The group will examine three possible scenarios for the denomination’s future and make a recommendation to General Synod 2020
General Synod delegates passed a recommendation to form a 2020 Vision Group proposed Friday morning by Don Poest, interim general secretary. The vision group will research and identify strategies and consequences for three possible scenarios for the future of the RCA: staying together, radical reconstituting and reorganization, and graceful separation. Per the recommendation, one specific option the group will consider is for the RCA to be a single denomination with three or more affinity assemblies within it.
Poest brought the recommendation in response to deep division he has seen in the denomination. The Advisory Committee on Overtures and New Business brought the proposal to the synod floor after making a few changes to better address other business on the synod agenda, as well.
The recommendation calls for the group to be appointed by the new general secretary and interim general secretary in consultation with the General Synod Council (GSC). Care will be taken that, as much as possible, its membership represents the full diversity of the RCA. There will be between ten and twelve people in the group.
Discussion on the recommendation included four amendments, none of which passed, and five calls to cease debate. But in the end, delegates voted overwhelmingly in favor of passing the original recommendation.
$250,000 from GSC financial reserves will be used to fund the vision group’s work. The vision group will present semi-annual reports to the GSC (the RCA’s governing board), an interim report to the General Synod of 2019, and a final report with recommendations to the General Synod of 2020.
The group’s work will be guided by:
- A commitment to the unity of the church.
- An understanding and commitment to articulating the foundational role that biblical hermeneutics and Reformed exegesis play in the church now and into the future.
- The role that the RCA’s theology, Standards of Unity, and liturgies play in the present and future life of the church.
The recommendation calls for the vision process to “be bathed in denomination-wide, hope-filled prayer that God will show a way.”
Here’s the full text of the recommendation:
To appoint a 2020 Vision Group to work, in consultation with whatever staff, commissions, councils, agencies, and/or outside consultants the vision group deems necessary, to identify possible scenarios, strategies, and consequences for these future options for the Reformed Church in America:
- Staying together
- Radical reconstituting and reorganization
- Grace-filled separation
This should include, but not be limited to, consideration of one denomination with three or more affinity assemblies within it. Care should be given to the administrative, legal, financial, real estate, and emotional burdens of each option. Any potential new bodies should be identified by what they are “for” rather than what they are “against” and should be consistent with Reformed theology. This should be done in ways that affirm all parties. This must be bathed in denomination-wide, hope-filled prayer that God will show a way.
As the vision group engages these options, its work should include, but not be limited to:
- A commitment, as much as is possible, to the unity of the church in its being, spirit, covenantal relationship, mission, and kingdom witness in the world
- An understanding regarding the foundational role that biblical hermeneutics and Reformed exegesis play in the life and witness of the church, and a commitment to articulate how those methods are operative in the church’s way forward
- An analysis of the role that the RCA’s theology, Standards of Unity, and liturgies play in the present and future life of the church
The vision group will consist of 10-12 members named by the interim general secretary and general secretary, in consultation with GSC, and its makeup should reflect the wide diversity of the Reformed Church in America. The general secretary will serve as an ex-officio member without vote. Expenses for the vision group and any attendant costs, such as consulting or legal feels, will be taken out of GSC reserves, not to exceed $250,000.
The vision group shall present semi-annual reports to the GSC, an interim report to the General Synod of 2019, and a final report with recommendations to the General Synod of 2020.
For more news from General Synod, visit www.rca.org/synod.