New synod officers elected and installed in closing worship
General Synod elected Rev. Judy Nelson and Rev. Joshua Scheid as president and vice president of General Synod 2024. Nelson is a chaplain and lives in Holland, Michigan. Scheid is pastor of Massapequa Reformed Church in Massapequa, New York, and stated clerk of Nassau-Suffolk Classis. Nelson and Scheid were installed during General Synod closing worship and will serve over the coming year.
Nelson served as vice president this year, alongside Rev. Dwayne Jackson as president.
Restructuring team proposals considered at length
Throughout the General Synod, delegates considered the draft proposals of the RCA’s restructuring team. On Friday, the team presented its work. On Saturday, delegates met in discussion groups, and later came together for a plenary discussion with the full assembly. On Monday, related overtures and motions from the floor continued the conversation. Delegates provided substantial feedback for the restructuring team’s work over the coming year. The team will bring recommendations for synod’s consideration in 2024.
Celebrating five decades of women’s ordination
General Synod celebrated five decades of women’s ordination to offices of elder, deacon, and minister of Word and sacrament in the Reformed Church in America. It was a time of rejoicing over the ways God has created space for women and men in the church to live fully and freely into all of their gifts and callings.
Stories of women were elevated and honored: women from the past who had to push against the patriarchy to follow their call, women from the present who are leading in powerful ways, and women in the next generation who play a vast variety of roles within the church. “We see women from many cultures, women that speak many different tongues, rising up into leadership positions both within the RCA and beyond,” said synod vice president Judy Nelson at a celebration of the anniversary on Sunday evening. Nelson was elected president of General Synod 2024 the following day.
Ruth Langkamp, next generation program specialist for the denomination, called attention to the stories of women in the Bible as tangible reminders for “men and women everywhere that women are not footnotes in God’s story, we are main characters and our voices, our power matter. This is the rich legacy of women in ministry here at the RCA.”
The offices of elder and deacon opened to women in 1972; the office of minister of Word and sacrament opened to women in 1979.
In his general secretary’s report on Friday, Rev. Eddy Alemán said, “We in the RCA will always, unapologetically, bless and embrace all of our women leaders and pastors. Women of God, we need you! Thank you for responding positively to God’s call in your life.”
“We in the RCA will always, unapologetically, bless and embrace all of our women leaders and pastors.”
Inaugural rate for covenant shares set by General Synod
General Synod adopted an inaugural covenant shares rate of 2.7 percent, which will go into effect January 1, 2024. This marks a shift from a per-member assessment to a percentage-of-income approach, with the intention of a more equitable system of funding denominational work. Covenant shares allow churches and classes to pay in at a rate in accordance with their means.
Shifts in theological education in the RCA
Synod ratified changes to the Book of Church Order that clarify and roll out changes to the ordination process for ministerial candidates.
General Synod offering supports mission
Offerings taken during General Synod support the RCA’s mission work in partnership with Setshabelo Family and Child Services (SFCS) in Botshabelo, South Africa, and RECONCILE International in South Sudan. Offerings received online and during General Synod worship services totaled $8,499.35, meeting the $7,700 threshhold for an anonymous matching gift. With the matching gift, offerings totaled $16,199.35.
Worship at synod
A future of unity without uniformity, filled with hope
General secretary Eddy Alemán exhorted the denomination to live with humility and faithfulness in the messiness of the middle. “We are envisioning a future that is not either/or, but a future that is both/and.”
“So let us focus our energy on doing what God has called us to do, and what we will discover is that we can take comfort in knowing that God will provide. We may have to make a few changes along the way, we know that, but this in no way changes the work that God has called us to do today.” —Synod president Dwayne Jackson, on moving forward
“It’s on [our] knees where we will all receive power, at the feet of our Lord, Jesus Christ.” —Synod vice president Judy Nelson, speaking as president-elect of General Synod 2024
“I will do my best to serve you well. It’s a joy…Let’s all continue, strong in faith, sure in hope, and steadfast in love.” —Rev. Joshua Scheid, upon his election as vice president of General Synod 2024
Tools and resources for ministry
- “An Equitable Future” paper: General Synod commended this paper to RCA assemblies and the Commission on Race and Ethnicity for study and to address problems of inequity across various cultural settings when it comes to pastor employment benefits.
- “A Short History of Regional Synods, Especially Their Restructuring”: The Commission on History presented this paper, which is especially relevant to the ongoing discussions about restructuring the denomination.
- Missionary videos: throughout the synod, delegates watched video greetings from missionaries serving around the world.
- Classes and congregations were urged to study and attempt to understand the conflicts in the Holy Land, using these resources: missionaries Josh and Sally Vis, RCA Middle East Peacemakers, The Parents Circle – Families Forum, and Churches for Middle East Peace.
- RCA members and assemblies who desire to be equipped to address spiritual abuse may find helpful resources on pages 162-163 in the Commission on Christian Action Report.
- General Synod celebrated women’s leadership and calling in the church, and the ways women and men serve together in ministry. The Building God’s Church Together Bible study explores biblical foundations for flourishing ministry partnerships between women and men. The She Is Called: Women of the Bible study series examines the stories of biblical women, for the whole church and beyond.