The next meeting of the signatories and guests will be 18-19 May, 2011, at the Mariandale Retreat Center in Ossining, NY. In October, 2011, we will meet in Chicago, IL. Watch this web site fr more details!
MINUTES: The 15th meeting of signatories of the Chicago Invitation & guests
20-21 October 2010 at Mariandale Retreat Center, Ossining, New York
Present: Dan Griswold, Bill Hertlein, Bill TeWinkle, James Hart Brumm, Okke Postma, Elaine Tetrault, Paul Janssen, Jim Reid, Al Janssen, Gary Reetz, Joanne Fernandez-McDermott, Rett Zabriskie, Melody Meeter, Daniel Meeter, and Jack Elliott
20 October, Wednesday
The meeting was convened with worship in the Chapel, led by Paul and Dan G., at 1:00 pm.
Agreed to move the discussion about the General Secretary search into the afternoon.
Introductions and expressions of “why we are here.” Jack reminded us about the need for scholarships.
Okke led us through a study of Psalm 85 (non-linear structure) as a small scale example of Biblical structures. Large scale example: structural center of Torah is Leviticus, structuring the liturgy of worship (part 1) and the liturgy of life (part 2). Being reformed according to the Scripture means that all the new things need to be able to be embedded into the Biblical structures: it is a script. 1. we have to testify the Testaments and 2. Reformed Doctrine is not biblicism but its theology share the biblical non-linear hermeneutic. God turns us toward the world he made, and we turn towards God, and thus the world is made a better place. There is space for playing and unfolding in our ecclesiastical structures far beyond ‘ends’ and ‘means’, and we will grow into them by tracing them and participating in them.
Jack led a discussion of the agenda. Al asked to add discussions of the desire among some Koreans for autonomous ecclesiastical structures (can we function together as a church?) and a discussion of classes being assessed for unpaid Covenant of Care obligations (does the General Synod have the authority to assess for this) and the issue of the RCA leaving its offices at 475 Riverside Drive. Bill H. wished to talk about the Al Amana mission.
Bill H. led us into a discussion of the Al Amana mission in Oman. Doug Leonard has just gone to be new director, replacing Michael Bos. Doug is trying to set up a foundation and an endowment for the Center. There will be a fundraising dinner on 30 October at the Bronxville Church. Bill T. suggested that CI support somebody from the RCA who should go but cannot afford it.
Jack began the discussion about the next meeting. The plan was to meet in Chicago in May. Does October work better (before GSC/Commission meetings). Also, if the October meeting is the deep thinking meeting, mid-west makes more sense in October. Agreed that the October, 2011, meeting be in Chicago, pre-pending the denominational meetings.
Paul Janssen moderated a round-table discussion of ideas about the General Secretary search. Personalities have shaped the office: clerk of General Synod, leader of denomination, GSC staff supervisor, etc.
Qualities our group thought useful:
- Not a head of communion.
- an elder or minister in the RCA who is credentialed by a classis, so that this person may be a member of a Synod. (the GSC staff operates from the ethos that the RCA is a megachurch, staffed by the GSC staff; CI has a different ethos [Our Song of Hope], but it is a fading ethos in the denomination).
- Someone who can authentically listen so that all parties felt they were listened to.
- Being religiously multi-lingual (able to speak to the various voices in the RCA) and perhaps literally multi-lingual
- Aware of RCA’s history
- Many want it to be a parish pastor
Search committee will define job description, but so will next candidate. The search committee has not a lot to work with and a short timeline; timeline pressure is a danger. What is the function of a denomination in the US today? What do we want the RCA to be? If the next person is meant to carry out the remainder of the current 10-year goal, needs to be a true believer; but, after that, we may need to deal with ambiguity. It will be a mistake to focus on the details of the biography rather than the skills and qualities. We have a lot of broken pastors, and no one is paying attention to any of them; next General Secretary must respect work that is going on in the parishes, and appreciates that brokenness. While there are various ethoi in the RCA, there is barely an RCA; next General Secretary may not be able to keep it together, and will have heavy burdens in terms of staff management to hold it together. Structurally, the search is for a General Secretary for the GSC, not the General Synod; those two positions are in some conflict. Staff needs to do work, feel good about what they do, and get it done without micromanagement.
Gregg Mast thinks this can all be done in a few meetings. How many candidates are there, really? The ethos of the Church in North America is that denominations have heads of communion; is the RCA interested in dealing with any of these bodies? Does the fact that this has become a CEO job mean we need a CEO person? Is this really two positions?
What rights and privileges does the new General Secretary have to bring in her/his own team? Where will the conversation happen without the Church Herald? Hopefully, the committee will be allowed not to hire a General Secretary for 10 years ago or 5 years ago but 5 years from now; we don’t know how that looks, but committee needs to study Scriptures and discern God’s call. Important to be aware of the young RCA: more showing up in commissions; many sharp young pastors finding their voice.
