The latest round of classis meetings reveals several Christian Reformed churches in conflict with their own classis (regional grouping of churches), primarily over theology related to allowing women as delegates to classis.
In Classis Atlantic Northeast, Champlain Valley CRC in Waltham, Vt., protested the recent decision of that classis to declare the word “male” inoperative in Article 3 of the CRC’s Church Order. That is the process by which classes can remove the gender restriction from the church offices of elder, minister, and ministry associate.
The Vermont church declined to send delegates to the classis meeting and has also not paid this year’s classis ministry shares. The classis interim committee is in conversation with the church.
On the other side of the continent, First CRC of Ripon, Calif., informed Classis Central California that it continues to struggle with how to participate in classis meetings without violating the consciences of its delegates. The classis decided in January 2002 to permit women delegates. First CRC sent delegates to this fall’s meeting but said that should in no way be construed as condoning the seating of women delegates or a change in their position opposing that practice as a violation of the church’s biblically informed conscience on this matter.
Another church in Classis Central California, Trinity CRC in Visalia, declined to send delegates to the classis meeting. Church visitors were appointed to meet with that church’s council.
In Classis Chicago South, First CRC of Oak Lawn, Ill., submitted its credentials to classis but did not send delegates. “We will not be represented at this meeting,” the council wrote on the credentials. “We are currently looking at what options we may have in other classes which would be in line with us theologically.” Church visitors were assigned to meet with First CRC’s council.
In Classis Grand Rapids North, Trinity CRC in Sparta, Mich., asked classis for advice on what do to in the event a woman is seated at classis, which would “violate their conscience both biblically and confessionally.” The interim committee will prepare a response for the January 2007 meeting.
And in Classis Lake Superior, First CRC of Prinsburg, Minn., requested classis to overture Synod 2007 to allow the congregation to transfer to Classis Minnkota. The council stated that allowing women to be delegates at classis made it impossible for many First CRC elders to serve as delegates to classis without violating their consciences.
Classis Lake Superior rejected the church’s request, stating that there may be some elders at the church who could serve at classis without violating their consciences.
It noted that while First CRC of Prinsburg is fully within its legal rights to request a transfer to another classis, disagreement over one issue which synod has indicated is not a salvation issue, in itself, should not be considered a weighty enough reason for leaving this fellowship of congregations for another.
Classis Lake Superior also noted that if First CRC ends the dialogue and leaves, it sends the wrong kind of message to the world and to CRC members and children about how to relate to others when you have conflict and disagreement.
First CRC can choose to go directly to synod with its request. Classis Minnkota agreed in principle to the transfer of that church to its classis.