A conservative group in the Reformed Church in America (RCA) has left the denomination and formed the Alliance of Reformed Churches (ARC) due to disagreements over same-sex marriage and LGBT clergy.
Same-sex marriage and LGBT-identifying clergy have caused splits in many denominations and now the RCA will split as well. At the RCA’s 214th General Synod last October, the denomination set in motion the split after longstanding disagreements over LGBT issues.
Churches that hold to the biblical view of marriage will be allowed to seek another denominational home, including the ARC, without giving up their assets and buildings. Brian Keepers, who presented the recommendation, said, “We believe that the RCA has an opportunity in this moment to act in an exemplary way by providing a generous exit path for churches who decide to leave, and also by inviting these churches to act generously themselves.”
Some are concerned that the RCA, a denomination with less than 200,000 members and 1,000 churches, will not survive the split. Steven Rodriguez, an RCA church planter in New York, said,
“Realistically, it’s a large group of conservative churches that are also providing a lot of income to the denomination. 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.”
125 churches are in talks with the ARC about joining the new group, which, in addition to rejecting LGBT clergy and same-sex marriage, wants to emphasize church planting. Tim Vink, ARC’s director of spiritual leadership and outreach, said,
“We have a passion for this remnant of believers to become a part of reformation and revival in the Northern Hemisphere. Part of our strategic thinking is designing things for the 21st century that allows a multiplication of Gospel-saturated churches and a multiplication of disciples. … We want to be a safe landing pad for churches in the near term, but in the long term want to be a serious launching pad for the Church, in mission, to the world.”
Joel Baar, an ARC board member and elder at Fellowship Reformed Church in Hudsonville, Michigan, which elected to join the ARC, said,
“As the RCA was attempting to define and clarify marriage and efforts had been happening over the decades in that regard, there continued to be this tension within the RCA of whether or not the Bible was the full authority of God’s Word. We started feeling at Fellowship we no longer belonged within the RCA.”
While theological alignment is of critical importance in the ARC, individual churches decide on “second-tier issues” such as women’s ordination. Every five years, churches and the denomination will evaluate if they should continue working together. Dan Ackerman, ARC’s director of organizational leadership, said
“The word alliance implies a choosing that happens so you can accomplish a certain thing, and then you reevaluate and say, is that alliance still helpful for the next chapter?”
When churches reject the authority of God’s Word, decline is imminent. Denominations crumble when they elevate human wisdom over that of God’s wisdom. While it is commendable that the RCA is allowing churches that leave to keep their assets, it is also hardly grace-filled. The RCA is the group refusing to take a stand on the biblical view of marriage and LGBT issues. The churches leaving the denomination are the ones being faithful.
If you are going to reject God’s Word on something as clear as LGBT clergy, why pretend to follow God in other areas? Denominations routinely split over this issue and at the root of it is debate over whether God’s Word is inspired, inerrant, and authoritative.