CRC Synod of 1973 Some Impressions and Observations

Dr. Leonard Greenway, pastor of Riverside Christian Reformed Church of Grand Rapids, Michigan, served as President of the 1973 CRC Synod in session June 12-22. Dr. Greenway is a member of the Board of Trustees of Reformed Fellowship, Inc., and also serves as Chairman of the board’s Editorial Committee.

1. A high level was set for Synod in the fine Service 0f Prayer, Monday evening, June 11, at the Calvin Fine Arts Auditorium. The service was sponsored by the Faith Christian Reformed Church in Grand Rapids. It was an inspiring and edifying evening. Faith’s choir was superb, the organ music magnificent, and Rev. Jerome Julien’s sermon on “God’s Provision for His Loved Ones” (Ephesians 4:11–15) an expository gem.

2. The study committees’ materials and the advisory committees’ reports, to which Synod addressed itself, revealed some thorough, painstaking labors. However much one might disagree with certain elements in some of these materials-there were sharply-drawn lines in several of the debates—one nevertheless must acknowledge with gratitude that much thought and deliberation and many hours of discussion were expended upon these reports. More than one delegate spoke of his fatigue. It was hard work. The Synod of 1973 was not a lazy, lackadaisical body. Far from it!

3. A fine brotherly spirit was exhibited in this Synod, as indeed there should always be. The repetitiousness that marred a few of the speeches was borne patiently by the brethren. There were only a few moments of unpleasantness from which we quickly recovered with no apparent lingering resentment.

4. The physical accommodations were excellent. Conveniences abounded! So many stood ready to be helpful. We have come a long way since the days when Synod sweltered in the heat of the old Calvin chapel auditorium.

5. One is impressed by the mechanics that go into the preparation for Synod. So many materials have to be readied, so many reports prepared. And here we express appreciation to our Stated Clerk, Rev. William P. Brink, whose competence was like a lubricant that kept things in smooth operation. Well done, Bill!

6. One is disturbed by the cost of Synod. The publication of the Agenda alone cost over sixteen thousand dollars. Those study committee meetings look pretty expensive to me, when you consider the travelling expenses involved.

7. Some of us were made unhappy by Synod’s action on Amnesty. It was one of the more controversial matters before our body and emotion ran fairly high at certain points. Proponents for amnesty spoke of these young men as “immature,” “unconditioned for important assessments,” “incapable of making wise judgments,” etc. Isn’t it strange that in other areas these same young men and their associates are regarded as mature enough to make judgments about the Church, about a college curriculum, and about the political structure of our great commonwealth? We are asked not to take their desertion so seriously. They are barely more than kids. But we are expected to give them a voice on some of our high level councils. How rapidly they grow up with respect to certain responsibilities!

8. I was disturbed by a strange disproportion in the delegations. There were twelve home-missionary delegates but not one foreign-missionary delegate. Something is wrong with our setup here. Foreign missionaries—certainly those home on furlough should be given delegate privileges on the Boor of Synod. A re-vamping of our system at this point is in order.

9. There was good participation on the part of the elder delegates. I was impressed with the caliber of those elders who spoke so forthrightly respecting major issues before us. Let us encourage our elders to make the most of their parity with ministerial delegates.

10. My final observation has to do with our Canadian brethren. They were not averse to making themselves heard and that is as it should be. Classes delegate their men to deliberate, to participate, and to ventilate, and on all three the Canadian brethren went home with good report cards. But the time may not be far off when we must consider some kind of partioning between Canada and the States in order to give our Canadian churches opportunity to develop their own denominational identity. There appear to be ideological and cultural differences between us which should be given freedom for expression and development under separate roofs. Our Canadian churches have some very capable officebearers and teachers. They also face their own unique challenges, one of them being a French-speaking ministry within their own boundaries. They have a great country into which they can project themselves in evangelism and church-extension. They have their own esprit de corps which shows no signs of yielding to American agglutination. And after all, why should it? Canada is Canada, Mexico is Mexico, and we in the States have our identity too. Every gardener knows that some plants can grow together with even their roots intertwining, while others have to he kept apart to achieve their best growth and finest beauty. Perhaps this is the case with the churches in Canada and in the States. There appears to be a difference in “mind” and “posture.” Precisely why must we remain together under our present arrangement? May it not be that the “plants” will do much better apart from each other, though never completely disassociated? After all, we’ll still be in the same garden.