A Perspective on Synod 2023
Written by Moises Pacheco
At the time that I’m writing this, it has been about a week since Synod 2023. It has been good to have a week to cool down, talk to people and digest all that went on. For the most part Synod went how I expected it to. I expected that the decision made in 2022 would be upheld. It seemed to me that, regardless of how I felt personally about the decisions, if 2023 undid or backed off at all from 2022, the damage to the denomination would be much greater than upholding what was done. By damage I mean the amount of churches that would be leaving the denomination.
I am relatively new to this denomination. I am not Dutch and didn’t grow up connected to anything CRC. My initial introduction to the denomination was when I met my wife about 13 years ago. I was not a CRC member until 2018, and I became a church planting pastor in the CRC in 2020. I don’t know all the ins and outs of church order and how much culture factors into that. So when I made my initial predictions regarding both Synod 2022 and 2023, there were people that would classify themselves as either affirmers or moderates that told me I’m just not familiar enough with how the CRC works, and this would likely take five or more years to figure out. Although they were right about my newness and relative ignorance in that regard, there was something I did know that they didn’t seem to appreciate. I knew that I wasn’t alone in that newness.
As part of my qualification for ordination I had to do a nine-day intensive study at Calvin Seminary under a program called the “Ethnic Leaders in Ministry”or ELIM for short. I was there with five other Korean pastors and one gentleman whose origins were in the Congo. The Koreans represented entire congregations that were interested in affiliating with the CRC. I gathered from them that there was quite a bit of interest in the CRC among Korean churches. Over the past few years, I have also connected with other Latino pastors and church planters through the work of Consejo Latino. As a Latino myself, it has been great to connect with other Latinos who have become interested in the creeds and confessions in the same way that I have. It was also great to continue making connections with some of the Koreans that also shared that interest in the creeds and confessions.
For this reason, I was pretty confident that neither the growing Korean nor the Latino contingents of our denomination would be interested in being part of a denomination that affirmed same-sex sexual behavior and/or marriage. If Synod 2023 backed off of what was decided in 2022 at all, there would be a mass exodus–at least from those contingents.
What bothered me about much of the language from the floor of Synod this year -and from Twitter responses -is that it seemed like those contingencies didn’t matter. Several Korean and Latino delegates expressed their positions on human sexuality, and it seemed to be totally ignored by the delegates speaking in favor of the affirming side even while they continued to claim a desire to advocate for those on the margins. Oddly enough, those on the margins that they were advocating for seemed to be their own friends and family. I’m not sure I have ever felt so ignored. Even The Banner made an article mentioning Christian Sebastia and his daughter, but it didn’t even quote them and didn’t include most of what they said on the Synod floor. I felt like they were saying, “we want your diverse faces for our marketing, but please don’t speak.”
I was pretty angry after Synod. However, over the past week, I have gotten to speak with many different people in our denomination: Korean, Black, Latino, and yes, even Dutch. It made me realize that the around 70% of the delegates that voted how I would have voted do see me and they saw and heard my Latino and Korean brothers and sisters. Those that made me feel ignored are not the majority, and we are part of the Christian Reformed family. I look forward to continued participation in that family and seeing how God will grow it through the Gospel, the Creeds, and our 3 forms of unity. Praise God!