Skip to main content

Who's coming to Synod 2011? What do the numbers say about our efforts to reflect our ethnic and gender diversity in our broadest assembly? What do they say about our members' interest in this assembly?  

The Board of Trustees informs us that twenty-one people of color have been delegated to synod (Agenda, p. 27). That's quite an improvement over Synod 2010. Unfortunately, in 2010 a couple of those delegated dropped out. Hopefully, that won't happen this year. Four ethnic advisers, along with these twenty-one delegates, will assist synod in remaining sensitive to any cultural issues that may be involved in the decisions made.

This years' delegation of women is quite an improvement too as nineteen female delegates will be part of this assembly. Some of us were disappointed that women advisers were dropped immediately after the decision to permit women synodical delegates. As is true of ethnic advisers, we thought the position of women adviser should be phased out after a goal of something like twenty-five women delegates was achieved. We're almost there this year via elections by the regional groupings (classes) themselves

Eight classes that are not sending a woman as a delegate have elected a woman as an alternate. (An alternate serves if the delegate is unable to do so.) I’ve always reminded the classes of which I've been a member of synod's encouragement that one of our delegates be a person of color. To reflect the gender diversity of our denomination, perhaps someone in each classis that welcomes the service of women officebearers needs to suggest that all its delegates should not be males. Add these eight alternates to the nineteen women delegates, and twenty-seven of the delegates would be females. Sometimes the presence of women delegates blesses synod with a different perspective on issues.

In terms of elders, synodical agendas from 1990-1996, when synod met over two weeks, indicate that not all regional groupings (classes) could find enough elders to serve as alternates. During those years there was an average vacancy rate of nine. In 1997, when synod became a one-week gathering, we hoped more elders would be able to attend. However, from 1997-2010 the average vacancy rate in the elder alternate positions was twenty-four. This loss of interest in serving as a synodical delegate began affecting the actual assembly in 2001 when six elder delegate slots were vacant. From 2001-2010 synods have been short an average of two elder delegates at each meeting. This year only twenty elder alternate positions are vacant, compared to thirty-four last year. We’ll know in June if this mean that Synod 2011 will have less than it normal one hundred eight-eight delegates.

The numbers do raise some questions. Are folks less interested in the work of the church? Do people think their voice won’t make a difference? Do they feel synod is too conservative/progressive and not worth the effort? Are they unable to take a week off work to serve in this way? It would be interesting to hear some perspectives on that. 


Like in many churches and other denominations, when you have women serving as elders or delegates, often the men become less interested in serving, and so fewer men volunteer to offer their time, especially men who feel that scripture actually encourages men to be leaders both of their families and their church, and thus feel that synod is ignoring or twisting scripture in any case.   That is probably one aspect of this. 

Another aspect is likely the diversions and artificial aspects of organizational power  and institutional unification, which dilutes even more the impact of any elder delegates to a larger body.   If you don't actually contribute to the discussion, and if your vote becomes less and less significant, then the only remaining reason to attend is social, or entertainment.   For many, the social enticement is minimal if their social core is more significant locally, and we live in a world of entertainment;  don't have to go to Synod for that.   Who wants to spend a whole week exercising power which one feels does not really exist?   Power which you could just as well delegate your wife to exercise?  

People of color?   Good for them, but it is an artificial criteria of the quality or representativeness of synod.   The real criteria would be what is the percentage of afroamericans in the denomination;  what is the percentage of eastern europeans;  what is the percentage of mexicans;   what is the percentage of aboriginals, asians, africans, south americans.   Relating everything to color is very primitive way of evaluating anything, and a sad commentary on our perception of diversity. in the 21st century.   

In addition to your comment that not all delegates need be males, it would also be useful and helpful to add the comment that there is nothing wrong with all the delegates being males, and that it is more obviously consistent with scriptural precedents.   (Given that we supposedly promote this type of diversity in the crc.)  