We broke at 5:38 pm for fellowship and dinner, reconvening at 7:22 pm.
Resumption of Chicago discussion: The fall GSC/commission meetings are probably 13-15 October in 2011 and probably in Chicago. Cenacle can be a good choice for CI, because of mass transit, sources of libation within walking distance, etc
Al began a discussion on the push for a Korean Classis. For Al, this has to do with authority in terms of calls, supervisors, and new congregations, as well as the catholicity of the Church. Younger Korean pastors don’t want this, but they respect the elders; they feel they are Korean-Americans, not Americans, but they need to belong to the Korean Church. Older Koreans read the BCO differently from the Americans; there is good but lively interaction among congregations. Greater Palisades is engaging its Korean congregation—they struggle together—but this is not true across the denomination. There are also cross-syodical issues (especially with Koreans in Queens Classis).
This is an issue for how we live out RCA order—not a bad issue, but a tough issue. They are already living out challenges of multiculturalism while RCA as a whole is looking ahead to multiculturalism. Brooklyn, Queens, and Greater-Palisades classes are in the multi-cultural bulls-eye. The whole issue of non-geographic classes brought this to a head. Greater-Palisades is trying to say to the rest of the RCA: “this is where we are; this is where we need you to be with us.”
The RCA may not survive the advent of multiculturalism; it may not be structurally strong enough. The loss of theological unity, combined with the inevitable loss of cultural unity, may be too much. Koreans and other cultural groups have no entrée into RCA Church Multiplication circles. They feel shut out and ignored by denomination and by Far West. Church is messy business. Even if RCA goes away, classes still need to take care of this. RCA faces a choice between Leviticus structure and 1 & 2 Samuel (centralized) structure.
Daniel M. began the discussion of the RCA at 475. There are issues of the corporate authority of the General Synod if the RCA offices leave New York; racial issues when we claim that New York City is too expensive for staff (our churches live there); it is 20 years out of date, movement back towards the city; the multiculturalism of our staff is all tied to New York City; the symbolism of leaving New York City and abandoning an eastern view of what the church is over against a West Michigan view; it is economically silly given the rents. Shouldn’t this be a General Synod decision? Why isn’t it? Moving is not so much about the locality of the office, but the topology of where the staff is in the world.
Al began the discussion of General Synod assessing classes over insurance. Does the General Synod have the authority to do this? What will happen when a classis refuses to pay? One may have to do so, and force an ecclesiastical trial.
Recessed at 8:58 pm with prayer led by Joanne.
20 May, Thursday
Reconvened at 7:38 am with worship in the Chapel, led by James and Dan G., followed by fellowship around the breakfast table.
Jack began with housekeeping details. Jack will circulate (via e-mail) items for the next agenda, and we will respond.
We will meet 18 May 2011, 12:00 noon through 19 May 2011, 11:00 am at Mariandale Retreat Center, and 13 October 2011, 12:00 noon through 14 October 2011, 11:00 am (depending on the GSC-commission meeting schedule) at the Cenacle in Chicago (assuming the denomination meetings are in Chicago).
Discussion about the California Supreme Court ruling on the RCA being a hierarchical denomination (coming out of the Miraloma case). The court knew that the denomination is not made up of independent congregations like the Baptists, but did not consider the possibility of a connectional church. City Church bought the property for legal fees incurred by Classis and GSC guarantees, and compensated ousted folks for their legal fees .
Discussion about the amendments to the BCO before the classes this year. There was a lot of discussion to sort out the amendments regarding the professorate in the sections dealing with a more formal “Office” of General Synod Professor. Discussion about the nature of part-time professors, and whether the professorate, which will assemble, can function as an assembly. Also a discussion of the amendments for local consistories to have missional emphases, discipline of commissioned pastors, discipline of temporary members of the classis, and refining of the complaint process.
Discussion of potential overtures or lack thereof. The lack of advisory committees makes it difficult for General Synod to deal with overtures. Some think overtures shouldn’t exist, because they disrupt the management of the church. We need to hang onto and reclaim our language. This is not going back, but moving forward. Organizations have a biological imperative to survive, but “those who save their life shall lose it.”
Discussion of CI website: we need to post more often so that we are read more. More papers and/or comments. Howard Motz’s annual notes on the GS overtures each year would be a good thing to post, as well.
The steering committee continues to be Al, Okke, Bill H., Dan, and Jack, meeting on-line.
We will add to the posted minutes a note that the journal is available by contacting James, and Jack will circulate the journal to those attending. James will add dates for the upcoming meetings in the introductory note when the minutes are posted on the blog.
The meeting adjourned with prayer led by Jack at 10:31 am.
James Hart Brumm