From the office of the Executive Director
Please forward this letter to your pastor and deacons and any others who are engaged in diaconal ministries in your church.
Dear Pastor and Deacons:
The CRCNA has a long history of strong diaconal ministry. At the local church level the CRC is known for its care of members that are hurting economically. Many refugees have been resettled with diaconal oversight, and many community ministries have either been started or well-supported with church volunteers and finances.
The Synod of 2015 took a major step in setting an even higher standard for the office of deacon. Under the new church order, Synod is encouraging churches to re-examine the office and its structures. Now deacons are called to build on their strong history and give leadership to the church’s role in participating in the transformation of its community. Diaconal ministry is becoming the leading edge of the transformation of communities, the renewal of all things, both people and place. Communities are looking for support and new vision as traditional methods of addressing need are no longer working. If the church is to enter into ministry with community, what better office to give leadership to this than the office of deacon? Synod 2015 concurred and set a new standard for the CRC.
Deacons will now be delegated to Classis and Synod meetings. The Church wants and needs to hear the diaconal voice at all levels. It seems appropriate then that at the classis level there be a re-examination of regional plans to ensure that the opportunities to impact the region for Christ have been well thought through from a diaconal perspective – one that cares deeply about the transformation of people and place.
At Synod 2016 deacons will have the opportunity to look at their role within the context of Synod. They will ensure that the work of mercy and justice at the local, national, and international levels is not only a valid expression of their vision for the church, but that this expression of justice and mercy ministry is also well connected to the churches, and supported by them.
For a sample of what this new mandate and structure could look like, check this Job Description for Deacons at the Local Church Level, as well as this resource for Diaconal Ministry at the Classis Level. They are meant to get healthy discussion going, and are not intended as exhaustive resources. Lots of resources have been developed over the years that can help facilitate this discussion and any transition that comes from it. Start the conversation at your diaconate, and ask your Classis to do so at that level.
The Network is a good place to start in getting more information; please check it out: http://www.crcna.org/network. I have also asked Andrew Ryskamp, retired from his role as Director-US for World Renew, to give some time to coordinating the support to these changes. You may contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org with what has worked in your church or Classis, or if you would like more information.
We believe that the changes Synod made to the church order are very timely, meeting the challenges our communities face in a rapidly changing context. We are eager to be of service to churches and classes in accomplishing the hope that Synod expressed when these changes were approved last June, a hope and desire that we would be accomplishing the work that God has prepared in advance for us to do.
||Director of Denominational Ministries
A related item…
A denomination-wide Ministry Plan is emerging; if you've already encountered it via a classis meeting or by another means, the following may be familiar. If you haven't yet encountered it, the simple explanation is that the denomination-wide Ministry Plan is to assist congregations by directing the services of the denomination to congregations in integrated ways. The following desires (a small part of a long list coming out of our listening sessions with churches and classes) relate well to what we have shared in this letter.
Desired future #1
Congregations of the Christian Reformed Church participate with each other and with their local communities to discern where the Spirit is working and to bear witness to Christ’s presence in a way that invites others to accept him and become part of his family.
Strategic Focus 1.1
Congregations discover and discern how God is at work in their churches and communities, bringing renewal and transformation.
Desired future # 4
Congregations and members of the Christian Reformed Church understand deeply, embrace fully and express freely what it means to be a part of the Christian Reformed Church in North America.
Strategic Focus 4.4
Congregations, ministries and members respond to the call to "do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly" with God.
Congregations identify and set goals to address social justice issues that are affecting their local context and ones affecting global partnerships.