As the Vision 2020 Team, we met September 19–20, 2019, at the Cenacle Retreat Center in Chicago, Illinois. We did so with the awareness that many people are praying for our work and for our beloved denomination.
Our team was formed after General Synod 2018 approved a proposal to carefully consider the future of the denomination in light of deep divisions.
Our work is to identify and explore possible scenarios, strategies, and consequences for these future options for the Reformed Church in America: (1) staying together; (2) radical reconstituting and reorganization; (3) grace-filled separation. We are aware that a fourth option might also emerge. A year into our work, we know that any decision for the future of our denomination will be disruptive and will involve change and loss. Still, as a team, we have faith that God will provide a way forward through this process.
We left this meeting hopeful and encouraged. We are thankful for the experience of God’s leading and of knowing God’s presence with us.
It was clear, again, that our group contains a wide variety of viewpoints that represent the diversity in the denomination. In spite of those differences, our team does its work with courage and respect.
At this meeting, we continued to work on trust. We had an in-depth, honest, and vulnerable conversation about cleaning up our relational messes: messes that have happened in the denomination that have brought us to this point of deep division, messes we have created or contributed to as a team, and messes we’ve been part of as individuals within the team. This is hard work—even acknowledging the messes is hard work—and cleaning them up is complex, emotional, and humbling. Things got profoundly uncomfortable, but we stuck with it and we found our way through the conversation. We believe the denomination can do this hard work, too. We believe the denomination must do this hard work.
On Thursday afternoon, our team spent time in personal reflection about the question that brought us here in the first place. In the face of our disagreements, is it preferable to try to stay together or to separate? Each person defined this for herself or himself, then shared in a small group and listened carefully to each other’s thoughts and discernment processes. When we plotted our positions on a continuum (stretching from “stay together no matter the cost” to “separate no matter the cost”), there was a significant span. We believe this also represents the denomination as a whole.
Together, we spent time in Scripture, seeking God’s guidance for our work.
Our team also worked on simplifying the three scenarios that were presented to General Synod 2019. This discernment and simplicity led to greater clarity, and we felt the Spirit’s presence leading us. Out of the three scenarios, a pathway is beginning to emerge for how to work through a consensus-based decision-making process with the synod. The team will continue to develop this at its October meeting, using our own consensus process.
Most regional synods have hosted or will be hosting events to explore the scenarios and give feedback; participants will also work on emotional maturity and being defined and connected. Contact your regional synod executive for more details about a meeting in your area. Upcoming events are:
- Synod of Canada/British Columbia – October 18–19
- Synod of Canada/Ontario – October 5
- Synod of the Great Lakes – November 9
- Synod of Albany – January 10–11
- RCA staff – February 12
- Synod of the Mid-Atlantics – March 13
- Synod of New York – March 14
Our team will conduct another survey across the RCA to gather further feedback as we move forward. We will meet again October 28–29.
Our team has spent hundreds of hours researching, discerning, and gathering feedback, and we still have a long way to go. We are each committed to trusting the guidance of the Holy Spirit and trusting the process; we ask you to join us in that trust.
Whether your church is waiting to see what happens, intends to stay part of the RCA, or is making plans to leave regardless of the outcome of this process, we humbly ask you to stay engaged in the process and trust the Holy Spirit’s guidance through our team and through the denomination. If you find yourself doubting or discouraged about the future, we ask that you pray. We approach our work on this team with earnest prayer; will you join us in that prayer?
Here are some specific prayer requests:
- Praise God for the forward movement that took place at this meeting. As the meeting began, we anticipated a very difficult year ahead, yet we ended this meeting in a good place. Praise God for the hope and joy that we’re experiencing during this difficult work, and for the way our team is experiencing unity in spite of our differences. Pray that leaders and church members throughout the denomination will experience the same hope and faith that God will provide a way forward.
- Pray for our team as we seek God’s will. Pray for stamina and courage for the work ahead. Pray for the Holy Spirit to work, and for our team to be attentive to the Spirit.
- In this last year of our work, we’re moving toward completion, and completion is going to involve loss. All three scenarios involved loss. That’s becoming more real, and there’s real grief involved for this team and for people in our denomination. Pray for us as we mourn these losses to come, and for us to weigh the costs well as we discern.
- As church leaders gather at regional events to explore and give feedback on the scenarios, pray for fruitful conversations and growth in emotional maturity.
- Pray for God to prepare the ground for the eventual report from this team. We don’t know what our recommendation will be, but please pray that the Holy Spirit will prepare hearts and minds for what will come.
- Pray for us, and pray for our whole denomination—that we’re open to this work that God is forging for all of us. Pray for yourself, your church, your region, and the denomination.
Vision 2020 Team
Eddy Alemán, ex officio
Diane Smith Faubion
Don Poest, ex officio