Communication Regarding Changes to Synod in 2022
Dear council of <<Church Name>>,
We have enjoyed an extended fall season in West Michigan; however, the days are getting shorter, the weather is getting colder, and just like elsewhere across North America, churches are gearing up for the upcoming advent season. With this busy season before us, it is hard to think ahead to June. Yet, we know that it will arrive more quickly than we think. With that in mind, we wanted to make you aware of several decisions by the Council of Delegates regarding Synod 2022.
In the lead-up to the meeting, the Program Committee (officers of Synod 2019, the last time a regular synod was held) developed a proposal for how to manage the weighty agenda anticipated for Synod 2022. They wrote, “It is important for all decision makers and the church at large to understand that what is being proposed for Synod 2022 is ‘by way of exception.’ The circumstances of the pandemic of 2020 and 2021 and the inability for synod to meet created a backlog of synod agenda matters.” With this in mind, they suggested that synod “be done differently” with exceptions to procedure and schedule “to ensure that we get through the weighty agenda.”
The changes, with one exception, outlined below, were adopted by the Council of Delegates. Please note that both the Program Committee and the Council of Delegates emphasized that synod is a deliberative assembly. The purpose is to listen for the Spirit’s leading as we meet and deliberate together. With this in mind, confidentiality regarding the work of advisory committees will remain essential - no matter synod’s format. Influence from social media or friends and family who are not part of synod’s deliberations should be avoided in order to honor the deliberative nature of the assembly.
In addition, please note:
- “Call for Prayer for Synod” initiative: Several leaders are working to call the entire denomination to a year of prayer. They host monthly prayer times and will also provide 40 days of devotions immediately before synod is held. In keeping with this initiative, Synod 2022 will be intentional to incorporate special time for prayer in its advisory committees and to start each day.
- Paring down the Agenda: The Program Committee has begun to carefully go through the matters on the agenda for Synod 2022. They have and will continue to recommend that some of the items either be deferred to the COD or to Synod 2023. Upon the recommendation of the Program Committee, the COD decided that the report of the Ecclesiastical Marriage Task Force and the report of the Study of Bivocationality Task Force be deferred until Synod 2023. This will give more time to discuss the Human Sexuality Report in 2022. In addition, a “consent agenda” will be implemented so that cursory agenda matters not be assigned to an advisory committee and merely be adopted by Synod 2022 altogether.
- Virtual aspects in late May/early June: Delegates and advisers to Synod 2022 should plan to participate in an orientation virtually (via video call) following their appointment by classes. In order to maximize the use of time while delegates are meeting in person (June 10-16 on the campus of Calvin University in Grand Rapids, Mich.), synod will also hold its convening session virtually in late May. During this virtual session, synod will elect its officers and approve the Program Committee report (advisory committee assignments). This will also allow advisory committees to have an initial online meeting in advance of the in-person synod to introduce each other and review background materials to their agenda items. Please note that, as an exception to the Program Committee report, the COD emphasized the importance of holding advisory committee discussions and deliberations in person only. Therefore, the content of the preliminary virtual advisory committees will be kept to a minimum. Even so, all delegates will be expected to participate fully in both the virtual advisory committee meetings and the week of in-person advisory committee meetings and plenary sessions.
- Advisory committees: There will be more advisory committees (e.g., up to 12) with fewer members in each. This will allow each advisory committee to deal with fewer items and will reduce the amount of time each group will have to meet. The exception to this is the advisory committee that will be assigned the report, overtures, and communications regarding human sexuality. They should plan to meet longer.
- Technology: Given the expectation that delegates attend virtual orientation, the convening session, and initial advisory committee meetings prior to the in-person meetings, classes should ensure that their delegates have access to good equipment and technology. During the week of in-person synod, the Synodical Services Office will ensure that delegates and advisers have use of a device (if they do not bring one of their own).
- Compensation: Classes are strongly encouraged to compensate delegates for their participation at synod if serving as a delegate results in hardship for lost wages.
- Synod Sunday schedule: By way of exception, Synod 2022 will make use of the time on Sunday. While this has sometimes been considered a “free” day in the past, delegates and advisers will be required to be present to participate in the Sunday activities during Synod 2022. This will include worship, presentations, and potential group discussions.
- Late overtures and communications to synod: Please note that by way of exception, late overtures and communications to synod (see Rules for Synodical Procedure, pp. 10-11) must be received no later than May 19 (due to holidays and the turnaround of materials) to be considered legally on synod’s agenda and be considered by the advisory committees, which will begin meeting at the end of May.
- Vaccination Guidelines Policy (adopted by the COD Oct. 2021): In order to gather safely, everyone present at COD/synod is expected to be fully vaccinated (two doses of MrNA vaccines or AstraZeneca, or one dose of Johnson & Johnson), or able to provide a negative COVID test, completed within 72 hours of the event start. Those who are not vaccinated will also need to provide an exemption to the Office of the Executive Director by the registration deadline. Mask guidelines during synod will be under the guidance of the local setting and may be revised as the situation changes to ensure compliance with the venue and local guidelines.
These decisions will be posted to crcna.org/Synod for your reference. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact the Synodical Services office at email@example.com.
In his service,
Executive Director, CRCNA
Director, Synodical Services