Never Predict a Synod

Well, this General Synod seems to taking wonderful and unpredictable steps. Give thanks to the God of Gods, for His mercy endures forever.

I have learned in my long years of ministry never to predict the outcome of a consistory meeting. And I have also learned to accept this as a very good thing. Not that learning this came easy. I have my ideas, after all, strong ideas, and my relationships with people mean that if they have business for the consistory, I like to make them happy ahead of time. But learning never to predict the outcome of a consistory meeting has been a relief for me as much as anyone.

It means that I respect the discretion and authority of my elders and deacons. It means that the meeting is vitally important, as a meeting, as the time and place for them to exercise their gifts of discernment and initiative.

The same holds true for meetings of classes and regional synods. You learn never to predict their outcome. That is, not when they are working as they should.

Of course, if you are a leader and a visionary, this can be frustrating. If you have a plan, a project, or a proposal, the meetings offer resistance, and you can experience them as obstacles.

And it can be especially frustrating if you are a staff person. As a staff person you need to have some control. You have other staff depending on you. You have set out for yourself your goals and objectives and your action steps. And your performance review is likely to be based on these. Meetings threaten these. That is, if they are meetings with real discretion and authority.

If your position is to be both visionary and staff, well, then, meetings of classes and synods are bound to be excruciating. You can work to reduce their frequency and restrict their authority.

Or you can be converted. You can come to see their resistance as a gift, and even as opportunity. But that takes great humility. And vulnerability. And you have to believe that the church that resists you loves you anyway. And you also have to believe that the Sovereignty of God is under the Kingdom of Christ, and that he can accomplish things quite well, thank you very much, and that the Kingdom is not for us to build or advance but to receive, in fear and trembling.

Let’s hope that this general secretary can learn these lessons, not only for his own health and happiness, but also to make it all easier and more joyful for everyone else.

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4 thoughts on “Never Predict a Synod

  1. Dan Meeter expresses a hope for staff learning from having synod change their plans and Jim Reid earlier noted that while the first mile is done, the second is just beginning. Many of us have friends on the staff and my hope is that we talk to them soon and often about what happens next.I stayed away from synod this year, the first time in 30 years, as I was too angry and did not want to spend an ulcerous week. So I have my own lessons of humility and lack of trust in the assemblies to learn. But Passaic Valley organized Hanaim Church on Sunday. Upon organization it is the church with the largest Sunday attendance in our Classis. So there was a compensating joy to make up for missing Belhar and the other good things.

  2. There are some important lessons for all of us in CI to be mined from this GS 2007 experience and I would hope that we continue to use this blog and perhaps a meeting in September to further articulate and share our reflections. Dan, Rett and Al have started us on that journey already and I thank them. On the desk infront of me are many scraps of notes that should be woven into future blog posts or [God save us all] one of those extended papers. In our MSTF argumentation, we asked for in-depth conversation across our assemblies and, to our surprise, that was what this Synod has granted. With the ball back in our court, we need to figure out the manner and content of our initial response, and to do that with all deliberate speed. Our dialogue with the national structures begins with articulating and sharing among ourselves the internal monologues each of us compose as we react to this Synod. Some of us have shared our rflections, but more of you are out there and we have need now for your thoughts. It would be especially helpful to have delegate reflections. It would also help CI to further invite contacts made at Synod, persons who turned out to be unexpected allies. As we head off to well-deserved R&R, let’s make good use of this blogspace and e-mail to keep up the reflection. Again, our thanks to Dan Griswold for his expertise, shared even as he strives to complete his degree work.

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