Yesterday was perhaps the most remarkable day in the memory of this long-time synod observer and participant.
Following another stunning sermon from Jackie Lewis, the synod adopted the Belhar confession without amendment. The vote was 70% in favor — well above even a super-majority. The synod then sang the confession as the candle that had come from URCSA’s General Synod two years ago was carried forward.
In the afternoon, the MSTF recommendations were defeated. The GSC was given the task of continuing a wide dialogue on working through difficulties. However, the report from the committees was clear that our current order provided space and suppleness for the church to be about mission. The proposal to have deacons at higher assemblies was referred to the commission on theology. The proposal for the biannual synod was roundly defeated.
In the vice-presidential sweepstakes, the final two candidates were and African-American and a woman — neither a token candidate. Just as noteworthy was the fact that the first list included two highly capable women. And they didn’t cancel each other out. As I posted last evening, Carol Bechtel was elected.
(Of importance to myself, the proposed new structure for judicial bodies passed overwhelmingly.)
Toward the end of the evening, the proposed by-laws for the GSC were referred to Church Order and Theology for review.
The day ended as two delegates holding views on homosexuality about as far apart as they get addressed the synod and told it how they found each other in their advisory group, and how while they retained their position, they could meet as fellow persons in Christ beyond their differences. Belhar confesses reconciliation at the heart of the gospel. We had become Belhar in that moment. The synod ended the day singing hymns from South Africa.
What I had feared might be a dividing synod had come together. Van Ruler remarks somewhere that the church is a sociological impossibility. The church is a sign of the kingdom that breaks in from the future. Sometimes those signs come along just enough to give us courage and hope. What we did in Belhar is about the salvation of the world. Soli deo gloria.