vote on an issue ... Briantebben mentioned this in another thread. This was in reference to a vote on whether to accept the Belhar or not. Classis voted no, but Briantebben said the delegates would vote yes. My question is this, if the delegates would vote yes, opposite to the vote of classis, then what is the point of classis voting on it at all? My other question is whether this makes the whole issue, and issues like it, mere political footballs, not decided by discussion and voting, but by the number of committed delegates an issue can win to the convention. To me, it stinks. The discussion might be nice and cute and sincere, and full of the spirit, but maybe that is simply a judgement based on the fact that people are apathetic and don't get mad at one another and don't treat confessions with that much respect? How do we know?  

If those delegates are really delegates, and not just politicians, then they ought to represent their classis on issues that classis has voted on, and not presuppose that they will vote in an opposite direction even before they have arrived at synod to hear arguments that they have never heard before. Otherwise they are not really delegates on behalf of classis but merely independent individuals. In that case it really wouldn't matter if they came from that classis ... why not just select all delegates from one classis and save a lot of transportation and lodging costs. What do you think? 


HI John. I never thought some points I made in another post would then end up being commented on in another seperate post. You do raise some interesting points ,some of which I wrestled with personaly before our last classis meeting. FYI, I do not want the Belhar to be accepted by Synod as a fourth confession. I did not get to say much at our classis that discussed the two overtures about the Belhar ,one to accept and one to reject , because I was chairing the meeting.

I disagree with you that delegates have to vote in sync with what the majority of thier classis feels when it comes to matters at Synod .In our particular case ,Classis Yellowstone ,one delegate represented a church that had brought an overture to our classis meeting that asked us to accept the Belhar. The overture was voted down. This person clearly was for the Behlar and so in no way is he being dishonest by going to Synod to vote for the Belhar. We sent him ,even though he did not share the view of the majoirty ,because as many people commented he is smart ,well spoken, gracious, and and a good listener .The kind of person we want to represent our Classis no matter how he votes.   I really hope Classis doesnt become a mirror of the current political proccess in this country where we send politicians to argue and where talking to others of different views, and compromising is seen as wrong. Synod needs to be different . It is a time to talk with other CRC delagates ,to listen to them ,argue perhaps ,pray together and even in our differences see eachother as brothers and sisters in Christ.

Brian Tebben on April 20, 2012

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

John, one more thing. I agree with you that delagates at Synod need to be open to hearing arguments and opinions from other people. But this needs to go for all people .Perhaps a few delagates from our classis that I thought would vote no on the Belhar ,may vote yes after talking with others and praying about it.


Part of the answer I think would be that classis and synod are both *deliberative* assemblies before they are (if at all) *representative* assemblies.  Delegates are sent by the classis not to vote lock step with whatever the classis or church wants, but to freely deliberate with the guidance of the Holy Spirit on matters of common concern.  I would say that this deliberative nature actually dampens the political nature of the broader assemblies, not aggrivates it.


Briantebben and Jeff, thanks for your comments.  First, I want to affirm that yes, delegates are ultimately supposed to be deliberative.   However, in your briantebben's example, you state that the delegate who presented an overture that he did not agree with, will be assumed to vote in favor of the belhar, in spite of his church disagreeing, and in spite of his classis disagreeing with it.   This would happen according to your example, even before deliberations at synod have occurred.   That is the issue.   His deliberations have already ocurred in his mind, not swayed by deliberations at his council or his classis.   Thus there does not appear to be much room for the influence of communal deliberations that follow.  It appears merely to be a superiority of intellect or opinion that supercedes the deliberations of his council or classis.  

This makes the whole issue more political than deliberative, since if the selection of delegates can be manipulated, based on as you said, " many people commented he is smart ,well spoken, gracious, and and a good listener ...",   which means having a kind of popular appeal, or in other words, how could you not select someone who is smart, well spoken, gracious and a good listener?   In the world of politics, this has a huge impact.   But, most polilticians are smart well spoken and gracious and a good listener.    Most pastors are as well.   Many elders are also.   This is no basis for selecting a delegate who has already predetermined to vote directly contrary to an issue that classis has voted on, even before any deliberations have taken place.  Furthermore, it biases the vote and the considerations of the deliberations in such a way, that classis has in effect  neutered its own vote.  which 

In my opinion, if a delegate votes differently than what classis has voted, then the delegate needs to identify clearly what comments and arguments at synod were new, which arguments had not been made at classis.   Otherwise, perhaps the delegate will simply vote the way he does because he wants to, because he had already decided to, because he had decided his opinion was more valuable than the opinion of classis, or because he was folllowing a friend or mentor or former professor in the vote.  Is this type of meaningless decision making what we want?   

