Tuesday, February 20, 2007

The End of the RCA?

I have in front of me a draft document being circulated that outlines recommendations to be made at the upcoming General Synod. These come from the Missional Structures Task Force, and have as their sole aim the destruction of the Reformed Church in America as we now know it. The proposals have a two-fold emphasis. The first is the effective abolition of the classis in favor of 15 "Middle Assemblies," and the second is the further concentration of unelected power in the hands of a few. Our Reformed/Presbyterian form of representative government will be replaced by hand-picked "professional" leaders who will govern these 15 assemblies, much as a bishop would in the Evangelical Lutheran Church. The duties of the classes will now be in the hands of larger regional synods and the General Synod. For example, and most ominously, ministers of Word and Sacrament will have to go before these unelected, hand-picked bodies to be ordained, re-certified, and undergo enforced continuing education (i.e., learn how to be a Carver governanced, best practiced, NCD'd, liberal).

It is imperative for us to unite against the proposals of the Missional Task Force, and defend our representative church government, the role of classis, and the sacred office of minister of Word and sacrament. I for one was never "certified." Hands were laid on me when I was ordained, as has been done since the beginning of the church. I will not stand before an unbiblical body and plead to remain a clergyman.

This document is the culmination of a decade-long effort to concentrate power in the hands of an unelected few. Instead of destroying the classical system we currently have, I propose we rid ourselves of the office of General Secretary, and reinstitute the elected office of Clerk of General Synod. If these proposals are accepted, even in modified forms, it will mean the end of the RCA, and the beginning of a new church structured along the lines of the Evangelical Lutheran and United Methodist churches (churches which are losing members). How long will it be before these "Middle Assemblies" are called "dioceses," and their executives "bishops"? Not long, I wager. These new changes represent the most significant threat in our denomination's history, and must be resisted by every minister and elder. We shall not go quietly into oblivion. We shall not sit idle as our cherished institutions are dismantled.

Here are the proposed recommendations, with the most odious highlighted in bold print:

R.____

To endorse the proposed direction of the Missional Structures Task Force to reorganize the assemblies of the Reformed Church in America in a manner that supports the missional engagement of congregations and all of the institutions and agencies of the RCA.

R.____

To instruct the General Synod Council, by 2010, in support of the proposed direction of the Missional Structures Task Force and in ongoing dialogue with classes and regional synods, to pursue development of a specific plan by which our present 45 classes and 8 regional synods will be replaced with not fewer than 15 "middle assemblies" whose structure and ministry is focused on missional planning:

  • In consultation with the Commission on Church Order, to develop proposed changes in the church order that will support and enable the formation of not fewer than fifteen middle assemblies;

  • In consultation with the regional synods and classes, to develop means for equitable staffing and funding of church-wide and middle assembly mission, ministry, and support services for consideration by General Synod not later than 2010;

  • In consultation with the seminaries and TEA, to develop the means by which examination and ordination of ministers of Word and sacrament would be assumed and carried by the General Synod;

  • In consultation with regional synods, classes, and the Commission on Church Order, to assure that any proposed plan or process of realignment of classes and regions does not violate current responsibilities of the assemblies as defined in the Book of Church Order, or violate assembly bylaws, corporate charters, or state/provincial or federal laws;

  • To communicate to regional synods, classes, and congregations, clear guidelines for the transition period including instructions that a)voting delegates to higher assemblies will continue to be selected by rules and church membership statistics currently in place until such time as the reorganization is completed and the BCO has been changed; b)assessments and the formulas for calculating assessments will continue to be based on current assembly statistics until such time as the General Synod approves a final plan of reorganization, the BCO has been changed, and a new equitable funding formula has been devised and approved;

R.____

To instruct the Commission on Church Order to prepare BCO changes that will bring deacons into full voting participation in the higher assemblies of the church, in parity with elders and ministers of Word and sacrament.

R.____

To instruct the General Synod Council, by 2010, to devise a plan for General Synod consideration that will place the General Synod meeting on a biennial meeting cycle in a setting that includes a church-wide missionally focused gathering;

R.____

To instruct the Commission on Theology, in conversation with the General Synod Professors of Theology, to engage in a study of the historic “marks” of the church as articulated in the RCA Standards in light of missional understandings of the Gospel, and to consider the recommendation of the addition of a fourth “mark” of the church, for report to the General Synod by 2009.

R.____

To instruct the General Synod Council, in cooperation with appropriate commissions, RCA institutions and agencies, and ecumenical partners, to identify and/or develop resources and learning opportunities that will assist the RCA’s congregations and members to better understand and claim as their own a commitment to missional engagement as core to our life and faithfulness.

5 Comments:

Blogger Rileysowner said...

I have not finished reading this document yet, but your take on it is much like mine. If this is passed the denominations name should be changed to the Episcopal (formerly Reformed) church in America.

10:08 AM  
Blogger Annette said...

I'm rather unimpressed myself.

What would then happen with Canada?

What would happen with Ministers who 'didn't toe the line'?

What would happen to churches that didn't grow according to plans?

So many whats flooding my brain when I read this.

Not good.

8:24 AM  
Blogger Scribe said...

Annette, you hit the nail on the head. All of this is about power. A select few desire to exert power to close churches, enforce liberalism, and erase biblical Christianity from our midst.

I agree. Not good at all.

4:59 PM  
Blogger P. Wayne said...

Friends,

We seem to be panicking over little. Yes this is a change. Change happens. Yes this merges Classes and Regional Synods. Some of our Classes are quite small and most of our Regional Synods lack purpose. Making the Classes bigger will allow them to add staff more easily.

Yes, I would like to get rid of the office of General Secretary. It annoys me when our GS “speaks for the RCA” out of his own head without consulting the General Synod. This is not only wrong, it’s stupid. But Stated Clerks do the same so…

As for ordination, yes I think we need to keep this at the lowest judicatory level. But that is an amendment that can be made. The sky is not falling. Only our level of discussion.

9:38 AM  
Blogger James OC said...

I think the draft has the possibility of raising the level of conversation of the church so that we awake from our sleep and take our stand as a reformed body. The task force put in a lot of hours of work in this project, even if they did stray from the charge Synod gave them. They are to be thanked for getting all the churches and Classes talking and working together to build up the body of Christ. But that does mean we need to work at making it happen rather than sitting back wait for others to serve us.

4:45 PM  

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