Like pebbles tossed into a lake, consistories petitioning to leave the Reformed Church in America are creating widening ripples.
An initial ripple occurred when Peace Church in Middleville, MI (Pastor Adam Barr), petitioned South Grand Rapids Classis on January 23 of 2014. Subsequent to congregational advisory votes, five consistories in Illiana-Florida Classis submitted petitions on March 27. But most people didn’t notice the growing undulations until high-profile Pastor Kevin DeYoung announced in a May 27, 2014, blog post that the congregation of University Reformed Church in East Lansing, MI, had voted on April 27 and the following Wednesday the consistory unanimously approved petitioning South Grand Rapids Classis.
While Peace Church in Middleville intends to transfer to the Evangelical Presbyterian Church (EPC), all six of the other congregations hope to affiliate with the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA).
The five congregations in Illiana-Florida Classis include First Reformed Church of Lansing (Pastor Ben Kappers) in Lansing, IL, which has been a member of the RCA for over 100 years. Nearby Grace Church (Pastor Andy Nearpass) is also located in Lansing, IL. Other area churches planning to transfer are Crete Reformed Church in Crete, IL (Pastor David Smith), Peace Community Church in Frankfort, IL (Rev. Dr. Kurt Kruger), and Missio Dei Church in New Lenox, IL (Pastor Paul Vroom). Congregational support in favor of the consistories’ recommendations to leave runs high; the lowest was a 95% majority. Illiana-Florida Classis is scheduled to meet in October of 2014.
On his DeYoung, Restless, and Reformed blog (part of The Gospel Coalition network) Kevin DeYoung wrote, “[T]his decision on our part does not mean that we have already left the RCA. Now that our petition has been filed, we will enter into a formal process with the classis—a series of meetings and reports which will take place over the next 6-8 months, as spelled out in detail by our Book of Church Order. We anticipate a final vote on our petition sometime in the first part of 2015.”
Although declining to comment at length, saying he prefers to keep the discussion off the internet, he wrote: “Let me simply say at this point that our reason for seeking to leave the RCA is not one thing, but many things. From the adoption of the Belhar Confession, to the removal of the conscience clauses related to women’s ordination, to the growing acceptance of homosexual practice in the denomination, we believe the RCA has changed significantly in the last several years. The denomination has moved away from churches like ours. Our request is that we may be able to move too.”
The above article by Glenda Mathes appeared on page 6 of the July 16, 2014, issue of Christian Renewal.