On Monday evening, delegates passed a motion to amend the RCA’s Book of Church Order so that only a simple majority of classes—rather than the current two-thirds majority required—would need to approve any amendment proposed to implement the 2020 General Synod’s in response to the Vision 2020 Team’s final report.
Made partway through this year’s synod, the motion addresses a concern that emerged from multiple Vision 2020 feedback groups: that an amendment might be approved by a majority of classes but fewer than two-thirds. Currently, all BCO amendments must be approved by two-thirds of classes before being ratified.
The discussion on the floor lasted about an hour and saw at least two dozen people speak.
“This proposal is a tempting solution for avoiding a deadlock that could end up easily where we’re stuck after two years. And I think that’s what we’re trying to avoid. … But I realize it lends also itself more to a win-lose scenario,” said David Landegent, a member of the General Synod Council, speaking in opposition to the motion. “But I’d rather send [the Vision 2020 Team] back this year to work hard to find a win-win proposal, even though there’s still going to be a sense of loss, which would at least be acceptable to two-thirds.
Joel Plantinga, a minister from the Classis of California, expressed his support of the motion: “There are two values at work here, both that are valuable. One is a large group of people that like to live in the tension. … But there’s also a very large group of us who desire clarity. And clarity is a powerful thing. The way at least that I work, and I know a lot of people in my church and in my classis work is: We can handle good news. We can handle bad news. We just can’t handle no news.”
“We are safe in the hands of God,” said Jennifer Holmes Curran, a delegate from the Regional Synod of the Great Lakes. “If we are making this decision out of fear, we are coming from the wrong place. … We are not here trying to get our way; we are here trying to discern the will of God.”
The discussion included a motion to refer the original motion to the Advisory Committee on Church Order and Governance for further consideration, a motion to allow the synod a ten-minute recess, and a motion to cease debate; none passed. At one point, a delegate questioned whether the proposed BCO change was in order, suggesting that it should have come through the usual channels rather than as new business. Synod president James Nakakihara ruled it in order. His ruling was challenged, but delegates voted to uphold his ruling. Beyond the original motion, only one other passed, which was a final motion to cease debate.
Nakakihara invited delegates to observe a minute of silence before he called for the vote, which passed 115-96. Because it is an amendment to the BCO, the motion itself will need to be approved by two-thirds of classes and be approved by next year’s General Synod.
If it is ratified, the amendment will be added to the “Rules and Amendments” section of the BCO, reading as follows:
c. A majority of the classes shall approve any proposed amendment needed to implement the 2020 General Synod’s response to the Vision 2020 Team’s final report in order to secure its adoption. Only classes whose delegates were eligible to be seated at the General Synod at which the amendment was adopted are eligible to vote on the recommendation for approval. This subparagraph c. shall only apply to amendments approved at or before General Synod 2023.