General Synod 2016: Recommendations

The following is a list of recommendations as presented in the General Synod workbookUnofficial 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.

Recommendations to General Synod 2016

R 16-1 - Approved

To approve the agenda and schedule of the General Synod as presented in the General Synod Workbook.

R 16-2 - Approved

To declare the above two amendments to the Bylaws of the General Synod adopted by the 2015 General Synod to be approved for incorporation into the 2016 Bylaws of the General Synod.

R 16-3 - Approved

To appoint Jillisa Teitsma as treasurer of the General Synod of the Reformed Church in America.

R 16-4 - Approved

To appoint Paul Boice assistant secretary of the General Synod of the Reformed Church in America.

R 16-5 - Approved

To approve the General Synod Council 2017 assessment of $44.00 per confessing member.

R 16-6 - Approved

To approve the assessment of $2.00 per confessing member for the Board of Benefits Services to provide assistance funding for retired pastors who have a demonstrated need.

R 16-7 - Approved

To approve the assessment of $5.95 per confessing member for theological education.

R 16-8 - See R 16-49

To adopt the following changes to the Book of Church Order, for recommendation to the classes for approval (additions are underlined; deletions are stricken): (see pp. 97-100 in your workbook)

R 16-9 - (Referred)

To direct the Commission on Church Order to review the entire BCO and to propose further changes consistent with the above as needed.

R 16-10 - (Referred)

To direct the Commission on Church Order to develop a definition of commissioned pastor for the appropriate section of the BCO, in light of the report from the Commissioned Pastor Summit. The participants of the Commissioned Pastor Summit offer to the commission the following as a starting place and ask that the commission engage with it to the extent that it aids them in the above task:

Commissioned pastors are those elders who have been commissioned by the classis to ministries that extend beyond the normal role of elders, overlapping to a large extent with the roles typically exercised by ministers of Word and sacrament.  As such, commissioned pastors are members of the classis during the period of their commissioning, and during that time are amenable in matters of discipline to the classis. The ministry designation of commissioned pastor allows classes to discern particular needs and concerns in local ministry, and to move gifted people into those ministries without the processes and requirements of ordination to minister of Word and sacrament.

R 16-11 - Approved as amended

To direct the GSC to fund a joint meeting of the Commissioned Pastor Advisory Team and the Approved Alternate Route Committee of MFCA to clarify a more seamless path from commissioned pastor training to the Approved Alternate Route process, with sensitivity to the particular needs of racial and ethnic minorities.

R 16-12 - Approved

To affirm the mandate of the Commissioned Pastor Advisory Team to:

  1. Advise the GSC regarding denominational policy and polity pertaining to commissioned pastors.
  2.  Facilitate the sharing of best practices in the training and support of commissioned pastors.
  3. Engage appropriate agencies and resource organizations to encourage the development and continuing education of commissioned pastors.
  4. Maintain a clearinghouse for information on commissioned pastor support in the RCA.

And further, to instruct the General Synod Council to:

  1. Review the makeup of the Commissioned Pastor Advisory Team to ensure that the experiences of commissioned pastors and a diverse variety of persons within the RCA are on the team and contributing to its work.
  2. Ensure that there is adequate staff support and funding for the Commissioned Pastor Advisory Team.

R 16-13 - Approved

To redirect $32,000 per year for the next two years to the MFCA from prior restricted funds from both the surplus and the current year’s five percent portion of the General Synod assessment for theological education allocated for collaborative work.

R 16-14 - Approved

Reconstitute the Call, Care, and Standards Collaboration Group under the new name of Pastoral Formation Coordinating Committee (PFCC). The PFCC will meet for a period of two years, and its funding will come from the General Synod assessment for theological education. At the completion of this two-year period, the PFCC will propose to the General Synod a permanent committee, along with appropriate staffing and budget. The PFCC’s responsibilities will include:

  1. In consultation with the professorate, coordinate regular review of the standards and propose needed revisions to the General Synod. In conjunction with this process, coordinate the evaluation of the overall effectiveness of the certification processes in assisting candidates to meet the standards established by the RCA.
  2. Facilitate appropriate resources, support, and sharing of best practices among congregations and classes in their discernment of the call of ministerial candidates and in their care of ministerial candidates in the ordination process.
  3. Provide a forum for collaboration among the seminaries and the MFCA regarding ministerial formation as it relates to RCA church order and the mission of the church.
  4. Assist the GSC in conducting a triennial review of the overall assessment for theological education, considering both the total amount and its division, in light of RCA church order and the mission of the church.

