Church & World May 1995

Minnesota South Asks Synod to Disenfranchise Churches with Women Elders and Terminate Members from CRC Committees

PIPESTONE, Minn. RBPS – Acting on an overture from Luverne (MN) Christian Reformed Church, Classis Minnesota South submitted a three-part overture to Synod 1995 that would ban churches with women elders from sending delegates to synod, ban members of those churches who agree with their church decision from serving on denominational boards and committees, and ban Classis Grand Rapids East from sending any delegates to synod until it rescinds its support for churches which have women elders.

The grounds for the overture, which classis adopted at its March 2 meeting, warned that “an officebearer of a church which does not follow the Church Order and the decisions of synod should not be allowed to share in making synodical decisions which other churches and their officebearers are expected to follow.”

The first part of the overture banning delegates from churches with women elders passed unanimously. Much of the discussion noted that the overture was more moderate than other overtures urging stronger action against churches in ecclesiastical disobedience.
“I think this is the kind of action we should be taking,” said Rev. Terry Genzink, pastor of Pipestone (MN) CRC. “I think. it is a wise and rather moderate approach compared to others.”

Rev. Eric Verhulst, pastor of Hull (NO) CRC, noted that supporting women in office was not the same as disobeying synod. “These actions are moderate attempts to deal with these churches," said Verhulst. “This particular overture is a response to the decisions of some churches to simply say we are going to do what we want and do our own thing, and that can’t be tolerated.”

The second part of the overture, however, met with some stiffer opposition. In its original form, it would not only have banned members ofchurches which agree with women in office from serving on denominational boards and committees, but also have banned such persons from being hired or continuing their employment with denominational agencies.

Genzink warned that the overture could create serious problems if it passed. “I called Gordon Van Ham, provost at Calvin College, and asked what effect this would have on their tenure policy, and he said it would be devastating,” said Genzink. “Dr. Van Ham said it would result in us losing our accreditation with the accreditation agencies, all federal grants, and probably even result in us losing student aid funds.”

"I also called Dr. Henry De Moor, the professor of church polity at our seminary, and he said it would produce a lawsuit from a terminated employee:' said Genzink.

Following Genzink’s speech, Verhulst moved to delete the language which would terminate employees but to retain the language terminating members of denominational boards and committees.

In the final form of the overture, which was adopted unanimously and sent on to synod, members ofchurches which have women elders are required to “send a letter to his (her) church council expressing disagreement with the council’s violation of the Church Order, Article 3 and decisions of synod and send a copy of this letter to the Christian Reformed Church in North America Board of Trustees.” In the absence of such a letter, thedenominational board of trustees is to “terminate (or refuse to begin) this person's service on a denominational board or committee.”

The third part of the overture fared even better; classis voted down an attempt to strike the specific reference to Classis Grand Rapids East and instead asked synod to “declare that ClassisGrand Rapids East is not allowed to send delegates to the synod during the time that it continues its official decision made on September 15, 1994, not to fulfill the responsibilities assigned to it by Church Order Article 27b and 42b in dealing with its churches which have women elders.”

The relevant Church Order citations address articles which require each classis to use its church visitors to ensure compliance with denominational decisions.

In a later interview, Elder Ken Vos, a member of the Luverne congregation which submitted the overture, said he was pleased the overtures met with widespread support from delegates. “We are concerned about the unity of the church,” said Vos. “The concern is that if we stand back and allow people to defy synod, we will lose our unity.”

Darrell Todd Maurina, Press Officer Refonned Believers Press Service

A New Approach to Women in Office: Classis Grand Rapids East Asks Synod to Allow Women Elders, Ministers in Local Churches but Pemlit Classes to Ban Women Delegates

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. RBPS – No observers who are familiar with the Christian Reformed denomination could have been surprised that Classis Grand Rapids East decided at its January 19 meeting to send overtures to synod regarding women in office. Women in office has long been an issue for a classis in which six of 15 churches have disobeyed synod by electing women elders. The sheer volume of paperwork, however, may be a surprise: after plowing through fifty pages of documentation with the aid of a classical ad hoc committee on women in office, Classis Grand Rapids East voted to send a 23 page overture to synod.

