General Synod Update
"Well, what happened?"
"Is the RCA intact?"
"What does this indicate for Room for All's future?"
These and other questions are on the minds (and in the emails) of RfA supporters since General Synod 2018 came to a close. What happened? Two things stand out:
For many, the highlight of the week was RfA's inclusive worship service. Through liturgy, song, sermon and senses, about 100 Synod delegates and others from the local community gathered to consider Jesus' comparison of the Kingdom of God with a mustard tree whose branches become home to "all the birds of the air." As we came forward for Communion, we were invited to select a bird to hang from two "trees" as a recording of bird calls played in the background. Several worshipers expressed gratitude:
"Thank you for the extraordinary lengths you go to to be sure all are included and welcomed."
"Beautiful imagery. Even more beautiful message. This is MY church. Thank you."
"Wonderful service, I was honored to be there."
The other significant event leads to the second question. The Synod approved overture 18-23, a recommendation by interim General Secretary Don Poest which calls for the formation of a "2020 Vision Group to work, in consultation with whatever staff, commissions, councils, agencies, and/or outside consultants the vision group deems necessary, to identify possible scenarios, strategies, and consequences for these future options for the Reformed Church in America: • Staying together • Radical reconstituting and reorganization • Grace-filled separation “This should include, but not be limited to,consideration of one denomination with three or more affinity assemblies within it. Care should be given to the administrative, legal, financial, real estate, and emotional burdens of each option. Any potential new bodies should be identified by what they are ‘for’ rather than what they are ‘against’ and should be consistent with Reformed theology. This should be done in ways that affirm all parties. This must be bathed in denomination-wide, hope-filled prayer that God will show a way." (The remaining text of the overture, with amendments, may be found at the RCA website in the Synod Journal for Friday afternoon, June 8.)
Yes, the RCA is intact until the "2020 Vision Group" brings its recommendations to the 2020 General Synod. Room for All affirms the Synod's approval of this overture; we believe that while the task force does its work, there is also an important opportunity for congregations, classes and regional synods to engage in intentional conversation about the RCA's theology, governance, mission and witness. Will we split over which "birds of the air" the Kingdom of God includes in its branches? We urge our supporters to be active participants in these local conversations, and to pray for the 2020 Vision Group as they take on this important task.
What does this mean for RfA's future? We, too, will be participating in as many conversations as possible, through visits to regional groups, churches, inclusive church workshops and RCA leaders. The short answer is, RfA will continue as we have since 2005, supporting, educating and advocating for the full affirmation of LGBTQ people in the life and ministry of the RCA, come what may. If you would like a visit, please let us know!
RfA Featured in Newsweek Magazine
Shortly after the close of General Synod, RfA was approached by a writer from Newsweek magazine, who had seen our website and wanted our reaction to a recent national poll which found that most LGBTQ people in the United States are religious, and more than half are Christian. As it turned out, RfA was exclusively featured in the article, which includes interviews with executive director Marilyn Paarlberg, RfA board president Rev. Tricia Sheffield, and supporter Kate Mears. All three expressed surprise at the poll findings, but as Tricia Sheffield put it, "“I know that many in the community have been shunned and may not feel welcome. But I think as churches have become more welcoming, people have found home again.”
RfA "Connection Challenge"
Connections are life giving. They offer community, solidarity, and hope.
In the midst of broad diversity, many RCA members in the United States and Canada are connected and given hope by a gospel-grounded belief that LGBTQ people should be fully affirmed in the life and ministry of the RCA. The RfA development team has created an opportunity to publicly celebrate and sustain that broad, shared commitment through financial support of our ministry. Last month, we told you about plans for a new "Connection Challenge" campaign. Watch for a letter, an email, and notices on our social media in the coming weeks!