The delegates of the 270th Synod of the Reformed Church in the United States (RCUS) met in sunny Bakersfield, California, on May 16th at Grace Reformed Church. During the Synod meeting, God’s Word was an ever present reality.
On Monday, we gathered for worship. Rev. Vern Pollema led in worship with a clear scriptural focus upon meeting with the Lord in order to hear His Word and respond faithfully with praise and prayer. The Grace Reformed Choir led us in “My Redeemer’s Love.” Rev. Howard Hart preached God’s Word from 2 Kings 13:14-25, “A Test of Zeal.” Rev. Hart called those who are actively ministering to God’s redeemed people to be faithful and continue in the spiritual fight in our land. We were encouraged to stand firm.
We gathered again for worship on Wednesday. Rev. David Dawn, after relaying the humorous account of the arranging of his marriage, led us into the presence of God for worship. During the worship service, we enjoyed the singing from a choir formed by many of the ladies that had traveled with their husbands to the Synod meeting. Rev. Michael Voytek brought God’s Word before the people of God from Psalm 107 and Matthew 6:9-13. We were encouraged to continue to pray as our Lord taught us in the Lord’s Prayer.
As is our custom, we opened up each day’s meeting with a 15-20 minute devotion, prayer, and hymn. Tuesday morning, Rev. Jim Sawtelle directed out attention to Ezekiel 16:1-14, reminding us that Christ loves His church, warts and all. He informed us that Jesus is about the beautifying of His bride. On Wednesday morning, Rev. Tracy Gruggett brought our focus upon Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 2:12-17 explaining Paul was the slave of Christ being led in Christ’s triumphant entry as a missionary. Thursday morning, Rev. Lee Johnson lead us in a Gospel-saturated, heart-humbling meditation upon 2 Samuel 9 and 19. He brought our attention to the humbled Mephibosheth and his desire to be in the presence of his Lord and Savior. The delegates were blessed to be led in God’s Word each day.
Following the convening of the meeting on Monday night, the delegates got to the business of the day. The roll was called with a total of 77 delegates present. This total figure did not include some of the men who would be present later, for some of our delegates were hindered in traveling and even one with illness. They would later gather with the rest of the body the next day. Following other organizational matters, such as the defining the bar of the house and assigning tellers, we proceeded with the elections of the officers.
There was change this year. Rev. Sawtelle gave a short speech explaining his desire to step down from the position of president. This led to the election of Dr. Frank Walker, who confessed to not coming prepared, for as he stood there, he pointed out his attire. He wore simple slacks, a casual button up long sleeve shirt, and bright tennis shoes. With the lack of a tie, some of the ladies who had gathered to support us felt led to purchase and give to Dr. Walker a tie. Needless to say, the casual appearance and humorous moments should not lead one to think Dr. Walker was not prepared to lead us in this meeting.
Because Dr. Walker was elected as the new President, this opened up the position he formerly held of Vice President. The Synod elected Rev. Kyle Sorensen as the new Vice President. He was also elected as the Reformed Herald Editor. Next on the docket was Stated Clerk and Rev. David Fagrey was re-elected to this position. Later in our meeting, we congratulated and showed our appreciation to Treasurer Ted Griess with a standing ovation. He had served as the Treasurer of Synod for over a decade. With his retirement, we once again considered a new candidate. The Finances Committee recommended for nomination Elder delegate Randy Schroeder from Peace Reformed Church in Napoleon, Ohio. He was elected and will begin his work July 1st. In the coming year, we must keep the new Executive Committee in our prayers. While you pray, also raise a prayer of thanksgiving for Rev. Sawtelle and Mr. Griess’ service.
As the meeting continued, the Synod was blessed to meet and greet the following Fraternal Delegates, visitors, new Ministers, and some Representatives of Institutions. As for Fraternal Delegates, we were honored to greet, meet, and seat in the bar of the house the following: Rev. Adrian Dieleman (URCNA), Rev. Alan Pontier (OPC), Rev. Napoleon Narag (Pearl of the Orient Covenant Reformed Church in the Philippines), Mr. Henry Van Delden (CanRC), and Rev. John Sawtelle (RPCNA). Each of these brothers was given opportunity to address the body with their church’s heart-felt greetings. It was a privilege to welcome some visitors this year: Mr. Rob Brinks from Reformed Missions Services, Licentiate Colin Samul from the Western Classis, Dr. Cornel Venema, president of Mid-America Reformed Seminary, Mr. Marlow Van Ginkel from Hope Haven, Nathan Fenby, a deacon of Covenant RCUS in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, and Dr. Gary Moes from Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary. This year’s delegates recognized and welcomed our newest ministers: Rev. Dr. Mark Larson (Peace RCUS, Garner, Iowa), Rev. Tim Marinelli (Redeemer RCUS, Minneapolis, Minnesota), Rev. Cody Schwichtenberg (First RCUS, Herreid, South Dakota), and Rev. Steven Carr (Grace RCUS, Rogers, Arkansas). What a wonderful God who continues to raise men to preach His good news in our church!
Following the opening proceedings, the delegates found out which committees they would be serving on this year. The business of the church can be found in the committee meetings. With the amount of business that takes place during the Synod meeting, perhaps it is best to highlight three key areas.
First, the Judicial Committee considered a previous change to the Constitution and uncovered the fact that it was not a change after all. They therefore recommended a proper change to Article 84. The wording can be found in the Abstract on page 76-77. The second highlight comes from the RCUS’ work in both Home Missions and Foreign Ministries. As a church, we are continuing to support all the works from the previous year. There are no new works yet. There is, however, a change in our approach in funding at least one of the Foreign Ministries, the Reformed Faith and Life radio ministry.
After pausing for a Roundtable Discussion (the first of its kind at a Synod meeting, which Elder delegate Roger Gallimore led for us: see his article in this issue of the Reformed Herald), it was very clear that we need to tackle the financial situation of the church as well as our need for more prayer. The Missions Committee met and considered “creative” responses to the situation. On the second Sunday of November, the RCUS will hold a day of prayer for our Foreign Ministries, and an offering will be gathered for Reformed Faith and Life. A third highlight comes from the Finances Committee. With some of the changes this year, the Finances Committee was able to keep Synod Dues and the Guidelines low. It is good when brothers can, in Christ, see eye to eye and move in positive directions.
Throughout the meeting, each delegate enjoyed warm fellowship with the local church and with each other. Many had the opportunity to further forge lasting friendships. And last, but not least, we enjoyed some of California’s best food. In closing, the delegates were honored to meet there in Bakersfield. We were overjoyed to celebrate God’s goodness with the saints of Grace Reformed and we look forward to next year’s meeting wherever that may be!
Rev. J.P. Mosley, Jr.