This month five congregations from the Illiana-Florida Classis of the Reformed Church in America (RCA) are transferring to the Chicago Metro Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church in America. Rev. Ben Kappers is the pastor at First Church (PCA) in Lansing, IL (formerly First Reformed Church), and writes of his reflections on the upcoming transfer.
I have been a member of the Reformed Church in America (RCA) all my life. My parents have been members of the RCA all their lives. My grandparents are RCA members. In fact, being part of the RCA is something that runs through both sides of my family for many generations. I am certainly not the first man in my family to be ordained in the RCA; my grandfather is still an ordained minister in the RCA. My family history with the RCA has been rich and fruitful. The church I pastor has had a rich and fruitful ministry within the RCA as well. We have been a part of the RCA for 153 years, but that relationship is ending this month. This is sad and exciting.
Leaving is sad in many ways. The Dutch Reformed tradition is beautiful and worth treasuring. Our confessions are faithful to the Scriptures and comforting to the soul. Our contributions to the reformed and evangelical communities are many and well worth celebrating. There are many good brothers and sisters in the RCA who have labored alongside of us (and continue to labor in the RCA) for the truth of the gospel and the authority of the Word. Now we will be parting ways. For some time now we have dedicated significant time, resources, and energy into seeking reform in the Reformed Church and this transfer feels in some way like a defeat. It is difficult to break formal ties with one’s tradition when it is so rich. It is difficult to break formal ties with many good brothers and sisters who have labored with me and First Church for the truth of God’s word. It is difficult to leave the only denomination I have ever known.
As hard as it may be, it is time to leave. It’s necessary. It’s a matter of conscience. The Reformed Church in America has fundamentally changed in the past few years. The conscience clauses, which allowed complementarians to function in the RCA without fear of discrimination or formal charges, have been removed. The Belhar Confession, which contains theological statements we cannot affirm, was adopted as a fourth confession of the church. The RCA continues to neglect to discipline those who openly rebel against God’s design for human sexuality. While on paper the RCA’s position on sexuality is biblical, it seems to be inching ever closer to a “third way” approach to the issue where each congregation is permitted to determine for itself whether to conduct LGBT weddings. Many of the professors at our seminaries promote an “open and affirming” position; one of those professors has written a very popular book advocating for “full inclusion.”
But what ultimately requires us to leave the RCA is a lack of commitment to the inerrancy and authority of the Scriptures. While our confessions state, “Everything God reveals in his Word is true,” the doctrine of inerrancy is not only conspicuously absent from all official documents and affirmations, but openly rejected within the seminaries. Without a common, Spirit-wrought, foundational belief in the absolute perfection and authority of God’s Word there can be no true reform. This is why our consciences compel us to transfer. With sadness we have determined that it is time to stop pouring energy and resources into denominational strategies and reform efforts. We need to refocus on the proclamation of the gospel here in Lansing and around the world. The time has come to ensure that the First Church we handoff to our children stands firmly on the solid rock of Jesus Christ and his inerrant Word. This is precisely why we are so excited to be joining the PCA.
We know the PCA is not perfect. We know there are issues of contention. We know we’ll feel out of place for a while. But, we also know the PCA shares our values and that is what we desire. We worked hard to determine what denomination we should join. We believe that of all the denominations we researched, and the list was extensive, the Presbyterian Church in America offers us the best opportunity for maximizing our local ministry and enabling us to serve the Lord with joy and in good conscience for generations to come.
We are excited to hold in common with our sister churches a commitment to the inerrancy of Scripture and to the reformed faith. We are eager to embrace the Westminster standards and to enrich our teaching with these beautiful documents. We want to feel like a valued part of the church again. We want to be invited to serve on committees and commissions. We want to clearly and winsomely articulate the reformed faith together. We want to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ across the street and around the world. We want to joyfully teach men and women what it means to be godly men and women. We want to be confident that our denomination will support us as we seek to love those who are sexually broken and lead the broken to healing in Jesus Christ. We desire fellowship, accountability, and joyful partnering in the work of the Great Commission. That is what we have found in the PCA, and we are eager to make the transfer complete.
So, if you are a brother or sister in the PCA we hope you are as excited to have us as we are to be coming. I hope you will welcome us, encourage us, be patient with us, and serve alongside of us. But most of all I hope we will be vigilant together in our faithfulness to the Word of God so that it will be much longer than 153 years before we have to change denominations again.
To God be the glory,
If you would like to read the petition First Church and other congregations filed to be transferred to the Chicago Metro Presbytery you can find it here.
The other four congregations which are transferring to the Chicago Metro Presbytery are: Crete Church (http://www.cretechurch.com), Grace Church (http://www.gracechurchlansing.org), Missio Dei Church (http://www.mdchurch.us/), and Peace Community Church (http://www.peaceinfrankfort.org/).
 Heidelberg Catechism Q/A 21