General Synod 2015: Recommendations

The following is a list of recommendations as presented in the General Synod workbook. Unofficial updates on the actions of synod will be placed here during the meeting. Please note that these actions should not be considered official until the Minutes are posted later in the summer.

** Amendments and substitutes made at synod are not included below.

Longer recommendations are shortened here (indicated by "..."). For full recommendations, please consult the workbook.

R-1  Adopted
To approve the agenda and schedule of the General Synod as presented in the General Synod Workbook.

R-2  Adopted
To declare amendments 1 through 7 to be approved and that they be incorporated into the 2015 edition of the Book of Church Order.

R-3  Adopted 
To appoint Barbara Boers as treasurer of the General Synod of the Reformed Church in America.

R-4  Adopted 
To appoint Paul Boice assistant secretary of the General Synod of the Reformed Church in America.

R-5  Adopted 
To approve the General Synod Council 2016 assessment of $44.00 per confessing member.

R-6  Adopted 
To approve the assessment of $1.50 per confessing member for the Board of Benefits Services to provide assistance funding for retired pastors who have a demonstrated need.

R-7  Adopted 
To approve the assessment of $5.86 per confessing member for theological education.

R-8  Adopted
BE IT RESOLVED that the General Synod of the Reformed Church in America, meeting June 11 to 16, 2015, in Palos Heights, Illinois, offers thanks to God for thirty years of faithful service to the ministries of the Reformed Church in America by the Rev. Kenneth Bradsell. He began serving on the RCA staff September 1, 1984, as the minister for education and faith development and director of congregational services, and over the next three decades worked tirelessly in service to church operations as director of policy, planning, and administration services, and later, assistant secretary. In recent years he offered wise counsel and guidance as the executive director of Benefits Services, caring for the insurance and retirement needs of all those who serve the RCA. His devotion to the church, congenial nature, compassion, and sense of humor have left an enduring mark on the denomination.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the two hundred and ninth regular session of the General Synod of the Reformed Church in America invites its delegates and guests to join in expressing to Kenneth Bradsell its deep gratitude, admiration, and appreciation for his service to the RCA, and offers prayers for his continued ministry with the Protestant Church in Oman. 

R-9  Adopted as amended 
To adopt the following resolution:

These have loved Christ and fed his sheep. They have devoted themselves to spreading the Word and equipping the saints for the work of ministry.
Their contribution to a needy world is rich beyond measure; their record is on high.
The Reformed Church in America, with admiration, deep affection, and overflowing thanks to God, celebrates their lifelong service.

. . .  (see Workbook pp. 110-112)

R-10  Adopted
To set the value of a Partner-in-Mission (PIM) share for 2016 at $6,300.

R-11  Adopted
WHEREAS Alan Schreuder, a native of Kalamazoo, Michigan, and a graduate of Northern Michigan University and Western Theological Seminary, and Sue Anne Schreuder, a native of Grandville, Michigan, and a licensed dental hygienist, obeyed the call of God to serve in mission; and

WHEREAS after a two-year internship position in Ethiopia and two years serving in a pastoral role in an Iowa church, they became RCA mission personnel and traveled to Chiapas, Mexico, to serve the Tzotzil people; and

WHEREAS Alan and Sue served faithfully in Chiapas for thirty-five years in the areas of discipleship, evangelism, and leadership development; and

WHEREAS their work for the mission of God in Chiapas, Mexico, along with the work of a host of RCA mission personnel over the years, has come to an end, resulting in a strong, self-sufficient local body of believers;

THEREFORE LET IT BE RESOLVED that the two hundred and ninth session of the General Synod of the Reformed Church in America, meeting June 11 through 16, 2015, at Trinity Christian College in Palos Heights, Illinois, with gratitude to God for their life and witness, honors Alan and Sue Schreuder with a prayer of thanksgiving and a token of our esteem.

R-12  Adopted
To amend the RCA Retirement Plan document by adding the following new Section 4.6:

4.6       Reduction of Participant Accounts. A Participant’s Account balance may be reduced from time to time by an amount equal to the additional Special Contributions that the Participant’s Employer, or its designee, makes to such Participant’s account in the Reformed Church in America 403(b) Retirement Program. For purposes of this Section 4.6, “Special Contributions” shall mean “Special Contributions” as defined in the Reformed Church in America 403(b) Retirement Program.