R 16-15 - Approved

To adopt the following changes to the Book of Church Order Chapter 1, Part II, Article 11, for submission to the classes for approval (additions are underlined; deletions are stricken):

Article 11. Supervision of Students of TheologyCandidates for Ministry (see workbook pp. 108-109)

R 16-16 - Approved as substituted

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 16-17 - Approved

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...

R 16-18 - Approved

To set the value of a Partnership-in-Mission (PIM) share for 2017 at $6,400.

R 16-19 - Approved

Whereas Larry McAuley, a native of Burlington, Iowa, and a graduate of Kansas State University and Covenant Theological Seminary with bachelor’s and graduate degrees in agronomy and theology, and Linda McAuley, a native of Minneapolis, Minnesota, a graduate of Sterling College, and a qualified elementary and Christian educator, obeyed the call of God to serve in mission; and

Whereas after completing two-year volunteer teacher internships in Dembi Dollo, Ethiopia, and serving with the Rev. Robert and Morrie Swart with the Daasanech along the Omo River, they became RCA mission personnel and traveled to Alale, Kenya, to serve with the Africa Inland Church (AIC) as pioneer mission coworkers to the unreached Pokot people group from 1981 to 1997, with hosts of other RCA volunteers and mission personnel; and

Whereas Larry and Linda served as country consultants in Malawi with the Christian Reformed World Relief Committee from 1998 to 2012, providing quality leadership and training in the area of sustainable Christian development, leadership, and management; and

Whereas the McAuleys returned to Kenya in January 2013 and served faithfully as community development mission coworkers by equipping AIC leaders in western Kenya at Bishop Birech College and assisting the more than 24 growing Pokot congregations, Alale In-Patient Center and Clinic, Kameris Primary School, Girls Secondary School, and their communities to promote self-sufficiency and sustainable Christian community development;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the 210th session of the General Synod of the Reformed Church in America, meeting June 9 through 14, 2016, at Trinity Christian College in Palos Heights, Illinois, with gratitude to God for their life and witness, honors Larry and Linda McAuley with a prayer of thanksgiving and a token of our esteem.

R 16-20 - Approved

Whereas Bruce and Laurie Hawley heeded God’s call on their life into mission in 1996 with an initial call to Oman; and

Whereas after three and a half years in Oman they began a ministry working with RCA church work groups around the world, which has made a physical and spiritual impact on the lives of thousands of volunteers with thousands more impacted by the work done; and

Whereas Bruce and Laurie Hawley have served faithfully for 20 years alongside thousands of short-term missionaries and partners;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the 210th session of the General Synod of the Reformed Church in America, meeting June 9 through 14, 2016, at Trinity Christian College in Palos Heights, Illinois, with gratitude to God for their life and witness, honors Bruce and Laurie Hawley with a prayer of thanksgiving and a token of our esteem. 

R 16-21 Approved

To approve the following amendments to the Constitution and Rules of the Board of Benefits Services, effective July 1, 2016 (additions are underlined; deletions are stricken out): (see workbook pp. 176-177)

R 16-22 - Approved as amended

To direct the General Synod Council to remove all statements on the website supporting the use of reorientation/reparative therapy and to declare that the RCA does not support the use of reorientation/reparative therapy.

R 16-23 - Approved

To direct the General Synod Council to host a meeting of people interested in the study and work of mass incarceration as the beginning of a learning community. 

R 16-24 - Approved

To encourage the church to use the document “The Church and Criminal Justice: A Brief Exhortation” as a liturgical resource, and further;

To direct the General Synod Council to make the document available to the church.

R 16-25 - Approved

To direct the General Synod Council to add screening language to the RCA’s investment policies, particularly as it relates to for-profit prisons.