First on the agenda, however, was a proposal to answer communications from Seymour CRC and Shawnee Park CRC objecting to Classis Grand Rapids East’s July 21 decision “in principle” to “permit its individual churches to decide whether or not the word ‘male’ in Article 3a of the Church Order is operative in their particular settings.” Classis unanimously adopted the ad hoc committee's proposal to “note the objections raised by these churches and declare they were met by the actions classis took in September.” The September decision referenced by the motion was a declaration that “recognizing synod’s legal right to insist on the retention of the word ‘male’ in Church Order Article 3a, [classis] nevertheless acknowledges its congregations’ moral right of conscientious objection (with any attendant consequences) to that insistence with respect to the office of elder.”

Classis then forwarded to synod an official protest by Eastern Avenue CRC which “informs synod of its disagreement with the decision of 1994 and communicates that it cannot in good conscience discontinue the terms of office of those women elected and presently serving as elder, nor can it dose the offices to women in the future.” Since Eastern Avenue CRC did not specifically ask for classical endorsement, the classis unanimously followed the committee recommendation to simply note the protest and forward it to synod without comment.

However, a committee recommendation blending overtures from Neland Avenue CRC and First CRC met with considerably more opposition and was finally replaced by the original Neland Avenue overture. Delegates to synod differed on whether the committee report or the Neland Avenue overture was more pastoral. “We thought our document was a respectful tone of presentation, but the revised document without the foundational material makes it more strident,” said Dr. Andrew Bandstra, a retired Calvin Seminary professor and president of the Neland Avenue council. Rev. Morris Greidanus, pastor of First CRC and a member of the ad hoc committee, received laughs when he told the delegates that “we thought we took the stridency out of Neland.”

The key issue in dispute between the two reports was that the original Neland Avenue overture included different guidelines for implementation of women in office, along with a provision whereby each classis and synod could adopt a provision banning delegation of women to its meetings for up to a three year period. While the three year ban could be renewed an indefinite number of times, any classis which failed to initially adopt a ban on women elders or allowed a previously adopted ban to expire would not be able to renew the ban at a later date. By contrast, the revised overture asked for immediate ratification of women in office without the one-year ratification process and argued that synod does not need to wait one year before ratifying Church Order changes which have been discussed for a numberof years. Waiting in the wings was another overture from Woodlawn CRC, also intended as a compromise approach to minimize offense to conservatives while allowing women to serve at least some Christian Reformed congregations. The Woodlawn overture, citing certain precedents in Christian Reformed history, wouldhave allowed classes, by way ofexception, to authorize women in office on theregional level.

While both Bandstraand Greidanus sought to reach the broad middle of the denomination, otherssaid the time had come for decisive action. “We have been for twenty years here in the wilderness on this thing. Are we going to bein the wilderness another twenty years?” asked retired Calvin College professor Rev. Clarence Vos, a member of Neland Avenue and of the ad hoc committee. “No one is being compelled to make women deacons, elders, or anythinglike that; that is the monstrous arrogance of 1994. I say let’s enter the promisedland right away!”

However, Dr. Henry DeMoor, Calvin Seminary professor of church polity and chairman of the ad hoc committee, strongly warned classis against hasty actions and called attention to his officially recorded reservations about the committee report.

“I’ve had the personal conviction for many, many years that justice must be done on this issue; however, I did detect in the Neland Avenue overture a spirit of persuading the rest of the church,” said De Moor. “If this church, this denomination, continues to move toward periarization, much will be destroyed in the way of local ministry, classical and denominational ministry, on the way to justice.”

In his written reservations, De Moor also noted that “to ask Synod 1995 for immediate implementation may well be interpreted as an act of impatience and intolerance similar to that inherent in the decision of Synod 1994. The Neland Avenue overture, unrevised, has a greater chance of being perceived as a prophetic, yet pastoral, attempt to persuade on the basis of the text of Scripture.”

