It’s Decision Time, Finally A Path Forward for the Christian Reformed Church on the Divided Issue of Women’s Ordination to Ecclesiastical Office

Throughout life there are many times when two people or two parties will have differing opinions about a certain issue.  In a democratic society this fact is all the more highlighted because debates are hotly contested and then after a vote, the majority position is the one that is taken to be the law of the land.  Those in the minority submit to the ruling because overall it is what the majority of people wanted.  One can continue to protest and work towards reversing the ruling, but in the meantime they must be under submission to the current state of affairs.  There cannot be two different, contrary laws in effect at the same time left up to the individual citizen to choose which one he will follow at any one particular time.

When we start talking about issues in the church, the analogy to a democratic state falls apart on many levels, but there are some similarities.  The church, or at least a particular representation of the church, has one body of truth to which it holds.  In confessional churches that body of truth is spelled out concretely on many, many issues. There is no leeway (or there shouldn’t be any leeway) given for one to hold a contrary position.  Granted there are some issues where Scripture is not as clear and where the church has not spoken decisively on an issue, and those differences do not, or should not, affect the unity and harmony of the church.

There are, however, some issues the church (or a particular denomination) is wrestling with that have caused much strife and division, and the church has officially proclaimed two contrary positions to be biblically viable.  One such issue is women’s ordination to the ecclesiastical offices of the church especially as it is being played out in the Christian Reformed Church in North America (CRC).  Recently, this issue has focused on women being able to be delegates to the broader assemblies (classis and Synod), whereas in the past decade or so the issue of women’s ordination was kept, at least officially, on the congregational level.  The Synod of the CRC in 1995 ruled that both the position for women in ecclesiastical office and against women in ecclesiastical office to be biblical and allowed individual classes to make their own ruling as to which position their classis would take. Subsequently, the individual classes were allowed to make their own ruling as to whether women were permitted to be delegates  to that particular assembly.   With the most
recent CRC Synod of 2007 the question of women being allowed to be delegates to the broadest assembly, that of Synod, took center stage.What follows is neither an attack or a defense of the issue of women in ecclesiastical office.  It is a critique of the CRC’s official position that either side is biblically correct and an examination how that official position only superficially covered the problem in the past but how it now reveals its ugly face in the broader assemblies.  This article will show that the CRC cannot continue having as its official position that women should and should not be given access to all levels of authority in the church. For the peace, harmony, and unity of the church a decisive ruling needs to be made.  To make this claim it will be shown that this “official position” is hurting the unity of the church and although a decisive ruling will most certainly cause visible splitting of the denomination, overall it will benefit Christ’s Church by allowing the broader assemblies to continue in the task of making sure that the gospel is being preached and Christ’s sheep are being fed.

The History of the Women in Office Issue in the CRC

The current state of the issue in the CRC cannot be addressed without a look at its history.  Although a very detailed study of the issue as it has played out in the CRC would be most appropriate, for the sake of brevity only the “highlights” can be presented here.1
For all intents and purposes the debate concerning women in ecclesiastical office began in the CRC in 1973, when a Study Committee formed by the Synod 1970 presented its report.2  The Study Com-mittee in Recommendation B.1 stated, “The practice of excluding women from ecclesiastical office cannot conclusively be defended on biblical grounds.”3  The Advisory Committee of Synod that took up the study report could not agree with the conclusions stating that “several issues need further examination” and therefore, advised Synod to send the report to the congregations for their reactions and to form a new Study Committee, which was adopted by Synod.4
The reactions of the congregations and the conclusions of the new Study Committee were brought to Synod 1975.  Out of the 165 responses, 146 did not agree with the conclusions to “Report 39” (the Study Committee report presented to Synod 1973), 17 favored the conclusions, and 2 were neutral on the issue.5  In the end, the new Study Committee presented the recommendation “that synod declare that the Christian Reformed Church is not ready or willing to open her offices to women.”6  The Advisory Committee of Synod that took up this report also had many questions concerning the study report, and so it advised Synod to “declare the practice of excluding women from the ecclesiastical offices… be maintained unless compelling biblical grounds are advanced for changing that practice.” 7

