Synod Asks for Proposed BCO Changes, Discusses Certificate of Fitness for Ministry

BCO amendment would allow churches to retain property after leaving RCA

Date Posted: 
Saturday, June 10, 2017

On Saturday, June 10, General Synod delegates voted to instruct the Commission on Church Order to propose constitutionally appropriate amendments to the Book of Church Order (BCO) that would allow churches leaving the denomination to retain their property (R 17-48).

According to the BCO, the property of a church becomes the property of a classis when that church disbands or transfers to another denomination. The classis then has the authority to determine whether or not the church may keep the property. The matter came before the synod after two overtures were brought by the Classis of British Columbia and New Thing Classis.

In response to several overtures and a proposal from General Synod president Dan Gillett, delegates considered the Certificate of Fitness for Ministry. (A Certificate of Fitness for Ministry entitles a candidate to an examination for licensure and ordination.) They voted to direct the General Synod Council to send two of its members and two additional RCA members to meet with the Pastoral Formation Coordinating Committee (PFCC) at one of the PFCC’s stated meetings to discuss the potential migration and redefinition of the Certificate of Fitness for Ministry to a certificate of academic readiness, and to report back to General Synod 2018 (R 17-50).

The PFCC is the body designated by General Synod to oversee the Certificate of Fitness for Ministry and the standards for preparation for ministry and, the committee says, thus the appropriate body to address the concerns raised in the overtures, including concerns about the respective roles of General Synod and classes as classes ordain candidates for ministry.

Additionally, synod also considered whether churches still have a responsibility to ministers and their families for healthcare even when the minister’s insurance comes through the spouse's employer-sponsored plan (R 17-53). Delegates voted to instruct the Commission on Church Order, in consultation with the Board of Benefits Services, to prepare such changes to BCO Formulary No. 5, paragraph 5 (2016 edition, pp. 132-133), that in these cases make clear a consistory’s responsibility for any additional costs borne by a minister and the minister’s family. Proposed changes will be presented General Synod 2018. Because some employers no longer cover the full cost of insurance for a spouse and family, this recommendation would create consistency between the full coverage provided by the church and coverage provided by a spouse’s employer.

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