A number of delegates came to De Moor’s side in the issue, particularly voicing his concern about suggesting that synod could immediately ratify women in office without waiting for ratification by a subsequent synod. “In the mind of the broader church, there is a two year process,” said Rev. Carl Kammeraad of Neland Avenue CRC. “To remove that process suddenly and say, wow, you were wrong all these years, there doesn’t need to be a ratification process, you talk power politics and in your face; that is what people will think.”

“We all agree that the promised land is a goat” said Rev. Peter Jonker of Woodlawn CRC. “People who are already against this will view this as a violent wrenching and dig in their heels.”

Dr. Peter Borgdorff, CRC Executive Director of Ministries and president of the Shawnee Park CRC council, also expressed his concern that the classis not be perceived as moving in a radical direction. “One of the real difficulties is in the way we have lost the art of deliberating,” said Borgdorff. “We have increasingly seen people come to synod with their minds made up.”

“Classis Grand Rapids East is increasingly being perceived as one of those poles,” said Borgdorff, noting that Classis Illiana “voted just recently to send an overture not to seat our delegates no matter who we sent to synod.”

At the end of the debate, Classis Grand Rapids East voted by a 14 to 11 margin to defeat the revisions proposed by the committee reportand subsequently adopted the original overture by Neland Avenue.

Darrell Todd Maurina, Press Officer Reformed Believers Press Service

Classis Wisconsin Overtures Board of Trustees to Unseat Classis Grand Rapids East for Ecclesiastical Disobedience

KENOSHA, Wis. (March 15, 1995) RBPS – Classis Wisconsin became the CRC’s fourth classis to call for disciplinary action against churches with women elders when it passed a motion on March 14 asking the CRC Board of Trustees to “rule that delegates from Classis Grand Rapids East be given the privilege of the floor, but be denied the privilege of voting on all matters before synod until such time as Classis Grand Rapids East complies with the decisions of synod on this matter.”

Most delegates to Classis Wisconsin strongly supported the overture – including some regarded as moderates on the women in office issue. “Now that these people have started to become impatient, it has become a matter of conscientious objection and some of these people are willing to split the church over this,” said Rev. Clifford Bajema, a key architect of a Classis Wisconsin overture which led to the 1992 synodical decision allowing women to “teach, expound the Word of God, and provide pastoral care” without ordination.

“I respect the principles of these people, but in taking this position, you also have to be willing to take the consequences,” continued Bajema. “We’re in the midst of a political situation now; in the midst of that, Classis Grand Rapids East is not only making a conscientious statement but also a political statement.”

A former minister of Classis Grand Rapids East came to the defense of the classis, however. “As someone who served in Classis Grand Rapids East for seven years, I object to the statement that Classis Grand Rapids East is letting churches do whatever they want,” said Rev. Ed Laarman of Covenant CRC in Appleton. “They are not taking the Church Order lightly. What if the vote [on women in office] went the other way? Would we want classes with women officers to take this kind of discipline against, say, our classis?”

Despite opposition, the overture passed by a margin of 18 to 13 and will now be sent on to the CRC Board of Trustees for consideration.
According to CRC General Secretary Dr. David Engelhard, whoalso serves as secretary of the CRC Board of Trustees, the Classis Wisconsin request raises some procedural concerns.

“I haven’t yet seen the overture and would want to study it more before speaking definitely, but the Board of Trustees has been very wary of asserting to itself any of the prerogatives of synod,” said Engelhard. “Even if that were not true, the report of the Board of Trustees is processed through an advisory committee as with all other reports ofdenominational conunittees. I’m not sure the synod has ever acted to give the Board of Trustees special status.”

Engelhard also noted that the board had recently decided against adding members to denominational study committees on the ground that only synod had the right to do so.

lfthe delegates from Classis Wisconsin—who include the author of the overture—choose to press their case at synod, the first items of business may be crucial. Scheduled to be convened in Grand Rapids on June 13 by Rev. Cal Bolt of Twelfth Avenue CRC in the Grand Rapids suburb of Jenison, Synod 1995's first item of business will be to elect its permanent officers—a task which assumes that synod has determined which delegates have presented proper credentials and are entitled to be seated. Bolt’s role in reading the roll of delegates, declaring synod to be officially constituted, and presiding until officers are elected—normally a procedural formality—may become a hotly disputed item at this year’s synod.

