Reflection on the RCA General Synod 2018 A little over a week ago I returned from the RCA’s General Synod held at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Being asked to write on my experience has forced me to intentionally reflect on the experience. I would boil my summary down to two words: Cautiously Optimistic. I chose those words because there were elements that gave me great hope for the future of my denomination, one I have been part of since birth. But there were other elements that really left me questioning the viability of the RCA continuing in a healthy, God-honoring way for the long haul.
Elements that gave me hope:
- Interim General Secretary, Don Poest, gave his “State of the Denomination” address and included a call for the formation of a committee which would figure out a way forward for our denomination and present their findings to General Synod 2020. While this could be another effort to “kick the can down the road,” it felt to me that the delegates were desiring for this to truly be progress toward a day of being able to focus on preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ instead of arguing the authority and interpretation of Scripture as it pertains to human sexuality. Don’s recommendation passed by a large margin.
- The Leaders. During this General Synod, we affirmed and installed a new General Secretary, a new President, and a Vice President. I believe all of these men: Rev. Eddie Aleman, Elder James Nakakihara, and Rev. E J de Waard hold an orthodox view of Scripture. I am excited to have their influence in the RCA.
- The Great Lakes Catechism on Marriage and Sexuality was referred to the Commission on Theology and churches and classes. There was a movement to have it be referred only to the Commission, but that was defeated. I am glad that our denomination will be hearing from more voices than just those of the Commission who I fear will only try to negate or neuter the Catechism.
- Meeting with the CRCNA. Our sister denomination held their General Synod at Calvin during the same time frame. There were opportunities for us to worship together and meet to discuss further partnerships up to, and including, joining back together. (I believe that will be one of the ways forwarded presented by 2020 committee.) It was good to be together and be reminded that the Kingdom is larger than our corner of it.
Elements that have me cautious:
- Don Poest’s recommendation. While overall it gives me hope, there is a part of me that fears this will just be “kicking the can down the road” or that the committee’s recommendation will be to maintain status quo.
- General Synod Professors of Theology. There was an overture to create a mechanism to evaluate this fourth office in the RCA. It was defeated. I believe it was defeated because many who were against it, including the Professors themselves, argued there already exists a mechanism to do this, discipline. The basic argument was that if there were issues, they should be brought up on charges at General Synod. My feeling is that the proposal could have been more pastoral and conversational in nature than the confrontational charges.
- Delegates. This was my third General Synod in a row. For the previous two years I felt that the makeup of the delegates reflected the reported balance of the RCA and that votes overwhelmingly favored orthodoxy. This year I was surprised by the amount of opposing voices and where they came from. Classes I assumed to be orthodox had pro Room for All delegates. Votes were closer than I would have liked them to be. Something that has been evident for all three years is that younger voices, corresponding delegates from the Youth Commission or Seminary Seminar, do not seem to hold orthodox beliefs.
Again, I am cautiously optimistic regarding the future of the RCA. However, it is a great comfort to know our hope is not in a denomination, but in a Savior who has overcome the world! He has created a church against which He promises the Gates of Hell will not prevail!
For more info, and the RCA’s interpretation, you can find it here.