History of Transformed & Transforming
Transformed & Transforming arose out of a discernment process that involved thousands of people within the Reformed Church in America.
In October 2009, the General Synod Council (GSC) assigned then-general secretary Wes Granberg-Michaelson with a task: develop a plan that engages the assemblies of the church (consistories, classes, regional synods, and the General Synod) in a process of discernment of the RCA’s continuing call to mission and ministry.
RCA members, leaders, congregations, and higher assemblies were invited to prayerfully listen to God and answer these questions: What was God doing in our life together? How else did God desire us to join Jesus in mission through the power of the Holy Spirit?
Congregational discovery workshops
The first step in the process was to invite RCA congregations to engage in Congregational Discovery Workshops. These workshops began with biblical reflection that led into thinking about three questions:
- How is God working within you?
- How is God working through you?
- How is God working ahead of you?
As congregations engaged these questions, they were encouraged by all that God was doing within and through them, challenged by the work that God was doing ahead of them, and hopeful for the future God was preparing for them.
A major denomination-wide gathering
In February 2012, more than 500 people gathered in Orlando, Florida, for Conversations, a watershed event in the life and ministry of the RCA and a key step in the discernment process. The guiding question for the event was this: Where does God’s work in our past and our present point us into our future?
Participants were each asked to share their congregation’s story and to come with an open, receptive spirit. The group worshiped together, spent a full day in discernment processes, and listened to Rev. Efrem Smith, who encouraged attendees to focus on outward mission.
This event provided a summary of what participants heard from God, which was then shared with the GSC.
General Synod 2012
The GSC took two actions:
- They brought the discernment of Conversations to the 2012 General Synod.
- They formed a new team to develop a series of discovery events to be held throughout the RCA in the following months.
During General Synod 2012, delegates devoted two advisory groups to review the work from Conversations, to listen for what else God might want to say to the GSC, and to work toward greater focus.
Following General Synod 2012, discovery events were hosted in 24 locations, providing the opportunity for 1,500 people to gather regionally. Working in small groups, participants engaged in exercises designed to help them listen to God more clearly. First, they captured a vision of churches reaching neighboring people and impacting their communities. Then, the small groups reviewed the work of the 2012 General Synod and named the three areas they saw as God’s preferred future for the RCA.
The GSC and General Synod 2013
In February 2013, the General Synod Council appointed four of its members to review the results of the discovery events and then create an initial recommendation to the entire GSC at its next meeting. The four appointed members met with then-general secretary Tom De Vries, his administrative assistant, a data analyst, and a group facilitator. Over two days, they reviewed more than 500 individual data points from the discovery events, closely examining common themes and language. The result? Three areas of concentration that were loosely referred to as “up,” “in,” and “out.” Over the next few weeks, the small group fleshed out these three overarching categories and gave them official titles: transformation, leadership, and mission.
In March 2013, the GSC gathered for its annual spring meeting, spending significant time in retreat and reflecting on the recommendation of the small group. Following prayer and group discussion, the GSC unanimously affirmed the three categories as the foundation of God’s call for the denomination.
After further editing, the GSC created its complete recommendation to General Synod 2013: “Transformed & Transforming: Radically Following Christ in Mission Together.” Through an advisory group process, the synod delegates were able to study and further understand the document. On the floor of General Synod, several minor revisions were made, but the substantial content remained unchanged. Upon approval by a 201 to 18 vote, the Transformed & Transforming vision was adopted.