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I have been invloved in this issue since for almost 20 years. I have helped many ministry associates become pastors and leaders in chruch planting and other positions. I also wrote and edited overatures to synod in this particular cause.  David, your coming on the scene has help tremendously.

Right now the way the church order culture operate, things have gone from ministry associates having a limited function to one that is now closer to that of an article 6 pastor but in a local classis. They are honored as pastors in the CRC. The article 7 entrance has been shut down. The article 8 entrance is still open for some who complete certain requirements. 

Here is my dream for these things:  Someday, I hope that  leadership development in the CRC can be more like a ministry cultivation track than a permission track especially taking note of people in difference cultural places and differnent situations in life.  What do we want as a denomination?  We want more and better leaders at any age and from every ethnic group.  We need to create ministry cultivation systems that sincerely and credibly address that need for more and better leaders.  And we need to do that without putting a ceiling on how far anyone can go in their cultivation track.

Practically speaking: One track: Article 6 track: A person has the life situation and finances to go to Calvin Seminary, spend three years there and then become ordained as a pastor or ministry of the Word. The article 8 track is similar with a few Calving seminary requirements.  What is next for this person?  Continuing education. Do we have recogniztion levels beyond becoming ordained.

Another Track:  Ministry Assoicate Track: Some do have exectional gifts. We have been training ministry associate at Christian Leaders Institute and I will tell you that I am impressed. Even though they are not required be most classes to take advance training, many do it.  These ministry associates funtion well in a local classically sanctioned situation. I think we encourage ministry associates to continue to learn and grow.  Take classes at Calvin or at CLI. Calvin Seminary and CLI are talking together about partnering more closely in the future to meet this need.  The only downside I see, is that we have placed a ceiling on their ministry cultivaton advancement. Article 7 used to provide this opportunity.

Another Track: Article 7: I am hoping that this gets reinstated some day.  Here is what I believe would be a good way to go. A ministry associate who has served faithfully in the CRC for five years, can with the addtional training including a Calvin Seminary sanctioned path can become ordained as a Minister of the Word like an article 6 or 8 perosn. 

More work needs to be done in the area of different ethic and people group leadership cultivation, but my time has run out on this topic for today.  I feel stongly the we need to cutlivate Christian Leaders everywhere and in everway possible.

I think we encourge infant baptism, but we do not break fellowship if someone prayfully desires to dedicate their child. I have found in church planting, that what is encouaged over time will eventually be the practice that most will adopt.  If you make this a big issue, you move further away from a meaningful dialogue.

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