Synod 1975 also mandated a Study Committee of Old Testament andNew Testament scholars to study the hermeneutical principles as well as the exegesis of the relevant Bible passages.8  The conclusions of the Study Committee presented at Synod 1978 did not necessarily weigh in on the matter of women in ecclesiastical office (their mandate concerned the hermeneutical and exegetical level), but they did recommend that Synod affirm a number of points to which the authority in the church should be reserved for men; however, the committee also recommended in a Majority Report that the office of deacon be opened to women.9  This recommendation was adopted by the Synod, and the appropriate changes to the Church Order were to be ratified at the following Synod of 1979.10
Since Synod 1978 opened the door for women in the diaconate it is interesting to note the number of documents brought before the 1979 Synod concerning women deacons and women in office generally (16 Overtures, 31 printed appeals, 1 personal appeal, 6 communications, and 10 informative communications).11  Many of these documents requested annulment of the 1978 decision whereas some asked for clarification, deferment, and upholding.12   Obviously on this issue there was still a lot of hesitation on the part of the CRC congregations and classes to open the office of deacon to women.  Synod ultimately voted to submit the decision to further study, but to not disciplinethose congregations that already implemented the 1978 decision.13

During the 1980s the debate still loomed large in the CRC although in 1984 and 1985 the emphasis of discussion shifted to whether or not “headship” of men in marriage should be a regulative principle in the church as well, thereby barring women from the office of elder or minister on those grounds.  However, the issue took a big turn in 1990 when a Study Committee mandated by the 1987 Synod presented its report (Report 26) and ground-breaking decisions were made by the delegates to Synod. Without going into all the confusing details of the debate on the floor of Synod (at least confusing from reading the minutes of a meeting that took place over 17 years ago!) Synod decided to “change Article 3 of the church order to delete the word male from Article 3-a and merge Articles 3-a and 3-b to read ‘All confessing members of the Church who meet the biblical requirements are eligible for the offices of minister, elder, deacon, and evangelist.’”14 This was then to be ratified by Synod 1992, until which time the individual churches were asked not to implement changes until the Church Order change had been ratified.

As could be expected one of the dominant issues on the agenda for Synod 1991 was concerning the previous Synod’s decision to open all ecclesiastical offices to women. Many of those Overtures and communications asked Synod 1991 not to bring to ratification the proposed Church Order change to Synod 1992 and to keep the original wording (pre-1990) of the Church Order; these Overtures were defeated by the Synod.15  Synod 1991 did form an ad hoc committee to gather grounds for the proposed Church Order change to be presented to Synod 1992 when the ratification was to take place.16  Since this was not a formal Study Committee, recommendations were not made, only grounds for the issue at hand were formulated.  Synod 1992 ultimately considered that the grounds given by the ad hoc committee were  “not sufficiently persuasive to win the confidence and support of the church” and voted not to ratify the change in Church Order Article 3.17  Women were granted the ability to use their gifts in teaching, expounding the Word of God, and providing pastoral care; however, it must be done under the supervision of the elders, and those churches who already introduced practices in conflict with the (unrevised) Church Order needed to be brought under agreement.18

Now there were clear dividing lines being drawn in the CRC.  After Synod 1990 and even prior to it certain congregations were ordaining women as elders.  The charge now being put forward in the CRC was that these churches and individuals were having their consciences bound because they could not adhere to the ruling of Synod (even though they acted improperly by ordaining women while the Church Order was not yet ratified). Ultimately Synod 1993 overturned the ruling of Synod 1992 and ruled by “giving councils and churches the option to ordain qualified women to the offices of elder, minister, and evangelist.”19  A motion was brought to the floor that wanted to make the Church Order change(same change that was defeated by Synod 1992) effective immediately; however, that could not occur and ratification would need to be done by Synod 1994 per Article 47 of the Church Order.20  Synod 1994, however, voted again not to change the Church Order, and clarified that there is “now no synodical decision in effect to allow women to serve in the offices of elder, minister, or evangelist.”21 The Synod passed the recommendation that “urged all councils which have ordained women elders, evangelists or ministers to release them from office by June 1, 1995, and all councils not to ordain any additional women elders, evangelists, or ministers.”22

