Wanted: A Few Good (Conservative) Men

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Classis Minnkota, a regional group of Christian Reformed churches, has set aside funds to help churches hire seminarians as summer interns—with the unusual stipulation that those interns must believe that it is unbiblical for women to serve as elders and pastors.

Classis Minnkota, which has churches in Minnesota and the Dakotas, voted to use its [seminary] student fund to give two churches $4,000 toward hiring a theologically conservative student intern from Calvin Theological Seminary for each of the next two summers.

“Churches really look at the theological fit with the classis when looking for leadership,” said Rev. Roger Sparks, chair of the classis’ ministry leadership team, which came up with the idea. “This is just the context in which we are doing ministry in the CRC today.”

 “Some could perceive this [internship program] as exclusive,” Sparks added. “My take is in a more positive light: this gives an opportunity for students to someday fit into the context of our classis, to build bridges for seminarians to possibly serve in our classis someday down the road.”

Classis Minnkota has about $30,000 in its student fund, which is traditionally used to supplement the tuition of seminarians who hail from that classis—but no one from the classis has been attending the seminary for the last few years, said Rev. LeRoy Christoffels, the stated clerk. “We thought we might as well spend the money on something that has to do with ministerial training.”

“Ordinarily the churches of Classis Minnkota are not actively involved in the preparation of future pastors . . .  perhaps because the staffing model of most of the churches in classis is to have a solo pastor rather than a ministry staff,” read the minutes for the classis meeting where the funding was approved.

The minutes later stated that “that Classis Minnkota could serve its own interests while serving seminary students and the church at large [by hiring theologically conservative seminary students].”

Thus far, only one church is looking to use the funds, probably because the funding is only partial and it would cost about $9,000 to fully support an intern, according to Sparks.

About the Author

Roxanne Van Farowe is a freelance writer living in North Carolina. She has reported on synod, the annual decision-making gathering of the CRC, for many years.

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Comments

Awesome!!

The stated clerk... preaches in a denomination that left the CRC over the whole women-in-office situation... something doesn't seem right about all of this... sounds like someone needs to make up his mind.

>The minutes later stated “that Classis Minnkota could serve its own interests while serving seminary students and the church at large [by hiring theologically conservative seminary students].”

The brackets make me wonder if the official minutes use the words "theologically conservative seminary students" or "students who believe that it is unbiblical for women to serve as elders and pastors."

Over the past few years some have redefined the word "conservative" so that it's become a code word for "those who believe that it is unbiblical for women to serve as elders and pastors."

It would be refreshingly honest if the classis stated that it's primarily interested in seminary students who "believe that it is unbiblical for women to serve as elders and pastors," not students who are conservative.

Rather than a few good "conservative" men, the classis might consider a few moderate or even liberal (not sure why that is a bad word) men or women to serve as interns---to see and experience what they are missing or even worse, damning as unscriptural, based on hearsay, narrowly limited interpretation of scripture, or preconceived ideas. They can't take testimony from others within or without the CRC who have had women in office and behind the pulpit for years---without the roof falling in or the steeple hit by lightning---and with apparent good results in their ministry. By this stated selectiveness they insult all of the seminary and its students.

The Minnkota minutes expressly note that by "theologically conservative" they mean it to describe "those within the Christian Reformed Church who do not believe the Bible allows for women serving in the office of elder or minister of the Word." Hopefully the first paragraph of the article is clear about the stipulation in place for the seminarians the classis is seeking.
Gayla Postma, news editor

Lay off Classis Minnkota. According to the CRC Synod, its position on women in office is biblical. So how could anyone in the CRC find fault with the Classis seeking to follow the biblical rule that limits church office to men?

Steve asks, “So how could anyone in the CRC find fault with the Classis seeking to follow the biblical rule that limits church office to men?”

I suspect that someone could question how a group of men can allocate only to seminarians who hold a particular position the contributions that all members of the classis have given in response to Article 21 of the Church Order: “The churches shall encourage young persons to seek to become ministers of the Word and shall grant financial aid to those who are in need of it.” Are members of Classis Minnkota who believe that aid should be extended to male seminarians who hold a different position or to female seminarians supposed to start their own Student Fund so their biblical position is honored?

It’s only a theoretical question of course because the article also says, “no one from the classis has been attending the seminary for the last few years.” Interesting!