R-13  Adopted
To direct the coalition of Commission on Christian Action, Commission on Christian Unity, Commission on Race and Ethnicity, and Commission for Women members working on the subject of mass incarceration to submit a report on its work to the General Synod for the next three years.

R-14  Adopted
To direct the General Synod Council to create a page on the RCA website containing resources, data, and training opportunities related to mass incarceration using information provided by the Commission on Christian Action and/or the coalition of commissions studying mass incarceration.

R-15  Adopted
To direct the appropriate Transformed & Transforming initiative to seek out churches and individuals already engaged in learning and advocacy around mass incarceration and to create learning communities and/or advocacy groups around specific issues related to mass incarceration, e.g., children of incarcerated parents, women in prison, reentry following imprisonment, prison reform for the aged, juvenile justice, or family visitation.

R-16  Adopted
To approve the following amendment to the Bylaws of the General Synod for submission to the 2016 General Synod for final approval (additions are underlined; deletions are stricken):   

Chapter 3, Part I, Article 5, Section 12 (Commission on Christian Discipleship and Education)
b.   Responsibilities           
1.     The commission shall prepare studies and develop policies for recommendation to the General Synod concerning Christian education and discipleship within the RCA.

2.     It shall inform and advise the church concerning new developments in the practice of Christian formation and religious education.

3.     It shall advise the General Synod and RCA colleges and seminaries with regard to the preparation of those who carry out the church’s teaching ministry.

1.     The commission shall develop and advocate for strategies for people of all ages to be fully included in the mission and life of the RCA.

2.     The commission shall monitor, evaluate, and report on the RCA’s progress in ministries of education and discipleship with children, youth, adults, and families.

3.     The commission shall collaborate with RCA staff, assemblies, agencies, and institutions to promote and strengthen the next generation in discipleship within RCA congregations.

4.     The commission shall advocate for the ongoing preparation of those who carry out the church’s teaching ministry.

R-17  Adopted
To instruct the general secretary, in consultation with the Commission on Christian Unity, to establish, for a period of three years, a General Synod task force on interreligious understanding and relations, in order to explore the challenges and opportunities of relationships between Christians and people and groups of other religions, with the understanding that this task force should work closely with the Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations Committee of the Christian Reformed Church and other ecumenical partners already involved in interfaith discussions and work, both in North America and globally; and further,

to include in the mandate of this task force the need to make recommendations to the General Synod regarding where and how this work should be permanently lodged within the RCA structure and staffing; and further,

to ask the task force to report annually to the General Synod for the duration of its work.

R-18  Adopted
To adopt the following amendment to the Book of Church Order for recommendation to the classes for approval (additions are underlined, deletions are stricken out):

Chapter 1, Part II, Article 3, Section 1

  1. A church shall not have more than four elder delegates. A church with three hundred or fewer confessing members shall have one elder delegate. A church with more than three hundred confessing members shall also have one elder delegate, and an elder delegate for each additional three hundred confessing members or fraction thereof, up to a maximum of three additional delegates. A church shall not have more than four such elder delegates.
  2. A church without an installed minister shall have an elder delegate who shall not be counted as one of the above delegates allotted in subsection (a).
  3. A collegiate church shall have at least one elder delegate for each of its constituent congregations.

R-19  Referred to General Synod 2016
To adopt the following amendment to the Book of Church Order for recommendation to the classes for approval (additions are underlined, deletions are stricken out):

Chapter 1, Part 1, Article 2

 Sec. 11. The consistory shall be guided by the following requirements in their provision of services of worship:

[subsections a-f remain unchanged]

g.    The consistory or governing body shall determine what marriages may be solemnized in a church or congregation.

