The General Synod

An annual event, an assembly, and a family reunion, all rolled into one

General Synod is a once-a-year gathering that shapes the direction of the denomination. It is one of the four assemblies of the Reformed Church in America.  

Synod is primarily made up of elders and ministers, sent from classes and regions as voting delegates. It also includes corresponding delegates—who can speak to issues on the floor but can’t vote, make motions, or hold office—who represent boards, commissions, and others within the RCA.

In June, these delegates work, worship, pray, and fellowship together for the better part of a week. The rest of the year, General Synod functions through the General Synod Council, commissions, and agencies of the RCA.

What is General Synod?

General Synod is one of four levels of RCA government: assemblies called consistory, classis, regional synod, General Synod. The Book of Church Order calls the General Synod the RCA’s “highest assembly and judicatory,” but “highest” doesn’t mean most important or that it’s the final authority; each assembly has authority over different things. General Synod’s authority is broadest, while the classis is the assembly with the greatest number of responsibilities. 

The key responsibilities of General Synod are to set the direction and tone for denominational ministry and determine denominational policy.

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How business comes to synod

General Synod determines denominational policy and has general oversight for the interests and concerns of the whole church. It has additional specific responsibilities that are spelled out in the Book of Church Order

General Synod’s agenda (also known as the General Synod Workbook) includes reports and recommendations from several entities including synod’s commissions, the General Synod Council, and the RCA’s agencies (the Board of Benefits Services, the Church Growth Fund, and the Ministerial Formation Certification Agency) among others. It also includes overtures, or letters, from classes or regional synods asking the synod to take a particular action. The General Synod president and the RCA’s general secretary also have the opportunity to bring proposals in their reports.

How synod does business

Following the example of the early church, the RCA believes that decisions should be made by gathering people together to discern the will of God. At General Synod, delegates don’t just hear reports and vote on recommendations; they discern the mind of Christ together. 

Synod operates through advisory committees and through plenary sessions, where recommendations are deliberated and voted on. General Synod can refer business to advisory committees during the synod meeting, or to committees, commissions, task forces, or the General Synod Council for report back at a future date. 

Business is conducted in accordance with the Book of Church Order and Robert’s Rules of Order.

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Synod as a family reunion

When church leaders gather at General Synod, it’s a reminder that your part in the family of God is not just your local church. Connections and relationships across the wider church run deep and are celebrated as old friends see each other and new relationships are sparked. 

General Synod Council

The General Synod Council is the executive committee of the RCA’s General Synod.

Learn about GSC

General Synod Commissions

Commissions are standing committees of the General Synod established to advise the General Synod body in particular areas of the life of the church.

Learn more about commissions