MINUTES: The tenth Meeting of signatories of the Chicago Invitation
6-7 March 2008 at Mariandale Retreat Center, Ossining, New York
Present: Jack Elliott, Katherine Davelaar, Mary Kansfield, Norman Kansfield, Bill Hertlein, James Reid, Rett Zabriskie, Okke Postma, Daniel Meeter, Al Janssen, Harold Delhagen, John Paarlberg, Tom Danney, Tom Marsden, Dan Griswold, Doug Leonard, Joanne Fernandez-McDermott, James Hart Brumm, and Carol Bechtel
Guest: Wesley Granberg-Michaelson, General Secretary of the RCA General Synod
Note: Carol, Wes, and Al were only present for the Thursday session
6 March, Thursday
The meeting was convened with worship in the Chapel, led by Dan Griswold and James, at 1:00 pm.
After introductions and expressions of “why we are here,” Jack led us in a review of the very simple agenda: a discussion with Wes Granberg-Michaelson.
Carol gave us a brief “preamble,” to our discussion.
Wes asked questions of the signatories
· What are your deepest concerns?
· How would you (the CI signatories as a group) see yourself contributing to the ministry and mission of the RCA? If you are “loyal opposition,” can you also be part of a coalition around common goals?
· Do you feel welcome to do that (contribute to RCA life and mission)?
· Where in the life of the RCA do you find hope and encouragement?
CI signatories formulated questions together and asked them of Wes
· What are your deepest concerns?
· What is your greatest joy?
· We have concerns about the movement of denominational offices, and the grieving process, and resulting gender and racial diversity of staff. What is your position on this?
· Where are we with how elders can help pastors more?
· What is the financial situation of the RCA?
Questions alternated between Wes and the signatories, with time for each to respond to and process the answers that they heard.
We broke for fellowship and dinner, reconvening at 7:00 pm to finish our question and answer session.
Discussion about a joint statement from this meeting. This will be placed on the CI web page, and could be used in communications by Wes and others. Okke, James, and Wes assigned to work on this immediately after the evening session.
Discussion about the general issue of communication.
Harold expressed thanks on behalf of the signatories to Wes and Carol for their presence today, but pointed out that the conversation needs to continue. Wes said he learned a great deal here, but agrees that we need to keep talking and exploring more. He asked for everyone’s prayers.
Recessed with prayers led by Carol.
The following joint statement was approved by all present:
THE CHICAGO INVITATION AND WESLEY GRANBERG-MICHAELSON
Signatories of the Chicago Invitation met with Wesley Granberg-Michaelson, RCA General Secretary, at the Mariandale Retreat Center in Ossining, New York, on 6 March for its tenth biannual session. Carol Bechtel, vice president of General Synod, had suggested the meeting and served as moderator.
There was a frank, open, and supportive discussion around questions that Wes posed to the signatories and which they posed to him.
Wes expressed his concerns over factionalism within the RCA that goes beyond the historical differences in ethos and traditions. He noted that various groups have a tendency to talk about but not to each other. He highlighted the need of the RCA to nurture new leadership. He spoke about new cultural groups that are moving into the denomination, and the need to honestly address how those groups will and should change our denominational culture. Wes continues to feel called by God to encourage and equip leadership in the RCA. He is dedicated to serving this denomination in using its unique gifts to respond to contemporary society and answer God’s call to mission.
Signatories talked about how they, as a group, can support the work and witness of the RCA by creating forums for conversation about the nature of the church and the importance of order and covenantal relationships in the denomination’s life. The Chicago Invitation and its signatories have found a hearing in parts of the church, but do not see themselves as a faction. They simply desire to keep light shining on issues of a constitutional nature, for the sake of the denomination itself and for the sake of the Church at large. Our Heritage is not antiquated, but dynamic and relevant for our late-modern age.
Issues discussed included denominational staff redistribution, finances, and perceptions of changes and sense of loss. Common concerns addressed patterns of communication and decision making. We noted factors of hope in the Sovereignty of God and the life of the Reformed Church in America.
7 March, Friday
Reconvened at 7:30 am with worship in the Chapel, led by Dan G., Okke, and James, followed by fellowship around the breakfast table.
The next meeting will be 30 April-1 May at the Mariandale Retreat Center in Ossining, New York.
Debriefing from meeting with Wes. Agreed that we need to call our assemblies to be theological bodies, as was common in early RCA polity.
Discussion of other events in and around the RCA.
Discussion of topics for the next meeting
· More on communication
· Discussions of overtures coming to GS 2008.
· GS reorganization and changes to GSC by-laws. Daniel M. will make a request to Wes for materials.
· Action on who will be the moderator of CI.
Thanks were expressed to Jack Elliott for putting together this meeting, and to Dan Griswold for his work on the web site and blog.
Discussion of making more extensive use of the CI blog. Possible topics:
· Reformed views of the apostalate
· Alternative views of structures
Suggestion that we publish the link to the CI site in The Church Herald. James will work on some copy and send it to Jack, who will get it put together with an advertising person.
The meeting adjourned with prayer led by Daniel M. at 10:31 am.
James Hart Brumm