Tom De Vries Offers Final Thoughts as General Secretary
De Vries urged unity and celebrated God at work in Transformed & Transforming
In his final report before the General Synod as general secretary, on Friday, June 9, Tom De Vries made his first ever proposal to a synod.
De Vries, who is ending his tenure as general secretary after this General Synod, requested that each classis and regional synod hold a discussion this year about the future of the RCA.
The discussion, to be developed by the interim general secretary, will include the following questions:
- How do we understand the biblical calling to live together in a unity of fellowship and love for one another?
- Are we willing to see the Reformed Church in America embark on a serious division and break of fellowship, and what is our part in bringing reconciliation and restoration?
- What do we believe is God’s intended future for the Reformed Church in America?
Throughout his report, De Vries returned to the themes of unity reflected in these questions, comparing the RCA to the church in Corinth, which Paul rebuked for its dividedness—for “[breaking] Christ into many pieces” (1 Corinthians 1:13, TLB).
“Are we any different today?” De Vries said. “Future generations will view the sin of our disunity and recognize how we are dishonoring God—just like the church at Corinth. Even if we do it in defense of the marginalized or in advocating for truth, rationalizing the reason for behavior does not excuse the behavior itself.
“We still stand on the brink of breaking Christ into many pieces. How can we say that is God glorifying and God’s desire for the Reformed Church in America? We are trying to perpetuate a new narrative—out of our anxiety and fear—that division is the call God has laid before us as a denomination. This is not the gospel. To believe division is the way forward is to believe that a tattered relic of Christ is the same as experiencing the true fullness and reconciliation of Jesus.”
De Vries expressed hope that his proposal would help the RCA define what is most important and “move forward together as a church, unified for the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
De Vries recounted many instances of the RCA’s impact in the United States and Canada and around the world, sharing how, both historically and today, the denomination has been an agent of transformation. This missional DNA is the RCA’s leadership legacy, he said. De Vries also celebrated how God is already bringing RCA churches together for the kingdom through Transformed & Transforming. This interactive impact report captures many of the statistics and stories he highlighted.
At the close of his address, De Vries returned to a theme of unity.
“In Greek, the meaning of reconciliation at its root is change,” he said. “This is the meaning of the word we read in the New Testament. It is a word, according to Greek scholars, that means primarily ‘to exchange’—to change the relation of hostile parties into a relation of peace.
“This is my final word as general secretary. Live the truth of God’s Word. Live the grace of God’s Word. Be transformed. Be changed. Be reconciled. Show how Christians live differently. Do not accept the polarization that is multiplying and expanding in our world. Do not allow it to influence our relationships with one another. We are called to be different, to act different, and to live different—to live and love like Jesus.”
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