Most synods begin with joy. Pastors and elders from across the country gather to advance the work and ministry of the denomination as a whole. This begins with informal greetings, handshakes, and hugs. The first official business we do is gathering for worship. This year’s opening worship service was conducted by Pastor Jeff Munive (from Lancaster, CA) and Pastor Joe Vusich (from Rock Springs, WY) preached the sermon.
This year’s synod was hosted by Grace Reformed Church in Bakersfield, CA. Since they last hosted synod they completed a beautiful renovation of their worship hall and facility. They provided abundantly for all of our needs. The meals they provided were excellent and dozens of their members kindly served those who attended and provided for all their needs.
As is our practice, after the worship service, we took our initial roll call and then recessed until 8 AM Tuesday morning. The first scheduled item each day of the synod is a 20-minute devotion. The men who brought these devotions were as follows: Pastors Dan Schnabel (Hamburg, MN), Michael Lassley (Watertown, SD), and David Fagrey (Rapid City, SD). In addition to these longer devotions, various pastors also gave table devotions at the close of our meals. At the close of the synod an elder from the host church brought our meeting to a closing devotion. All to say, we try to practice what we preach. As we are sure to seek food for our physical bodies, we need also to provide spiritual food for our souls.
Our time at synod is always spiritually nourishing. Following this, the roll was called, and then elections. Elder Roger Gallimore (Rapid City, SD) was re-elected President, Pastor Michael McGee (Sioux Falls, SD) was re-elected Vice-President, and Pastor Carl Gobelman (Sutton, NE) was Clerk. After agreeing on our agenda, schedule, and special services, we welcomed fraternal delegates from the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and the United
Reformed Churches. Ordinarily, the Canadian Reformed Church sends and fraternal delegate but this year just sent their fraternal greetings via a letter and stated that they were planning to be in attendance next year. During the meeting, each of these men was able to bring greetings from their respective denominations.
Noted by Synod were the three new ministers who had been called and either ordained or installed to pastor churches in the RCUS. These three men were Tim Curtis (Modesto, CA), Sam Rodriguez (Gettysburg, PA), and Chester Au (laboring out of bounds in Millbrae, CA). After being introduced, these three men were invited to the front of the assembly, and delegates to synod extended the right hand of fellowship to them. As there are a growing number of vacant churches in the RCUS, how good to see how the Lord is providing under-shepherds for his flocks. May the Lord bless these men in their labors in the years to come.
Next were heard the reports of the officers of synod. In his first president’s report, Roger Gallimore voiced his appreciation for the opportunity to labor and serve the church in this capacity over the last year. He spoke of the church’s central calling: to make disciples of all nations. He then reflected on what the RCUS does well and what areas we could do better. He interacted with a number of proposals that are coming to synod through the reports of the various committees. He concludes his report by affirming that our confidence rests on the fact of God’s character and our call to give him all the glory. (See his full report elsewhere in this issue.)
There were a couple of special committees that brought reports to the synod. One was on the subject of Classical Boundaries and the other on ways to improve the Operations of Synod. The Boundaries of Synod Committee was erected in response to an overture from Northern Plains Classis.
Interestingly, in 1985, when the Eureka Classis was organized into a synod with four classes, the Northern Plains Classis was numerically the largest. However, over the years, due to the decline of the rural populations throughout the Midwest, the number and size of the churches have been decreasing. They asked synod to propose a plan to create greater parity with the other classes by redrawing the classical boundaries to organize classes that were closer in size with similar fields for future ministry and growth. Last year’s synod continued this committee to consist of the members of the executive committees of each classis. There were a number of recommendations proposed, edited, and adopted. As the RCUS Constitution has a provision that such decisions will need to be ratified by the affected classes, the proposed changes won’t go into effect until we hear back from the classes at next year’s synod. The other committee on the Operations of Synod brought a number of recommendations and most were adopted, some with amendments.
On Wednesday evening our second official worship service was held. At this service, Pastor Randall Klynsma conducted the worship service and Pastor Chester Au preached the message. He spoke on the golden lampstand found in the Tabernacle in Numbers 8:1-4 as well as the description of the lampstand in the Heavenly throne room in Revelation 1. He then connected the work and display of God’s grace in the lives of believers as one of the ways that God gathers his children. We are called to be the light of the world. I might add that the singing was robust as we joined together to praise the Lord.
There was a complaint brought against the Western Classis that alleged there were some errors in the way a case of discipline was handled. The Synod Executive Committee appointed a Special Judicial Committee to study the matter and bring a report to the synod with a disposition of the complaint. After recommittal, the synod censured Western Classis for failing to promote justice and directed the Classis to spend time at their next regular meeting reviewing the proper way to handle disciplinary matters.
Perhaps the most robust discussions of the synod took place as we considered financial matters. Over the years Benevolent Aid for individuals and churches, support for students studying for the ministry, and support for our retired ministers and their families have become an increasingly expensive burden to bear. Everyone recognizes the importance of these needs and the demographic reality of our aging ministerial core. It is very likely that the anticipated expenditures in these areas will continue to increase in the years ahead. To address this matter synod has directed the permanent Finance Committee to examine this matter and bring suggestions to next year’s synod.
As synods of the RCUS have concluded for centuries, the minutes were reviewed and approved, a closing roll call was taken, and a motion was made to adjourn to the time and place of the next synod. There was a closing devotion by Elder Todd Crabtree, of the host congregation. We then recited the Apostles Creed, and the Lord’s Prayer, received a parting benediction, and sang the doxology. May the Lord continue to bless and build His Church.
Your Reformed Herald Reporter,