RCA accepts Confession of Belhar as a gift
Sioux Falls-In early June the Reformed Church in America (RCA) met for their 204th Session of the General Synod. In 2009 the Synod voted to accept Belhar as confession, but a two thirds majority for a final vote adoption from the Presbyteries were needed. The decision to adopt was referred then back to the Presbyteries for study and a vote. In March of this year it was reported to Synod that a two thirds majority of the Presbyteries voted in favour. The first order of business for this Synod was to consider the Belhar Confession for adoption. After a formal vote on the confession it was accepted by 196 votes against 6. The acceptance of Belhar brings to a close a process which was started by the late Rev James Buys and Rev Leonardo Appies in 1995. Revds Buys and Appies, presented the Belhar Confession formally to the RCA’s General Synod in New Jersey. They told the Synod that Belhar was a gift from URCSA to the RCA. They challenged the RCA to study, reflect and determine what Belhar would mean for them. Since that time the RCA did an in depth study of Belhar on a variety of levels in that church. During the process they consulted with URCSA and called on URCSA to help them with the interpretation of certain issues in the confession.
Although Belhar was presented officially to the RCA in 1995, they already engaged the confession since 1985. This process, which started with James Buys and Leonardo Appies, concluded on June 10, when the RCA passed the “declarative act” as the final, formal step to the adoption of Belhar as fourth confession.
The Synod presented the moderator, Prof Thias Kgatla and actuarius Rev Godfrey Betha with a plaque to mark this historic occasion. The inscription on the plaque thanks the URCSA for the gift of Belhar. “On this historic occasion we give thanks for those who drafted the Belhar Confession and who had a vision of sharing it with the church at large,” the inscription reads.
After Belhar was accepted the General Synod held a worship service led by Rev Doug Fromm, the RCA associate for Ecumenical Relations.
The Belhar Confession has now joined the RCA’s historic standards: the Heidelberg Cathecism with its Compendium, the Canons of Dort, and the Belgic Confession of Faith.