A Bit to Read
Synod’s over! After weeks of preparatory study, and days of intensive deliberation about the items on the agenda, it’s suddenly over; Synod Smithers is history. Perhaps it’s good to share some experiences surrounding Synod with you.
What is Synod?
Across Canada are some 50 or so Canadian Reformed Churches, with each congregation governed by its own elders. Yet it’s not good to be alone, and as the several Canadian Reformed Churches in the land recognize that each of these churches belong to the Lord, these churches meet together from time to time to decide on particular matters that concern the churches in common. When delegates from the local area meet together, it’s called a classis; when delegates from Western Canada meet together it’s called a Regional Synod; when delegates from all Canada meet together, it’s called a General Synod. Regional Synod West and Regional Synod East both appointed 6 ministers and 6 elders to attend this General Synod – a total of 24 delegates.
Well then, br (& sr) Meerstra and I, together with 22 other delegates from across the nation, traveled up to Smithers on Monday (May 7) or Tuesday (May 8). On the evening of May 8 a prayer service was held in Smithers church (wonderful premises, by the way – newly acquired and refurbished, and excellent facilities for a General Synod!). According to tradition, the chairman of the previous Synod (Chatham, 2004), led this prayer service. Rev C vanSpronsen opened the Word of God for the congregation at 1 Corinthians 1:1-3, setting forth the promises of God and His obligations as they pertained to the work of General Synod. He then led the congregation in prayer, beseeching the Lord to grant the delegates the wisdom needed to do the work of General Synod.
After a coffee social at church, the delegates headed off to their host families. I was billeted at the Casey Barendregt family – and couldn’t have wished for a better place to stay.
Wednesday morning, 9 o’clock sharp, the chairman of the convening church (Smithers) called the meeting to order with Scripture reading and prayer. He introduced us to Smithers, and explained the extensive work the organizing committee had done to prepare for Synod – and it was extensive! Meeting rooms, billets, a full complement of kitchen staff, wireless internet, padded office chairs and so much more; it was all wonderfully organized. The chairman showed us where we could go for a walk, and advised us too to grab a gun from the rack in the lobby before we headed up the hill…. J
After Rev vanSpronsen informed us of all the preparation for Synod and all the opportunities and excitement Smithers offered, we got down to the serious business of electing an executive. We all got pieces of paper, and got to write down who we thought should be chairman; the job went to Rev Agema (Fergus). Then another piece of paper, and we got to write down who we thought should be vice chairman; that job went to Rev Visscher (Langley). Rev Nederveen (Burlington Ebenezer) got saddled with the clerk’s job (writing the Acts), and Rev Schouten (Aldergrove) was assigned the task of helping the clerk and answering all the correspondence.
Once that hard job was done, the newly elected executive thanked us by giving us an elaborate coffee break – about three hours long. Why? Well, synod had an agenda of two inches of reports, some 140 letters from the churches in response to what was written in the reports, 18 appeals on all sorts of topics, and three overtures. How do you tackle all of that, and come with good leadership for the churches? As with every other Synod, the executive sat down (while we drank coffee and got to know each other) and first divided the 24 delegates into 6 committees of 4. They then divided the reports, letters, appeals, etc, into 6 more or less equally sized chunks, and assigned one chunk to each committee. That’s no small task, for if you were involved in writing a particular report, or if there was an appeal against a decision of your classis, you couldn’t be assigned that section of the agenda. Anyway, in due time the executive had a proposal together for us.
From then on it was full on into ‘committee work’, as it’s called. Br Meerstra and I ended up in the same committee (with two others), and we were assigned to come with proposals for the full body of Synod on a number of churches with whom we have contact in North and South America. In our committee room we had to read through the relevant reports and responses from the churches, then come with some idea as to what we as churches ought to do in relation to, say, the ERQ or the OPC or the RCUS. Once we had our proposal on paper to our satisfaction, it was printed, multiplied and distributed to the other 20 delegates. They received some time to read and study what we produced, then we discussed in a full session of Synod. The other delegates could respond to what we’d put together, perhaps tweak it, perhaps tell us we were off in the wrong direction altogether (so we could start again), or maybe even consider the job so well done that it could be adopted as the conclusion of Synod and find its place in the Acts. Most proposals were sent back to the committee room for amendment or revision before Synod was happy with it….
Understandably, in the early days of Synod we spent more time in committee work than in full sessions of Synod. That’s also why, if you’ve perused the Acts, you would have found very few decisions made in the first number of days of Synod. Conversely, once the committees had finished (most of) their work, Synod met for large lengths of time in full session – and the Acts reflect that a lot of decisions were then finalized. The Acts were uploaded to the net on a daily basis, and the interested can still read them at http://www.canrc.org/resources/govdocs/gs2007/index.html.
I thoroughly appreciated the very brotherly atmosphere that prevailed throughout Synod. It’s not that we agreed on every matter; we didn’t, and had some good head to head debates. At the same time, it was all done in a brotherly manner, and the fellowship around the coffee urn, the dinner tables, the walks, etc, was very good. The brothers and sisters of the Smithers congregation contributed greatly to it with the overflowing hospitality they maintained throughout Synod. Theirs will be a hard act to follow!
As I mentioned, the decisions have been uploaded to the internet. Do feel free to browse through them. On the whole I’m happy with the work of this synod and the drift of the decisions taken – and I dare to say that all the brothers present at Synod feel the same way. Sure, there’s some decisions I would have preferred a bit different than they are, but 24 men working together need to do some giving and taking to get anything done. The clerk has to proofread the Acts, and then the printer has to publish them. From there on the churches will receive them, and then the work done at this Synod will receive the scrutiny it requires – and the churches can judge the work that was done.
As to what the decisions all were, well, I could write lots about that, but I won’t this time. DV in time to come I’ll write about particular decisions. For now, I’m grateful to be home with family and congregation, and back to work here.
25 May 2007