The CRC needed to rule deci sively on this issue for the peace, unity, and harmony of the church. In 1994 it seemed as if that had been done; however those that recorded their negative votes with statements said the following, “As a matter of conscience I cannot agree with the recommendation,” and “…We will not release women elders from office.”23  Throughout the years previous to this 1994 ruling, committees were advising churches who were in noncompliance with the Church Order, that they were in covenant with the other churches and part of that covenant was complying with the rulings of Synod.  However, Synod 1994 was the first Synod actually to impose a date by which women needed to be removed from office.Synod 1992 used language as quoted earlier that women were able to “expound the Word of God”, and in subsequent Synods the clarification as to exactly what that meant was requested.  In 1995 Synod adopted the stance that this does not mean “exhorting and preaching in official worship services.”24  However, as Synod 1995 continued, there would be a major shift in the discussion and the course of the next decade and a half of the CRC would be laid out.
Synod 1995 adopted the stance “that there are two different perspectives and convictions, both of which honor the Scriptures as the infallible Word of God, on the issue of whether women are allowed to serve in the offices of elder, minister, and evangelist.”25  The vote on that recommendation actually passed by a large margin 112 to 66.26  In light of this decision Synod acted on language that has since become infamous in CRC circles:

“A classis may, in response to local needs and circumstances, declare that the word male in Article 3-1 of the Church Order is inoperative and may authorize the churches under its jurisdiction to ordain and install women in the offices of elder, minister, and evangelist.”27

It is interesting to note that this is exactly the opposite of what Synod 1994 adopted!  Although negative votes are recorded when requested, the Minutes of the Synod do not give the actual numbers for oragainst a particular recommendation, but other sources indicate they were slim.28  Once more Synod had changed its position, and in order to “table” the matter for a period of time it was decided that the current arrangement be in effect for five years (until 2000) at which time it would be reviewed.29  However, Synod adopted this change in the Church Order by not making the change in the Church Order itself, but placed the language of “inoperative” in the Article Supplement which means that it could be ratified immediately, without the requirement of the next Synod to ratify.

As could be expected Synod 1996’s agenda was replete with overtures dealing with Synod 1995’s decision to give the option of making the word “male” inoperative in Church Order Article 3-a Supplement.  At the time of Synod 1996, 13 classes (out of 46) had declared the term inoperative.30  However, all the overtures asking Synod to reverse the 1995 decision were declared out of order and the issue as it stood did not change as a result of Synod 1996.  In the Synods of 1997 and 1998 a few overtures were presented asking that Synod to deal with the “women’s ordination” issue, to which Synod did not accede to because of the year 2000 limit set by Synod 1995.
In the years leading up to Synod 2000, many of the “conservative” voices in the CRC had subsequently left the denomination. 

In February 1996 Darrell Todd Maurina of the United Reformed News Service reported that over 30,000 members of the CRC left in the five years previous.31  In February of 1999 that number had risen to almost 41,000 members.32  Synod 2000 was given a Study Committee’s report on the “status” of the situation in the CRC since 1995 and essentially no changes were made concerning the issue of “women’s ordination.” It was to be kept on the local/classical level and there was to be another review period to culminate in 2005.
Synod 2005 began to deal with the issue of women delegates to the broadest assembly, that of Synod. Previously women were allowed to be delegates to classis meetings, but not to Synod.33  Although Synod 2005 did not make a ruling on the female synodical delegates issue per se, it did put in place such a time when Synod could take up that issue – only when there was a majority of classes that declared the word “male” inoperative.34  When Synod 2006 convened, the Board of Trustees Supplement to the Agenda for Synod 2006 noted that the one-half majority of classes making “male” inoperative had been achieved.  An overture was sent to Synod asking to make the broadest assembly of Synod open to women delegates as well as delete the word “male” from the Church Order.  The Advisory Committee made the recommendation that the word “male” be removed from the Church Orderproper, which was adopted by Synod, but those changes needed to be ratified by the following Synod. Included in that recommendation, however, the Advisory Committee also recommended that the opportunity to serve as delegates to synod (and synodical deputies) remain closed to women.35 The grounds for not allowing women to serve as delegates to synod or for them to be synodical deputies was to “[respect] on the synodical level those who oppose women serving in the offices of minister or elder.”36

