In an article on the Christian Post Professor Donald A. Luidens is quoted about the RCA, "Listen. Do you hear them? Those are the gentle, mournful sounds of a denomination imploding..."The denominational craft has carried us far, but its time is up. It has sprung debilitating leaks which can no longer be plugged. ..."It was here; it flourished; it ministered; it floundered; and then it was gone ... It is time to look for a new vehicle, or collation of vehicles, to move the church faithfully and compellingly into the twenty-first century." Sometime ago I was a member of an RCA church and experienced what Luidens here speculates.
The articles continues, Amid years of contention between liberals and conservatives over issues such as the civil-rights movement, women's ordination and evangelism with regard to social witness, Luidens says "loyalists" emerged to keep the denomination together. They were more dedicated to denominational survival than to ideological purity, he notes. ...Moreover, Luidens points out from studies of RCA members that many in the Reformed churches have little knowledge of the doctrinal standards of the denomination, including the Heidelberg Catechism, Canons of the Synod of Dort, and Belgic Confession. Though there is a high level of assent to such doctrinal verities as the sovereignty of God, the divinity of Christ and the important of the Bible, the Hope College professor found that there is also a widespread affirmation that personal actions and beliefs are central to determining their eternal fates and that Christianity is not the only route to eternal life. ..."What emerges from these data theologically, then, is a generic form of American evangelicalism with a thin Calvinist overlay," he says. I can't help but to agree and hence after much soul searching determined it was time to jump ship and seek a new port. I can attest to his comment that many in the Reformed churches have little knowledge of the doctrinal standards of the denomination, including the Heidelberg Catechism, Canons of the Synod of Dort, and Belgic Confession. They weren't taught or mentioned and no one seemed to care.
However, Bradley G. Lewis, professor of Economics at Union College in Schenectady, N.Y., thinks otherwise: The glue that once held the RCA together may have eroded, but Lewis suggests that new glue is already forming. Lewis sees hope in some of the new developments including: the new array of options for training ministers in Word and sacrament, coached clergy networks that offer support and encourage accountability, general synods that have given greater voice to delegates, greater dialogue between conservatives and liberals on what they've learned from visiting Christians in other countries, and foreign churches seeking partnerships with the RCA. I do so hope he is correct. These areas were truly lacking during my short tenure in the denomination. Doctrinally it was an abyss.
Indeed, the RCA ship as they knew it in 1970 or 1980 has imploded, Lewis affirms. But the current RCA vessel is nowhere near the ocean bottom, he suggests.
In the final analysis, it is for those within the denomination to determine if a lifeboat is necessary or if they should just jump ship swim for their lives. I hope they can swim.