Pastor’s Perspective – General Synod Update

“Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you love each other, love one another deeply, from the heart.”  1 Peter 1: 22

It was my pleasure to go to Holland, MI for a week from June 7-13 for the RCA’s annual gathering of delegates from around the US!  I was one of two pastors and four total delegates from “Classis Cascades” in the Pacific Northwest.

The meeting  was full of long days of committee meetings and floor debates, as well as special worship services and honorary gatherings.  Events started at 7am and usually did not end until 10pm!

There was far too much business considered to go over in one writing, but if you are interested in more detail, please go to rca.org where the meeting is recapped thoroughly!

Some general impressions:

— FRC Oak Harbor is part of a rich, historical, relational group of churches!  By far the biggest highlight for me was seeing many friends I haven’t seen in years and quickly renewing acquaintances.  The bond of a common understanding and worship of God is strong and has real-world consequences of encouragement, acceptance, and love!  The “theme” of the meeting was unity as described in 1 Peter.  It was edifying to study 1 Peter in the meeting, but also to see how we love each other deeply and sincerely, from the heart, in the laughs, smiles and hugs shared over dinner and at breaks.

I was pleasantly surprised at how the Holy Spirit used this gathering to renew my spirit and remind me, through the body of Christ, of the sense of belonging that comes with the gospel of Jesus Christ!  I wish I could take you there so you could experience the benefits of being a part of the RCA!

— The theme of unity was explored in many ways—one most intriguing way was how we can maintain unity even when we disagree (sometimes passionately).  Toward that end, Richard Mouw, a famous Reformed Christian and former president of Fuller Seminary, gave an excellent address titled, “Can We Be Reformed and Civil at the Same Time?”  You can find a summary here:  https://www.rca.org/news/richard-mouw-speaks-about-convicted-civility

— I continue to be impressed with the RCA’s recent emphasis on youth!  One of the most impactful resolutions passed was one that funds 20 full year placements for young people to serve with RCA Missionaries this coming year, 40 placements the year after, and 60 placements the year after that!  The Reformed Church in America has always had a special place for the discipleship and spiritual development of young people.  If a young person needs funds, prayer, or other support in pursuing a call from God AND they ASK for support they will be pleased with the response they receive in my experience!  You can read more about this initiative here:  https://www.rca.org/news/synod-president-urges-rca-focus-its-mission

— The most intense floor debate was about an interpretation of the Heidelberg Catechism.  Yes, the Heidelberg Catechism was debated in 2017!  Awesome!  The final reading of the declaration that passed easily is:  “the Heidelberg Catechism in Q&A 108 and 109 categorically states that God condemns all ‘unchastity,’ which includes same-sex sexual activity… faithful adherence to the RCA’s Standards, therefore, entails the affirmation that marriage is between one man and one woman.”

I was proud to support this declaration and proud of our denomination for making a statement that is clearly unpopular in our American culture!  At the same time, I recognize that there are devoted Christians who feel strongly that this statement isolates gay people.  We do not wish to isolate and condemn gay people!   We want “all people” to come to church to hear the gospel and meet Jesus Christ.  (1 Timothy 2:4)  Holding to the traditional understandings of God’s Word brings blessing to us as a people, though.  The RCA is united by a common, historical understanding of what God’s Word says.  It was edifying to see this played out on a big stage!

I am encouraged and blessed to be a part of the Reformed Church in America.  I pray that Christ upholds us and continues to use us as broken vessels made effective in His healing sacrifice!

Who’s with me?

Peace to you,
Pastor Matt