Synod is not a place for "representativeness" at all. Synod is a deliberative body which discusses issues of mutual concern. This means that the discussions themselves are very important. And for the best discussions, Synod serves best with multiple viewpoints shared, whether their viewpoint is informed by being a minority, a female, an elder, a pastor, or a white Dutch male. When viewpoints are missing, the discussion and decisions made will generally be lacking the Spirit-given wisdom and insight of the whole church.

So simply put, there IS something wrong with all the delegates being white Dutch male pastors.... 

Mike, I understand what you mean.  Delegates are not just to take certain positions from their council or classis and hold fast to them at all costs.  They should deliberate.   But, if representativeness is not an issue, why not just reduce the size of synod to about 20 people, randomly selected from different parts of the country, different ethnic  origins, and different ages, in order to get the different viewpoints.   You seem to be saying that representativeness is not important, and then contradicting that by saying that we need a different representation.  I agree with you that it is not good to have only the pastor/minister perspective, and that the elders who have primary responsibility for the governance of the church, ought to be more proportionately represented.  


I've suggested before, that if you can't find an elder to chair the classis, then classis should not be held.  This is dramatic, but it makes the point.  Perhaps it could also be applied to Synod. 

I agree with John:

"Relating everything to color is very primitive way of evaluating anything, and a sad commentary on our perception of diversity"

I can see the motive of wanting a good cross section of the denominational makeup to be represented at synod. However, it seems that this motive of diversity is based on mere appearances. True diversity entails pursuing God through Jesus Christ, in whom there is neither Jew nor Greek, barbarian or Scythian (Gal. 3:26; Col. 3:11). It appears as though some are simply pursuing diversity in appearance alone, which Scripture describes as contrary to the policy of God himself, who does not show favoritism based on race or appearances of any kind (Ac. 10:34; Rom. 2:11, 10:12; Gal. 2:6). Rather, it is we humans who judge people by external appearances (1Sam. 16:7, John 7:24). In this way, making a qualification of the color of flesh is symptomatic of the flesh as opposed to the Spirit. Leadership of the church is to be made on the content of a person’s character (Ac. 1:24), not the color of skin, even as Martin Luther King once stated so well.

Perhaps someone can help me understand the obsession with diversity of appearance.


  You are correct to state theoretically 20 men could due the work if they aren't Calvinists. Total depravity prevents your idealism from being realistic. You may be able to convince some minds but not those who feel motivated by the overwhelming scriptural support of the new covenant . You know Jesus's fulfillment of  law.  You can't get around this with logic that doesn't accept responsibility for the need of disenfranchised people. We have had the power and did not lead well enough for people not to be content without a  voice that speaks for them. We are not victims.

I feel that the multicultural push by the denomination is forced and not truly authentic at times. There are many genuine multicultural churches in our denomination, but without authentically being multicultural, there is a forced almost fake feeling to it. Many times in predominantly white CRCs with limited number of minorities, it feels like they are either token members or the product of white guilt.

Though I strongly believe that many people of the more conservative leaning and Dutch ancestry would be willing to move towards the direction of authentic multiculturalism and the ultimate goal of Christ-like inclusion, many feel that they have not had ample time to truly think it over, discuss it and have their opinions heard. Even if it is not the desire of Synod to go with the desires of these people, to dismiss their opinions out of hand without a proper explanation as to why the denomination is going in the direction they are creates a feeling of superiority on the denominations side.

To be truly inclusive, there needs to be a more balanced authentic multiculturalism which warmly embraces those of the conservative bent Dutch ancestry. To deny the past is to distort the present and to devaluate the future.

Please in the future do not tote how much we are multicultural but instead wave the flag of cooperation allowing all backgrounds and viewpoints to be seen as valid and accepted at Synod. In doing so, those elders might desire to come and feel like they actually matter instead of feeling like they are an inconsequential dying breed.

Josh Benton, you have raised a new point, and I think it is an interesting and valid point.  

Let's Discuss

We love your comments! Thank you for helping us uphold the Community Guidelines to make this an encouraging and respectful community for everyone.

Login or Register to Comment

We want to hear from you.

Connect to The Network and add your own question, blog, resource, or job.

Add Your Post