Ordained Women Seek Full Inclusion

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Five ordained Christian Reformed women have joined efforts to—in their words—“promote full inclusion of women in all areas of leadership in the [denomination].”

The group, called Hearts Aflame, has planned four upcoming prayer vigils, petitioned 25 classes to overture Synod 2007, and launched a Yahoo! website since their first meeting in September.

At issue are the decisions of Synod 2006 to disallow women to be delegated to synod (the church’s annual denominationwide gathering) and to impose a seven-year Sabbath or ban on discussion of the issue.

The group wants Synod 2007 to overturn those decisions and to ratify the 2006 decision to remove the word “male” in Article 3 of the Church Order of the Christian Reformed Church. (See box.)

Hearts Aflame’s first prayer vigil is planned for Feb. 4 at Eastern Avenue CRC in Grand Rapids, Mich., with follow-up vigils in March, May, and during the week of synod in June.

“We just want to offer this issue before God in prayer on behalf of our denomination,” said Rev. Thea Leunk, pastor of Eastern Avenue CRC and the denomination’s only female synodical deputy. “Our agenda is not to change hearts or force people to accept a different position. As women in ministry we would rather be agents of change by example.”

Hearts Aflame has also distributed a sample overture (petition) to synod to the 25 classes (regions) that already allow women’s delegation to classis. There are 47 classes in the denomination.

So far five classes plan to adopt an overture as Hearts Aflame has suggested. The group hopes that Synod 2007 will pay attention to the planned overtures and make the suggested changes.

“I think last year’s synod misread the denomination on this issue,” said Leunk.

“Coming out of last year’s synod made painfully real how synod has responded to us as women called by God,” said Rev. Beth Guikema-Bode. “Prayer has always been a natural outgrowth from that as ordained women.”

—Roxanne Van Farowe

What Synod 2006 Decided

Synod 2006, in what was called a compromise decision, voted to remove the word “male” from Church Order Article 3. If that decision is ratified by a subsequent synod, it would remove all gender requirements for all ordained offices in the Christian Reformed Church.

However, Synod 2006 also voted to put into the Church Order Supplement that women not be allowed as delegates to synod, and that there be a seven-year Sabbath, or ban, on discussion of further action on the matter at the classis or synod levels. That decision does not require another synod’s ratification to take effect.

—Gayla R. Postma

About the Author

Roxanne VanFarowe is a freelance writer who lives in the woods with her artist husband James and their five children in Hillsborough, North Carolina. They are members of Blacknall Presbyterian Church in Durham.

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