R 16-26 - Approved

To commit $5,000 to help fund a survey on worship practices in the RCA in partnership with the Calvin Institute for Christian Worship.

R 16-27 - Approved

To adopt the following amendment to the Book of Church Order for recommendation to the classes for approval (additions are underlined; deletions are stricken):

Chapter 1, Part III, Article, 2, Section 3

The regional synod shall, after reasonable and timely consultation with all parties involved, form, combine, and or disband classes., The regional synod, after reasonable and timely consultation with all parties involved, and may also transfer churches from one classis to another within its bounds.

R 16-28- Approved as amended

To adopt the following amendments to the Book of Church Order for recommendation to the classes for approval (additions are underlined; deletions are stricken):

Chapter 1, Part II, Article 7

     Sec. 7. The classis may appoint a candidate enrolled in the Certificate of Fitness for Ministry process theological student to a church without an installed minister or minister under contract, to furnish the service for which the candidate student is qualified. Before the appointment is made, the candidate student must secure the approval of the appointment by the RCA seminary or the Reformed Church agent that supervises the Certificate of Fitness for Ministry process the student attends.

     Sec. 8. A consistory or governing body shall not enter into a contract with a minister, a licensed candidate, or a candidate for the Certificate of Fitness for Ministry student except by approval of the classis. Between sessions of classis the approval may be given by the president and the clerk of classis.

R 16-29 - Approved

To approve the following amendments to the Book of Church Order for submission to the 2017 General Synod for final approval (additions are underlined; deletions are stricken):

Chapter 3, Part I, Article 3

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 no fewer not less than one-third of the membership shall be women. For purposes of the composition requirements of the preceding sentence, the vice-president, the nonvoting member from the ELCA, and the general secretary of the General Synod shall be excluded. The Commission on Nominations shall… 

R 16-30 - Approved

To adopt the following amendment to the Book of Church Order for recommendation to the classes for approval (additions are underlined; deletions are stricken):

Chapter 1, Part II, Article 10, Section 2

d.   The determination of the membership status of all persons affiliated with the church, followed by a determination of the process for transfer or other disposition of the memberships.

R 16-31 - Approved

To adopt the following amendment to the Book of Church Order for recommendation to the classes for approval (additions are underlined; deletions are stricken): (see workbook pp. 212-214)

R 16-32 - Approved

WHEREAS the Commission on History of the Reformed Church in America is marking its 50th year in existence, and

WHEREAS the Rev. Dr. Donald J. Bruggink has been general editor of the Historical Series of the Reformed Church in America since its inception in 1968, serving as a consultant to the commission that entire time, and

WHEREAS Dr. Bruggink has faithfully stewarded the growth of both the series and its revolving fund so that they might be of continual service to the whole church, and

WHEREAS Dr. Bruggink is continuing that stalwart ministry,

THEREFORE BE IT RESOVED that the 210th General Synod of the Reformed Church in America, meeting at Trinity Christian College in Palos Heights, Illinois, June 9 through 14, 2016, gives thanks to God for the faithful ministry of the Rev. Dr. Donald J. Bruggink as teacher of the church, consultant to the Commission on History, and general editor of the Historical Series of the Reformed Church in America, and prays God’s blessings on his continued ministry for as long as Dr. Bruggink is blessed to do so.

R 16-33 - Approved

WHEREAS the maintenance of an archive for the Regional Synod of Canada requires the loving, devoted service of volunteers, and

WHEREAS Margaret Kapteyn has faithfully served in that capacity since 2011, carefully cataloging, maintaining, and accessing as needed the records of the regional synod, her classes, and her congregations to help the church have a perspective with historical insight upon which healthy transformation can be built, and

WHEREAS she is now retiring from this particular ministry,

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the 210th General Synod of the Reformed Church in America, meeting at Trinity Christian College in Palos Heights, Illinois, June 9 through 14, 2016, gives thanks to God for the faithful ministry of Margaret Kapteyn as archivist for the Regional Synod of Canada, and prays God’s continued blessings on her life and new ministries in the years ahead.