The Advisory Committee observed that the broadest assembly in the current state of affairs contained classes unwilling to allow women elders and ministers, and those classes that allow it.  Because at Synod these differing classes would have to be working together, it is proper to allow for all delegates to be in agreement that their fellow delegates have the (biblical) right to be present.  The Advisory Committee also recommended a “Sabbath Rest” of seven years from this discussion because of the “difficulty of the issue” within the CRC.37  As could be expected this “rest” period drew a lot of criticism from members within the CRC, not to mention the decision by Synod not to allow women serve as delegates to Synod.38

The Agenda for Synod 2007 contained twelve overtures dealing with the women’s issue, three of which called for the premature end of the “Sabbath Rest” and one recommending that Synod reverse the decision of the previous year and keep the word “male” in the Church Order.  What is interesting is that Synod officially voted on removingthe “Sabbath Rest” provision and acceded to the intent of those overtures after the other voting concerning the women’s issue was already complete.39  Synod did approve a recommendation that “delegates who believe the seating of women delegates is in violation of the Word of God may record their protest on the appropriate credentials.”40  Even though synod is now open to women, on the classical level women in classes that in effect leave the word “male” operative cannot be appointed as delegates even if there are constituent churches within the classis that allow it.41
Recent news articles and reports state that at least one classis in the CRC will be sending four women delegates to Synod 2008.  Given the history that has been presented one can expect there to be protests, once more, asking Synod to reconsider their decision.  It also remains to be seen how the assembly will function when there are delegates present that do not believe other delegates have the biblical right to be there.  In the Majority Report from the Advisory Committee dealing with Women in Ecclesiastical Office from Synod 2007, the committee highlighted this exact phenomenon happening on the classical level and that the situation was worked out for those delegates, “Several delegates come from churches that oppose women in office, and they do not desire to be seated with women at the broader assemblies. These delegates register their protest and, in so doing, their conscience is unburdened, and they are free to participate.”42  Lord willing that will be the case as well on the Synodical level until whichtime all classes are on the same page once again.  But as will be shown, this might not be the best course of action for the CRC to take.

Even though much has been decided and, as The Banner head line of July 2007 announced, the door has been opened for women in the CRC.  However, there is still a lot of confusion and regulations that have to mediate be tween the two contrary positions that are still the official stance of the CRC.  Females appointed as Synodical deputies must have a male as an alternate, churches within a classis that does not allow the ordination of women can go to another classis for ordination exams of women, churches that are opposed in a classis that allows women’s ordination do not have to participate in the ordination exam, and a classis contracta can be formed, along with other statutes attempting to make plausible a “unity” in the midst of contrary positions.

The fact that there are many rules and regulations, does not mean that there cannot be peace and order, but this author agrees with the Minority Advisory Report when it stated, “Many who remain in the denomination fear that their convictions either already are or will be bound by the denomination’s position on this issue.”43  It is this point that needsto be looked at more closely. Those in the CRC who favored the ordination of women, essentially won that battle in 1995.  Because of subsequent rulings of Synod the discussion concerning women being delegates to Synod could not be even broached until a majority of classes favoring women in office. Once that threshold was passed in 2006 the issue was immediately discussed regardless of the “Sabbath Rest” provision, and the ultimate decision came the next year at Synod 2007.

The Result of the Women in Office Issue in the CRC

As the history has shown there has been a very vocal contingent pushing for full male and female equality in the Christian Reformed Church in North America.  It started with deacons, and has now essentially won all offices of the church.  However, as studies of the CRC have discovered, even though the offices were open to women, not very many women were being chosen as pastors (or guest pastors) to lead congregations in those churches that allowed it.44  Right now the broad CRC “government” cannot do anything about that. According to the newly adopted Church Order Article 3-a, “All congregations may, but will not be required to allow women to serve in the office of pastor, elder, or ministry associate.”45If equality is what is being sought, then full quantitative equality must be the goal.  The civil governments can and have legislated that there must be a certain percentage of the work force from minority racial groups.  In recent years even the idea of churches not being able to hire strictly according to their beliefs has been challenged.  The question remains then, can a similar situation happen in the CRC?  Obviously the future cannot be predicted, but given the history of the issue thus far, it is possible that the denomination will decide to make sure that women are being treated equally in the area of ecclesiastical office and require certain percentages of women to be represented in all the ecclesiastical bodies (from consistories to synods).

