Follow-Up Letter for General Synod

Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
As I look back at General Synod, I thank God for the delegates who gave their time and came together to discern God’s will for our denomination. I thank God for leadership, for grace, and for thoughtful discussion, which was so evident at General Synod. I believe that the Reformed Church in America stands on the firm foundation of Christ with a focus on transforming lives and communities and radically following Christ in mission together.
I want to offer a brief outline of some of the significant outcomes of synod and share my thoughts on where we go from here. For a complete report on synod, please read the summaries on the RCA website ( as well as the General Synod Workbook (
Here are just a few of the outcomes of synod:
In Recommendations 42 through 46, the synod worked through a proposal that I brought to the delegates in my presidential report. Those recommendations include the following:

That the General Synod form a special council to meet for the express purpose of describing a constitutional pathway forward for the Reformed Church in America to address the questions of human sexuality as it relates to ordination and marriage, and to empower this council to bring recommendations to General Synod 2016.

To implore the congregations, office holders, and assemblies of the RCA to exercise a season of restraint. This call of restraint includes refraining from performing same­sex marriages, ordaining practicing homosexuals, initiation of judicial actions related to these matters, and separating from the denomination.
That a ‘Wise Council’ of Five will be formed from among past General Synod presidents, including Carol Mutch, Brad Lewis, Irving Rivera, Chuck Van Engen, and Tony Vis. They will convene the special council referred to in R-42b and have the following responsibilities:

  • Set the time for the meeting(s)
  • Prepare the meeting(s)
  • Prepare the members
  • Officiate the meeting(s)
  • Inform the church of the results
That members be sent to the special council referred to in R-42b who will represent Jesus Christ above all and reflect the rich diversity of the RCA: one selected by each classis (forty-four) and thirty at-large members selected by the ‘Wise Council’ to ensure that the full counsel of the Holy Spirit is present from the church with special attention that the entire delegation include diversity of gender, sexual orientation, age, race, region, expertise, and offices of the church.
That all current studies, work, and other information of interest be made available to inform the work of the council referred to in R-42b.
That the cost to attend this council referred to in R-42b be incurred by the General Synod.
The work on planning for and forming this special council will begin very soon. The General Synod presidents included in the recommendation have been contacted and have agreed to serve the church in this process. As plans are completed, information will be shared with pastors and members of the RCA. This is a significant process for our denomination and it must be accomplished with both transparency and a desire to include all voices. Please pray for those who will be involved in the council and that God’s will be done.
I also ask congregations, office holders, and assemblies of the RCA to respect and maintain the season of restraint called for in the recommendation. This is a critical piece of the process and General Synod delegates voted overwhelmingly to support this season of restraint (the vote on this was 176 to 39). With the recent opinion of the United States Supreme Court regarding same-sex marriage, I realize that this season of restraint takes on new meaning and potential challenges, but I still urge all to respect this call for restraint.
I’ve also been asked how Recommendation 25 affects the work of the special council and the RCA moving forward. The Recommendation reads as follows:

To affirm the May 3, 2014, decision of the Regional Synod of the Mid-Atlantics, which affirmed the action of the New Brunswick Classis receiving into its membership Ursula Cargill as a minister of Word and sacrament.

This affirmation only affirms that the Regional Synod of the Mid-Atlantics followed the procedural requirements of the BCO.

Judicial business before synod is always a critical element of the work of delegates and this was no exception. I believe that delegates saw this decision for what it was—a judicial response to the procedural requirements of the Book of Church Order. The decision to approve Recommendation 25 came after the decision to support Recommendations 42 through 46 and does not detract from the importance of the special council as we, as a body of believers, continue to look for a constitutional pathway forward to address questions of human sexuality.
Sisters and brothers, there is much within the RCA for which to be thankful. There is much for which we must pray earnestly for God’s discernment and will. I believe that the power of the Holy Spirit will be in and among us as we plan for and move through the season of discernment and the special council. I covet your prayers and support for the RCA in this time as well.
In Christ,
Greg Alderman
President, General Synod 2015
General Synod Council Moderator

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