R 16-34 - Approved

That the 2016 General Synod instruct the General Synod Council, in consultation with the Commissions on History and Christian Unity, to plan a time of commemoration and reflection regarding the 500th anniversary of the 16th-century Reformation during the General Synod of 2017.

R 16-35 - Approved 

To reverse the decisions of the Regional Synod of New York and Queens Classis and remand this matter to Queens Classis for the purpose of supervising the reconstitution of a consistory of Cambria Heights Community Church (CHCC) pursuant to the method prescribed in the bylaws of CHCC to the extent possible under the circumstances. Nothing in this decision shall in any way limit the authority of the Queens Classis to oversee all affairs relating to CHCC until such time as a new co

R 16-36 - Approved

To encourage all classes to develop and adopt family leave policies, commensurate with other professional positions in society, for ordained clergy serving in churches within their geographical boundaries, as soon as practicable.

R 16-37 - Approved

To encourage churches to post all job openings, especially pastoral positions or ministerial opportunities, on the RCA’s Employment Opportunities webpage, ensuring that all people have access to opportunities by which to pursue their callings.

R 16-38 - Approved

To direct the GSC to develop processes and guidelines for forming future special councils and RCA-wide groups so that the full diversity of the church may be accurately seen and represented.

R 16-39 - Approved

WHEREAS the Rev. Dr. Jaeseung Cha has become a tenured faculty member at New Brunswick Theological Seminary and serves as the associate professor of constructive and foundational theology; and

WHEREAS Dr. Cha has theological degrees from Western Seminary and the Free University of Amsterdam; and

WHEREAS Dr. Cha has served as a lecturer in theology at the Ministry Training Center in Vanuatu, at Anyang University and Torch Trinity School of Theology in South Korea, and as an adjunct professor at Soongsil University in South Korea and the Presbyterian Theological Seminary in the Philippines; and

WHEREAS Dr. Cha has brought a wealth of wisdom and experience through these global teaching experiences; and

WHEREAS Dr. Cha has served in numerous leadership roles in the Reformed Church in America and a number of organizations and professional guilds in the United States, Korea, and globally; and

WHEREAS Dr. Cha is an ordained minister in the Reformed Church in America, fulfilling all of the requirements of the Book of Church Order for a General Synod professor, and holds the church in great love and affection in his vocation and in his faith,

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the 210th regular session of the General Synod of the Reformed Church in America, meeting June 9 through 14, 2016, in Palos Heights, Illinois, declares Dr. Jaeseung Cha a General Synod professor.

R 16-40 - Approved

WHEREAS the Rev. Dr. John W. Coakley has taught at New Brunswick Theological Seminary since 1984 and as the L. Russell Feakes Memorial Professor of Church History since 1995, not only inspiring generations of students in the study of church history, but also being a pastoral presence to many as they found their way into their vocation as ministers of Christ’s church; and

WHEREAS Dr. Coakley served as the first director of the Reformed Church Center and consequently was instrumental in establishing a locus for the study of the Reformed Church in America as well as the broader Reformed tradition; and

WHEREAS Dr. Coakley has served as a General Synod professor since 1995, serving the church not only in the preparation of candidates for the ministry of Word and sacrament, but on the boards, commissions, and committees of the Reformed Church in America; and

WHEREAS Dr. Coakley has contributed substantially and frequently as a scholar of church history; and

WHEREAS Dr. Coakley has served as a faithful, encouraging, and delightful colleague not only in the administrative and pedagogical affairs of the seminary, but as a friend who carries the best interests of both individuals and the seminary at heart,

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the 210th regular session of the General Synod of the Reformed Church in America, meeting June 9 through 14, 2016, in Palos Heights, Illinois, expresses its deepest gratitude to Dr. Coakley for his years of service, and offers its prayers for a fulfilling retirement along with his wife, Margaret;

AND BE IT ALSO RESOLVED that Dr. John Coakley be declared a General Synod professor emeritus as of June 15, 2016.

R 16-41 - Approved

To commend this paper to the churches of the Reformed Church in America for reflection and for feedback to the professorate.

