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Note that the Belhar is solidly biblical.  No argument on that point at all.

Second: None of our creeds or confessions are intended to stand alone.  Therefore we should not hold the Belhar to a standard to which we do not hold any of the creeds or confessions that now define us.  Should the Belhar become a fourth confession, it belongs to the package we already have.

Third: The South African church holds to the same confessions we now have in the CRC and in spite of that it took the road of apartheid.  It is highly unlikely that such a position could have been adopted had the Belhar been one of its confessions when it assumed that unblblical position.

Fourth: Put yourself in the place of minority persons who have suffered from rejection and injustice.  My opinion is that if I were in their shoes, I would be highly in favor of adopting the Belhar as a confession in the CRC.

Fifth:  Today the CRC is afflicted by a declining membership.  Many young folks drop out of church.  It is often stated that a significant reason for dropping out is the perception that the message of the church is no longer relevant.  We may counter that the three forms of unity are relevant.  I agree with that.  However, we appear to be talking past each other. One says the confessions are relevant and others disagree.  But add the Belhar to the package we already have and we are back on the front page where the action is.  There is nothing irrelevant about the biblical call that we be committed to unity, reconciliation and justice.  This blblical emhasis is well defined when such truths are recognized as flowing out of the confessions we already have.  We need the Belhar to stay alive and vibrant in today's broken world.  Al Hoksbergen

I appreciate the reflections re women attending classical meetings.  I have a few thojughts on this but not sure I can get it out this time.  Am working on it and might go through Paul to get it in the comment section.  Al Hoksbergen

Let me try this again.  Apparently the last note I sent worked so here we go.

I do not think classes are irreparably broken.  It is true that a lot of work is required to get classis back to what the Church Order stipulates.  I think it can be done provided major assemblies stop making decisions they should not make.      

We should begin with Church Order Article 27 that states that the authority of church councils is original while that of the major assemblies is delegated.  This is foundational to our church polity.  Article 34 is about delegation to the assemblies.  It says, "Major assemblies are composed of officebearers who are delegated by their constituent minor assemblies."  

With this in mind, we recognize that a church council exists around the clock, even when the council is not in session.  This is different from the major assemblies.  Major assemblies only exist during the time they are in session.  When a classis adjourns, that particular classis no longer exists.  The same is true regarding a synodical gathering.  When the Synod of 2012 adjourns, that particular synod no longer exists.  While the Board of Trustees acts in the place of synod, its decisions are subject to the approval of a later synod. 

Article 28 is about matters that are legally before each of the assemblies.  This article limits the actions of the major assemblies to such matters as cannot be dealt with on the local level.  

It is questionable whether a major assembly has the authority to determine whom it will seat in its assembly   The council has the responsibility to make that decision, not the major assemblies.  When councils delegate their officebearers to be their representatives at a major assembly, that major assembly does not have the authority to decide whether it  will seat certain delegates.  When major assemblie receive credentials, its only task is to make sure that the delegates are in good standing in the local church, and are in fact officebearers there.  When synod decided some years ago that only males could serve in the offices of the church, it is questionable whether it had the right to make such a decision.   The church order used prior to that questionable decision stipulated only that members in good standing should be considered to be officebearers.  Sexual status, social status, or racial issues were not relevant.  Only the Bible and our creeds which interpret the basic tenents of our faith serve as our guide.  When a synod or classis decides to exclude certain persons sent by local churches that follow Scripture and our three forms of unity, that major assembly has overstepped its boundaries. 

So, may a classis or synod seat female delegate?.  Of course they may, provided they are in good standing in their local congregations.   It is time for us to move away from allowing major assemblies to interfer with matters that belong rightly to the council.  Al Hoksbergen

Two comments: When I grew up, men and women usually occupied roles that were suited primarily to them.  Churches did not consider women as eligible nominees for the positions of pastor, elder or deacon.  In the 1970s, my perspective began to broaden.  As a new awareness developed, I wondered how I would have dealt with slavery had my parents owned slaves.  Perhaps had I been challenged I would have used biblical texts to defend the position of my parents.  But I hope eventually I would have recognized the Bible's emphasis on freedom and that slavery denied the freedom Christ proclaimed.  I find the change that took place in my thinking to be similar.  I now recognize that it is wrong to put anyone down because of sex, race, social standing of any other issue society may use to differentiate between people.  Therefore, I find the current debate about whether women should be accepted at classis as delegates to be both offenisive and belittling to women.

A second observation: The church polity of the CRC is non-hierarchical.  Classis and synod are called major assemblies, but that does not mean they hold a position that is superior to the council,  The Church Order says the council is a minor assembly whose authority is "original" while that of the major assemblies is "delegated."  While major assemblies make decisions that are binding on congregations, synod defied its own Church Order when it gave classes the authority to refuse to seat certain delegated based on their sex.  Such a decision gives the major assembly authority that does not honor the non-hierarchical principle of the Church Order.  The decision to delegate persons to serve as representatives at major assemblies belongs to the minor assemblies only and that may not be challenged by a major assembly.

The CRC got off track with it authorized classes to make a decision the Church Order does not allow.  Synod should have made the same ruling for both major assemblies, namely that officebearers shall not be required to participate against their conscience should they be delegated to a major assembly (see the supplement to article 3-a of the Church Order).  Now we are faced with the challenge of getting back on track.  That could be a difficult road to navigate, but unless we take that route our denomination will continue to promote a biblicism which is not in keeping with Reformed principles and will frequently detract from effective evangelism.  Al Hoksbergen









I think Paul is on the right track.  If we do not get classis back in the work of ministry, it will continue to be little more than an administrative body that does the grunt work for the agencies of synod.  Little wonder that classis has lost its appeal.  Many ministers, elders and deacons find classis little more than an interruption in the real work of ministry.  In addition, many members of our congregations have little interest in what goes on at Synod or at the BOT.  Both of these are too far removed from the life of the church on the congregational level. 

Bob De Moor wrote an insightful editorial about revising the structure of the denomination.  We must follow through on what he advised.  Paul started the ball rolling. 

To ask that synod study the matter is similar to asking foxes to form a committee to study why foxes steal from chicken coops.  I have worked with the Classical Renewal Team since its inception.  That is nearly 20 years ago.  A lot of engergy was put into the effort but it got nowhere, largely because the work of classis has been taken over by the BOT and the synodical agencies.   Delegates to classis have lost interest in doing that.  Congregations also have little interest in what goes on at classis.  And many have even less interest in what goes on at the synodical level, except perhaps to bemoan some of its decisions.   

A few days ago I suggested that CRMT begin to discuss how classis can get back to doing its ministry (the same thing Paul is blogging about).  The response of the committee is that it has no interest in doing that.  I find that a sad commentary, but reflective of where we are at today.

We must get back to doing ministry on the local and classical level.  Should we fail to do that, we will continue to struggle and the denomination will continue to decline. 

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