We live in difficult times. Perhaps such a statement could be made about Christians living at any point in history; however, today, it seems particularly true. And to say that we anticipate that this condition will continue and potentially accelerate, hardly seems prescient.
In many ways, there are great benefits to being a Christian leader in the twenty-first century. From a communications perspective, our world has become smaller. We are able to reach out to ministries and missionaries around the globe with the click of a mouse, or a tap of the screen.
We are able to instantaneously communicate needs, and often send resources to where they are needed at a moment’s notice. And to top it off, the costs of such instantaneous connection continue to fall. From this standpoint, these are good times indeed.
There is, however, a dark side. With the proliferation of communication methods and means, and the fragmentation of sources and audiences that accompany it, our communications always come with the propensity for significant competition.
The result is that every person hears multiple —often contradictory — messages in real time, and has to personally edit and select that to which they want to listen. Either consciously or unconsciously, we are constantly making choices that influence our future thinking, and lead to even greater fragmentation and polarization going forward.
This is where we find ourselves today, and all of these things can have a dampening effect on the clarity with which messages—and in particular, gospel messages—are received.
Compounding this message confusion is the fact that there is a lack of community in our society that makes it easy for the purveyors of one perspective to demonize those with whom they disagree. The church is not immune from this phenomenon or behavior.
Even well intended disagreement meant to stimulate affirmation among those with whom we share community, will often be received with hostility by those who share a different perspective, and with whom we do not share intimate communion. This is our dilemma.
Recognizing the potential for all of these elements to work together to negatively impact Christian community, Synod 2019 made a number of decisions regarding recommendations from the Addressing Abuse of Power Committee. One of the outcomes of this work was the recommendation that we standardize a code of conduct for all leaders in the CRCNA.
A special meeting of the Council of Delegates (COD), in lieu of Synod 2021, was held in June. One of the decisions made during that meeting was the adoption of the CRC Code of Conduct (1) for Ministry Leaders. The code is posted to the Synod Resources webpage (www.crcna.org/SynodResources) under "Documents" and is available in Spanish and Korean.
What is contained in the code?
The Code of Conduct contains language that reminds us of who we are as Christians, and that we are called to treat others—both those with whom we agree, and those with whom we disagree—with love and respect.
The code contains sections on confidentiality, relational matters, financial matters, intimate relationships, safety, spiritual accountability, and a pledge to use our positions and power only as a way to serve the body of believers, rather than ourselves, for the common good.
Why is the code necessary?
Without a focus on these issues and on the impacts that our words and actions have on others, it is easy to default to behaviors that are lacking in grace. Sometimes, such behavior may be well-intentioned, but perhaps our focus on truth, and neglect of grace, may result in a perception of our Christian walk as being unbalanced at best, and unloving—or callous—at worst.
How should the code be used?
It is anticipated that every Christian leader—including pastors, elders, and deacons—should be aware of the Code of Conduct and sign off on its content as a requirement of leadership.
The exact process for how this might be done is currently under discussion; however, it is our hope that each classes, church, and ministry would review the code with a view toward its incorporation into daily ministry. As you do this, I invite you to share with us your strategies of how you have been able to integrate this into the existing requirements for office bearers in your context.
We are reminded in Romans 12:9-10:
Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.
May God continue to bless us as we do for his work—his way—to the glory of his name.