R 16-42 - Not approved

To instruct the Commission on Theology to engage in a discussion of the theology behind our understanding of church order, and in particular, the authority of the General Synod statements on human sexuality, and to report to the 2017 General Synod.

R 16-43 - Approved

To adopt the "Order for Christian Marriage" that was approved and commended for use in the church by the 2002 General Synod (MGS 2002, pp. 181-192) for recommendation to the classes for approval as part of the Liturgy of the Reformed Church in America.

R 16-44 - Not approved

To adopt the "Order for Christian Marriage" as provided by the Commission on Worship that defines marriage as between two persons for recommendation to the classes for approval as part of the Liturgy of the Reformed Church in America.

R 16-45 - Not approved

To instruct the General Synod Council, in consultation with the Commission on Church Order and the regional synods, to explore the establishment of one or more affinity classes that may include people and congregations regardless of their perspective on human sexuality to ensure and allow relationship and mission together.

R 16-46 - Not approved

To instruct the General Synod Council to appoint a task force to explore and articulate the options and consequences within the RCA for grace-filled and orderly separation over time, should the different perspectives regarding human sexuality keep us from remaining as one, for report back to the 2017 General Synod.

R 16-47 - Approved

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 16-48 - Approved

To elect Lee DeYoung as moderator of the Commission on Nominations for the 2016–2017 term.

R 16-49 - Approved

To refer R 16-8 to the Commission on Theology for further discussion, in consultation with the Commission on Church Order and the Commissioned Pastor Advisory Team, for report back to the 2017 General Synod.

R 16-50

To refer R 16-15 to the Commission on Church Order in consultation with the Call, Care, and Standards Collaboration Group (CCSC) or its successor, the Pastoral Formation Coordinating Committee (PFCC), for report back to General Synod 2017.

R 16-51 - Approved

To instruct the Board of Benefits Services to continue developing a mechanism by which specialized transition ministers (formerly called specialized interim ministers) and ministers who are between calls or contracts may keep their denominational life and accidental death and dismemberment insurance; and further,

To investigate how our Formula of Agreement partners are dealing with this issue.

R 16-52 - Approved

To deny Overture 5 and Overture 6.

R 16-53 - Approved

To approve the following amendment to the Bylaws of the General Synod in the Book of Church Order for submission to the 2017 General Synod for final approval (additions are underlined):

Chapter 3, Part I, Article 9, Section 11

c.   The regional synod executive shall be a corresponding delegate to the General Synod.

R 16-54 - Approved

To direct the General Synod Council to formulate a structured procedure to connect financially stable churches with those churches working in economically deprived areas that need both financial and human resources to meet the needs and grow the mission in those areas, facilitating these connections across classis and regional synod lines; and further,

To bring the first report on this procedure to the 2017 General Synod.

R 16-55 - Approved

To approve the following amendments to the Book of Church Order for submission to the 2017 General Synod for final approval (additions are underlined, deletions are stricken):

Chapter 3, Part I, Article 8, Section 3

  1. The president shall ordinarily appoint the delegates to the advisory committees of their choice as needed, according to the gifts of the delegates to that Synod. All The appointments and any changes, with rationale, shall be reported submitted to the General Synod Council for approval.

Chapter 3, Part II, Article 1, Section 1

  1. Approval of Advisory Committee Appointments

R 16-56 - Approved

To develop a process of denomination-wide discussion centered on the hermeneutical methods involved in understanding Scripture, developing resources that will be available for use by the church by the time of General Synod 2017

R 16-57 - Approved
To approve the $0.14 per member assessment to fulfill R 16-11 to fund a joint meeting of the Commissioned Pastor Advisory Team and the Board of Trustees of the Ministerial Formation Certification Agency.

R 16-58 - Approved

To approve the $0.08 per member assessment to fulfill R 16-23 to fund a meeting of people interested in the study of mass incarceration.

R 16-59 - Approved

To approve the $0.03 per member assessment to fulfill R 16-26 to commit $5,000 to conduct a survey on worship practices.

R 16-60 - Approved

To approve the $0.03 per member assessment to fulfill R 16-53 to make regional synod executives corresponding delegates to the General Synod.