By Pastor Kevin Van Wyk
That is the question this congregation has been wrestling with for years. Each year we hope for a breakthrough at General Synod that will give us reason to stay.
The basic issue…
Fundamentally, our governing structure does not allow for discipline beyond the classis level. Thus, we have entire classes and regional synods rejecting stated beliefs and practices of the denomination. For example, the denomination has failed to discipline congregations affirming and practicing same-sex marriage. Additionally, we’ve not disciplined complementarian churches though the denomination is solidly equalitarian. Attempts to change the structure have failed, yet we continue to affirm our stated positions on sexuality and women in leadership.
The real challenge behind the lack of discipline is that we believe firmly in grace. We believe we are called to show it to fellow believers and to the world. We also believe God showers it on sinners like us. We believe the power of the Gospel to change lives and bring forgiveness, repentance, and sanctification. Thus, we are slow to carry out discipline. That is not a bad thing. However, at this time, discipline cannot take place when it should, and that is not good.
What Gives Me Hope for the RCA…
This year at General Synod several very good overtures were approved…
First, we affirmed traditional, orthodox views of marriage by commending the “Great Lakes Catechism on Marriage and Sexuality” for reflection, study, and response by the Commission on Theology and RCA churches and classes. With regard to Biblical teaching on marriage, family, and LGBTQ+ issues, this is an excellent document. You can get a copy at our information table or here (http://images.rca.org/docs/synod/GLCatechism.pdf). You can read more from the RCA on this here (https://www.rca.org/news/catechism-marriage-and-sexuality-be-sent-churches-and-classes).
Second, we elected three solidly conservative leaders (from my understanding) into office: Eddy Aleman as General Secretary, James Nakakihara as President, and EJ de Waard as Vice-president. These individuals are well aware of the current divide and accepted their positions in spite of the turmoil. May God give them wisdom and courage to lead us forward.
Third, we approved Overture 18-16 which urges each classis, at a stated meeting, to engage in discussions regarding a definitive path forward for the Reformed Church in America using the questions from the Classis of Rocky Mountains. Results of these discussions are to be summarized and shared with the 2020 Vision Team (explained below) by March 31, 2019. This is some great material for discussion on discerning whether an issue is disputable or indisputable and how the church should respond. The results will be helpful to the 2020 Vision Team, but I believe a similar discussion in individual churches will be helpful for congregations to discern what they believe should happen and whether they can remain in the RCA.
Fourth, but probably most significantly, we approved Don Poest’s proposal:
“To appoint a 2020 Vision Group to work,… to identify possible scenarios, strategies, and consequences for these future options for the Reformed Church in America:
“within two to five years, so many churches, classes, and even regions will have left the RCA that … we will have a potential implosion impacting everyone from retirees to church planters, missionaries to church camp directors, insurance programs to the Church Growth Fund. This is urgent!”
He understands the frustration and anxiety around the RCA, so he urged us to do four things. (I’ll put them in my own words…)
Pray: to seek God and beg him to work in powerful ways
Trust: to rest in God’s power and wisdom
Focus: to be about our mission to reach the lost
Love: to graciously deal with others
For some this will feel like kicking the can down the road (as I do at times), but I believe the urgency has been made very clear to our leaders.
You can read more here (https://www.rca.org/news/delegates-approve-formation-vision-group-discern-rcas-future). A ten minute clip of his presentation is available here (https://youtu.be/uxNFmufN-Ak).
Fifth, two Elders, Randy Bruins and Scott Van De List, joined me at Faith Church in Dyer, IN for the first Gospel Alliance Regional Meeting.
On our way home from the Gospel Alliance on June 26, I asked the others, “So what are our next steps?” They began rattling off things we need to do, and I took notes. Here is the gist of some next steps I believe we should be taking and the Consistory will address soon…
I hope this is helpful in calming any anxiety and bringing greater unity to the church. I am sure we will continue to have discussions as a church and invite you to talk with me or any consistory members about your concerns. My desire certainly is to help us move forward in our vision to develop and deploy Christ-like leaders. I hope you can joyfully join us in that endeavor in the coming months and years.
I’ll be giving an update and answering questions after the service on Sunday, July 1st for anyone who’d like to attend.
By Pastor Kevin Van Wyk
How do you deal with conflict? Fight or flight? Nearly all churches and denominations have been dealing with conflict for a long time. Some “discussions” have gotten heated and out of hand. While Jesus certainly called us to love, he also turned the tables over in the temple and called the leaders thieves. So, how do we move forward in a conflicted denomination? Fight for change, wait for a split, or leave?
As one who would love to take flight and ignore the issues altogether, I’ll be part of the General Synod discussions this week.
My request is simple… pray for me as I attend the RCA General Synod (GS).
Many of you know the organizational structure of the RCA. For those that are unfamiliar… A classis is made up of pastors and elders from each church within its bounds. GS is the highest governing body for the RCA. It includes representatives from each of the 46 Classes. (See http://images.rca.org/docs/synod/2018OrgChart.pdf for an org chart.) The Classis of Wisconsin will send three elders and three pastors to GS.
The GS makes changes to our by-laws, otherwise known as the Book of Church Order, the BCO, or the Orange book. While the Bible has supreme authority, the BCO is our attempt to articulate how we will live and work together. The GS can also make changes to our Liturgy and can adopt, interpret or remove Confessions and Creeds (like the Apostles Creed).
These changes happen through Overtures. Any church can send an Overture to their Classis, which can send it to the GS. At this point there are 25. Some are in the GS Workbook (p.85), others are in the Supplemental overtures. All can be found at https://www.rca.org/rca-basics/general-synod/general-synod-2018-workbook.
Most of these overtures address the conflict within the RCA over the definition of marriage. There is potential for productive, God-honoring decisions to be made that could lead the RCA toward a fruitful and missional future. There is also potential for divisive, destructive behavior. So, I ask you to pray.
Please pray for…