Darrell Todd Maurina, Press Officer Reformed Believers Press Service

Classis Hudson: Remove Churches with Women Elders from Christian Reformed Denomination, Effective Immediately

(March 6, 1995) RBPS – Classis Hudson has submitted the strongest overture yet asking Synod 1995 to discipline Christian Reformed congregations “refusing to remove women from authoritative office and to change their practice of ordaining women into authoritative office.” At its January 19 meeting, the classis adopted an overture with regard to churches which would “adopt a policy, effective immediately that all members of such congregations not be allowed to function as synodical delegates, synodical deputies, members of denominational boards or committees, or classical delegates” and “declare that all churches which refuse to submit to the urging of Synod 1994 be declared outside the CRC and removed from the official registry of the Christian Reformed Church of North America effective immediately.”

In the grounds for the overture, Classis Hudson declares that “strong action by synod is legitimate,” noting a numberof prior precedents in which synod disciplined local congregations for ecclesiastical disobedience.

“The widespread abuse of the Church Order in the CRC and the refusal of classes to respond appropriately makes a denominational response imperative,” the overture continues. “Failure to respond to violations of Church Order Article 3 will render the authority of Synod null and void. Our denominational unit; will be broken and congregationalism will replace it. ‘In those days Israel had no king, everyone did as he saw fit' Judges 21:25).”

According to Rev. Casey Freswick, pastor of Newton (ND CRC which submitted the overture to synod, the intention ofclassis was simply to ask synod to be consistent with its prior discipline of conservative churches. “Classis Hudson, in principle, has already operated with this in a situation I found inappropriate where we gave only two weeks notice to Messiah’s Congregation; I disagreed with the application, but not with the principle,” said Freswick.

Why ask synod to immediately expel all congregations with women elders rather than taking a less drastic approach or allowing another year before expulsion of the churches? “It’s the only consistent next step,” said Freswick. “Not only do we believe the Bible with words, but with deeds. If we have any kind of denominational covenant that means anything, those who are violating the denominational covenant on this kind of issue, they can’t remain.”

Freswick also noted that much more than women in office is at stake. “If you fail to act in this area, you have failed to exercise the keys of the kingdom,” said Freswick.

Rev. LeRoy Christoffels, pastor of Preakness (N) CRC, said the overture passed by a wide voice vote margin despite its militant language. “The problem we felt as a classis is that these churches were obviously disobedient and flagrantly so,” said Christoffels. “I suspect there will be a lot of pressure to draw the process out.”

“Synod, having made up its mind, should stick to it,” said Christoffels.

Darrell Todd Maurina, Press Officer
Reformed Believers Press Service

Classis Hudson: Remove Churches with Women Elders from Christian Reformed Denomination, Effective Immediately

(March 6, 1995) RBPS – Classis Hudson has submitted the strongest overture yet asking Synod 1995 to discipline Christian Reformed congregations “refusing to remove women from authoritative office and to change their practice of ordaining women into authoritative office.” At its January 19 meeting, the classis adopted an overture with regard to churches which would “adopt a policy, effective immediately, that all members of such congregations not be allowed to function as synodical delegates, synodical deputies, members of denominational boards or committees, or classical delegates” and “declare that all churches which refuse to submit to the urging of Synod 1994 be declared outside the CRC and removed from the official registry of the Christian Reformed Church of North America effective immediately.”

In the grounds for the overture, Classis Hudson declares that “strong action by synod is legitimate,” noting a numberof prior precedents in which synod disciplined local congregations for ecclesiastical disobedience.

“The widespread abuse of the Church Order in the CRC and the refusal of classes to respond appropriately makes a denominational response imperative,” the overture continues. “Failure to respond to violations of Church Order Article 3 will render the authority of Synod null and void. Our denominational unit; ‘will be broken and congregationalism will replace it. In those days Israel had no king, everyone did as he saw fit’ Judges 21:25).”

