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Interesting thoughts Justin. Personally, I oppose executive sessions, as much as possible, because I think transparency and having the courage of one’s convictions are high values to pursue.

Yet, while I believe it generally should be avoided, I recognize there are reasons and places where confidentiality and sensitivity are more important, and thus some Executive sessions are just unavoidable.

So, would it help if Synod 2024 had all of its big discussions behind closed doors? Synod 2022 used a halfway measure of expelling the gallery for part of their deliberations, and I’m not sure it was much better than Synod 2023? So, I guess I would be willing to consider it, but with 196 delegates already involved, I’m unsure it would change much of anything?

Another thought on this, when were you a delegate to Synod last Justin? Serving last year, I personally did not feel that the gallery or the live stream impacted anything I said or did at Synod. I was only focused on those that were speaking and voting, and discerning together.

Chatting about this with a another pastor friend, he confessed that his first time at Synod, the fact that it was being Live Streamed did increase his nervousness a little, as a first time delegate. However, that was prior 2020. That was before all pastors became "TV Evangelists" due to Covid. That was before we all started live streaming every single service. I wonder if it being live streamed is effecting the delegates as much post 2020 as it did for those who it was their first time being broadcast digitally? (And, to be fair, even if all of the pastors are used to it, that original pre-2020 level of anxiousness could be present for our Elder and Deacon delegates, as most of them still aren't participating in live streams regularly???)

While not  as involved as what Chad shared above, I too run through the Heidelberg in generally 5 classes, that each focus on a section of the Catechism, as well one big theme question for the class. At the end, I ask them to write a letter of testimony, written as a prayer to the Lord, that touches on 4 specific topics. Below is my general pattern:

Lesson 1

How would you tell your faith story?

What is wrong with humanity? (Heidelberg Q&A 1-11) (I read all in class/they do not read these ahead of our first class [but the catechism reading is their homework for subsequent classes])

Lesson 2

What Jesus has done for you?

How are we delivered? (Heidelberg Q&A 12-64) (I read, 12-19, 21, 60-64 in class)

Lesson 3

What happens at Church?

What is the Church? (Heidelberg Q&A 65-85) (I read 65-68, 72, 75, 81, 83-85 in class)

Lesson 4

What has changed and is changing in your life?

How should we live? (Heidelberg Q&A 86-115) (I read 86, 91, 94, 96, 99, 103, 104, 105, 108-115 in class)

Lesson 5

Where can you serve?

Why Pray? (Heidelberg Q&A 116-129) (read 116, 117)


At a meeting of the Elders or Council you will read your prayer. Instructions: Write out a prayer to God, to be read out loud, that 1. Declares who He is to you, 2. Confesses why you need Jesus, 3. Gives thanks for how He has brought you to this place, and 4. Gives thanks for God's Word, and an example of how a portion of that has been used in your life.

Good reminder, but a little late, as the agenda deadline for my Classis was before Christmas. ;-)

But thanks for compiling this info, and I'm sure I will refer back to these guidelines in the future!

Thanks for the comment Doug. I'm unsure that disciplining behind closed doors / in executive session, encourages anyone to sin in this way. But, I agree that it is likely used too often. We have such a high value on privacy, and individual rights, that it undoubtedly hurts our ability to work together as a body. In church discipline, names should be named, and those that are guilty of sin should be publicly shamed, as a warning to others. We pretend that it is out of love for the sinner, that we don't want to create a barrier for their return. But when we do so, we deny our own doctrine, that repentance is a supernatural gift from God, and if and when it is given, it will easily overcome the barrier of public shame. Even in our discipline, we can have a form of Godliness, but be denying the power there of.

Hi Eric, thanks for your comment and challenge. Honestly, I was not intentionally trying to make any such broad statement, to infer that most are getting it wrong. But, as Professor Murray said, we often only hear about the failures, and so that could certainly lead to the appearance that churches fail to act when confronted with these issues. Also, I think Doug's comment above, regarding our tendency to handle all discipline behind closed doors, also plays a roll here. So, if the churches handling it well all do so in secret, and the churches that fail are the only ones we hear of, it is understandable that things might appear on a surface level, different than what is actually taking place in practice. But I was not trying to make any such charge, just make the case that all of our churches should read and consider what Professor Murray wrote.

Hi Jane, I'm glad to hear that the article was a blessing to you.

As to the "public shame" comment, I think we are saying the same thing. Doug was talking about how we deal with sin behind closed doors, and one of the reasons for that is to avoid shaming the offender. But when we do so, I would argue that it is not healthier for the sinner, nor does it serve as the deterrent to others that the case should be (increasing their certainty that they too would be caught / exposed, if they fall into a similar sin). Yes, care for the victim may be a valid reason to maintain secrecy in some situations, and so it must be dealt with on a case by case basis. But I would agree with Doug, that we likely default to private proceedings too often.

As for the "doctrine," I was just generally referencing the Calvinist/Reformed understanding of salvation, namely that we are not able to save ourselves, and that we rely upon the work of God, granting repentance, as He draws us onto Himself. Such salvation is supernatural in nature, and will cross any earthly barrier, even shame and hard feelings from the past, to restore a sinner to God and His people.

Why would we deny the science, and only look at the lower functioning vaccine immunity, versus considering the broader immunity from natural infection and recovery?

This will be our third year as well, and our church does things similar to Mindie's. We only have lessons 1-4 (Mon-Thur) during the week, inviting everyone to join us on Sunday. During the AM service, we leave up all of the decorations from the week in the sanctuary, sing some of the kids favorite VBS songs from the week, as the worship/praise hymns of the day. We also (during the offering), play a video/slideshow from the week's activities. Then for the sermon, I use the 5th lesson as the starting point of the message. So, a little more of a standard service then what Mindie is doing, but along similar lines (and it has been well received).

I'm finishing up a series walking through 1 John in the AM service, and just starting a series going through the Athanasian Creed in our PM service.

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