Recognizing that some separation is inevitable, we believe the RCA has an opportunity to act in an exemplary way by providing a generous exit path for those churches which decide to leave and by inviting those churches to also act generously. While the process currently outlined in the RCA Book of Church Order (BCO)…allows a classis to be generous with a church petitioning for withdrawal from the denomination, it also allows a classis to deny a church’s petition for withdrawal or to be less than generous in granting the withdrawal. Given that we are entering a period when there will likely be more petitions being put forth than has been typical, we believe it is the right time to provide more guidance for this process so that generosity is prescribed rather than simply permitted.
After spending hours in discernment groups related to the Vision 2020 Team’s recommendations on Thursday and Friday, delegates considered those recommendations in plenary session on Saturday afternoon and evening.
Marijke Strong, a member of the Vision 2020 Team, began the report by leading the synod in singing “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus.” She and fellow Vision 2020 Team members Thomas Goodhart and Brian Keepers presented the team’s three recommendations.
Following the conclusion of the Vision 2020 Team report on Saturday evening, the team was given a standing ovation in appreciation for their work.
Vision 2020 restructuring team approved
The Vision 2020 Team’s first recommendation, calling for a team to develop a restructuring plan for the denomination with a view to optimizing the RCA’s sustained spiritual and organizational health, was adopted after two hours of debate. Though six amendments were considered by the synod, in the end, only two words changed from the original recommendation. Read the full Vision 2020 Team report.
Mission agency recommendation denied
After nearly an hour of discussion that spoke volumes to the centrality of mission within the Reformed Church in America, the General Synod voted against the Vision 2020 Team’s recommendation to create a separate 501(c)(3) mission agency. As a result, RCA Global Mission will continue to exist with the RCA label.
New regulations adopted for departing churches
The Vision 2020 Team recommended new rules and regulations for departing churches that would allow for mutually generous separation. The rules and regulations, spelled out in a ten-page recommendation, were adopted as proposed. They allow a local church to retain its property and other assets while being solely responsible for any liabilities. Read the new rules and regulations.
Synod supports anti-racism work in the church
After the 2020 global reckoning with racism, General Synod 2021 approved five anti-racism recommendations on Saturday morning. These included a recommendation urging RCA assemblies to hold an annual one-day event dedicated to racism. For accountability, another recommendation, which came as a motion from the floor, adds a question to the Consistorial Report Form (CRF) about anti-racism training. The recommendations came from the African American Black Council, by way of the General Synod Council.
Related: RCA resources for dismantling racism
Committee on Emergencies will provide direction if General Synod can’t meet in the future
In a change prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic, General Synod approved a new committee on emergencies. When the pandemic repeatedly delayed General Synod, the RCA had been stretching its church order to make decisions. (On Friday, delegates ratified some of those decisions.) The Commission on Church Order proposed the new emergency provisions. Other recommendations adopted from the Commission on Church Order clarified the process of transferring RCA ministers to another denomination.
The synod heard reports from its three racial/ethnic councils: the Council for Hispanic Ministries, the Council for Pacific and Asian American Ministries, and the African American Black Council. These racial/ethnic councils “express the collective vision and voice of racial and ethnic congregants and congregations as they develop ministries and advocate for policies of racial and ethnic inclusion, economic, social, and racial justice, both within the Reformed Church in America and ecumenically,” as outlined in the Book of Church Order. Synod approved four anti-racism recommendations that came to the synod from the African American Black Council, by way of the General Synod Council.
Seven of the 11 General Synod commissions gave reports on Saturday morning: Race and Ethnicity, Christian Worship, Christian Discipleship and Education, Women, Church Order, History, and Nominations.
The Commission on Christian Unity reported on Friday; other commissions will report Saturday night and Monday.
Other articles on the RCA Synod:
LGBTQ inclusion disagreements threaten Reformed Church in America split