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Synod addresses the need for clarification about expectations for church members

Synod addresses the need for clarification about expectations for church members
Synod addresses the need for clarification about expectations for church members

Synod 2024 believes that the church needs guidance “on the historical, biblical and theological aspects of (church) membership” and has tasked the Office of the Secretary General to provide that theological reflection and advice, and to report on this to be delivered to Synod 2026.

In addition to requesting that report, the synod encouraged councils to work out specific situations of church membership “under the principle of original authority – Church Order Article 27 – within their context and in submission to our creeds and confessions.”

These decisions, an endorsement of the recommendations of Advisory Committee 5, are aimed at clarifying “the difference in the relative commitment to the confessions between a member and an office holder.”

Synod is the annual general meeting of the Christian Reformed Church in North America. It meets June 14-20 in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

The committee report acknowledged that a person making a profession of faith may “not have fully understood all the nuances of the creeds and confessions.” According to committee member Ken Douma, Classis Alberta North, the recommendation to encourage congregations to work out their local situation “gives congregations the power to figure out what this looks like in their churches.”

Anthony DeKorte, reporting for the committee, agreed. “There has to be some room for them to accept that they are Christians before they commit to every part of every confession,” says DeKorte, Classis Arizona.

The recommendation received support, disapproval and questions from delegates. Patrick Anthony, Classis Central California, suggested that a decision made at the 1964 synod regarding the membership of a couple who did not support infant baptism set a “precedent” for the recommendation. In that case, the synod recommended against supporting a protest against the couple’s admission on the grounds that the church was otherwise in line with CRCNA doctrine and agreed not to “promote any view that is contrary to the doctrinal position of the Church.”

Joseph Vanden Akker, Classis Grandville, spoke out against the recommendation. “I just heard the statement that the local church has the authority to receive members who completely disagree with our creeds and confessions,” he said incredulously. “How in the world can that be in accordance with church order?”

Paul Verhoef of Classis Alberta South/Saskatchewan gave the example of a church in his classis in which many people with a Catholic or Baptist background are interested in joining because there are no other churches in the area: “What does a church like Iron mean? Springs if they get members who want to join and who are not really Reformed?’

DeKorte said the recommendation affirmed the ability of local church councils to make decisions in such situations.

Ryan Schreiber, Classis Grand Rapids East, asked how this advice would apply in the case of a same-sex couple seeking membership. DeKorte reread the recommendation, which states that church councils must work out situations “in submission to our creeds and confessions.”


Synod 2024 will meet June 14-20 at Calvin University in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Find daily news coverage from The flag news team thebanner.org/synod. Visit crcna.org/synod for the synod schedule, webcast, recordings, photos, committee reports and live blog. Synod is the annual general meeting of the Christian Reformed Church.