R-20  Adopted
To approve the following amendments to the Book of Church Order for submission to the 2016 General Synod for final approval (additions are underlined, deletions are stricken out):

Chapter 3, Part I, Article 3

 Sec. 1. Membership

c.     Ten members elected by the General Synod shall be elected from among the regular classical delegates to the immediately preceding General Synod who are elected by the General Synod upon nomination by the Commission on Nominations.

d.    Three Six members elected by the General Synod upon nomination by the Commission on Nominations from among the ministers and elders of the Reformed Church in America to assure that requisite gifts, skills, and diversity are present on the council who are elected by the General Synod upon nomination by the Commission on Nominations.

e.   One member recommended by each racial/ethnic council and elected by the General Synod upon nomination by the Commission on Nominations.

[subsequent subsections re-lettered]

 Sec. 2. Composition

a.     One-half of the membership of the General Synod Council (GSC) shall be elders and one-half shall be ministers and not less than one-third of the membership shall be women. The Commission on Nominations shall assure the composition of the council reflects the full diversity of the church and shall assure representation from each of the racial/ethnic councils on the GSC. Each racial/ethnic council shall submit no fewer than three recommendations to the Commission on Nominations for use in nominating regular classical delegates or at-large delegates to the GSC.

R-21  Adopted
That the General Synod of 2015, meeting at Trinity Christian College in Palos Heights, Illinois, offer a prayer of thanksgiving to God for the decades of ministry that took place on the eighteenth floor of the Interchurch Center in New York, New York, and on “Holy Hill” in New Brunswick, New Jersey.

R-22  Adopted
To refer the papers “Commissioned Pastors in the Reformed Church in America: A Historical and Contextual Survey” and “The Evolving Understanding of Office in the Reformed Church in America: A Brief Survey” to all classes and consistories for discussion, encouraging them to send responses to the questions below to the Commission on History no later than February 1, 2016.

1.     How does our understanding of ecclesiastical office impact how the church lives out its mission?

2.     What are the implications of understanding the assemblies of the church as gatherings of the offices rather than as representatives from the congregations?

3.     How is the designation “commissioned pastor” similar to and different from “comforter of the sick,” “Approved Alternate Route,” and “preaching elder”?

4.     What is at stake in the church’s understanding of ecclesiastical office?

5.     What is the best way to engage the entire church or a broad representation of the church in a discussion of the nature of ecclesiastical office?

R-23  Adopted
To dismiss the complaint of the Classis of Holland against the Regional Synod of the Great Lakes.

R-24  Adopted   
To remand the case to the Zeeland Classis for hearing on the merits of the Complaint of Phillip and Diane Forner regarding their membership in Spring Valley Reformed Church.

R-25  Adopted as amended
To affirm the May 3, 2014, decision of the Regional Synod of the Mid-Atlantics, which affirmed the action of the New Brunswick Classis receiving into its membership Ursula Cargill as a minister of Word and sacrament.

This affirmation only affirms that the Regional Synod of the Mid-Atlantics followed the procedural requirements of the BCO.

R-26  Adopted
To dismiss the appeal of Livingstone and Susan Kuo due to lack of jurisdiction as a result of the case having been heard originally by a board of elders.

R-27  Adopted
To direct the General Synod Council, in consultation with the Commission on Theology, to create a task force of no more than ten members—consisting of members of the Commission on Theology, the Commission on Church Order, the Commission on Christian Action, diaconal leaders, and others as appropriate—to bring a proposal to General Synod for changes to the Book of Church Order regarding the creation of diaconal assemblies at the classis level; and further, that the task force report on subsequent action that may be needed at the regional synod and General Synod levels.

R-28  Adopted as amended
To accept with appreciation “The Word Became Flesh: Setting the Context for the Church’s Discussion of Issues Involving Sexuality” as a resource for further reflection on human sexuality.

R-29  Not adopted 
To approve a comprehensive study of clergywomen in the RCA, and to direct the Commission for Women to report back pertinent findings from the study to the General Synod of 2016.

R-30  Adopted 
To approve the following changes to the Constitution and Bylaws of Western Theological Seminary:

Article VI

Meetings

Sec. 1. The Board shall meet at least three times per year. The annual meeting shall be in the spring. The date, time, and place of meetings shall be determined by the Trustee Affairs Executive Committee. Written notice of each stated meeting shall be by mail, thirty days prior to the date of the meeting.

