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RCA Restructuring Team

A restructuring team is thinking carefully about what structures will best serve the Reformed Church in America for flourishing ministry now and in the future. 

In 2024, the team will propose changes to the structure of the denomination. Those changes will be considered by the General Synod, and by classes if any subsequent constitutional changes are approved.

Why is the RCA restructuring?

The restructuring team was approved by General Synod 2021 at the suggestion of the Vision 2020 Team. The work of the restructuring team is to propose changes to the denomination’s organizational structure that better allow for living in tension. The new structure will also be optimized for sustained spiritual and organizational health. 

After years of disagreement on human sexuality, interpretation of Scripture, polity, and other tensions, the denomination appointed and tasked the Vision 2020 Team with considering how–and if–the RCA could live together in the tension. General Synod 2021 affirmed that the RCA should continue to live in the tension, and that people who no longer want to live in the tension have an avenue to leave, with the blessing of the remaining churches. Read more detail in the General Synod 2021 news summary

The Vision 2020 Team thought of this “living in the tension” as a centered set rather than a bounded set. On some ranches, cattle are kept in fenced areas (bounded set–some are in, some are out). On larger ranches, fences aren’t practical, so ranchers will dig a few wells, and the cattle will stay close enough to the wells (centered set). Living in the tension is a centered-set approach: we commit to key things that we have in common and keep coming back to (like the water wells) but are not strictly bound on every matter. 

The restructuring team will also be considering a streamlined structure for a smaller denomination, recognizing the general decline in size of the North American church, as well as the departure of churches that preferred a “bounded-set approach” and have already transferred to other denominations or networks.

The work of the restructuring team is informed by guidance from the Vision 2020 Team, which did extensive research about possible structures for the future of the RCA. It encouraged the restructuring team to consider several options as it discerns what structure(s) to propose:

  • Reorganizing classes as affinity-based rather than geographically based, with the ability of any church to choose the classis to which it belongs. 
  • Keeping responsibility for decisions related to ordination and marriage in the hands of classes. (Note: The Book of Church Order [BCO] already assigns ordaining ministers to the classis [1.II.2.9]. While it does not specifically address marriage, the BCO charges the classis with all ecclesiological functions “which are not specifically delegated to other assemblies” [1.II.2.11].)
  • Keeping discipline of individual consistories in the hands of the classis. (Note: The BCO already assigns oversight of consistories and boards of elders to the classis [1.II.2.3].)
  • Examining the viability, responsibility, and effectiveness of regional synods and the General Synod in light of the size, scope, and structure of the denomination that remains. The Vision 2020 Team’s research indicates that the future RCA will not be large enough to sustain the regional synod assembly moving forward. One scenario might be for affinity classes and General Synod to assume the responsibilities of the regions. Options like this need to be evaluated and decided upon by those who remain in the denomination.

The process so far

After being approved by the General Synod in October 2021, team members were appointed by the General Synod Council (GSC) by late January 2022. The team’s make-up is in accordance with the instructions from the General Synod: “a team of between 10 and 15 people, including several executive RCA staff members, and of representatives from around the RCA drawn from regional or local assemblies that have expressed an intention to remain in the Reformed Church in America, and should be representative of the racial, ethnic, gender, age, socio-economic, geographic, and other forms of diversity present in the RCA.” See who’s on the team.

For the first year, the team focused on spiritual discernment, gaining clarity and unity around where they believed God was calling the denomination to restructure for the future. As they engaged in a process of group discernment using the work of Ruth Haley Barton in her book Pursuing God’s Will Together, the team realized that in order to restructure, they must first know what outcomes that the proposed restructure needs to produce. The focus statement that the team believes God is calling the RCA to produce is “growing disciples who participate in God’s reign throughout the world.” 

Since discerning that focus statement, the team’s process has included many feedback loops. 

From October to December 2022, the team held Zoom calls with classis and regional leaders to get their feedback on this focus of growing disciples. From January to April 2023, the team held a series of in-person roundtable gatherings to share the team’s work so far and to gather feedback. These meetings were held around the U.S. and Canada, along with one Zoom call in May.

The team took into account research and guidance from the Vision 2020 Team as well as feedback from General Synod 2021 and 2022, various roundtable and Zoom meetings, and communications the team has received. 

At General Synod in June 2023, the team shared a rough draft of three proposals. Delegates spent time discussing the proposals in small groups and in a plenary session, providing feedback to the team. 

The team is utilizing the feedback it has received from the spring roundtables and from General Synod to refine its draft proposals. It will host another series of roundtable events this fall to gather feedback on that second draft of proposals, which will later be refined further. The team expects to present its final proposals to General Synod 2024. Based on what, if anything, is approved at General Synod, the Commission on Church Order will develop proposed changes to the Book of Church Order, which would most likely come to General Synod 2025 for consideration (though the commission may propose some initial changes in 2024). The restructuring team is already consulting with the Commission on Church Order, and the commission is participating in exploratory work related to the draft proposals.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why are we restructuring? 

First—and primarily—General Synod 2021 called for a new structure and created the restructuring team to develop a “restructuring plan for the denomination with a view to optimizing the RCA’s sustained spiritual and organizational health.” 

