A Discussion on Biblical Covenant
for the Reformed Church in America
As approved by the 2017 General Synod in R 17-18
Thank you for your willingness to participate as a facilitator for a Listening Together workshop. This is a process guide that has been developed as a resource to assist you in that work.
Under the direction of the Holy Spirit, this guide is intended to cultivate a safe environment where all participants can discuss the suggested questions of R 17-18 and others that are raised in the course of conversation. The process is designed to encourage deepening of relationships while 1) reflecting on the history, present ministry, and potential future ministry of the Reformed Church in America; and 2) carefully considering biblical themes of covenant and the implications of the theological differences present throughout the denomination.
This process was created in order to fulfill the work of proposal R 17-56, which was passed by General Synod 2017 and finalized as R 17-18 in the Minutes of General Synod. The proposal, made by former general secretary Tom De Vries, arose out of the understanding that significant tension exists throughout the denomination around difficult biblical and societal questions. These conversations are not intended to answer those questions; the goal of Listening Together is to listen to God, listen to one another, and begin a greater discernment process for the denomination around the ideas of biblical covenant.
Listening Together is offered in several formats to fit each context. You and your assembly’s leaders may choose from: 1) one 3-hour session, 2) two 2-hour sessions, or 3) your own adapted format. Please consult with your assembly’s clerk and/or president to decide on which format to adopt. As you are making your decision, please note: it will be extremely difficult to engage with the full content of this process in one 3-hour workshop without feeling rushed or incomplete. For that reason, we strongly suggest that groups choose the two 2-hour workshop format or adapt the workshop to your context. Suggested ways to adapt the process would be to shorten content, lengthen session times, or change the way you discuss the questions (use video conference technology instead of in-person meetings, read different scripture passages, change the individual vs. group times, use flipchart paper, have participants draw their answers, use dot stickers, etc.).
No matter how you proceed, in order to fulfill the request of R 17-18, we need you to create a space where your assembly can listen to God, listen to each other, study scripture, reflect on the three questions of R 17-18, and fill out the survey online or download a fillable pdf of the survey. The feedback from these denomination-wide conversations, collected via the survey, will be given directly to the interim general secretary, Don Poest. He will share the responses with the General Synod Council at their spring 2018 meeting. Together, they will determine next steps. A full report of both the process and the results will be shared at General Synod 2018.
It is vital that participants who commit to this process take part in all parts of the process: preparatory work, part one, part two, part three, part four, and conclusion. Each format also includes an invitation at the end of the last session for participants to prayerfully consider co-hosting an additional Listening Together event.
Information for participants will be distributed in an email from Don Poest and on all RCA social media channels. However, we strongly encourage you to share this beyond regional and classis boundaries, e.g.: churches together, classes together, or regional synods together. The Listening Together workshop process is designed to easily be explained and shared among anyone who is interested in facilitating this conversation. The more we can engage with the process, the more discernment we can do and the more voices will be heard.
Invitations will be sent to the parties named in the approved proposal (General Synod Council, regional synod executives, and classis clerks). These groups are also encouraged to extend the invitation beyond their membership to include congregations, small groups, and other churches.
As the facilitator for a Listening Together workshop, it is important that you make the effort to have all of your conversation participants begin the discussion on the same page. For that purpose, we have put together material for participants to work through before attending their in-person conversation. Please send them the link to the preparatory work to ensure that all people are entering these conversations with a similar heart and mind. We have drafted an email that you may use for your invitation that explains more about both their preparation and the discussion day. Ideally, the preparatory material would be sent 1-4 weeks before the workshop event.
On the day(s) of your workshop, facilitators should bring:
• Printed copies of the survey to have available in case any participants do not have a tablet or laptop or are not comfortable taking the survey online. (You will be responsible to enter any written answers electronically after the workshop.)
• Printed copies of the appendix found on this page, which contains texts that your participants will review together.
• Your Bible.