Does the CRC support the interpretation of Scripture that women should not serve in ordained office? If you're not sure, the answer is, “Yes." Other classes have voiced their positions over the years, and it only seems fair that Classis Minnkota should voice theirs. I'm surprised to find so many comments here that seem to believe only 1 of the 2 official interpretations is valid. Perhaps we need a deeper investigation of the legitimacy of both of these positions at synod?

Michael says, "I'm surprised to find so many comments here that seem to believe only 1 of the 2 official interpretations is valid."

Can you identify those "so many?" I see one that could be interpreted that way.

Wyatt seems quite concerned that there may be some in Classis Minnkota who don't want their money spent on this internship program. I wonder if his concern is as great for those conservative members or churches with membership in more liberal classis. HMMM perhaps he is making a case for allowing churches to join with classis that adhere to a position they find more palatable.

I fear that the real news here is being overlooked. That Classis Minnkota is theolgically conservative is already well known. The real story here is that Classis Minnkota has taken a new approach to support the training of pastors. Without any of its own students to support at present, Classis Minnkota set aside a few grants to encourage its congregations to offer summer internships. Classis Minnkota sees this as a creative way to assist with the training of students from other classes. This is what is new! FYI, Classis Minnkota attached three stipulations to the grants: (a) that student interns be from Calvin Theological Seminary, (b) that student interns be "theologically conservative" (defined in this case as not favoring the ordination of women) and that the interships be mentored. Please note that Classis Minnkota is not seeking to "hire" a few good men, but that it seeks in this new way to be involved in the training of pastors.

Doc says, “Wyatt seems quite concerned that there may be some in Classis Minnkota who don't want their money spent on this internship program. I wonder if his concern is as great for those conservative members or churches with membership in more liberal classis.”

Doc falsifies what I said. All classes ought to give financial assistance/training to students who believe that Scripture prohibits women from serving in the offices of the church, and no member can legitimately object to that. What I asked was, “Are members of Classis Minnkota who believe that aid should be extended to male seminarians who hold a different position or to female seminarians supposed to start their own Student Fund so their biblical position is honored?”

With the exception of Classis Minnkota all the other classes that I know of (obviously I don’t know the policies of all) honor both positions in the denomination and also honor Article 21 of the Church Order: “The churches shall encourage young persons to seek to become ministers of the Word and shall grant financial aid to those who are in need of it.”

They assist males and females.

They assist males who believe Scripture prohibits women from serving in the offices of the church.

They assist males who believe Scripture permits women to serve in the offices of the church.

The determining factor for financial aid is "need," not gender or where a seminarian stands on a particular subject. Thus, all members of a classis are able to say that their contributions are being used in conformity with our denominational position and in conformity with the Church Order.

Mr. Sparks calls us to recognize the “real story” of Minnkota, namely that it is using its money “to assist with the training of students from other classes.” That’s not totally new because in the past classes who didn’t have seminary students to assist gave money to other classes who had a large number. Nonetheless, the fact that Minnkota is using its money instead of sitting on it is a good thing that should be commended.

As I’ve said in response to Doc, the not-so-good thing about this is that Minnkota honors neither the denominational position on women-in-office nor Article 21 of the Church Order.

Thus, the “real story” goes like this: A seminarian sits by the side of the road asking for financial aid to assist him with his studies. The leadership of Classis Minnkota does not pass by on the other side. Instead it approaches the young man and says, “We will assist you if you give the answer that we want to hear to a question we will ask you.”

Shall we title this “The Parable of Good Minnkota” or “The Parable of Not-So-Good Minnkota?”

I have never responded to any of the articles that I have read in "The Banner", but feel I must respond to this one. I am saddened that this classis is so against women in office that they will only help support seminary interns who "believe that it is unbiblical for women to serve as elders and pastors." I was not raised in the CRC and am almost at the point where I wonder whether my membership in the denomination is pleasing to God.

This is so very sad, because the children and young people growing up in these churches will not be able to experience a woman pastor or elder. Experience is what has changed hearts, because the Bible DOES allow for women in leadership.
The good news is that the Holy Spirit can call a woman in to ministry even out of the churches that try to exclude them! Our God is greater than the fears of (conservative) men. God can and does use women in positions of leadership to love and bless and serve those in the church. The funding restrictions cannot restrict God! :)

Thank you Classis Minnsota for the beautiful testimony of your faithfulness and obedience to Scripture. Praise God!

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