Instead of the usual “In My Humble Opinion” column on this page, you'll find many voices speaking in reaction to Synod 2006's decision not to seat women at synod. What you see printed here represents an accurate balance of the letters received by The Banner.
Synod and Women
I was dismayed that Synod 2006 would make such an illogical decision-on the one hand to eliminate the word male in our Church Order, and on the other to not let women be full members of the CRC for at least another seven years (see July Banner).
If the decision to eliminate the word male was in accordance with Scripture and under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, then it is only men's decision to restrict women from participation in the government of the church.
I understand the decision was made to keep the peace; however, the injustice done to many of our members, both male and female, is difficult to understand and justify.
-Bill LucasSurrey, British Columbia
I was very upset after reading about the Christian Reformed Church's stance on the participation of women at synod.
I was born, baptized, and raised in the CRC, and my father is a pastor in the church. As a young adult, I attended Calvin College, and I am presently a member of a Christian Reformed church. Until this point, I was proud to be a member of this community of believers and felt supported by it.
Twelve years ago, when I made profession of faith, the form at the back of the Psalter Hymnal clearly stated that when you make profession of faith you are welcomed as a full member in the church. In practice, this statement seems to apply only to the male members of the CRC. What happened to the CRC's passion for doing what is biblically right?
How do I explain the CRC's stance on women to my many nonChristian friends and coworkers who already question and sometimes ridicule my faith? My female nonChristian friends will not even consider visiting a church that continues to discriminate against women.
-Katherine Berry-KalsbeekVancouver, British Columbia
Regarding synod's vote to “undertake a Sabbath rest of seven years”-we do ourselves a huge disservice when we refuse to talk about the issue at hand. Marriages that lose the communication factor are sure to fail. “Putting a cork in it” only guarantees an explosion down the road. Let's not succumb to pious manipulation and call it “Sabbath rest.”
We were made as male and female to be interdependent. Any committee, organization, or institution that is exclusively one sex is unhealthy and not able to fully realize completeness in Christ.
-Rev. Ardean BrockCaledonia, Mich.
I'm deeply disturbed by synod's use of “Sabbath” to halt debate over women delegates to Synod. Sabbath is God's gift. It frees us to celebrate who we are as the people of God. In Exodus God instructed Israel not to gather manna on the Sabbath. In response to God's grace and deliverance, they were to rest in their identity as God's people, thereby proclaiming to the world God's immense love and care. It takes all our voices and gifts to tell the world all that God wants to say about himself. Let's not call the silencing of some of our voices “Sabbath.” Let's call it what it is: sin.
-Rev. Ruth BovenGrand Rapids, Mich.
I'm a seminary student who did not consider Calvin Seminary or ordination in the CRC because I did not feel up to the “fight.” I'm sure I represent women at many seminaries other than Calvin who don't question their call to ministry. What we question is the call to display endless patience, endure bitter disappointment, and suffer outright dismissal by serving in the CRC. I grieve the fact that this “debate” is costing a denomination I love so many bright, energetic, motivated, gifted people who have been called by God to serve the church. The kingdom does not suffer because of this mistake-we're finding places to use our gifts!-the one who suffers is the CRC. What a loss.
-Kate VanNoord KooymanGrand Rapids, Mich.
I see very little in synod's decision that can be called inspired-certainly not by the Holy Spirit. Moreover, what are the theological implications of calling a decision “inspired by the Holy Spirit”? Does that suggest infallibility? Will I live to see the day that my wife and daughter are no longer subjected to the whims of men in the CRC on a non-theological issue?
-Gerry GerritsPort Williams, Nova Scotia
The secular media report on our denomination's debate through the lens of women's rights/gender equality. Anything that eliminates distinctions between men and women is called “progress.” Anyone who disagrees is “against women.” Within the CRC, however, I hope we realize our ongoing debate over women's roles in the church is really about the deeper issue of interpreting the Bible, not progress in civil rights.
I'm worried that Banner headlines like “One Step Forward, One Step Back for Women” and the report of one side's compromise and feelings skirt the real issue. Let's acknowledge that most people on both sides of this issue base their views on a serious reading of the Bible, and that forming an alliance between differing viewpoints is difficult business requiring a great deal of grace.
-David BouwkampWyoming, Mich.
Why did The Banner publish an article that is so clearly biased concerning one of the most disunifying issues in our denomination (“One Step Forward, One Step Back for Women,” July)? Did not Synod 1995 on the issue of ordination of women acknowledge that CRC members hold two different perspectives that both honor God? Yet this article was so clearly not in the spirit of unity we so desperately need on this issue. Yes, The Banner included a little factual sidebar on women in office in the CRC. However, the disdain shown in the article for those who do not agree with women in office is clearly the work of the devil to stir up more trouble in the CRC. The Banner should be ashamed it published this article.
Owen Sound, Ontario
The sad hypocrisy of this year's synod regarding the status of women in church office speaks for itself and requires no commentary from me. Yet I cannot help but consider my friend Fred, who for most of his life was vehemently opposed to women holding any office in the church. Eventually, much to his dismay, his congregation elected two women to consistory. It took Fred two years to change his mind about this development, but he did change his mind. He told me that having watched these women do their jobs, he had found the results remarkable, including several things he was certain men would not have been able to accomplish. Fred died several years ago, so he is not available to tell this story. That I should tell it on his behalf is a state of affairs of which I believe he would approve.
-David WestendorpGrand Rapids, Mich.
Synod 2005 permitted a woman minister to serve as a synodical deputy as long as a male minister was the alternate. No delegate spoke against this when it was proposed at Synod 2005. No one appealed this decision to Synod 2006. Yet Synod 2006 took this opportunity for service away from women pastors, saying that only males could serve as synodical deputies. This action doesn't teach us how to honor the two convictions among us.
-George Vander WeitGrand Rapids, Mich.
Thank you for your excellent coverage of synod this year. Unfortunately, I am less pleased with Synod 2006 than I am with the honest and accurate coverage The Banner has given it.
Synod's earlier decision to allow women to be ordained was long overdue; some denominations have been ordaining women for more than a century. However, expecting women to be satisfied merely with this “allowance” is an insult. Given that she has the appropriate spiritual gifts, a woman should be afforded every opportunity to serve God and the church as are her brothers in Christ who possess the same gifts.
The CRC's mission statement says, “As people called by God . . . [we] pursue God's justice and peace in every area of life.” However the CRC is being left in the dust when it comes to the pursuit of justice regarding this issue. It is time to fully recognize and embrace our sisters in Christ.
-Steven ButerGrand Rapids, Mich.
What a sad day in the CRC when the egos of a male-dominated synod again deny the equality of women. To remove the word male from the Church Order and then deny women delegation to synod is a two-faced decision. Further insult is the recommendation that this issue be swept under the rug for another seven years. We can pray that a future synod will show wisdom to correct this inequity.
-Herman KlapSahuarita, Ariz.
Rev. Mark Stephenson, the CRC's new director of Disability Concerns, was ordained in 1989 (August, p. 10).
Regarding “Asian Christian Reformed Churches Create Website” (August, p. 12), the website also includes the Cambodian churches. According to the 2006 Yearbook, the CRC now includes at least 35 Asian congregations. The primary focus of the website is to “connect, strengthen, engage, and sustain more healthy and informed Asian CRCs today and in the future.”
The Banner apologizes for the errors.