Convinced that only males should be ordained, two Christian Reformed churches in Michigan are seeking to join a like-minded classis (regional group of churches) hundreds of miles distant.
Second CRC of Kalamazoo, Mich., and Trinity CRC of Sparta, Mich., have requested a transfer to Classis Minnkota, a group of 15 churches located in Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota.
“We cannot in good conscience remain in a classis that promotes the ordination of women to the offices of pastor, elder, and deacon,” said the request from Second CRC. It is currently part of Classis Kalamazoo.
Trinity CRC, part of Classis Grand Rapids North, names Minnkota as “the nearest classis that has the most solid and consistent unity on the issue of the Bible’s qualification for church leaders.”
Both classes approved the requests, and Classis Minnkota agreed to receive the churches, provided Synod 2010 gives its approval. Synod is the annual leadership meeting of the CRC, to be held in June.
Classis Minnkota is one of eight classes (out of 47 total) that, in keeping with their understanding of the biblical position on the role of women in ecclesiastical office, declare that women officebearers may not be delegated to classis.
The two churches anticipate being members of Classis Minnkota until a new classis of theologically like-minded churches can be organized in Michigan.
Both churches expressed intent to continue working with their neighboring CRCs in Michigan in such areas as missions, diaconal work, and support for struggling churches.
Although a long-distance relationship with Classis Minnkota would be inconvenient and demand extra work, Rev. Warren Lammers, pastor of Second CRC, said it would be manageable with the help of modern communications technology.
Delegates to the recent meeting of Classis Grand Rapids North expressed both sadness at Trinity’s request and respect for the way Trinity and its minister, Rev. C.J. den Dulk, conducted themselves—presenting their position graciously and without rancor, one delegate said.
Both Lammers and den Dulk declined to speak to The Banner.
Rev. Henry De Moor, professor of church polity at Calvin Theological Seminary, said the churches’ requests present a challenge for Synod 2010.
De Moor said that synod allows a church to request transfer to another classis for grounds that go beyond geographical proximity, but synod did not embrace theological affinity as a new primary criterion for classis affiliation.
Allowing for such an arrangement of classes, he said, would have the potential to permanently divide the church along theological lines and keep members from learning to live in unity.
“If geographic proximity is still the main criterion, as it historically always has been,” De Moor said, “then asking for a transfer from a Michigan classis to one in Minnesota and the Dakotas is certainly a stretch.”