Spring, 2011, meeting minutes

A complete journal of the meeting is available to all signatories upon request. Contact the scribe at JHartBrumm@aol.com.

The next meeting of signatories and guests will be Wednesday, 12 October, through Thursday, 13 October 2011, in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Watch this site for further details.

MINUTES: The 16th meeting of signatories of the Chicago Invitation and guests
18-19 May 2011 at Mariandale Retreat Center, Ossining, New York

Present: Jack Elliott, Ken Kobza, John Paarlberg, Gary Reetz, Peggy Funderburke, Harold Delhagen, Scott DeBlock, Daniel Meeter, Al Janssen, James Hart Brumm, Daniel Griswold, Bill Hertlein, Mike Hayes, Jim Reid, Okke Postma, Joanne Fernandez, Phyllis Palsma, Paul Janssen, and Tom Danney

    18 May, Wednesday

The meeting was convened with worship in the Chapel, led by Daniel M. with music provided by Daniel G., at 1:00 pm.

Introductions and expressions of “why we are here.” Everyone was asked to share one thing about herself or himself that nobody around the table knew.

Jack led us in a quick bit of housekeeping.

Daniel G. led us in a Bible study on 1 Peter 2:1-11.
• Persecution is often daily, ongoing, and subtle: the persecuted cannot get certain jobs, participate in certain activities, etc., and religious minorities are often treated this way. Peter seems to be addressing this; and the RCA and post-establishment mainline church can learn from this.
• We can grow by being attractive, but not by being self-satisfied or self-congratulatory. If location and grounded-ness are Christ’s work, what encouragement and judgment does that give to how the RCA operates? How are we at home in exile (the Dutch becoming Americans)?

Jack led us in a review of the agenda.

Jack led a discussion on the location and timing of the fall meeting. Only a few of us are going to GSC/Commission meetings in GR. Date would be 12-13 October (before those meetings). We need to encourage folks who are around there to come. It will probably cost $500/person. The Prince Center might be the best available.

VOTED—To meet in Grand Rapids 12-13 October 2011.

Prayer Concern: Carol Bechtel had a serious house fire recently. Everyone is fine, but prayers are needed.

Daniel G. briefed us on the upcoming report on deacons at assemblies from the Commission on Theology (CoT). He had been somebody historically opposed.
• Paul Fries has written a paper arguing for inclusion; Daniel G. is convinced.
• CoT has revised the Fries paper, still arguing not to include them in the judicatories, just the assemblies.
• The paper proposes no solution, but calls for conversation for a year. Opinion expressed that CoT needs to bring framework/structure with clear choices for all-synod discussions. The problem here is that the Synod—meant to be a deliberative body—is being used to discuss something with no end decision (not deliberation). Synod delegates will be asked to affirm the theology in this paper.

CoT has also written in opposition to the idea of classes ordaining elders.

Discussion of work toward starting new congregations with the Christian Reformed Church. This has polity implications as well as implications for our ecumenical relationships. Interrelationships of all Formula partners make the ecumenism “a beautiful mess.” Formula partners see future of the Formula in grass-roots efforts; regional synod efforts may work best here.

Long list of ecumenical delegates at this GS is because of Wes’ departure. Interest in CCU on having more ecumenical/mission partners present regularly at GS to dialogue with Synod s it does its work. Wes will be helping new Gen Sec out with ecumenical things one or two days a week. Synod of the Mid-Atlantics is moribund; difficult it to get grass-roots efforts going.

Review of the discussions around R-71 from GS2010, which had to do with assessing classes for unpaid insurance/Covenant of Care obligations. Concerns about how insurance funds are used, GS exceeding its authority, weaknesses of the Covenant of Care, and options for betting an open discussion of all this were raised.

Adding to this are problems among GSC staff leadership. People are worn out, and jobs are devolving to lower staff levels. New Gen Sec will have challenges for strategy and vision and administration.

We broke at 5:20 pm for fellowship and dinner, reconvening at 7:31 pm.

Discussion about the rules and amendments section of the BCO with regard to R-71. While the GS makes rules, there are procedures; Synod has discretion within the boundaries and directives of the Constitution and the Rules of Orders. Also, it is the GS and not the GSC that has this power.

Jack shared a communication from Bill Te Winkle (an original CI signatory), raising an issue about the concept of visionary leadership, involving a quotation from Life Together by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Visionary leadership has become popular in Christian circles, and is most often abusive of its followers.