The guidance of the Holy Spirit can be a tenuous thing to discover.   I mean how do we know it was the spirit who guided or whether it was man's own personal desires and worldly ambitions which guided?   We trust in it, but we know we must test the spirits.  The way to test the spirits is to have councils and classes test them.   If that testing of the spirits at classis is disregarded by delegates as not being valid, then how do we know the Spirit is guiding at synod?  Perhaps it is also invalid?  

If a similar thing were to happen at each classis, that all delegates were assured  to vote exactly contrary or most likely contrary, to the decision of their classis, then why waste time at classis?   And does that mean that synod would be perceived to be a type of elitist decision making process far removed from classes and councils, in essence relegating council decisions as irrelevant and thus mere servants of synod, rather than synod having delegated authority originating at the local councils?  

If that type of thing happens frequently, then synod will become irrelevant to councils, and perhaps to some classes as well.   Rather than synod being a delegated body that represents the decisions and guidance of classes, it will simply be a body of people who have the money and time and ambition to attend to represent their own personal agendas and issues.   The delegates then will be using classis to achieve their ends, rather than classes using delegates to achieve their ends.  In my opinion, this is unhealthy.   This is more likely not the Spirit working, but rather the will of man.   A few men and women who want to use the denomination, synod and classis for their own ends.   Thus is how I see it. 

Using the Belhar as a confession is a serious thing, and if deliberations on it can be upset by such a few people who maintain their personal wisdom against that of the original authorities, then how do we know it is the Spirit working.   I guess the system will work how it works, but it seems your classis was lacking in wisdom when they selected such delegates, or they didn't believe in their own deliberations.  

If Synod were still a deliberative assembly, then much of the difficulties John Z. mentions would be moot.  But it isn't.  It can't, because there isn't enough time.  Synod meets for a week, and that week often becomes little more than 5 days.  During that time, there are committee meetings, eating, sleeping, and various other activities necessary to sustain life in some measure of cleanliness and comfort as well as meetings of the full assembly.

The meetings of the full assembly are managed rather closely.  Often in the name of avoiding redundancy, deliberation and discussion is curtailed.  They've got to get through that whole big agenda in a very short time.

Which means the actual deliberation happens elsewhere - the Board of Trustees, Classis meetings, church councils, offices, comfortable living room chairs, and on the internet at forums like this one.  The net effect is that Synod, rather than being a place where matters are deliberated, becomes a place where differing conclusions are negotiated, that is, a political assembly. 

In Congress (or parliament, if you like) there is very little deliberation that materially affects the different views among the members.  The discussion is not about changing other people's minds but about changing their votes on specific pieces of legislation.  This process of negotiation - compromise - can only ever reach temporary conclusions because the relative strength of the various factions and sub-factions are constantly changing.  Nothing is ever permanently settled.

This is exactly what you see occurring at Synod in the last 30 years.  Things get kicked around, decided, re-decided, undecided, re-decided again, depending on which faction happens to hold sway at this year's synod.

What then happens is you get a few specific individuals who become permanent fixtures at Synod - some delegates, some staff support, some from one or more of the boards or agencies - but they're there year after year after year.  They become intimately acquainted with the process and also quite skilled at manipulating that process towards the ends they desire.  It's not a 100% thing (sometimes things get away from them, sometimes someone else equally up to snuff on the process out maneuvers them, etc.).

Given this context, it is appropriate for a classis to delegate those who will be able and willing to faithfully and accurately reflect the deliberations that occurred in the delegating body.  It is not required, but it is appropriate.


Ever since the very first "synod" (Acts 15) there have been challenges between rival parties. Circumcision or not. Arians vs. Athanasians. For vs. against____"fill in the blank." And so on...

What I notice is Luke's description of how Paul and Barnabas appointed elders in Asia as they were heading back to Antioch (Acts 14:23). They "committed them [the elders] to the Lord, in whom they had put their trust." (NIV)

Just as Paul and Barnabas entrusted those elders to God, so the believers in Antioch sent them to Jerusalem. Without trust, we have nothing. But that trust in not in our own abilities, or knowledge, or politcal skill. That trust is in the Lord.

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