As was mentioned as a concern in the Minority Report, some are already feeling that they are bound against their biblical convictions by the rulings of the denomination. This will come to focus at Synod when they are forced to recognize the legitimacy of women delegates who are present.  Sure they can register their protest, but they will have to work on committees together, recognize their vote on the floor, and in some cases probably be under their authority.46  So for all intents and purposes the “protest” of those registering such will be of no practical value and their consciences are harmed.

Christian Liberty in the Women in Office Issue

This discussion needs to be viewed from another angle, that of those who believe that women should be allowed into all levels of ecclesiastical office looking towards theirbrothers who oppose the idea. From this angle, are not those who oppose women’s ordination to be seen as “weaker brothers?”  They have not been given the same spiritual insight into Scriptures and are still wrestling with the idea.  We usually think of this “weaker brother” idea when it comes to things that are considered adiaphora such as consuming alcohol or smoking, but can we not make that argument here as well? Are not those still opposed to the progressive rulings of the church“weaker brothers” remaining unconvinced?

John Calvin makes some very helpful comments concerning how we are to act around our weaker brothers in his Institutes.  Not only is this helpful in everyday living, but very insightful when applied to the current issue.  Calvin says that many err when “they use their freedom indiscriminately and unwisely, as though it were not sound and safe if men did not witness it…. Some persons today reckon their freedom does not exist unless they take possession of it…”47  As it relates to those assemblies where the opposition is rightfully in attendance, are the churches who put forthwomen delegates exercising their newfound Christian freedom improperly?  It is still the official position of the CRC that churches can biblically be warranted in withholding the offices from women.  It then becomes a matter of Christian liberty.

Comparing this to an issue where Christian liberty is more commonly recognized will be helpful to understand the argument.  The CRC position on the consumption of alcohol is: “According to Scripture, all Christians must avoid drunkenness. Though abstinence from alcohol is a morally creditable choice, those who, in their freedom in Christ, choose to use alcohol moderately are not to be condemned.”48  There are those who choose not to consume alcohol, but are not offended by those that do because they recognize the freedom one has to make that decision.  However, there are those that have not come to that conclusion, and their consciences can be troubled if alcohol is consumed by Christians in their midst. This is where Calvin exhorts Christians to have regard for their brother’s weakness and abstain from exercising their liberty in their presence as to not “harm their conscience.”49

If the CRC position was something like “Christians must con sume alcohol” then it is no longer a liberty issue, but one of requirement.  We must consume alcohol regardless of who is around us! However, since that is not the case we must respect the positions of those who are not of the same opinion and take the utmost care not to put a stumbling block in their path (Rom 14:13) and “notabandon the care of the weak, whom the Lord has so strongly commended to us.”50

What if we take the position on alcohol and make it the position on women’s ordination?  “Though abstinence from ordaining women is a morally creditable choice, those who, in their freedom in Christ, choose to use ordain women are not to be condemned.”  Is this not, in fact, what the CRC’s position is on women’s ordination?

If we agree that the analogy above concerning alcohol becomes a Christian liberty issue, then this too becomes one as well.  Therefore, the weaker brother needs to be thought of and cared for.  Is it worth causing somebody to stumble in his faith just to exercise one’s Christian freedom?  All true Christians would emphatically say “No!” and follow the second summary of the law to “love our neighbors as ourselves. (Matt 22:39)”  Calvin also profoundly states, “Nothing is plainer than this: that we should use our freedom if it results in the edification of our neighbor, but if it does not help our neighbor, then we should forgo it.”51

Does delegating women to classis or synod knowing that there are those opposed to it work to edify one’s neighbor and the body of Christ as a whole or does that action cause stress, anxiety and anything but edification?  Is Christian love truly being expressed or are they so unsure of the existence of their Christian freedom that they “must take possession of it” to prove it exists?  If it is the latter, then one must seriously consider their motives in light of the official stance of the church in recognizing that the opposite view is biblically tenable or “morally creditable.”