According to Rev. Casey Freswick, pastor of Newton (ND CRC which submitted the overture to synod, the intention ofclassis was simply to ask synod to be consistent with its prior discipline of conservative churches. “Classis Hudson, in principle, has already operated with this in a situation I found inappropriate where we gave only two weeks notice to Messiah’s Congregation; I disagreed with the application, but not with the principle,” said Freswick.

Why ask synod to immediately expel all congregations with women elders rather than taking a less drastic approach or allowing another year before expulsion of the churches? “It’s the only consistent next step,” said Freswick. “Not only do we believe the Bible with words, but with deeds. If we have any kind of denominational covenant that means anything, those who are violating the denominational covenant on this kind of issue, they can’t remain.”

Freswick also noted that much more than women in office is at stake. “If you fail to act in this area, you have failed to exercise the keys of the kingdom,” said Freswick.

Rev. LeRoy Christoffels, pastor of Preakness (NJ) CRC, said the overture passed by a wide voice vote margin despite its militant language. “The problem we felt as a classis is that these churches were obviously disobedient and flagrantly so,” said Christoffels. “I suspect there will be a lot of pressure to draw the process out.”

“Synod, having made up its mind, should stick to it,” said Christoffels.

Darrell Todd Maurina, Press Officer Reformed Believers Press Service

Lake Erie: Allow Immediate Implementation ofChurch Order Changes Proposed by Synod

TOLEDO, Ohio (March 8, 1995) RBPS – Firing the opening salvo in what may prove to be a heated debate, Oassis Lake Erie submitted a twelve page overture arguing that synod has never officially adopted and should not use the practice of requiring that all Church Order changes made by one synod be ratified by a subsequent synod.

Instead, the classis argues that the proper interpretation of the Christian Reformed Church Order would allow synod to act on changes which were proposed by a study committee reporting to that synod without submitting the change to a subsequent synod for ratification. The overture also asks synod to declare that “if a proposed change not adopted by one synod is still part of the ongoing discussion, it need not be proposed a second time before another synod adopts it since the churches and classes have had prior opportunity to consider its advisability.”

Unlike almost all other Reformed and Presbyterian denominations, the CRC does not have a clear-cut and unambiguous process by which changes proposed by the denomination’s broadest assembly are ratified by a subsequent assembly or by a majority of the classes or presbyteries. The lack of a clear ratification procedure dates back to the Church Orderfirst adopted by the Synod of Dort in 1619, which was intended to be amended only on rare occasions and remained unchanged for almost two centuries. Article 95 of the original Dort Church Order, a provision retained by the CRC in a slightly modified form until 1965, stated that “these Articles, relating to the lawful Order of the Churches, have been so drafted and adopted by common consent, that they, if the profit of the Churches demand otherwise, may and ought to be altered, augmented, or diminished. However, no particular Congregation, Classis, or Synod shall be at liberty to do so, but they shall show all diligence in observing them, until it be otherwise ordained by the General, or National Synod.” After adopting a modified form of the Dort Church Order at its organization in 1857, the Christian Reformed synod made only a few changes in the Church Order until a revised Church Order was adopted in 1965.

The only relevant language in the current Christian Reformed Church Order is Article 47, stating that “the task of synod includes the adoption of the creeds, of the Church Order, of the liturgical forms, of the Psalter Hymnal, and of the principles and elements of the order of worship, as well as the designation of the Bible versions to be used in the worship services. No substantial alterations shall be effected by synod in these matters unless the churches have had prior opportunity to consider the advisability of the proposed changes.” However, a Church Order Supplement adopted by Synod 1979 stated that “prior opportunity to consider the proposed change(s) by the churches is defined as ‘the time between the adoption of the proposed change by one synod and its ratification by a following synod.’”

