The RCA’s Vision 2020 Team

The Vision 2020 Team is tasked with exploring different scenarios for the future of the RCA in light of significant division in the denomination.

Among other possibilities, the team considered staying together, significant reorganization, and grace-filled separation. Over two years of careful consideration and discernment, the Vision 2020 Team came to consensus and has been working toward a proposal about being defined and connected. Being defined—holding firmly to beliefs and convictions with one hand—still leaves one hand available to reach out and connect with others.

For people who are defined and choose to stay connected within the RCA, the Vision 2020 Team is discussing options for how best to structure the RCA moving forward. For people who choose to be defined and not stay connected within the RCA, the team is preparing recommendations that will provide for a mutually generous exit.

In June, the Vision 2020 Team will release its final report with recommendations for how the RCA might move forward. When General Synod was postponed due to COVID-19, a special session was called for fall 2020 to consider the report of the Vision 2020 Team. If it is not safe to meet in the fall, the report will be considered at General Synod in June 2021.

Why the Vision 2020 Team was formed

The theological differences within the RCA have led us to a point where we are not sure how to continue ministry together. Interim general secretary Don Poest, who proposed the team in 2018, identified human sexuality as a point of significant division in our denomination, but he acknowledged other divisions as well, including polity, biblical interpretation, and lack of alignment with Transformed & Transforming, the RCA’s strategic goal.

Get full context by reading Don’s report to General Synod 2018.

RCA Vision 2020 Team Members

  • Charlie Contreras, spiritual formation and leadership pastor at Faith Church (RCA) and pastor of Faith’s Munster, Indiana, campus. He also serves on the General Synod Council.
  • Barbara Felker, pastor of leadership development at Highbridge Community Church (RCA) in the Bronx, New York, and a member of the board of trustees at New Brunswick Theological Seminary. She is vice president of strategic community partnerships at Northwell Health (Brooklyn region).
  • Thomas Goodhart, pastor of Trinity Reformed Church in Ridgewood, New York.
  • Brian Keepers, pastor of Trinity Reformed Church in Orange City, Iowa. He previously served congregations in Holland, Michigan, and Spencer, Iowa.
  • Kristen Livingston, pastor of congregational care at Ann Arbor Christian Reformed Church in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
  • John Messer, regional executive of the Synod of the Great Lakes. Previously, he served as pastor of Good News Community Church (RCA) in Okoboji, Iowa, and was a former strategic intelligence officer in the U.S. Army.
  • Christa Mooi, executive pastor of operations at First Reformed Church of Sioux Center, Iowa. She is a past GSC moderator.
  • Rudy Rubio, pastor of Reformed Church of Los Angeles, an RCA church plant in Lynwood, California.
  • Diane Smith Faubion, an elder at First Reformed Church of Scotia, New York. She serves on the board of the Church Growth Fund and is executive vice president of First National Bank of Scotia.
  • Marijke Strong, executive secretary of the Regional Synod of Canada. She previously served Fellowship Reformed Church in Holland, Michigan.
  • Scott Treadway, pastor of Rancho Community Reformed Church in Temecula, California.
  • Imos Wu, copastor of Bogart Memorial Reformed Church in Bogota, New Jersey. He also serves on the General Synod Council.
  • Eddy Alemán, RCA general secretary, and Don Poest, who was serving as interim general secretary when he proposed the Vision 2020 Team, are ex officio members.
  • Jim Herrington, Trisha Taylor, and Ryan Donovan are consultants working with the team.

Meeting summaries
Transparency and authenticity are important to the people on the Vision 2020 Team, so after each in-person meeting, they release a summary of their discussion and decisions. 

Resources for Discernment and Hard Conversations

“God gives us the capacity to make hard decisions wisely,” Jim Herrington told General Synod 2019. Herrington is one of three facilitators working with the Vision 2020 Team. Delegates at General Synod 2019 were asked to deeply engage with the Vision 2020 process. They received training in emotional maturity and conflict management before they began discussions. 

These resources, shared with delegates, may also help you have hard conversations more fruitfully in your ministry context.

Guide to the practice of listening prayer 

The practice of listening prayer can help you and your church hear what God is saying to you more clearly. This article outlines how listening prayer works and the biblical foundation for listening prayer. We encourage you and your church to engage in listening prayer together over the Vision 2020 process.

How to manage conflict based on Jesus’s example

This article by Trisha Taylor (who is working with the Vision 2020 Team) outlines an approach to navigating conflict in relationships based on how Jesus handled conflict in the Bible. The key is to stay both defined and connected.

