The Vision 2020 Team met October 28–29, 2019, in Grand Rapids, Michigan, continuing the work that God and the General Synod have called us to do.
That work is currently focused on discerning the best way forward out of the three scenarios we’ve been researching, narrowing the options based on intensive dialogue, feedback we’ve heard, and in faithfulness to God.
We’re having good conversation. As we’ve built trust, built relationship, and built friendships, we’re doing our work. It’s very open. Every one of us has had courage to speak, and that courage enriches our work and pushes us further. We’re listening well, and we’re honing in on something.
We have narrowed down our work and reached consensus on a framework to bring to General Synod 2020. As we have listened to God, to each other, and to feedback we’ve received, a possibility is emerging that brings together some of the best elements of the three scenarios. This possibility began to germinate at our September meeting, and was refined as we reflected, pinpointed its problems, and identified its strengths.
A crucial moment that shifted our understanding was recognizing the difference between General Synod statements on human sexuality and the functional reality of our structure. This team believes the denomination has existed for a long time with functional diversity. Historically, we have been united around our standards, and because of the way our polity works, functionally the RCA is theologically diverse about a range of topics, including human sexuality, infant baptism, women in church leadership, and others. Our practices vary from classis to classis and congregation to congregation.
Our team’s role is not to define the RCA’s stance on human sexuality or other differences of conviction but to recommend a way forward in light of our functional diversity. So we asked ourselves: in a structure with functional diversity, what are our next faithful steps?
We are now focusing on recommendations that will increase clarity about the RCA’s identity as a denomination that embraces this functional diversity, and that will provide a pathway for a mutually generous exit for those who can’t live within this diversity. We are also exploring recommendations to restructure the denomination to better support a 21st century church.
This represents new clarity for the team, and we celebrate this. We understand there is a high level of complexity involved as we move forward. These are the broad strokes of a plan that is in early stages, and much may change as we continue to move forward. We have formed three sub teams to work on various aspects of this proposal between now and our next meeting in January. At our next meeting, we’ll meet with subject experts to help us craft our recommendations.
At this meeting, we also met with the RCA’s executive staff to hear about recent developments in ministry and mission, to see where our efforts overlap with theirs, and to hear the impact they anticipate from possible recommendations we bring to General Synod. We were energized by hopeful reports of mission around the world, of church planting, and of discipleship, leadership, and mission taking deeper root in the church. These reports made us even more mindful of the impact of our recommendations on missionaries, RCA staff, ministers and retired ministers, churches, and the next generation.
Above all, we remember that we are all people of the resurrection. We are God’s beloved children, and God has redeemed us and given us hope for the future. We are grateful for the movement of God’s Spirit among us.
We long for prayer support as we continue to move forward with greater clarity. Please join us in praying.
- Thank God for the unity on our team, and for the consensus that we have been able to reach at this meeting. Pray that the Spirit will continue to draw us together as a team until the end of this process.
- Pray for wisdom to retain the things that need to be retained, to imagine the implications of the things we’ve heard, to sort out ideas and values, and to have the wisdom that comes from the Spirit. God can do more than all we ask or imagine, and we are asking and imagining a lot.
- Pray for strength and resolve as we continue to move forward. Pray for resilience, and for hope and maintaining perspective. Pray for courage.
- Pray for protection for the members of this group, as this work makes us particularly vulnerable to forces of spiritual darkness.
- Pray for a season of rest for our team. November and December are busy times in our churches and lives, and yet the work of this team continues between now and our January meeting.
- Pray that we as a team, and that leaders and members in RCA churches, will remember that we are not our own, but belong—body and soul, in life and in death—to our faithful savior, Jesus Christ.
Vision 2020 Team
Eddy Alemán, ex officio
Diane Smith Faubion
Don Poest, ex officio