The Big Decisions at General Synod 2017—Explained

Here’s what you should know about the big decisions General Synod 2017 made at its annual meeting in June.

Date Posted: 
Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Time for a family discussion

General Synod approved a denomination-wide discussion about covenant and the future of the RCA “in light of our current state of contention and division.”

The takeaway: This discussion will help the RCA follow God’s call together. Each classis and regional synod, as well as the General Synod Council, is asked to set aside time at its next stated meeting for a structured conversation about the RCA’s future. And if you’re a member of the RCA, you’re invited to be part of it. See “How your church can respond” for next steps.

Giving commissioned pastors a vote

General Synod approved a change to the Book of Church Order (BCO) that would allow commissioned pastors to be voting members of assemblies like General Synod. Commissioned pastors are elders who are called and trained to fill a specific ministry need.

The takeaway: Right now, commissioned pastors can’t vote on decisions made at General Synod or in their regional synod. This amendment could change that. The proposed amendment needs to be approved by at least two-thirds of the classes before it becomes part of the BCO. Classes will vote at their meetings over the next six months.

Synod affirms traditional marriage

General Synod affirmed that the Heidelberg Catechism in Q&A 108 and 109 “categorically states that God condemns all ‘unchastity,’ which includes same-sex sexual activity” (R 17-29). The Heidelberg Catechism is one of the RCA’s four “standards of unity,” statements that describe what we believe as a denomination.

The takeaway: Synod again affirmed that marriage is between a man and a woman.

How your church can respond

Here are five actions you and your church can take in response to synod discussions:

  1. Support refugees. Get started (or take your next step) with resources on prayer, advocacy, theology, and more at
  2. Explore Scripture together. Synod recommends using the three-part video series available at There’s also a discussion guide for groups.
  3. Encourage more people of color to serve on commissions and boards. Learn more and apply at
  4. Send young people on mission trips. If you’re between the ages of 18 and 25, consider volunteering for a summer or a year through Cultivate, a program that pairs you with RCA missionaries around the world. Applications are due in December and can be found at
  5. Discuss the future of the denomination “in light of our current state of contention and division.” Get in touch with your pastor or classis to get involved. Learn more at

Find full news coverage of General Synod 2017 at

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