As the Vision 2020 Team, we met for a third time on November 15 and 16 at a retreat center in Chicago, Illinois. We did so with the awareness that, while many in the denomination are supporting and praying for us, some have voiced concern about our process and wondered if there is a predetermined outcome to our work. However, that is far from true. As we gathered together, it was clear that the group contains a wide variety of viewpoints that represent the diversity in the denomination, and those viewpoints are being expressed courageously and respectfully as the team does its work.
Our team was formed after General Synod 2018 approved a proposal to carefully consider the future of the denomination in light of deep divisions. Our work is to identify and explore possible scenarios, strategies, and consequences for these future options for the Reformed Church in America: (1) staying together; (2) radical reconstituting and reorganization; (3) grace-filled separation. While each of these scenarios is disruptive and involves change and loss, as a team we have faith that a hopeful way forward will come out of this process.
At this meeting, we spent time in Scripture and prayer, especially reflecting on courage and how Jesus engaged conflict. Then we began a deep dive into the three scenarios. Sub-committees had spent the last month gathering data about the RCA and the wider church, and they have begun surveying leaders in the RCA about their views of the three scenarios. We spent time processing that data, then beginning to build narratives for what each scenario might look like five to ten years down the road, based on the data we have. Sub-committees will continue to work on the scenarios between now and our February meeting, including an exploration of the implications of these scenarios for congregations, classes, mission partners, and the denomination at large. This will involve consultation with experts and a broader survey of leaders and members in the denomination.
As we have begun to dig more deeply into this work, we have also developed a much better sense of our forward direction. From our work on the scenarios, we hope to build consensus on a recommendation to make to General Synod 2020.
We also began to plan for General Synod 2019, asking how we might fruitfully engage the General Synod in the work of our team and how to best gather feedback and input at the halfway point of our two-year assignment.
Our work at this meeting was guided by consultants Jim Herrington and Trisha Taylor. Jim and Trisha have worked as a team for more than 20 years and have been involved with the RCA in a variety of ways since 2006.
Our group is hopeful. In just three meetings (and a good deal of work in between), we’ve developed trust and camaraderie. We’re encouraged by the courage and respect that show up again and again as we go about our work. We have energy for this work, even if it is a bit intimidating. This is something we’ve prayed for and asked for prayer for, and the Lord has answered those prayers. Thanks be to God! There’s still tension, of course, because significant issues facing the denomination still exist, and that tension bubbles up from time to time in our work together. But we trust each other. We’re still loving, still brothers and sisters—not enemies. We’re able to listen to each other and hear ideas from each other without judging or conflict. It is hard work to stay engaged with each other even when we don’t see eye to eye, but as we do that work, we see it as an investment in our own spiritual and emotional health; we recognize it’s vital to the work of the team and the future of the denomination.
We hope you can hear that this team does not have a predetermined outcome. We’re still in the middle of a two-year process, and there’s a lot of work yet for us to do. We don’t know where it’s going to take us, but we’re trusting the process and trusting the guidance of the Holy Spirit. If you find yourself doubting the process or the outcomes, we simply ask that you pray. We are sure you know that we are doing our best to be faithful. We are trying to do this work earnestly, with courage, honesty, and much prayer. Please join us in that prayer.
Here are some specific prayer requests:
- Thanksgiving for prayers answered: for deepening trust on our team, for relationships that are growing, for the dialogue that took place at this meeting, for stamina and courage for the work set before us. Pray for us to grow in courage, as well.
- Sometimes the job before us seems so big and messy. Pray for the Holy Spirit to work in the chaos, for us to be attentive to the Spirit and faithful to what we hear.
- The group has collected a lot of data and is also requesting feedback. As we process that information, pray for eyes to see what is currently true, ears to hear and understand what people are saying, and vision to see what could be in the future.
- Pray for sub-committees as they do follow up work before the next meeting in February.
- All three scenarios involve disruption, change, and loss. We know that whatever outcome we recommend, the RCA will never be the same. Pray for the denomination — its congregations, leaders, and members — that we will be able to navigate disruption, process change, grieve loss well, and move forward together.
- Thank God for the hope that our team has for the future and for our work specifically. Pray that congregations, leaders, and members will experience the same hope and faith that God will provide a way forward for our denomination.
- Pray for God to prepare the ground for the eventual report from this team. We don’t know what our recommendation will be, but please pray that the Holy Spirit will prepare hearts and minds for what will come.
- Pray for us, and pray for our whole denomination — that we’re open to this work that God is forging for all of us. Pray for yourself, your church, your region, and the denomination.
Vision 2020 Team
Eddy Alemán, ex officio
Don Poest, ex officio