General Secretary: RCA Identity in Transition
RCA general secretary Wesley Granberg-Michaelson, in his report to synod, said the most critical challenge facing the Reformed Church in America is making the transition from being a settled denomination to becoming a missional church.
While he is encouraged that over 17,500 people worship in 249 new RCA congregations--and that more than one-third of these congregations are racially or ethnically different than the RCA Anglo majority--he noted that the RCA must address the "relationship gap" between traditional RCA congregations and new congregations. He called their lack of connection "the greatest threat to the RCA's life together as a whole."
Granberg-Michaelson pointed out the many issues before synod that involve resolving the tension between traditional and missional approaches to the work of the church:
- Deciding whether a classis should only be defined geographically.
- Clarifying the role of commissioned pastors.
- Considering a proposed "worship renewal project."
- Addressing the challenges and costs of training ministerial leadership.
- Revisiting the roles of the classis and the consistory.
- Funding the work of the church.
He reminded delegates that Our Call focuses on revitalizing existing congregations as well as starting new ones. He observed that congregational revitalization depends on the support of classes, and proposed that they be urged to develop specific, measurable revitalization goals.
He also proposed modifying the pastoral formation process to allow candidates who were not raised in RCA congregations, and for whom membership in an RCA congregation is not feasible, to be accepted under care directly by a classis. "The process, as now, would still require deep experience in the RCA before ordination, but wouldn't put [RCA membership] as a prerequisite for every candidate at the beginning," he said.
Turning his attention to the historical significance of Synod 2010, he said, "This General Synod will be remembered for decades to come as the session at which the Belhar Confession officially became the fourth confessional standard of the Reformed Church in America.
"Adopting the Belhar will shape the future witness and life of the Reformed Church in America. In the past few years, as Our Call and our church multiplication efforts began expanding the racial and ethnic diversity of the RCA, it became clear that the Belhar is...a providential gift, providing a confessional foundation for a multiracial future freed from racism.
"The Belhar reminds us of our ongoing biblical call to unity, even in the midst of difficult and trying circumstances."
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