Formation of Special Council Approved

Date Posted: 
Saturday, June 13, 2015

Following extensive debate Saturday morning and afternoon, synod delegates voted to form a special council charged to describe a “constitutional pathway forward” for the RCA regarding human-sexuality questions related to ordination and marriage. The vote passed by a 2-to-1 margin.

The special council was proposed by synod president Greg Alderman during his report on Friday. It will convene early next year and is empowered to bring recommendations to General Synod 2016. Alderman hopes the council will offer a “settled position” on issues related to homosexuality, which have been debated at most General Synods since the 1970s.

The council will be composed of 74 members reflecting the diversity of the RCA, including one from each of the RCA’s 44 classes. Thirty at-large members will be selected by a “Wise Council of Five” made up of former General Synod presidents.

In selecting the 30 at-large members, the Wise Council of Five—Brad Lewis, Carol Mutch, Irving Rivera, Chuck Van Engen, and Tony Vis—are to ensure the delegation includes “diversity of gender, sexual orientation, age, race, region, expertise, and offices of the church.” The “Wise Council” also will decide on most of the meeting’s details—time, content, materials for study—while also presiding at the meeting and informing the church of the results.

Aspects of the special council were presented in five recommendations by the Advisory Committee on Overtures and New Business, and numerous amendments were proposed by delegates. The final recommendation, related to costs and funding sources, will be up for a vote on Monday.

Delegates also voted to implore RCA congregations, office holders, and assemblies to “exercise a season of restraint” to allow the council time and space to do its work. The “season of restraint” includes refraining from performing same-sex marriages, ordaining practicing homosexuals, initiating related judicial actions, and separating from the denomination.