Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Some Facts about Constitutional Change in the RCA

Over the past few months I've been tasked with doing some rather heavy thinking about the Reformed Church in America.  One of the issues I've had to grapple with is whether positive reform (as understood by myself and the leadership of First Church) is possible given the current system at work in the RCA.  To that end I did some research on the process for constitutional reform for the Book of Church Order, Confessions, and Liturgy of the Reformed Church in America.

If you have an interest in the Reformed Church in America, these facts may be something you'll find enlightening.


There are 45 classes.

"Classes" is plural for classis.  (Presbyterian friends, think presbytery.)

The RCA had a total confessing membership of 150,437 as of 2012

The RCA gives each classis one vote in determining whether to accept or reject constitutional amendments.

The RCA requires approval of 2/3 (currently 30) of the classes to ratify constitutional changes.

The largest classis is Zeeland Classis with 10,199 members.

The smallest classis is Canadian Prairies with 360 confessing members.

The average classis has 3,343.04 members.

The median classis is New Brunswick Classis with 2,725 members.

If you combine the 11 smallest classes, Zeeland Classis still has 866 more members.

A classis of 866 would be larger than six current classes.

Of the smallest 11 classes, 9 voted to remove the conscience clauses.

If you combine the nine smallest eastern classes, Zeeland Classis (10,199) still has 195 more total members.

If you combine the eight smallest eastern classes, Illiana-Florida (8,498) still has 359 more members.

If  Illiana-Florida Classis received eight votes for constitutional ratification, the Belhar Confession would not be a confession for the Reformed Church in America and we would still have the conscience clauses.

It takes 29 Zeeland Classis members to equal the per-member influence of 1 Canadian Prairies Classis member when classis votes are taken.

Schoharie Classis members are weighted 12 times more heavily than Illiana-Florida Classis members in classis votes.

Each of the Midwestern regional synods (groups of classes) are underrepresented when classis votes are taken.

They are underrepresented by a total of 23.82%.

Each of the Eastern regional synods are overrepresented when classis votes are taken.

They are overrepresented by a total of 15.4%.

Regional Synod of Mid-Atlantics has the same number of classes (4) as the Regional Synod of the Mid-Atlantics.

Regional Synod of the Mid-America has 42% more members than Regional Synod of the Mid-Atlantics.

Regional Synod of the Mid Atlantics is the most proportionally represented synod when classis votes are taken.

Of the smallest ten classes, six are in the east, eight of fifteen, and twelve of twenty.

It is possible for classes representing 62.22% of the RCA's membership to attain only 1/3 of the classis votes, thus failing to stop a constitutional change.

Conversely, it is possible for classes representing 38.78% of the RCA's total membership to attain the necessary 2/3 of the classis votes required to make a constitutional change.

If the three regional synods east of the Appalachian Mountains vote as a bloc, they have 37.7% of the classis votes while having only 22.37% of the total membership.

Attaining 37.7% of classis votes is sufficient to stop any proposed constitutional change.

Changing this process requires the approval from 30 of the RCA's 45 classes.

28 classes are currently overrepresented when classis votes are taken.

Hopefully in the next day or two I can share with you some conclusions I've reached after considering all these different facts (and many more that could have been shared).

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