Scripture is infallible. my interpretation of it is not. Yours isn’t either. Persons of faith who have integrity and who know themselves admit this.
When we run into difficult issues like whether the Bible wants women to be ministers and elders, that self-knowledge makes us humbly admit our inability to come to one mind on them. In all love and unity, we’ll continue to prayerfully await the Spirit’s leading as we keep working at understanding biblical truth better. Lobbing verbal bombs at each other harms us all. When the love is lost, even being in the right is a cold, lonely place to live.
In this issue of The Banner we feature two differing views on the issue of whether women should be ordained as elders and ministers (see pp. 32-34) because that longstanding debate cropped up again at last June’s synod (the annual convention of delegates from across the denomination). Synod proposed changes to the Church Order (rules CRC congregations covenant to live by) that would allow women to receive ordination. In “a package deal” synod also proposed that women elders and pastors wouldn’t be eligible for delegation to synod, in deference to those CRC members who don’t believe Scripture allows women’s ordination and whose consciences would be aggrieved if women served as delegates at our widest ruling body.
Those changes require ratification by Synod 2007. We’ll need to do some serious talking together, since these side-by-side decisions fully satisfy none of us (for opposite reasons).
Synod 2006 also proposed that, following this year’s ratification, the CRC observe a Sabbath of discussion on the subject. We’d agree not to raise the issue of women’s ordination officially for at least seven years.
Regardless of what Synod 2007 will do with the first two proposals, it may not be wise for it to declare such a “Sabbath.” The articles written by Ardean Brock and Brenda Heyink show we’re still divided on the issue. That doesn’t sound like Sabbath to me. The real pain that’s felt on both sides isn’t particularly consistent with Sabbath wholeness and shalom. Declaring a Sabbath would extend the chill of a dysfunctional relationship in which we give each other the silent treatment. It would just let our differences fester.
Let’s continue to talk turkey—bicker if we have to—and trust that the Spirit will let us stick together as family even if we don’t see eye to eye for the next seven or 700 years.
Here’s what I hope we’ll talk about together:
- the issue itself—see if we can find a way past our impasse of interpretation;
- how to live in community in the meantime—maybe grieving each others’ consciences, but not violating them by forcing folks to do stuff they believe is wrong;
- kill the misconceptions and misrepresentations we spin of others’ views and validate the real hurt that others feel;
- keep affirming and advocating our deeply shared biblical and confessional unity.
In this stressful time let’s not rest until we come to some shared understanding. Let’s pray, study, and work at it.
We need to talk—until the cows come home if we have to. In God’s good time he will grant us Sabbath.
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