Article IX

Committees

Sec. 1. The Board has established the following standing committees: Executive, Trustee Affairs, Student Life, Academic, Advancement, Finance and Audit, and Continuing Education. The Board may establish such committees as it deems necessary to carry out the business of the seminary.

Sec. 2. The Executive Committee shall consist of the officers of the Board and the chairs of the other standing committees. The Executive Committee is empowered to conduct all the business of the Board between its stated meetings, with the exception that the Executive Committee shall not be empowered to elect members, amend the Articles of Incorporation or the Bylaws, or change the mission of the institution. Further, its actions are to be reviewed and ratified by the Board at its next meeting. Also, the Executive Committee shall be responsible for the annual performance review of the president of the seminary with recommendation to the full Board regarding compensation. When unexpected vacancies on the Executive Committee occur, they shall be filled by election by the remaining members of the Executive Committee. They shall serve until the next annual meeting.

Sec. 3.            The Trustee Affairs Committee shall consist of the Executive Committee and the chairs of the other standing committees. The duties of the Trustee Affairs Committee are: In addition, the Executive Committee will review the vitality, effectiveness and appropriateness of the Board of Trustees’ functioning and make recommendations for change; continuously develop a list of potential Board members; gather information regarding their qualifications and preparedness to serve if nominated; prepare nominations of Board members for consideration by the Board of Trustees; arrange and oversee the orientation and training of members of the Board; arrange for the full involvement of members of the Board in the activities of the Board of Trustees; give leadership in encouraging members to evaluate their own performance; and provide appropriate recognition for the service of members of the Board.

R-31  Adopted as amended
To approve the following change to the Book of Church Order, Chapter 1, Part II, Article 9, Section 4b:

The classis shall determine: (1) The candidate has at least five years’ ministry experience and demonstrates leadership potential that prepares the candidate for leadership as a minister of Word and sacrament; (2) the candidate gives evidence of the call, gifts, and experience for the ministry of Word and sacrament; and (3) the candidate, for compelling practical reasons, cannot complete a master of divinity degree at an accredited seminary.

R-32  Adopted
To adopt the following resolution:

BE IT RESOLVED that the two hundred ninth regular session of the General Synod of the Reformed Church in America, meeting at Trinity Christian College in Palos Heights, Illinois, in the month of June 2015, offers thanks to God for years of inspired and faithful service by the Rev. Dr. Leanne Van Dyk as an elder at Hope Church in Holland, Michigan; as professor of Reformed theology and dean and vice president of academic affairs at Western Theological Seminary in Holland, Michigan; and as a General Synod professor; and for Dr. Van Dyk’s dedication to teaching and scholarship, devotion to the life and witness of the Reformed Church in America, passion for the gospel, and commitment to nurturing in students, colleagues, and congregations “a more profound alleluia”; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the two hundred ninth regular session of the General Synod, on behalf of the Reformed Church in America, expresses to Leanne Van Dyk its gratitude, admiration, and affection, and offers its prayers for her continued service to Christ and his church, especially in her new role as president of Columbia Theological Seminary.

R-33  Adopted 
To declare that the Rev. Dr. Leanne Van Dyk is no longer a General Synod professor in the Reformed Church in America.

R-34  Adopted
To elect the above-named nominees to the General Synod commissions and agencies and the boards of directors or trustees of RCA-related educational institutions as indicated.

R-35  Adopted 
To elect Lee DeYoung as moderator of the Commission on Nominations for the 2015-2016 term. 

R-36  Adopted
To deny Overtures 12 and 13.

R-37  Adopted
To deny the overtures and, in response to Overtures 1 and 2, invite the general secretary to speak to General Synod 2015 at this time to bring clarity and suggest a plan of action around the substance of these overtures.

R-38  Adopted
To affirm the revised financial report in this year’s General Synod Workbook and its expanded detail, and to affirm the metrics and measuring points being included in the work of Transformed & Transforming; and further,

To encourage an ongoing and continuous effort from the General Synod Council staff to share financial information concerning the Transformed & Transforming initiatives and continue transparent reporting to the members of the Reformed Church in America.