Discussion of the new General Secretary candidate: there have been three questions going around, about his commitment and practice regarding infant baptism, apostolic leadership, and women in ministry.
• There needs to be a public discussion at GS to make this all clear. The rumors and e-mail/Facebook approach that doesn’t allow Tom DeVries to respond to the questions is unfair.
• We need to be in conversation with Tom on a regular basis. Suggested we invite Tom to lead opening devotions at October CI meeting.

There may be a move to amend the recommendation to hire Tom to include a five-year term. Strategies were discussed: a second is needed right away, along with three people right away to give brief, reasonable grounds for the amendment.

Can we have a delegate or lower assembly request a review of the search process?
• This search was a closed, corporate search model. It was expected that this would not be a larger process of discernment and decision-making in the church. The GSC may be impervious to criticism about this now. How does such a closed system effect the church?
• How has Carver-lite begun to change the life of the church as a whole, beyond the GSC? We were not in the search committee, do not know what went on there.
• The bigger problem is that the Synod will not really choose its Stated Clerk, only endorse the choice of the GSC. Other Presbyterian-Reformed bodies have a more open process, where the assembly feels it has chosen somebody.

We are expecting reactions in the RCA to the PCUSA vote to allow homosexuals to serve in ministry. But perhaps the purists on this issue are losing energy. We may also be called to task by our Formula of Agreement partners.

Recessed at 9:18 pm with prayer led by Harold.

    19 May, Thursday

Reconvened at 7:30 am with worship in the courtyard, led by James, followed by fellowship around the breakfast table.

Mike gave an update on City Church and the City Center Classis.
• Two new congregations being organized this year.
• Still working on how to be a geographically diverse classis and how to relate to geographic classes; congregations must make reports to local geographic classes, and regional synod assessments go to the regional synod where the congregation is physically located.
• Newbigen Project progresses toward seminary in the West.
• Participation in the CRC-RCA task force on multiplication, and asking to include the PCUSA and input from Earl James’ office.
• They are looking at a collegiate model for congregations in San Francisco.
• Looking at different ways of measuring vitality and sustainability.
• Newbigen Project is currently a project of WTS, hooking into its distance learning program; this may become like a branch of WTS in San Francisco, in a way.

Discussion about the need to look at what it means to be organized. A major CI conversation around the Spring, 2012, meeting, with a warm-up conversation in October, was discussed. Suggested we begin to frame such a discussion over the next two meetings. Mike, Harold, Jim, and Al, convened by James, will begin to prepare a discussion. There will be a preliminary discussion at the October meeting, followed by a deeper discussion next Spring.

Discussion of impacts of differing cultural understandings on polity.
• Classical boundaries (geographic and other) will be a major concern for the Commission on Church Order (CCO).
• We need to think in terms of bonds more than boundaries (discussions of benzyne and sex peppered this). Episcopae and koinonia both part of the job of the classis—as a rule, classis has been better at episcopae.
• Questions of locality and neighboring and geographic boundaries are shifting. The big work of this isn’t going on at GS or regional synod levels, but at the classis level and congregational level.

Jack reminded us that he is dependent, as moderator, on all of us providing the agenda.

John reported that the RCA-Roman Catholic dialogue has produced a common Baptismal certificate. This will come to GS2011 for approval.

Discussion of a new common translation of the Standards. This is part of the work leading to the new bi-denominational hymnal

Phyllis, Jim, and Okke will serve as an agenda committee.

Elected Jack Elliott moderator for the coming year.

Elected Bill TeWinkle treasurer for the coming year.

Recommended that Jack, as moderator, contact Michelle Chahine, GSC moderator and BoBS member, to the October meeting for BoBS discussion. Also inviting new Gen Sec.

Meeting for Spring, 2012, tentatively set for 16-17 May at Mariandale Retreat Center.

MFCA is planning to use Carver Governance, and trying to revert to the old TEA model, with director accountable to MFCA Board and not staff. This is in the GS workbook: http://www.rca.org/workbook.

Discussion about the upcoming Orlando discernment gathering.

We have a growing issue of classes and regional synods reaching financial breaking points. This is not regional, but across the denomination. We need to find ways to be in accountable fellowship, and ask what we need to do together to help one another.

GS workshop run by the Working Group on Palestine and Israel on Saturday of GS will be co-led by Jewish rabbi and Palestinian Christian.

The meeting adjourned with prayer led by John at 10:46 am.

Respectfully submitted,
James Hart Brumm

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