General Synod adds Belhar Confession as fourth standard

The General Synod of the Reformed Church in America officially declared the Belhar Confession the fourth standard of the RCA.

After the official declaration, the General Synod participated in worship and liturgy led by Doug Fromm, the RCA associate for ecumenical relations; Godfrey Betha, actuarius of the Uniting Reformed Church in Southern Africa; RCA elder Sarah Smith; RCA elder Oliver Patterson; moderator of the Uniting Reformed Church in Southern Africa Selaelo Thias Kgatla; and RCA general secretary Wes Granberg-Michaelson.

The 2009 General Synod voted to adopt the Belhar Confession as a standard of unity. The decision was approved by two-thirds of the RCA’s 46 classes, which reported their votes to the 2010 General Synod.

The RCA has been considering the Belhar Confession since 1985, three years after it was written in South Africa in response to divisions in the church during apartheid. Since then, the confession has been referred to RCA congregations and classes for study.

In 2000, General Synod instructed the Commission on Christian Unity to commend the Belhar Confession to the church over the next decade for reflection, study, and response as a means of deepening the RCA's commitment to dealing with racism and strengthening its ecumenical commitment to the Uniting Reformed Church in Southern Africa and other Reformed bodies.

In 2007, General Synod voted to provisionally adopt the Belhar Confession for two years of testing in worship, teaching, discernment, and confession.

The Belhar will join the RCA's historic standards: the Heidelberg Catechism with its Compendium, the Canons of the Synod of Dort, and the Belgic Confession of Faith.

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