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Before Synod 2023 I wrote the post, “So We Pray…”

Synod 2023 is now in the rearview mirror.  I believe that now, more than ever, we need to keep praying. 

I’ve heard many responses from Synod 2023. Responses like this:

  • I thought it went well.
  • Synod again made the right decisions.
  • I think we are divided into at least 3 groups.
  • We’re a mess.
  • I haven’t felt that kind of grief since a loved one died.

As an intercessor for synod this year I prayed through it all. And there were many good moments. Let’s not minimize the unity felt in worship, the zeal for evangelism, the excitement from new ministries like Thrive and words from passionate new leaders of ministries. There was again a glimpse that we are growing multiculturally. The two new professors that will be teaching at Calvin Theological Seminary were inspiring and brought fresh energy. There was genuine concern that we do not abuse our power. The president and officers led well.The leaders of our denomination, our seminary, and our university are people of faith, prayer, and vision. There is much to give thanks for. 

But if we’re honest, Synod 2023 had its struggles and certainly did not end well. So while we have many things to give thanks for, we have much work to do. I won’t go into my personal impressions of the state of our denomination because I want to focus on prayer and on our God, who is much bigger than our shortcomings. 

This morning at our regular monthly CRCNA Prayer Gathering, the online gathering of CRC pastors, staff, and CRC members from around the US and Canada, we focused our post-synod prayers for the CRC in three directions. First, we gave thanks and praise for the good that was experienced at Synod 2023. Second, we lamented the brokenness and pain. Third, we prayed for the church going forward. We used the words of Psalm 46 to guide us. I would encourage you to do the same in your personal prayers and your prayer groups. 

Verse two of Psalm 46 says, “Therefore we will not fear…”  As a prayer group we took that phrase and offered up that which we pledge not to fear. Below are several of the things that we shared.

Because God is our refuge and strength, we will not fear:

  • Failure
  • Conflict
  • That our gospel witness is diminished
  • Rejection
  • Each other

God understands our confusion, our mess. He knows we are human and have limited understanding. We can cry out to God with what we think went wrong and whose fault it is. But let’s keep praying. I would encourage you to read Psalm 46 for yourself and give your fears over to God as you finish the sentence for yourself and your church: Because God is our refuge and our strength, we will not fear….

Let me state the obvious - we don’t all agree. We will never all agree. But we all pray to the One God who is Lord of all and who loves the Church more than our small minds can possibly comprehend. So my plea is that we keep praying together

We ended our prayer on Zoom by turning on our mics and saying out loud the Lord’s Prayer. As you know, that creates a kind of holy chaos. But isn’t that also the state of the church we love - holy chaos? 

We prayed the Lord’s Prayer out loud today, joining our individual voices from locations spanning from east to west and north to south of our two countries, and it was a beautiful holy chaos. I wonder if Jesus knew 2000 years ago as he walked this earth with his ragtag disciples, that we as his followers would still be a mess and would need to join our voices and say together, “Our Father”. We become like little children and look to the One who brought us all into being and say, “Our Father”. We join with saints of all ages saying “Our Father”.

If we can’t figure it all out, maybe that’s okay. We have a Father in heaven. God is Our Father - all of ours. And someday we’ll all be together with our Father in heaven and fully alive with him on this redeemed, restored earth. 

Please join us in prayer for the CRC. Jon Hoekema is the Prayer Shepherd for the CRC and together with the CRCNA Prayer Team hosts a CRC Prayer Gathering on the 2nd Wednesday of every month at 11:00 am EST. Email us at [email protected] and request to be sent the monthly reminder and zoom link. We’d love to have many more join us. In these trying times, one thing is certain - we need to keep praying. 

There are more opportunities to pray for the CRC listed here - Check out more resources on the Prayer Page of The Network. Please join in whatever way you can.


Synod 2023's biggest enemy could best be described as "3 p.m. on Thursday".

The clock, rather than the Holy Spirit, ruled Synod .. especially on the last day. Synod's officers were forever mindful of their 3 p.m. deadline to get their work done. Discussions were shortened, there were ever-reducing time limits on individual speeches.

At the risk of harkening back to a better time in the lives of Synods, I will. I attended Synod for 7 consecutive years back in the 1970s and 1980s, two of those years as a delegate; the other five as a Christian journalist.

Synod lasted, on average, 10 days. It was never rushed. We'd have evening banquets and receptions to honor various retirees and ecumenical visitors. But most importantly, we never rushed a discussion ... in committee meetings or on the floor of Synod. Synod was a deliberative body, and every discussion played out however long it took. That included several contentious issues such as women in office and revisions to various creeds.

Synod, back then, deliberated and discussed. The clock didn't rule Synodical Procedures.

When we arrived as delegates, we knew that we'd be together for 10 days and we planned our travel -- as well as committee meetings -- accordingly.

A former Synod's decision to cut off all debate and to conclude the gathering by 3 p.m.on Thursday has done the denomination and the deliberative nature of Synod a great disservice. That hard deadline, more than anything else, left delegates with a bitter taste in their mouths as they left the annual event.

It is my hope that this year's officers will recommend to next year's synod organizers that there be some flexibility in when Synod should end. It seems that Synod has lost the art of debate and deliberation in favor of expediency and efficiency.


Keith has some good points. And I have a question since few people had time to stay there. Since many delegates and others at Synod had a flight to catch and many will at Synod 2024,  what other options exist for getting through all the needed discussions and finish at the appointed time?

I watched many people stand up repeatedly During Synod 2023 to say about the same thing each time. Can there not be a limit to the number of times the same person can speak? No one person or group of people should be able to monopolize the conversation. And no filibustering. I'm not sure that anyone was intentionally doing that, but it seemed like it at times. Discussion and debate at Synod 2022 was better managed, I think.

The last part of Synod was to be an important discussion and it had to be mostly missed, and many of the discussions on the last Thursday were cut short and debate was stopped, due to the time. Some of the earlier discussions during the week that were allowed, were unnecessary.


In response to Diane's post, I also prayed during and before Synod 2023. And Synod 2022 for that matter. These issues are extremely important. 

A few other significant notes, IMO:

-I am well acquainted with grief and no, the grief I feel and have felt over the loss of loved ones is and was more significant than the sadness I felt after Synod 2023. What I am sad about though, is the untruth that some people and some leaders (emphasis on some) have embraced regarding the Bible and what it says. Thankfully, many in our denomination are still following and teaching from the Bible. We must obey God rather than man. 

-We who pray to God the Father should have some agreement on basic truths, even though we will disagree on some other things. Some basic Christian truths are the same for everyone who calls themselves Christian.

-Regarding fear, the Bible says not to fear. Good decisions are made from a place of faith, not fear.   


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