RCA Pastor Refuses to Repent
The senior pastor of the third-largest Reformed Church in America (RCA) congregation has refused to recant unorthodox beliefs, but the 316,000-member denomination may let him leave with his flock and building rather than risk an acrimonious and lengthy disciplinary process.
Muskegon Classis, the regional governing body, voted 38 to 19 on February 29 to "work toward a peaceful separation" of Richard Rhem from the RCA if he refuses to recant. Rhem, pastor for the past 25 years of Christ Community Church in Spring Lake, Michigan, admittedly does not believe in "the definitive authority of Scripture and salvation through Christ alone."
Rhem's troubles stem from allowing members of the largely homosexual Muskegon Metropolitan Community Church to use the chapel of Christ Community last year.
On March 5, the Muskegon Classis voted unanimously "to grant dismissal of the congregation, including real and personal property and indebtedness." if the majority of the congregation wants to leave. The church, with a membership of 3,565, carries a $1.3 million mortgage on its real estate.
"The congregation has repeatedly expressed solidarity with me and this ministry," Rhem, 61, told CT. "I'm concerned most of all to keep my congregation intact and to protect my colleagues." Two other ordained ministers are on the staff. The congregation has not taken a vote on whether to leave the RCA.
Whatever happens to Rhem and his congregation could be a watershed.
"This discussion would be healthy for us as a denomination," RCA spokesperson E. Wayne Antworth told CT. "Dick is not the only pastor in the denomination who holds these views, and we've always prided ourselves on theological diversity."