A general understanding exists in the Christian Reformed denomination that major changes in the Church Order are to be ratified by a subsequent synod, usually the synod held the year folloWing the initial decision to make a Church Order change. The result has been that women in office was proposed by Synod 1990, not ratified by Synod 1992, proposed by Synod 1993, and again not ratified by Synod 1994. Frustration with the process led to a number of overtures to Synod 1993 calling for immediate ratification without a one year delay and despite the rejection of the proposals by the previous synod. Synod president Rev. Peter Brouwer ruled such proposals out of order at Synod 1993, but similar proposals are again being forwarded by a number of classes to Synod 1995.

Of all the proposals, Classis Lake Erie’s is the most detailed. In eight pages of documentation, the c1assis tracked 88 changes and attempted changes made to items governed by Article 47 by 26 synods during the years following adoption of the 1965 revised Church Order to the present. In its summary of the data, the c1assis notes that the first case of ratification occurred in 1974 and the process only became standard in 1982. The dassis also notes that the same synod which defined the term “substantial alternations” and “prior opportunity” in 1989 gave immediate ratification to three Church Order changes proposed by Synod 1987 which Synod 1988 chose not to ratify.

“The use of the term ‘ratification’ has probably politicized the process described in Article 47 and contributed to its rnisunderstanding.” the dassis stated. “Ratification is a common term in the secular world. In United States constitutional law an amendment adopted by Congress must be ratified by state legislatures. The ecclesiastical equivalent of this procedure has been proposed and defeated frequently.”

The classis also alleged that Article 47 “has been used in this way primarily because of the influence of one issue with which the church has wrestled since 1970, the issue of women in office.”

As a result, Classis Lake Erie proposes to synod that the Article 47 supplement be revised to allow synod to immediately adopt any change in the Church Ordermade on the basis of a study committee report which is received by November 1 of the year before synod meets, but to submit all changes made on the basis of an overture or standing committee report in the synodical agenda to a following synod which will consider its advisability.

When the proposal was submitted to Classis Lake Erie, Dr. Clayton Libolt of River Terrace CRC in East Lansing, Michigan, made a brief presentation on its merits.

“That idea of ratification has come up many times at synod; that has always been rejected,” said Libolt. “But the idea has sort of snuck in by the back door that you have to have one synod ratify the decisions of a previous synod. That is nowhere in the Church Order.”

According to classical stated clerk Pastor George Vander Weit, the women in office issue was not the reason his classis submitted the overture on ratification to Synod 1995. “The intention is to address a number of problems that the church has experienced over the past few years with the ratification process because it has not been carefully thought out,” said Vander Weit in a later interview.

However, the overture will definitely affect the women in office debate if it is adopted by synod. “What this means is when 1993 made the changes it made, it should have been able to implement those changes irrunediately. There was no need to require ratification by Synod 1994,” said Vander Weit. “If Synod 1995 decides to revise Article 3 to allow women to serve in all the offices, there is no need for that to be resubmitted to 1996 for ratification.”

Vander Weit also noted that the overture will affect only a very limited number of Church Order changes. “Most of the Church Order changes that come to synod come via overture and thus nothing will change in terms of what the church currently knows as the ratification process,” said Vander Weit. “All of those changes that are proposed via overtures will go to another synod; one synod proposes and the following synod adopts. What we’re saying also is in the case of study committees, the requirement of Article 47 for prior opportunity is fulfilled because the churches and classes have those already by November 1.”

While the overture will undoubtedly be controversial at synod, it met with little controversy in Lake Erie and passed by a unanimous voice vote.

by Darrell Todd Maurina, Press Officer Reformed Believers Press Service

Western Independent Churches Organize Regional Fellowship

CALGARY, Alberta (March 6, 1995) RBI’S – Following up on a recommendation made by the Alliance of Reformed Churches, eight independent Reformed churches in western Canada met in Calgary, Alberta on February 3 and 4 to lay the groundwork for a regional fellowship.

The purpose of the fellowship, like those previously organized in Michigan and Ontario, is to serve as a vehicle for mutual accountability and assistance among churches in certain geographical areas. Mission projects, youth fellowship, pulpit exchanges, candidacy and ordination examinations, church visiting, and hearing of appeals are among the matters that could be brought to the meetings of these fellowships.