Calvin does warn that the “weaker brother” can in fact be a Pharisee when they charge (out of ill will or malicious intent) an action as an offense when it was actually done lawfully.52  This is something that those opposed to women’s ordination need to be careful of as well. They shall not charge their opposition with an offense out of impure motives just to make their conscience troubled.  Like the person who is still unconvinced that Scripture allows for the consumption of alcohol and who truly believes it is a sin against God, we are not to give them an offense by bandying about our Christian liberty and bind their consciences; so too, shall those who have come to the conviction that women are to be ordained lord it over those who have not come to that realization and thereby bind their consciences?  Are they not the weaker brother, and isn’t there something more important that stands to be lost than an exercising of one’s Christian freedom that can be exercised and acted upon in many other, more appropriate ways?

The Future of the Women in Office Issue in the CRC

Since there are those who delegated women to the broader assemblies regardless of the presence of “weaker brothers,” this issue must be taken out of the domain of Christian liberty.  This can only be done by a decisive ruling, once and for all, concerning women in all levels of the church.  The current frame of mind, as has been shown from the CRC’s history, does not show signs of bending to the edification of one’s neighbor, but instead asserting itself upon the church by making known to all its newfound freedom.

It is obvious through the past thirty four years that the CRC is moving in a direction of full ecclesiastical equality of men and women.  As much as it would pain the church to make a decision that would cause a schism and the potential loss of a large number of its constituents, it would overall give the church true peace, harmony and unity.  No longer then, will the rulings of the broader assemblies violate the consciences of those on either side of the issue.

Throughout the past twelve years of discussion on this issue, Synodical reports have constantly had to redefine the “peace” in the church as a result of its stance on holding both positions as biblically viable. Nobody has tried to completely hide the underlying tension, but some have attempted to cover it up with platitudes and “harmonious” language.  That tension cannot be bound forever – it will erupt again, and this latest ruling of Synod might just signal the final chains being broken.

A lot of ink has been spilled in wrestling over whether or not women should be ordained to ecclesiastical office in the church.  Whenever this issue was approached at Synod much time was spent on the floor and in committee debating and arguing both sides.  This ink and time was well spent and it was an issue that the church needed to deal with. However, given the fact that the CRC has moved decisively in the direction of women in ecclesiastical office, there is no turning back, much to the disappointment of those in that body who hold to the contrary position.  In a sense the handwriting is on the wall, and it is time that the CRC make its official stance to be that of opening all the offices on all levels to women. This would allow those on both sides to devote their time and energies to the more productive aspects of the church’s mission in the world, making sure the gospel is being proclaimed and that Christ’s sheep are being cared for.

Endnotes

1 The focus of this historical study will be on the Synodically appointed Study Committee Reports and the reports of Advisory committees to Synod.  Applicable overtures and communications from individual congregations and classes are taken up by the Advisory Committees in their work, reports and recommendations.  It would be interinteresting to look at the development of
this issue within particular churches and classes since more often than not the same classes and churches were pushing the hardest for the passage of women’s ordination in the CRC throughout its history.

2 Agenda for Synod 1973, (Grand Rapids: CRC Publications), 380. This Study Committee was formed as a result of the disagreements on the issue among the members of the Reformed Ecumenical Synod of 1968. The CRC wanted to play a “responsible role” in that body and give guidance to its future delegates (Agenda 1973, 380).

3 Ibid., 454. There was a “Minority Report” of one included in the Study Committee’s report; however, when presented to Synod that
report was requested by the author to be a postscript to the report, and no longer an official Minority Report (Acts of Synod 1973, 588).

4 Acts of Synod 1973, 86.

5 Agenda for Synod 1975, 400.

6 Ibid., 422.

7 Acts of Synod 1975, 78. 31 of the 148 of the delegates to Synod requested that their negative votes be recorded.

8 Agenda for Synod 1978, 331-332.

9 Ibid., 375, 377. Since the issue of women in the diaconate is not in the scope of this paper, the actions of the CRC in regard to that issue will not be dealt with except where warranted.

10 Acts of Synod 1978, 104-105. Changes in the CRC Church Order need to be ratified by a following Synod, usually that ended up being the Synod held in the next calendar year.

