General Synod 2013 met June 20-25 on the campus of Central College in Pella, Iowa, and addressed many aspects of ministry and mission in the RCA.
Delegates overwhelming approved “Transformed and Transforming: Radically Following Christ in Mission Together,” a new goal to guide RCA ministry and mission over the next 15 years. The RCA will focus its efforts on cultivating transformation in Christ, equipping emerging leaders of today and tomorrow, and engaging in Christ’s kingdom mission.
General Synod celebrated the ways God has worked through the RCA during Our Call as the 10-year goal drew to a conclusion. Through video and on-stage interviews, delegates heard leaders throughout the denomination share their experiences with revitalization, multiplication, leadership, discipleship, mission, and a multiracial future freed from racism.
Synod acknowledged that General Synod 2012 created confusion and lacked decorum while discussing homosexuality, but also looked ahead by discussing several recommendations from the Way Forward Task Force, which was formed through last year’s discussion. In response to the task force report, synod voted to appoint a working group to come up with “resources that will encourage grace-filled conversations among those holding varying understandings” with regard to homosexuality; it denied a recommendation to explore constitutional changes that would enable congregations and ministers to separate from the RCA “without recriminations such as forfeiture of property.”
Synod adopted three new liturgies celebrating the sacrament of baptism; the liturgies will go to classes for approval and, if approved, will be ratified at General Synod 2014. Synod also ratified the decision to remove the “conscience clauses” from the BCO.
Cornelis Kors, director of the Ministerial Formation Certification Agency, was installed as a General Synod professor of theology.
Synod approved papers produced by two of its commissions: “Scripture and Moral Discernment” (Christian Unity) and “Constitutionality” (Theology). It also instructed commissions to draft study papers on human sexuality (Theology), violence (Christian Action), and a theological vision for a multiracial and multicultural church (Theology).
The synod voted to fund RCA mission and ministry with a per-member assessment of $49.29 in the coming year, an increase of $1.67 (3.5 percent).
Synod president Tom Smith urged delegates to see Jesus and spoke of seeing Jesus transform lives through the RCA. In response to his proposal, synod voted to form a task force to define challenges related to aging church buildings and demographic changes and recommend ways to address them.
In his report to synod, general secretary Tom De Vries affirmed the shifts in RCA ministry and mission that have taken place over the past 10 years. De Vries said the RCA has remained true to itself while expanding to a more missional, transformational, and contextual ministry.
In a keynote address, missiologist Ed Stetzer challenged delegates to be agents of change.
Delegates elected Carl Boersma president of General Synod. Boersma is pastor of Faith Reformed Church in Brookings, South Dakota. “The calling on my heart for the year ahead is, first, that it will be a season of prayer,” he said.
Delegates elected Greg Alderman vice president of General Synod. Alderman is senior pastor of Christ Community Church in Carmichael, California. He spoke of a debt of love and gratitude to the RCA and a desire that the church “would believe deeply in the call of Jesus Christ to be the presence of our Lord and Savior and to proclaim his name as the hope that we all have and that we all share.”
Synod affirmed the growing collaboration between the RCA and the Christian Reformed Church in North America. It also signed a memorandum of understanding with World Renew for disaster response and affirmed a plan to merge the RCA and CRC insurance plans.
RCA Global Mission unveiled a new “One for the World” focus, emphasizing mission efforts around compassion, the next generation, and the nations. Delegates worked together to build 1,000 World Vision school kits for a school in central Iowa and another in Nicaragua.