R-39  Adopted
To affirm that the substance of these overtures have begun to be addressed, and to encourage all leaders of the RCA to participate in the ongoing evaluation process. 

R-40  Adopted 
To request that the General Synod mark and lament the centenary of the Armenian Genocide with a resolution recalling this sad event; expressing our solidarity with the Armenian people, both victims and survivors; and professing our faith in the coming peaceful reign of the Lord Jesus.

R-41  Adopted
Believing in the Lord Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, whose Spirit is making and will make all things new; and

Joining our voices with those in Scripture who call upon the Lord in lament, protest against injustice, and urge compassion for and solidarity with those who suffer; and

Recalling the violence in Armenia in the year 1915, an act of such horror and magnitude that it rightly deserves to be named as genocide; therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED that the two hundred ninth regular session of the General Synod of the Reformed Church in America, meeting at Trinity Christian College in Palos Heights, Illinois, in the month of June 2015, recalls and laments the Armenian Genocide, the centenary of which we now mark with sorrow for the past and with hope in God’s good future, as we stand in solidarity with the Armenian people, both victims and survivors, and pray for God’s peace to reign upon earth and rule in our hearts.

R-41a  Adopted as amended
Be it resolved, the 209th regular General Synod of the Reformed Church in America, meeting at Trinity Christian College in Palos Heights, Illinois, in the month of June, 2015, laments and condemns the persecution, kidnapping, and execution of our Christian sisters and brothers at the hands of extremists in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. We prayerfully seek the strengthening of their faith and ours through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and pray for peace so that all believers may worship God without fear of persecution or death. May God's peace be upon the earth.

R-42a  Adopted as amended
To implore the congregations, office holders, and assemblies of the RCA to exercise a season of restraint. This call of restraint includes refraining from performing same-sex marriages, ordaining practicing homosexuals, initiation of judicial actions related to these matters, and separating from the denomination.

R-42b  Adopted as amended  
That the General Synod form a special council to meet for the express purpose of describing a constitutional pathway forward for the Reformed Church in America to address the questions of human sexuality as it relates to ordination and marriage, and to empower this council to bring recommendations to General Synod 2016.

R-43  Adopted as amended
That a “Wise Council” of Five will be formed from among past General Synod presidents, including Carol Mutch, Brad Lewis, Irving Rivera, Chuck Van Engen, and Tony Vis. They will convene the special council referred to in R-42b and have the following responsibilities:

  • Set the time for the meeting
  • Prepare the meeting(s)
  • Prepare the members
  • Officiate the meeting(s)
  • Inform the church of the results

R-44  Adopted as amended 
That members be sent to the special council referred to in R-42b, who will represent Jesus Christ above all and reflect the rich diversity of the RCA: one selected by each classis (forty-four) and thirty at-large members selected by the “Wise Council” to ensure that the full counsel of the Holy Spirit is present from the church with special attention that the entire delegation include diversity of gender, sexual orientation, age, race, region, expertise, and offices of the church.

R-45  Adopted as amended
That all current studies, work, and other information of interest be made available to inform the work of the council referred to in R-42b.

R-46  Adopted as amended
That the cost to attend the council referred to in R-42b be incurred by the General Synod.

R-47  Adopted
To deny Overture 3.

R-48  Referred to the Commission on Christian Action  
To declare that the RCA does not support the use of reorientation/reparative therapy.

R-48a  Adopted as amended
To refer R-48 to the Commission on Christian Action, and in the meantime to remove all references to reorientation/reparative therapy from the RCA website.

R-49  Adopted
To deny Overture 15.

R-50  Adopted 
To direct the Commission on Church Order to review the provisions of the BCO that empower the regional synods to form, combine, and disband classes, and to transfer churches from one classis to another; to determine if changes in the BCO are appropriate; and to report to the General Synod of 2016.

R-51  Adopted
To approve the $0.20 per confessing member assessment to fulfill R-17 for a task force on interreligious understanding and relations.

R-52  Adopted
To approve the $0.12 per confessing member assessment to fulfill R-27 for a task force on diaconal assemblies.

R-53  Adopted
To approve the $2.03 per confessing member assessment to fulfill R-46 to fund the special council on a pathway forward regarding human sexuality.