Deepening a growing commitment to collaborative and cooperative ministries, a joint session of the Christian Reformed Church Synod and RCA General Synod Saturday night gave unanimous approval to a resolution that provides common language for future actions together.
Declaring that “the principle that guides us, and the intention that motivates us, is to ‘act together in all matters except those in which deep differences of conviction compel us to act separately,’” the resolution instructs the CRC Board of Trustees and the RCA General Synod Council to be guided by this principle “in looking to the future relationship between our two denominations.”
In a joint session exceeding two hours, RCA and CRC delegates heard about the resolution’s development and spent more than 30 minutes in table groups discussing past and present aspects of a shared history and programmatic endeavors, and looked to future possibilities for strengthening the common witness of the RCA and CRC.
After the resolution was recommended for approval, two delegates seated at the same table, Don Poest from the RCA’s Lake Erie Classis and Henry Schenkel Jr. from the CRC’s Classis Grand Rapids South, offered an amendment. They sought to replace acting together “in all matters except those in which deep differences of conviction compel us to act separately” with “in Christ’s name and for Christ’s purposes.”
“We believe that we should set the bar high,” Poest explained. “The present wording gives us a copout.”
Wesley Granberg-Michaelson, RCA general secretary emeritus and its current adviser for ecumenical relationships, was asked to explain the history of the phrase that the amendment sought to replace. He said the “Lund Principle” dates back to a 1952 ecumenical conference in Lund, Sweden, and “has a history in the broader life of the world church.”
Such lively debate on the proposed amendment ensued that eventually General Synod president Carl Boersma gently encouraged delegates to limit their comments. Eventually the amendment failed in a voice vote before the original resolution was passed unanimously, prompting the singing of the Doxology.
To alleviate church order concerns, General Synod earlier on Saturday had suspended its rules of order to facilitate voting with the CRC Synod in Saturday evening’s historic joint session.