By Pastor Kevin Van Wyk
You’ve probably noticed the rules in our nation are changing and changing fast. Boy’s restrooms are no longer just for boys. Girl’s sports teams are no longer just for girls. It seems the rules to enter the United States have nearly disappeared. The fundamental rule of marriage being between a man and a woman has been thrown out the window by our government and several denominations. The foundational right to life has been tossed out the window with the government supporting and funding the killing of the unborn. Even though the Covid vaccines are showing far less effectiveness than natural antibodies, the Biden administration wants rules to mandate it. These rules will certainly continue changing on a daily basis.
Some rules you probably like and some rules you probably hate. As Christians we are to uphold rules that promote godliness and justice. We want rules to deter evil and encourage good. (Rom. 13, 1 Peter 2:13-14)
Personally, I'm experiencing a bit of a conflict within as we set aside the RCA rulebook. You may have heard of the BCO, otherwise known as the Book of Church Order or the Orange Book. Years back we actually handed each consistory member a small orange binder with the BCO in it. I still have mine. In recent years, we simply sent people to the RCA website to find the digital version. This 180 page book is revised every year as the RCA seeks to maintain rules for the church and denomination. I've mostly hated this book over the past 20 years of ministry. It's tedious, boring, and difficult to navigate. However, it does give some direction on how we are to do church.
As of January 1, 2022, we will no longer be held to using the little orange book. [To some degree we are done with it now as our release was approved on Nov. 2.] I mostly rejoice in this, but as we've been navigating all kinds of little decisions, I wonder what we will do without its guidance. What categories of membership will we now use? How shall we define the roles of elders, deacons, and ministers? What will we do with regard to liturgy for installation services and communion? What’s our relationship with the other local churches?
The rule book is gone.
Now, we don't have to throw out the BCO altogether. We certainly can continue to use it. However, we are not required to use it as part of our new denomination, the Alliance of Reformed Churches.
ARC is working on some direction for how our churches can best work together, but in a recent zoom call, the ARC leadership communicated their desire to reduce complexity, control, and cost. They plan to give us best practices, but not to mandate and control how we do ministry in our local environment. This brings some excitement in being able to create something new, yet it also brings a great deal of uncertainty as we try to develop a new structure.
Personally, I'm excited to work with the area churches as we figure this out together. (Bethel Brandon, First Waupun, Emmanuel Waupun, and River Rock in Sheboygan will all be part of our local “Hub.” I am hopeful that Trinity will be joining us before long. Others may follow.) I believe all are ready to create a more unified network of churches that reaches this community together. That's exciting!
The best news is that we do still have a rulebook. All along those who are Reformed have said, "the Bible is our only rule for faith and life.” Too often it seemed that the BCO had become our only rule for faith and life. But, now, we must look to scripture alone for direction instead of continually fretting over what our denomination requires. This is an exciting place to be as we now carry the full responsibility of reading, understanding, and applying God’s Word in our church.
Join me in praying as we move forward together.
Lord, help us move forward with peace and patience. Guide us as we seek to make decisions that honor you and uphold your Word. Guide us by your mighty right hand and breathe new life into our hearts. Bring unity among our churches and enable us to have a greater impact on our communities than ever before. Amen.
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