Called by Edmonton Orthodox Reformed Church in Alberta and hosted by Bethel Independent Christian Reformed Church in Calgary, participating churches included Telkwa and Agassiz from British Columbia, Winnipeg from Manitoba, and Neerlandia, Edmonton, Ponoka, Calgary and Lethbridge from Alberta. Churches in Lynwood, Washington, Salem, Oregon, and Smithers, British Columbia were also invited. Although Smithers did not send representatives, the church did express its desire to be partof the fellowship.

A newly formed church in Abbotsford, British Columbia also sent greetings.

The business of organizing the fellowship took up Friday evening. The assembly organized on the basis of proposed articles of fellowship closely modeled after those approved by the Lake Michigan Regional Fellowship. It adopted as its formal name, “Western Regional Fellowship of Reformed Churches.”

The majority of the meeting, however, involved a discussion of the proposed church order presented to the churches at the November 1994 meeting of the Alliance of Reformed Churches in Lynwood, Illinois.

A number of proposals included in the agenda became the subject of discussion. Proposals to change the church order included:

1. that Biblical principles of church government, supported by Scripture references, be incorporated into the body of the church order itself;

2. that the church order be arranged to reflect the fact that Scripture demands the existence of the local church and specified its government but that the federation of local churches does not have the same Scriptural warrant;

3. that the church order be less prescriptive in areas where there is no Biblical warrant. Examples cited were holding two worship services per Sunday, using the Three Forms of Unity in preaching, listing specific forms to be read for communion, and the preaching of preparatory and applicatory sermons;

4. that the role of the classis in the internal affairs of the church be modified;

5. that the church order make clear that baptized, nonprofessing members of the congregation are subject to discipline;

6. that the church order contain no theological assertions that are not clearly taught in the confessions.

After a lengthy discussion focusing on proposal 3, delegates adopted a statement advising the church order study committee “to take a less prescriptive approach” and it was left up to individual churches to communicate specific concerns. The other proposals were adopted unanimously with little or no amendment.

Discussion also focused on the May 31 meeting called by Lynwood to discuss plans for federation. The consensus among the deJegates was that that the meeting in May could be postponed until November of this year to save on the cost of travel.

Among other business, the churches made decisions regarding the provision of financial help for needy churches, accepted the offer of Rev. Thea Hoekstra of Neerlandia to produce sermons for reading services, and asked Trinity Reformed Church of Lethbridge to study the question of a Youth Convention or retreat in Western Canada.

by John Van Dyk, Managing Editor, Christian Renewal
Reported by Rev. Dick Wynia
1995 Christian Renewal
Distributed by Reformed Believers Press Service

Classis Lake Erie Sends Forty Pages of Overtures to Synod

TOLEDO, RBPS – For many years, Classis Lake Erie of the Christian Reformed denomination has distinguished itself by detailed and lengthy overtures, generally addressing issues of concern to the “progressive” wing of the CRC. Not uncommonly, the extensively researched Classis Lake Erie overtures have become the foundation for positions later adopted by synod.

This year, dassis Lake Erie appointed committees of pre-advice, added additional hours to its March 3 agenda, and finally sent over forty pages of overtures to synod.

What positions will Synod 1995 adopt? If dassis Lake Erie has its way, those positions will include such items as the following:

• Rejecting the committee appointed tostudyfeminine language for God because all ministers and theologians on the committee oppose that practice.

• Establishing a policy to ensure that committees have members “who reflect the gender, ethnic and racial diversity of our denomination and, where applicable, the range of opinion that exists in our denomination on a particular matter to be studied.”

• Ending the CRC practice of having Church Order changes ratified by a subsequent synod.

• Revising the 1994 decision against women in office to allow women to serve immediately as ministers, elders and evangelists.

• Rejecting the recommendations of a study committee report which says that womenexpoundersmay not fill pulpits in the CRC

In addition, Classis Lake Erie held an intensive debate on officially delegating deacons to its own classis, finally postponing action to its next meeting in October 1995 amidst concerns that the proposal would violate the Church Order.

Darrell Todd Maurina, Press Officer Reformed Believers Press Service

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