In July, Christian Renewal reported that several congregations of the Reformed Church in America had petitioned their classes with the intent to withdraw from the RCA. The most visible of those congregations, University Reformed Church in East Lansing, MI, held a second congregational vote on November 23, 2014. At this second meeting, over 95 percent voted in favor of the motion to withdraw.
In a November 24 post on The Gospel Coalition blog, Kevin DeYoung (the church’s senior pastor) explained that the special congregational meeting had been called by a classis committee assigned to investigate reasons for the withdrawal request. DeYoung was given ten minutes to present reasons for withdrawal, while the committee spoke for ten minutes against the motion to withdraw. Following these brief presentations, members of the congregation had opportunity to ask questions during a thirty-minute time frame.
A vote by ballot showed 95.3 percent in favor of leaving the RCA and affiliating with the PCA (Presbyterian Church in America). Those votes represented 91 percent of the church’s communicant membership.
DeYoung explained what could now happen: “In the next month, the classis committee will meet with representatives of the PCA to ascertain whether we would be received into our new denominational home with open arms. The committee will then write a report, with recommendations, that will go before the whole classis.”
That report is due in January and South Grand Rapids Classis will vote on the committee’s recommendation in March.
“If our church is given permission to withdraw from the RCA we can officially join the PCA once (1) any classis stipulated obligations are met and (2) the elders and pastors are examined and received into membership by the Presbytery of the Great Lakes,” DeYoung wrote. “Please continue to pray for a fair process and an outcome that will best serve the interest of Christ’s kingdom.”
Another church in South Grand Rapids Classis petitioning for withdrawal is Peace Church in Middleville, MI (Pastor Adam Barr), which seeks affiliation with the Evangelical Presbyterian Church (EPC).
Five congregations of the RCA’s Illiana-Florida Classis have also petitioned for withdrawal: First Reformed Church of Lansing in Lansing, IL (Pastor Ben Kappers); Grace Church in Lansing, IL (Pastor Andy Nearpass); 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). These five hope to affiliate with the PCA.
The above article appeared on pages 8 & 9 of the December 17, 2014, issue of Christian Renewal. The following recently submitted article follows up.
On March 23, 2015, Kevin DeYoung announced on The Gospel Coalition blog that the RCA classis had approved on Saturday, March 21, the request from University Reformed Church to transfer to the PCA. The transfer, however, came with a price—nearly $300,000.
That figure represents the church’s annual assessments for 2015 and 2016 (around $80,000) plus $200,000 to assist Great Lakes City Classis, which formerly was South Grand Rapids Classis, in planting another local church. The congregation of University Reformed Church, along with the church’s property, will transfer to the Great Lakes Presbytery of the PCA.
DeYoung, the church’s Senior Pastor, as well as Associate Pastor Ben Falconer and Assistant Pastor Jason Helopoulos, will likely undergo examinations before their formal reception into the PCA.
In his TGC post, DeYoung explains, “We needed approval from the classis…in order to transfer into the PCA, especially if we wanted to transfer in an orderly way with our church building and without any legal wrangling.”
He further relates how the committee tasked to investigate the church’s petition to leave the RCA recommended that petition be denied. Classis did not adopt the committee’s recommendation, choosing instead to approve a substitute motion granting the transfer with financial stipulations. A delegate proposed an amendment to strike the $200,000 requirement from the substitute motion, but that amendment failed. Delegates passed the substitute motion with requirements intact.
DeYoung hopes the transfer process will be completed within “the next several months,” however, he notes that the funds “do not have to be paid in full before the transfer can be finalized.”
He expressed his gratitude to classical brothers and sisters for granting the transfer, saying, “I am grateful for their hard work in what was at times a painful and difficult process. I do not wish the RCA or our classis any harm. This is the classis I grew up in, the classis I was ordained in, and the classis I’ve been a part of in one way or another for more than twenty years.”
He added, “Together with our entire congregation I pray for God’s blessing and protection on the denomination we are leaving. At the same time, we also pray with thanksgiving and eager expectation for the denomination we are about to join. We have no illusions that we are entering a perfect church communion (none exist on earth), but we are excited to be a part of the Great Lakes Presbytery and serve alongside like-minded congregations and like-minded brothers and sisters in the PCA for decades to come. We are eager to make friends, find our way, and follow Christ in our new denominational home.”