“You all—we all—have made this a very, very different General Synod.” —Christa Mooi, Vision 2020 Team member
During the last two days, delegates have gathered in feedback groups to discuss each of the three scenarios the Vision 2020 Team is looking at for the future of the RCA: staying together, radical reorganization, and grace-filled separation. This feedback will inform the team’s work in the next year as it prepares to bring a recommendation to General Synod 2020.
On Sunday evening, June 9, the team presented delegates with a summary of the feedback. That preliminary report contained themes and polarities expressed by the 16 feedback groups.
Responses from delegates included the following:
- We are getting present to the loss before us—it’s becoming real to us—and we’ll need time to process the pain.
- We are also getting present to the complexity of each scenario.
- We long for unity.
- The way we are showing up—being both defined and connected—is different and working.
- Some desire to stay together; some don’t believe staying together is a possibility.
- Some are exhausted and fatigued with the conversation about human sexuality; some feel the conversation needs more time.
- Some believe we will not be able to stay together and do nothing without great loss; some believe we can endure this conflict well.
Delegates were given the opportunity to respond to these summarizations at their tables, before general secretary Eddy Alemán shared a few words. He expressed thanks to delegates for their honesty, respectfulness, grace, and compassion in difficult conversations. He then shared words of encouragement, especially appropriate for today, Pentecost.
“We need to remember that we are the anointed people of God to bring hope, to bring transformation, and to proclaim the gospel to the world,” he said. “Today is a good reminder of that. We’re not walking alone. … The Holy Spirit is with us, helping us to serve God and people.”
Alemán also provided answers to this question: What to do with this General Synod 2019 experience? He suggested that delegates, as they return home later this week, keep praying for the Vision 2020 Team, for the process, and for God’s guidance for the denomination; share hope with pastors, congregations, and classes; and encourage people, especially those without hope.
Brian Keepers, a pastor of Trinity Reformed Church in Orange City, Iowa, and a member of the Vision 2020 Team, closed the team’s presentation with words of thanks and a call to personal responsibility.
He also referenced a line in former interim general secretary Don Poest’s sermon from opening worship: “The world is watching what we decide; God is watching how we decide.”
Keepers added, “The outcome of this process matters, but we believe how we arrive at the outcome matters just as much. We ask you to stay engaged. We’re in this together. … Can we be for each other, even if maybe we don’t agree?”
He then invited delegates to discuss at their tables what they were celebrating, lamenting, and hoping for. A time of prayer followed.
The evening plenary session ended with delegates laying hands on the Vision 2020 Team, as delegate Jonathan Sherrill offered prayer, asking for a “double-portion-plus” of the Holy Spirit to be present with the team.
“Would you please, on this Pentecost day, do it again? You’ve given the gift; now fill us, fill the team, with your power. … Pour out your Spirit,” he prayed. “You’re in the revelation business, and we ask you to do that again.”
Going forward, the Vision 2020 Team will conduct another online survey, host regional events to continue conversation, and distribute a facilitation guide for discussions like those that occurred during synod. The team welcomes personal feedback, questions, and ideas for other alternative scenarios, which can be sent via email.
If you’d like to facilitate a discussion of the scenarios in your church, check out this toolkit with a facilitation guide, handouts, and other resources.