Next week (June 20-25) the RCA’s annual meeting (aka “General Synod”) kicks off. The following is some information about the meeting stolen from Kevin DeYoung shared so that we can stand in prayer for this meeting.
| Here are a few tidbits about RCA polity and history.
With that as some background, let me list several of the major items on the agenda for next week. The page numbers with each item refer to the pages of the workbook. Unless I use quotation marks, assume I’m giving my summary of the item and not the official wording.
R-3 “To declare amendments 1 through 3 to be approved and that they be incorporated into the 2013 edition of the Book of Church Order” (50).
The important part here is amendment 3, removing the consciences clauses relative to women’s ordination. The amendment needed a two-thirds majority from the classes to pass. 31 classes voted in favor of the amendment; 14 voted against the amendment. This recommendation (R-3) is a perfunctory vote. The conscience clauses will be removed from the BCO.
R-8 To affirm the “missional partnership” between the RCA and CRC (56).
Our two denominations are doing more and more together, sharing resources, staff, and engaging in mission together.
R-9 GSC recommends that the RCA focus on three connected strategic priorities: cultivating transformation in Christ, equipping next generation leaders, engaging in mission (68-69).
R-15 To instruct the Commission on Church Order to clarify the authority and scope of Synod statements (134).
This is the first of three recommendations from the “Way Forward Committee.” In light of R28 from last year, the committee is asking for clarity on what exactly statements like this mean for the denomination.
R-16 To instruct the GSC to appoint a working group to tackled three things (134-35).
First, help classes understand that the superintendence for pastors and churches happens at the classis level, OR, explore fundamental polity changes which require pastors and classes to submit to General Synod statements. At issues here whether each classis is free to do as it pleases regarding homosexuality or whether statements from Synod have some measure of authority over churches and pastors.
Second, compile the results of his exploration, together with recommendations, and bring them before Synod no later than 2015.
Third, after Synod weighs whatever recommendations come from step two, instruct the Commission on Church Order to draw up constitutional changes that would “enable each congregation and/or minister to choose between grace-filled covenanting. . . .or grace-filled and accountable separation. . . .without recrimination such as forfeiture of property.” In other words, this last step encourages the RCA to make a way for pastors and churches to decide if they want to stay with the RCA after we sort through our polity (and by implication, homosexuality). If people and congregations want to leave, the recommendations asks that they be able to leave peaceably, with their property.
R-17 To instruct the GSC to develop resources to facilitate further conversation about sexual orientation and gender identity (135).
R-27 To add a new question to the annual Consistorial Report: “How have the Belhar Confession and its principles of unity, reconciliation, and justice shaped your congregational life and witness?” (173).
R-28 To adopt the following amendment into the BCO: “Does your congregation regularly engage the principles of the Belhar Confession and the other Standards of Unity” (173).
There is a lengthy report (177-210) with several recommendations from the “Task Force on Understanding White Privilege.”
On page 211, you’ll find updated statistics for the RCA. As of 2012, there were:
Overtures 1, 2, and 3 all deal with gun control (215-217). For example, the Classis of New Brunswick overtures the General Synod to instruct the general secretary to write to President Obama, our federal and state senators and representatives, and all fifty state governors to “emphasize the need to swiftly pass and implement” gun control legislation. The overture stipulates that this legislation should eliminate public sale of high powered assault weapons, eliminate gun magazines with a capacity of over ten rounds, insist upon universal gun registration and background checks.
Overture 6 from Zeeland Classis asks for a change to the present system of calculating General Synod delegates (219-20). The current system over-represents small classes and under-represents larger classes.
Overture 7 from the Classis of Mid-Hudson asks that seminary students be able to perform the sacraments of baptism and communion.
Overtures 9-15 (from Albany, Holland, New Brunswick, and Schenectady) all ask, in one way or another, that R28 from last year be rescinded (222-28). The overtures also ask for clarity on the binding nature of General Synod pronouncements and for the Commission on Theology to draft a new, comprehensive paper on human sexuality to be presented to the General Synod in 2015.
R-47 To encourage RCA congregations to engage in a letter writing campaign on behalf of the Dream Act legislation (365).
R-48, 49 To provide resources and guidelines for including children at the Lord’s Table (368).
R-50 To establish a joint RCA-CRC committee for the purpose of expressing our ecumenical understanding and commitments toward each other (376).
There is a paper tucked away at the back of the workbook called “A Historical Summary of the Actions of the General Synod with Regard to Homosexuality: 1974-2012″ (461-70).
R-59 “To remand the decision of the Regional Synod of the Mid-Atlantics for further hearing to resolve whether the Classis of New Brunswick properly examined and approved the installation of the Rev. Dr. Cargill, giving full recognition to the importance of Scripture as central to the faith and life of an ordained ministry of Word and sacrament” (475-479).
At issue is the ordination and installation of Ursula Cargill, a practicing homosexual, to the office of minister in New Brunswick Classis on September 28 , 2011. Five appellants challenged the action of the classis in receiving her into membership. ON May 5, 2012, the Regional Synod of the Mid-Atlantics uphold the decision of the classis. The appellants then appealed this decision. The Commission on Judicial Business (CJB) conducted a hearing in Newark, New Jersey on February 5, 2013. The CJB is recommending the case be tried again by the Regional Synod, stating that there was a “lack of any scriptural argument to rebut the position of the Appellants” and “the commission believes that Scripture has been put aside in the Synod’s review of the New Brunswick Classis’s examination of the Rev. Dr. Cargill” (479).
R-60 To invalidate the work of the “Way Forward Committee” because there were no persons of color on the task force (482).
Of course, you can read the workbook for yourself for more details.