Synod 2006 put an end to the debate that occurs nearly every year as to whether candidates for the ministry should be approved individually or as a group. From now on, delegates will approve candidates for the ministry as a group.
The debate, seemingly on a small procedural matter, evoked strong emotions and convictions concerning the role of women in the church.
Rev. Ronald Meyer of Classis Zeeland told of the pain he felt a few years ago when his son was a candidate. With the candidates voted on as a group, he either had to abstain on voting for his own son or cast a vote that also approved women as candidates, something he believes is wrong.
Rev. James Blankespoor of Classis Grand Rapids East told the delegates that when he and his wife, Elizabeth Vander Haagen, were both presented to synod for candidacy in 2002, he felt pain and embarrassment when delegates decided that year to vote on candidates individually because of the presence of his wife.
In an emotion-laden speech ethnic adviser Natalie Beyale reminded delegates that “the Lord looks at the hearts of the candidates.”
Those on both sides of the debate wanted to end the annual discussion by placing a decision on the subject in the Christian Reformed Church’s Church Order supplement.
Synod 2006 decided that voting on candidates as a group “need not bind any delegate’s conscience inasmuch as this vote is only declaring whether the candidates have met the denominational requirements for candidacy of character, knowledge, and skills.”