We also believe there is good reason to restructure the denomination at this moment. We are a notably smaller denomination following the departures of churches after Vision 2020 decisions. Also, the average size of RCA churches has gotten smaller, which creates different ministry contexts and creates different needs for support and accountability. Relational connections and trust have declined as the RCA moved from a predominantly Dutch denomination where nearly all ministers of Word and sacrament attended the same two seminaries. We also need a structure that will allow us to keep up with the work God is already doing in making our formerly Dutch immigrant denomination into an ethnically, culturally diverse church. 

When will the new structure be decided?

The restructuring team will bring its final proposals to General Synod in June 2024. Following General Synod decisions on those proposals, the Commission on Church Order will develop and propose changes to the Book of Church Order (BCO) to implement any proposals that were adopted. These changes will likely be considered by General Synod 2025. Any constitutionalchanges approved at General Synod require approval by two-thirds of classes and ratification at General Synod the following year. Changes to the General Synod bylaws (chapter 3 of the BCO) require the approval of a second General Synod but do not require the approval of two-thirds of the classes.

I want to give the team feedback. How do I do that?

The best way to give feedback at this point in the process is to attend a roundtable event this fall. Otherwise, you can email the team.

You talk about “living in the tension.” What’s the tension the RCA is living in?

The tension could come from disagreement on any number of things that are not confessional. Looking specifically at LGBTQ marriage and ordination, the tension comes in that General Synod statements have repeatedly affirmed marriage between a man and a woman, yet the authority for ordination and supervision of ministers lies with the classis and not the General Synod. Consistories have authority over ordination of elders and deacons. On paper, at the General Synod level, the RCA is only supportive of traditional marriage, but in practice that is not always the case at every level of governance.

What did General Synod decide in response to the Vision 2020 Team report?

Votes on recommendations from the Vision 2020 Team were not about the RCA’s position on sexuality, but about how (and if) the RCA will live together in the midst of disagreement. Essentially, the RCA will continue to live in the tension, and people who no longer want to live in the tension have an avenue to leave. This General Synod 2021 news summary is a more detailed recap.

Where is the RCA in the restructuring process?

The RCA restructuring team is in a multi-year discernment process. They are researching, consulting with other leaders in the denomination, and exploring what structure could best serve the denomination in the future. Their proposals are expected to be aimed at helping the RCA live in the tension, following God by finding common mission in a divided world. The team will bring recommendations to General Synod in June 2024. In response to what is decided in 2024, the Commission on Church Order will develop and bring proposed changes to the Book of Church Order the following year (though the commission may also propose some initial BCO changes in 2024). For the latest updates on the process, see the news stories below.

Restructuring team prayer requests

Please continue to pray for the restructuring team and for these specific requests:

  • Pray for the Commission on Church Order. This commission has an important job. They are working closely with the restructuring team as the team refines its proposals. One specific thing that the team has asked the commission to do is explore the possible size and shape of the church order and of judicial bodies within the framework the team will propose. The commission will also be developing and proposing changes to the Book of Church Order to implement the decisions of the General Synod in response to the restructuring team’s proposals. These could be extensive changes and are likely to come to General Synod in 2025.
  • Pray for a second set of roundtable events in the fall, to be held in-person throughout the denomination. The roundtable meetings in the spring were wonderful. Pray that these, too, would be full of fellowship and clear communication and feedback to guide the team’s final report to General Synod.
  • Pray for sub-teams within the restructuring team that work on specific aspects of the team’s assignment between full team meetings.

Latest news

Who’s on the RCA Restructuring Team

  • Eddy Alemán, general secretary of the Reformed Church in America
  • Dale Assink, executive strategist, Regional Synod of the Heartland, and former classis leader for Central Plains Classis
  • Greg Brower, classis leader for Great Lakes City Classis and former pastor of Zion Reformed Church in Grandville, Michigan
  • Michelle Chahine, General Synod Council member, Regional Synod of the Great Lakes executive committee, elder
  • Chad Farrand, classis executive for Classis de las Naciones
  • Andrea Godwin-Stremler, trustee at Western Theological Seminary, executive director of New Revelations Collegiate Mission in Krum, Texas
  • Sung Kim, lead pastor of Grace Churches in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and director of church ministry for the Reformed Church in America
  • Micah McCreary, president of New Brunswick Theological Seminary, General Synod professor of theology
  • Sherri Meyer-Veen, pastor of Niskayuna Reformed Church in Niskayuna, New York, and minister for renewal for the Regional Synod of Albany
  • Ina Montoya, elder at Jicarilla Apache Reformed Church in Dulce, New Mexico
  • Young Na, pastor of Forest Park Church in Woodhaven, New York
  • Andres Serrano, pastor of Iglesia La Senda in Corona, California, and director of church multiplication for the Reformed Church in America
  • Gildo Vieira, elder at Igreja Vida Nova in Toronto, Ontario


General Synod presentation:

Watch the restructuring team’s presentation about its draft proposals at General Synod 2023.

Spring roundtable webinar:

The restructuring team hosted 14 in-person roundtable discussions from January to May 2023, ending with one virtual event. View the slideshow from the presentation. Watch the recording in English or Spanish.