Podcasts to prepare for hard conversations

Talking about the future of the RCA—our denominational family—has the potential to stir up a lot of emotion in people’s spirits. To prepare your church to have this discussion well, you may want to invite people to listen to this series of podcasts, which offers a framework and some tools for having hard conversations. These podcasts were created by Jim Herrington, Trisha Taylor, and Ryan Donovan of The Leader’s Journey, the consultants who have worked with the Vision 2020 Team. Though the podcasts were originally designed for leaders, Herrington, Taylor, and Donovan recommended these particular episodes to prepare groups for discussions around the Vision 2020 scenarios.

Leading Change and Managing the Resulting Anxiety
All change involves loss and thus can cause anxiety in a group of people, such as an organization or denomination. That group of people is a living system. What does it mean to manage yourself in an anxious system?

The Importance of Emotional Intelligence Part 1: What Is Emotional Intelligence?
Emotional intelligence is more important than IQ, technology, or strategy when it comes to mission achievement in your family, in your business, or in your community. It’s the ability to recognize and understand emotions in yourself and others and to use this awareness to manage your behavior and relationships.

The Importance of Emotional Intelligence Part 2: Self-mastery
Growing your emotional intelligence means growing your ability to choose what you say and do based on your awareness of your emotions. To understand self-mastery, we have to go back over the role of feelings to give us information and to help us know when to pay attention and what to pay attention to.

The Importance of Emotional Intelligence Part 3: Social Awareness
Being emotionally attuned to others is essential to every aspect of leadership.

The Importance of Emotional Intelligence Part 4: Relationship Management
The ability to handle our own and others’ emotions in a way that facilitates relationships is the super-power of leadership.

RCA Vision 2020 Frequently Asked Questions

What is this team doing?

The Vision 2020 Team has been tasked with prayerfully exploring different scenarios for the future of the RCA.

What divisions are so bad that we have a team doing this work?

The theological differences within the RCA have led us to a point where we are not sure how to continue ministry together. Interim general secretary Don Poest, who proposed the team in 2018, identified human sexuality as a point of significant division in our denomination, but he acknowledged other divisions as well, including polity, biblical interpretation, and lack of alignment with Transformed & Transforming, the RCA’s strategic goal. Get full context by reading Don’s report to General Synod 2018.

How has the team gotten feedback on their ideas?

The Vision 2020 Team’s report to General Synod 2019 outlined a number of possible future scenarios, which they asked delegates to spend time with, discuss, and discern. Feedback was collected and synthesized by the Vision 2020 Team. The team has also solicited feedback from RCA members and leaders through two denomination-wide surveys, and has met with leaders from numerous RCA institutions and committees. If you have thoughts to share, contact the team at vision2020team@gmail.com.

What’s the timeline?

The Vision 2020 Team was formed by General Synod 2018. It was scheduled to give its final report to General Synod 2020, which has been postponed in light of the pandemic. A special session has been called in the fall to consider this report, if it is safe to gather at that time. If not, the report will be considered at General Synod 2021. At General Synod 2019, the Vision 2020 Team presented an intermediate report and asked for significant feedback from synod delegates, who spent time considering each scenario in discussion groups.

How was the team formed?

Don Poest, who was wrapping up a year as interim general secretary at General Synod 2018, proposed the formation of the group in his report to synod. The proposal came in response to what Poest saw as deep divisions in the denomination. Synod voted to create the group, which first met in August 2018.

This team was looking at three options (staying together, radical reorganization, and graceful separation) and presented those to General Synod 2019. Then it seemed that the team landed on an option that wasn’t one of the three. What happened?

As the Vision 2020 Team was evaluating Scenario 3 for graceful separation, we recognized that two things are abundantly clear: one, the option of a gracious separation is a necessity, and two, there are multiple and complex issues to address for those who remain in the RCA.  Therefore, the proposal Vision 2020 is considering is appropriately more nuanced than a simple 1, 2, or 3; it takes into account the needs of those who may separate as well as the needs of those who remain. 

Sometimes it seems like this controversy has devastated the RCA. Is that the case?

Even in the midst of challenging times, God continues to do great things in the life and ministry of the RCA. Here are some examples: 

  • A new classis is being launched in Florida with 47 new churches. These are leaders from around the world who believe that the RCA has an awesome history and theology. 
  • Through the work of Transformed & Transforming, more than 600 churches are participating in learning communities to define a pathway for discipleship, develop leaders in their own congregations, and equip themselves for local mission engagement. 
  • Right now, the Church Multiplication team is working on designing a system to plant the next 1,000 churches in the RCA to reach the next 100,000 disciples. We are doing this work with partnerships in North America and with mission partners from around the world, increasing our efficiency and effectiveness.
  • We have great historical relationships with our Global Mission partners in India, Bahrain, Brazil, and many parts of the world. Our missionaries have done a great job for more than 370 years and continue to focus on the proclamation of the gospel. These relationships continue to be strong.