Over the last few months, General Synod Council (GSC) staff within the RCA’s Center for Church Ministry and Multiplication have been adapting in order to best serve and resource RCA classes, churches, and members—and adjusting after a number of staffing transitions. As announced last fall, this center brings together the work of Transformed & Transforming, Church Multiplication, and Race Relations and Advocacy into a unified team with one shared vision. Staff to the RCA’s racial and ethnic councils have also been enfolded in the center.
The focus of the center
The scope of the center is broad, yet unified in vision and collaborative in spirit. The focus is on equipping every church to be healthy and missional.
“The center is eager to help faith communities embrace biblical, equitable hospitality and welcome in both friends and strangers in respectful, barrier-free ways so they can truly belong, live into their God-given gifts and callings, and contribute in unique, strengthening ways,” says Rev. Liz Testa, director for women’s transformation and leadership. “Our ministry resources [and those we recommend] equip leaders and congregations with tools that adapt readily to different contexts, with a particular focus on next gen and intergenerational relationships, race relations, women, and people with disabilities.”
The center staff primarily connects with regional synod and classis leaders, who have a better pulse on the needs of the churches and ministers in their purview. After listening to these leaders, center staff are better able to offer the most beneficial training, equipping, and resourcing for the churches in these contexts.
“The classis is the closest entity that can get us in the congregation most effectively, to help transform the lives of congregations and thus congregants,” says Rev. Phil Assink, interim director of the center. “If a church in a classis calls us, we’ll ask how we can make it a larger partnership and include the classis. I can walk with and lead a church through a pastoral transition, but I can also work with someone at the classis level who can carry out that work with other churches in the classis in transition, and I can just be a consultant, not a leader. Our goal is to increase the capacity of the classis.”
Denominational staff continue to reframe resourcing, focusing on curating resources and partnering with trusted organizations rather than creating content.
“Denominations are changing, including the ability to resource as a denomination,” says Assink. “In the center, we’re trying to gain clarity and focus on church ministry, asking, ‘What can we do that is meaningful for the local congregation? Where is the Holy Spirit creating opportunity for us to work and serve?’
“We’re looking out the side window to see where we can partner and get churches connected. We invite churches to contact us to explore ways we can partner in our work. We are encouraged when churches reach out,” he adds. “We would love to start a conversation.”
Email firstname.lastname@example.org if your church or classis would like support and resources in discipleship, leadership, mission, multiplication, and advocacy.
Changes in leadership
The focus of the center remains the same despite multiple changes in leadership. Currently, the center is led by Rev. Phil Assink, who was hired in mid-September as the interim director. His part-time role will extend through June 2024. Assink pastored RCA churches in Washington and California until his “retirement” a few years ago. He has also served on pastoral search teams, as an interim pastor, and as the General Synod vice president and president in 2021 and 2022, respectively.
“I tried retiring in 2019, and I haven’t done a good job of it,” he says, with a laugh. “I tried to leave my hands open, and God keeps dropping things into the process.
“I’m grateful to work with the center staff and run with them. While I’m here, we can do ministry well together,” he adds. “Part of this interim role is stabilizing influence—at least a calm and non-anxious presence. The center is still in its infancy; there’s a need to get it walking. I’m carrying the baton for nine months, then I want to hand off the center with more direction and clarity, to make the hand-off so that someone can hit the ground running, right into ministry.”
As interim director of the center, Assink also serves on the GSC staff’s strategic leadership team (SLT).
In late August, Rev. Sung Kim shifted out of his work as chief operating officer, no longer overseeing the work of the center and no longer serving on SLT. Instead, he is focusing his work on growth and strategy and now serves as director of church ministry.
Staff departures have also necessitated shifts in roles and responsibilities. The former director of church ministry, Rev. Fredy Aviles, resigned at the end of August. Rev. Chad Farrand served as director of the center from mid-April through August; he resigned for family health reasons. Previously, he had served as director of church multiplication since last October, a post now held by Rev. Dr. Andres Serrano, who had briefly been associate director of church multiplication after serving for several years as coordinator for Hispanic Ministries and church multiplication catalyst.
The work of future church innovation and next generation engagement, led by Rev. Annalise Radcliffe and Ruth Langkamp, continues and is bearing fruit. This work focuses on establishing intergenerational relationships in churches and empowering the next generation of church leaders.
Joining the team of directors within the center is Rev. Liz Testa, director of women’s transformation and leadership, and Rev. Jeremy Simpson, director of diversity and belonging. Testa previously served as the coordinator of women’s transformation and leadership; Simpson previously served as the supervisor of race relations and advocacy. These changes went into effect June 1.
“At a time when other denominations have expelled churches for having women in ministry leadership, the RCA is doing quite the opposite. The RCA is serious about the vision to ‘fully includ[e] women’s gifts, influence, and leadership in all areas of the church and beyond,’” says Testa. “I am grateful to be able to fully live into my own calling to this Spirit-led ministry—She Is Called/Ella Es Llamada and Building God’s Church Together/Construyendo Juntos—which has always been a team effort. May we continue to courageously live into a Galatians 3:28 and Revelation 7:9 vision of diverse, beloved community.”
Simpson was hired last fall as the supervisor of race relations and advocacy. He has since shifted from part-time to full-time work for the denomination; his role now includes directing the denomination in the area of disability concerns. The RCA’s previous coordinator for disability concerns, Rev. Terry DeYoung, retired last spring.
“Revelation 7:9 is not only a vision for the future, it is being realized here and now,” he says. “As God’s covenant people, the narrative of belonging is woven into each of our stories. I am committed to see the church continue living into a multicultural, multiracial reality. Our future is bright and all are welcome to join in the celebration of the diversity we share in the body of Christ.”
Simpson also gained supervision of the coordinators for the RCA’s four racial and ethnic councils. GSC staff serve as coordinators for the councils: Rev. Dr. Pedro Agudelo began as coordinator for the Hispanic Ministries in July. Rev. En Young Kim works with the Council for Pacific and Asian American Ministries, and Dr. Pete Watts with the African American Black Council. The coordinator position for the Native American and Indigenous Ministries Council is currently vacant.
The center’s staff have been intentional about being physically present at the councils’ respective meetings in order to build relationships, provide support, and make connections when needed.
Center staff roster
- Rev. Dr. Pedro Agudelo, coordinator for Hispanic Ministries
- Rev. Phil Assink, interim director of the center
- Rev. En Young Kim, coordinator for Pacific and Asian American Ministries
- Rev. Sung Kim, director of church ministry
- Ruth Langkamp, coordinator for next generation engagement
- Dawn Muller, administrative assistant
- Lorraine Parker, administrative assistant
- Rev. Annalise Radcliffe, director of future church innovation
- Rev. Dr. Andres Serrano, director of church multiplication
- Rev. Jeremy Simpson, director of diversity and belonging
- Rev. Liz Testa, director of women’s transformation and leadership
- Dr. Pete Watts, coordinator for the African American Black Council