The Reformed Church in America, one of the oldest denominations in the United States, will create a team aimed at working on a possible restructuring plan for the denomination to end its debates related to LGBT ordination and same-sex marriages as churches are expected to depart.
The RCA General Synod voted on Saturday afternoon to create the task force that will consider proposals to move the approximately 186,000-member denomination forward.
RCA spokeswoman Christina Tazelaar told The Christian Post that the proposal came because the denomination is "deeply divided around sexuality, interpretation of Scripture and governance."
These issues led to the creation of the "Vision 2020 Team" in 2018, which performed "extensive research and discernment over the last three years."
"That team recommended a restructure because it anticipates a significant departure of churches as a result of this division," Tazelaar explained. "The team felt a restructure would help the denomination thrive in the future and be better poised to handle conflict differently."
With the task force approved, the next step will involve the General Synod Council — the executive board for RCA — appointing members within the next couple of months.
Tazelaar told CP that the team will "be representative of the diversity in the RCA" and "will include several executive RCA staff members and representatives from around the RCA."
Recommendations for restructuring the RCA are expected to be submitted and put to a vote by the General Synod in June of 2024.
Still, there is hope for the future of the denomination. Tazelaar provided CP with a quote from a report to the synod by RCA General Secretary Eddy Alemán given last Thursday.
"God is inviting us to create a new future for the Reformed Church in America; a future full of hope and great potential," stated Alemán.
"A future focused on what's really important. God is doing something new among us and is allowing this disruptive moment to do something new among us."
In a report from July, the Vision 2020 Team recommended a "restructuring" of the RCA. At the time, the team said its members believed that the debate over sexual ethics was only the most recent example of a broader trend of division within the denomination.
"There have been numerous points, especially in the last 70 years, where the RCA has been at an impasse. Points of disagreement and tension have included differences of views on things like ecumenical partnerships, social justice/political involvement, merging with another denomination, communism, internal restructuring," the report stated.
"This means we currently face something we have previously weathered, but it also means that we are likely to be here again if we do not find a way to handle conflict differently."
The Vision 2020 Team recommended creating a new mission agency to house the denomination's global missions work. The team also encouraged the RCA to create "a generous exit path for those churches which decide to leave and by inviting those churches to also act generously."
"Given that we are entering a period when there will likely be more petitions being put forth than has been typical, we believe it is the right time to provide more guidance for this process so that generosity is prescribed rather than simply permitted," explained the report.
While the newly approved restructuring team will consider the report from the Vision 2020 Team, it is not required to follow the report's guidance.