In June of last year, the Vision 2020 Team of the Reformed Church of America (RCA) released its study report and suggestion of how to move forward in light of how some churches are interpreting scripture; especially in regards to human sexuality, universalism, and church discipline or the lack of it.
The report painted a picture of a diverse denomination in belief, practice, and even priorities. While it was difficult for the group to reach consensus around how the current reality should be defined, they were united in their assertion that first, deep change was needed to address both the present divisiveness around controversial topics and various areas of organizational dysfunction.
Secondly, they recommend that a new non-profit mission agency be formed independent of the RCA (but in partnership with the RCA) to house what currently makes up the RCA’s work in global missions.
And then thirdly, recognizing that some separation is inevitable, they believed the RCA has an opportunity to act in an exemplary way by providing a generous exit path for those churches which decide to leave and by inviting those churches to also act generously. (All of this information can be found at https://www.rca.org/synod/vision2020/reformed-church-in-america-vision-2020-team-final-report/ ).
Since that report was released, our Consistory has been discussing how American Reformed Church should respond in order to remain faithful to the gospel and to the call God has placed on our church. We have patiently waited to see what possible off ramps and new landing spots might present themselves from the churches who are likely to leave the RCA. We have reflected on the value of denominations and how they enhance or hinder the effectiveness of our ministry.
Questions that we have been seeking answers to are: What about theology? How large of a core of non-negotiables do we desire? Creeds? Confessions? Worship liturgy? Bible interpretation? What form of governance and accountability? Do we want to be part of a large group of churches that holds one another accountable? What value do we find in networking with and supporting other churches in our area? Is it important to be part of a Classis? What about mission? How will being part of a denomination enhance our local, regional, or global mission? Do we need the help and support of denominational staff and resources? And regarding assessments, is the cost to participate worth it?
From June to November several RCA churches or Classes throughout the country began working on new denominations or affiliations. Seven different expressions began to take shape.
In October, the Consistory sent out a questionnaire seeking your thoughts on whether ARC should stay in the RCA, 75% believed we must leave. 20% believed we could stay, 5% believed we must stay.
In December, leaders from the seven different groups met to see if there was enough common ground for one group to be formed. Since then, the leaders of the seven groups have united and are in the process of forming the Alliance of Reformed Churches. And since the initials of our church match the initials of the new alliance, we firmly believe that it is a sign we are supposed to leave the RCA and join the ARC. (OK, just kidding ☺).
However, the Consistory did meet this past week with Pastor Tim Vink who retired from the RCA and now has been hired by the Alliance of Reformed Churches as the Director of Spiritual Formation and Outreach. And although many details are stilled to be decided, we were excited to hear about their vison of how we could partner with them and how they could support us. We were excited to hear about their desire to equip local churches to be rooted in the love of the Father, to be Christ centered, and Spirit empowered.
If you would like to know more about the Alliance of Reformed Churches, you can go to https://arc21.org or check your mailbox for the Alliance of Reformed Churches Organizational Convictions document. And then also, come join us on Sunday, June 6 at 10:45 AM for the informational meeting.