General Synod Preview
The RCA's annual General Synod runs June 21-26 at Trinity Christian College in Palos Heights, Illinois.
Delegates to General Synod 2012 have a hefty agenda, which is spelled out in the 526-page General Synod Workbook. (Check it out for yourself at www.rca.org/workbook.)
They'll hear many reports from commissions, boards, agencies, and other groups that have been assigned work by previous synods. They'll vote on nearly 50 recommendations concerning the work of the church.
What is General Synod?
General Synod is both an event (the annual synod meeting) and a group of people (the highest assembly and judicatory of the RCA).
Who comes to synod?
- Voting delegates include elders and ministers from each classis and regional synod, along with five General Synod professors.
- Corresponding delegates include the General Synod Council, ecumenical delegates, and representatives from the Board of Benefits services, the Church Growth Fund, RCA colleges and seminaries, and RCA commissions. Additional women and youth delegates help to ensure greater diversity in the synod.
- Guests drop by to observe plenary sessions.
- Many RCA staff are on hand to connect with delegates or help the synod run smoothly.
This year's business includes discussion of:
- The RCA's ongoing discernment process. Delegates will hear about "Conversations," a denominational discernment event held in February. They'll weigh major themes from Conversations and continue to refine and identify future goals for the RCA. It's likely that the process will continue for another year before synod votes on a new goal. (Our Call, the current 10-year goal, concludes in 2013.) In the meantime, discernment will continue at 16 regional gatherings before the General Synod Council proposes a recommendation to General Synod 2013.
- The "conscience clauses." The Commission for Women proposes elimination of the Book of Church Order's conscience clauses, which spell out how church leaders can conscientiously object to women's ordination.
- Future funding for the denomination's work. A task force has reviewed current assessment practices and explored alternative funding systems to support the RCA's work. The task force proposes further research into a percentage-of-income formula to replace the current per-member assessment.
- The frequency of General Synod. After exploring alternative ways to hold synod, a working group proposes greater flexibility in the frequency of synod, opening the door for non-annual synods in the future. The proposal relies on increased use of technology and includes other denominational gatherings on years when synod will not be held. A phased implementation plan is suggested for the next three years.
This year's overtures, received from classes or regional synods, urge the synod to:
- Overturn conscience clauses in the Book of Church Order.
- Discipline pastors, commissioned pastors, or elders who celebrate, promote, bless, or engage in homosexual behavior or same-sex marriages. Delegates will have the opportunity to discuss this topic on Saturday night.
- End the Formula of Agreement, which establishes full communion between the RCA and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), and the United Church of Christ.
- Restore Native American Awareness Sunday.
- Develop a denominational disaster preparedness and emergency response plan.
- Evaluate the RCA's continued membership in the World Council of Churches.
- Take action to address the plight of Indonesian Christians in the United States who are about to be deported.
How to follow synod news
During synod, get regular updates at www.rca.org, on Facebook (www.facebook.com/reformedchurch), on Twitter (@rcaonline or hashtag #GS12), or by calling the General Synod Hotline at (800) 968-6063. Find out what delegates think of synod on the Church Herald blogs, heraldblog.squarespace.com.
Visit rca.org/codeofconduct to read guidelines for comments on RCA Today.