On Saturday afternoon the Great Lakes City Classis (formerly the South Grand Rapids Classis), one of forty-five classes in the Reformed Church in America (RCA), approved University Reformed Church’s request to transfer to the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA). As a condition of its transfer, together with all its real and personal property, University Reformed Church (URC) must pay its annual assessment for 2015 and 2016 (roughly $80,000 total) and pay an additional $200,000 so that the classis can plant another church in the area.
I’ve written before about how URC voted to leave the RCA–first as an internal “discerning the mind of the congregation” vote and second as an official part of the transfer process. There was some confusion after these earlier votes that URC had actually left the RCA and joined the PCA. But in RCA polity a church’s departure is not a unilateral decision. We needed approval from the classis (the regional governing body in the RCA) in order to transfer into the PCA, especially if we wanted to transfer in an orderly way with our church building and without any legal wrangling.
The classis committee investigating our petition recommended that our request be denied and we not be able to leave the RCA. The classis, however, approved a substitute motion which granted URC and its pastors a transfer into the PCA. A proposed amendment to strike the $200,000 requirement from the substitute motion failed. The final vote to approve the substitute motion, with the conditions mentioned above, passed with little opposition.
We still have to work out some procedural details with the classis executive committee and then make plans for our examination and formal reception in the PCA. We hope to complete this process in the next several months. The monies we owe to the classis do not have to be paid in full before the transfer can be finalized.
The point of this update is to provide information, not commentary. Consequently, I’ve closed the comments on this post. The discussion that mattered did not take place online but in a church basement in Detroit on Saturday morning. I am grateful to the brothers and sisters in the classis for granting our transfer into the PCA. I am grateful for their hard work in what was at times a painful and difficult process. I do not wish the RCA or our classis any harm. This is the classis I grew up in, the classis I was ordained in, and the classis I’ve been a part of in one way or another for more than twenty years. I’ve known some of the pastors in the classis for almost my entire life. On the day I become a pastor in the PCA it will be the first day I’ve been a member of any church other than the Reformed Church in America. I will always be grateful for the gospel I received from RCA pastors, RCA churches, RCA colleges, RCA camps, and RCA ministries.
Together with our entire congregation I pray for God’s blessing and protection on the denomination we are leaving. At the same time, we also pray with thanksgiving and eager expectation for the denomination we are about to join. We have no illusions that we are entering a perfect church communion (none exist on earth), but we are excited to be a part of the Great Lakes Presbytery and serve alongside like-minded congregations and like-minded brothers and sisters in the PCA for decades to come. We are eager to make friends, find our way, and follow Christ in our new denominational home.