In light of widespread health concerns and current travel restrictions, the RCA’s General Synod Council has postponed the June regular session of General Synod until June 2021. It will call a special session of General Synod in October to consider the final report of the Vision 2020 Team, provided it is safe to gather at that time.
“We wanted to honor our good God by making a choice to ensure everyone’s health and safety during this time,” says synod president EJ de Waard. Officers and GSC staff explored numerous possibilities, including a virtual General Synod, postponing synod for a month, holding synod in the fall, or waiting until June 2021.
“We asked questions and weighed implications about the options, seeking to identify what decision would best serve the RCA,” says Phil Assink, General Synod vice president. “We had to think about the kind of facility needed to host a synod, the availability of a place, legal implications based on our bylaws and Robert’s Rules of Order. All of our conversations were made with the awareness that the current health crisis puts us into uncharted territory.”
A virtual event was ruled out after examining General Synod bylaws and Robert’s Rules of Order, which only permits them if authorized by an organization’s bylaws. The General Synod’s bylaws do not.
A sense of urgency related to the report of the Vision 2020 Team drove the decision to call a special session in the fall. “Due to the significant work of the 2020 Vision Team and the emphasis of bringing the issues facing the RCA to some form of resolution in 2020, we feel it is important to make every effort to hold a special meeting to hear their report in this calendar year,” says Ned Beadel, moderator of the General Synod Council.
“The unintended delay gives our hardworking Vision 2020 Team a few additional weeks to formulate the proposal they believe can help the RCA discern the next steps in our journey,” says Assink. Anticipating that synod may be rescheduled, the Vision 2020 Team had recently asked for an extension on the deadline for their report, which was due at the end of April; their final report will now be available in June.
“They are meeting almost weekly through Zoom to continue their work,” says Beadel. “We have a dedicated group of people on this team that want to make sure they get their work and recommendation right.” The Vision 2020 Team will virtually meet April 20-21 and will provide an update after that meeting.
A special session of General Synod includes the full slate of voting and corresponding delegates that would participate at a regular session of synod. General Synod Council will set the agenda and expects it to focus almost exclusively on the Vision 2020 report.
The special session will be shorter than General Synod by several days. Dates and location for the fall meeting are still being determined.
If the pandemic is still widespread and it is not safe to meet in person in October, the special session will not take place and all business will be deferred until June 2021. That determination will be made in August.
Regular sessions of General Synod did not take place twice before, in 1933 and 1935, due to economic challenges during the Great Depression.