Even as Synod 2008 made history by seating women delegates, delegates struggled to make room for each other’s convictions and sensitivities regarding the role of women in church leadership.
Rev. Joel Boot, president of synod both this year and last year, acknowledged the tension in his closing remarks. “Last year there was a lot of struggle in this room, but it was a struggle to stay together,” he said. “That was repeated this year. One of the biggest challenges this year was on the floor and not in the agenda.”
Classis Minnkota sent its delegates to synod under protest to communicate its disagreement with the seating of women as delegates. Although last year’s synod said that the appropriate way of registering a protest was through individual delegates, Minnkota argued that not allowing a whole classis to speak was not giving adequate room for dissent.
“It’s our classis as a whole that protests this situation,” said Rev. Joseph Vanden Akker, Classis Minnkota. “We’re not trying to open old wounds. But I think it would be in order, every year for decades to come, for our classis to say, ‘We’re here, we’re part of you, but no, we don’t think you made the right procedural move by agreeing to seat women delegates at synod.’”
Synod affirmed the right of delegates and/or their classes to register protests, independent of each other.
No More Women Advisers
Synod 2008 decided that now that women can come to synod as delegates, there is no longer a need to also have women advisers.
As synod wrestled with the proposal regarding women advisers, delegates struck out wording that said synod was “rejoicing . . . thankful for the women delegates present this year and trusting that [the church] will continue along this path.” The wording was considered insensitive to those whose interpretation of Scripture does not allow for women in church leadership.
“I can understand how difficult it is for them when synod is asked with one voice to rejoice and be thankful,” said Rev. Ken Vander Horst, Classis Lake Erie.
Male Elders Serving Communion
Also on the agenda was a request to ensure that delegates would be able to receive communion from a male elder at the annual synodical worship service.
“The consciences of many . . . who hold to the traditional view [of Scripture] are troubled,” said Rev. George Koopmans, Classis Alberta South/Saskatchewan. “I believe this recommendation is sensitive to the consciences of many.”
Synod instructed the executive director of the Christian Reformed Church and future convening churches of synod to “show sensitivity for both views held in the denomination” as they plan the service and communion.
“We will do this with all sensitivity,” said Executive Director Jerry Dykstra. “But you also have to continue to serve us with understanding that there are two positions in the CRC regarding ordination of women.”
Women Well Received
Despite the tension in some of the discussions, Elder Jean Dykshoorn, Classis British Columbia South-East, summed up what most female delegates experienced at Synod 2008.
“Those opposed to women in office have shown gracious acceptance to the female delegates,” she said. “Thank you for accepting us here and welcoming us in the way that you’ve done.”
As Boot noted at the end of synod, the delegates met the challenge of making room for each other’s convictions.
“In this room, God, through us, has made it happen,” he said, referring to the working together of male and female delegates. “This year was a first, and I think God blessed it.”
About the Authors
Bob De Moor is a retired Christian Reformed pastor living in Edmonton, Alta.
Roxanne VanFarowe is a freelance writer who claims both Canadian and American citizenship and grew up in the Christian Reformed Church. She is a member of Blacknall Presbyterian Church in Durham, North Carolina.
Dan Postma is an occasional reporter for The Banner.