Every three years the Canadian Reformed Churches have a synod. This is our broadest assembly. Since we are allergic to hierarchy and since we respect the position of the local church, our synod is not the highest assembly. Yet important decisions are made at our synods that have a bearing on all our churches. We agree to accept the decisions of our synods as settled and binding unless they are in conflict with Scripture or the Church Order. This year’s synod is going to be held in the bustling metropolis of Carman, MB, convened by the Carman West Canadian Reformed Church. Over this coming week (and maybe into next) I want to survey some of the items on the agenda and offer some thoughts on where things might go or where they should go. And no, I’m not delegated to this synod. If you see a Bredenhof on the list of delegates, that would be my cousin, Rev. Reuben Bredenhof, pastor of the Pilgrim CanRC in London, ON.
Let’s begin with one of the controversial matters being appealed. Synod Burlington 2010 decided to grant churches the freedom to allow female professing members to vote for office bearers. They did not impose this on the churches, but simply opened the door for it. To my knowledge, only a handful of churches have exercised that freedom. Looking at the second provisional agenda, there are at least eight churches appealing this decision: Smithville, Calgary, Carman-West, Dunnville, Carman-East, Grand Valley, Chilliwack, and Coaldale. I don’t have the actual appeals, so I can’t comment on the strength of their arguments. The only thing that might be said is that it is very hard to put the horses back in the stable once they’ve been out and running for three years. Even if Synod 2013 were to sustain these appeals, some local churches have already been implementing this practice. In the scenario where the appeals are upheld, over the next three years these churches with women voting would likely continue their practice and then submit appeals themselves to Synod 2016. This thing could go back and forth for a while yet. However, I don’t see that happening. Since the decision did not impose the practice on the entire federation, churches that object are free to continue doing what they’ve always done. Churches that think differently can also do what they think is right. We will have to learn to live with different practices in our federation. My guess is that the appeals will be denied. I wrote some reflections on the decision of Synod 2010 over here and after three years, I think the same.