Tucson, Arizona — Decisions that could very well affect many church congregations in northwest Iowa are being made this weekend in Tucson, Arizona.
The Reformed Church in America’s (or RCA) General Synod meetings are going on through Tuesday. The most contentious issue is whether to allow gay clergy, according to Pastor Troy Van Beek, currently the transitional pastor at Rock Rapids First Reformed Church. But he says it’s more than that. It’s also about gay marriage. And in a much wider sense, he says he thinks many churches are re-evaluating what it means to be part of a denomination in the first place, and honestly, do they need to be part of a denomination to do the Lord’s work? Van Beek says the differences seem to be roughly regional, with the more conservative views around our area, and other views on the coasts, especially the east coast.
The most-anticipated business before this year’s synod is the Vision 2020 Team’s final report. The Vision 2020 Team process, initially slated for two years, has been drawn out over more than three years due to the coronavirus pandemic. Delegates from the churches of the RCA are spending time in discernment groups. The Vision 2020 Team is bringing three recommendations:
1. Appoint a restructuring team.
2. Form a new mission agency.
3. Provide for generous separation for churches and ministers that no longer want to be part of the RCA.
Related recommendations clarify the process of demission (or transfer) of ministers and whether the Church Growth Fund can loan money to churches that leave the RCA.
It is to be decided whether the denomination sides with those who support gay clergy or those who do not. The Vision 2020 report says, “We share a strong desire to be faithful to the Word of God, but we don’t know how to function when we differ on our interpretation of it.”
In other RCA news, Western Theological Seminary is proposing a change to its bylaws that would give it “affiliated” status with the RCA. The proposed change would allow for greater self-governance while maintaining ties with the denomination.