More than 40 congregations have left the Reformed Church in America, one of the oldest Protestant bodies in the United States, over sexuality issues.
The departure of the Bible-based congregations to a new group, the Alliance of Reformed Churches, leaves some who remain in the RCA concerned for the denomination’s survival. Before the split, the nearly 400-year-old denomination had fewer than 200,000 members and 1,000 churches. At least 125 churches from various denominations are in conversation with ARC leaders about joining. It also comes after the United Methodist Church has struggled with the same issues.
“Realistically, it’s a large group of conservative churches that are also providing a lot of income to the denomination,” said Steven Rodriguez, an RCA church planter in Brockport, N.Y. “I really think the mass exodus of all these conservative churches is going to throw the RCA into a really difficult financial situation. I doubt the RCA will be financially sustainable for much longer.”
The new denomination, besides not affirming same-sex marriage or ordination of LGBTQ individuals, will have a strong emphasis on church planting and feature a flexible organizational model meant to foster theological alignment and efficient decision-making, according to ARC leaders.
“We have a passion for this remnant of believers to become a part of reformation and revival in the Northern Hemisphere,” said Tim Vink, the new denomination’s director of spiritual leadership and outreach. “Part of our strategic thinking is designing things for the 21st century that allow a multiplication of gospel-saturated churches and a multiplication of disciples.”
Other conservative-leaning churches in the RCA, including those that hold to the Bible’s admonition against homosexuality, as well as those in the Presbyterian Church in Canada, Christian Reformed Church in North America and Presbyterian Church in America, also are discerning whether to join the ARC, according to Vink.
The launch of ARC is part of a larger realignment within North American Protestantism. The last two decades have seen conservative Episcopalians, Presbyterians and Lutherans form their own denominations over LGBTQ inclusion and sexuality, and the United Methodists are scheduled to consider a denominational split in the fall.
–Alan Goforth | Metro Voice