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In a historic decision, a Grand Rapids, Mich., classis (regional group of churches) voted in January to send four women as its representatives to Synod 2008.

Each classis sends four delegates to synod, the Christian Reformed Church’s annual weeklong gathering of elders and ministers. This year’s synod will be the first to include female delegates, since Synod 2007 removed all restrictions on the inclusion of women in ministry.

Members of Classis Grand Rapids East, although longstanding champions of female church leadership, hadn’t planned to send only women to synod—it just happened, according to those present.

“It was very natural and Spirit-led,” said Rev. Thea Leunk, pastor of Eastern Avenue CRC and one of the delegates. “There was no grandstanding or speeches. We just voted, and those were the four people elected. It was pretty amazing and very affirming.”

Carol Rottman, an elder at Eastern Avenue CRC, was also selected. An active member of the Committee for Women in the CRC since 1975, she “got tears in her eyes,” after the results of the election sank in.

“I have told people that someday I’d be going to synod, and they gave me a look as if to say ‘not in your lifetime,’” she said. “It’s hitting us that this is momentous and historical.”

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