11 Acts of Synod 1979, 119.

12 Acts of Synod 1979, 119. The Advisory Committee grouped the overtures into the following categories with their numbers:
Clarify the 1978 decision– 4
Reassess the 1978 decision – 1
Defer ratification – 5
Do not implement the decision– 3
Rescind (annul) – 12
For the other communications the Advisory Committee grouped them into the following:
Uphold– 4
Defer – 5
Rescind - 14

13 Ibid., 122. It is interesting how quickly some churches jumped at this opportunity before the Church Order was ratified (and in this case was not ratified). This same thing happened in the other offices as well as will be seen below.

14 Acts of Synod 1990, 657. emphasis added.

15 Acts of Synod 1991, 726-727.

16 Agenda for Synod 1992, 359.

17 Acts of Synod 1992, 699.

18 Ibid., 700. Like those churches that immediately appointed women deacons, so too churches did with the eldership before the Church Order was officially changed.

19 Acts of Synod 1993, 596-597 emphasis added.

20 Ibid., 598-599, 612; see note 10 above.

21 Vote found in Acts of Synod 1994, 516; quote from page 518.

22 Acts of Synod 1994, 520. Al June 2008 27 though there is no commentary as to the wording of the recommendations, it is interesting that the word “urge” was used instead of something a little more definative.

23 Ibid., 520 emphasis original. Again, it must be noted that these churches ordained women contrary to the Church Order and on the assumption it would be ratified in their favor.

24 Acts of Synod 1995, 692.
25 Ibid.,731 emphasis added.
26 http://www.iclnet.org/pub/resources/text/reformed/archive95/nr95-070.txt, accessed October 30, 2007.
27 Acts of Synod 1995, 733 emphasis original.
28 Synod 1994 defeated an overture that would require a two-thirds vote of classes to allow the following Synod to ratify a change in the Church Order. One of the grounds of the overture stated that the recent voting by Synods on changes in the Church Order have been only by the slimmest of majorities which is why Synods have gone “back and forth” on a particular issue (Agenda for Synod 1994, 240). The United Reformed News Service reported on June 18, 1996 all the numbers regarding the women’s ordination issue in previous CRC Synods up to the 112-66 vote in Synod 1996. http://www.iclnet.org/pub/resources/ text/reformed/archive96/ nr96-080.txt.
29 Acts of Synod 1995, 735-736.
30 Agenda of Synod 1996, 31; and Acts of Synod 1996, 355.
31 http://www.iclnet.org/pub/resources/text/reformed/archive97/nr97-020.txt
32 http://www.iclnet.org/pub/resources/text/reformed/archive99/nr99-023.txt
33 Acts of Synod 1995, 735. Women could only be delegates to classis if the classis had made the word “male” inoperative, and if that
classis hadn’t, then classis would have to extend an invitation to a female delegate.
34 Acts of Synod 2005, 759-760. As of Synod 2005, 46% of the classes had declared “male” inoperative.
35 Acts of Synod 2006, 722 emphasis added.
36 Ibid.
37 Ibid., 724.
38 See “Letters,” The Banner 141 no. 9 (September 2006): 8-9.
39 Acts of Synod 2006, 651.
40 Ibid., 612.
41 Ibid., 610. See also Roxanne Van Farowe, “Synod Opens the Way for Women,” The Banner 142 no.7 (July 2007): 28. Note 33 gives how women can be delegates to those classes.
42 Acts of Synod 2006, 600.
43 Acts of Synod 2007, 603.
44 See “Committee to Review the Classical-Local Options with Respect to Women Serving in the Office of Minister, Elder, and Evangelist,” Agenda for Synod 2005, 307-332.
45 Acts of Synod 2007, 608.
46 It has yet to be seen if the Rules of Synodical Procedure will contain provisions that disallow women to be chairpersons of committees or lead in the synodical worship services. If that is case, then there is another part of the church where women are unequal with men, and will be a source of contention.
47 John Calvin, The Institutes of the Christian Religion, trans. Ford Lewis Battles, ed. John T. McNeill (Louisville: WJK, 1960), III.19.10,
emphasis added.
48 http://www.crcna.org/pages/positions_alcohol.cfm accessed December 1, 2007.
49 Calvin, Institutes, III.19.10.
50 Ibid.
51 Ibid., III.19.12.
52 Ibid., III.19.11.

Mr. H. Vander Pol is a student at Westminster Seminary in Escondido, California.

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2005
2004
1951