Two classes (regional groups of churches) in West Michigan have asked Synod 2013 to allow the formation of a new classis for congregations that exclude women from holding ordained office. Synod is the annual leadership meeting of the Christian Reformed Church.
In recent meetings, both Classes Kalamazoo and Grand Rapid North adopted overtures (requests) for the new classis. Classis Zeeland declined to support a similar overture from one of its churches. Classis Minnkota sent a communication to synod supporting the idea.
“Please understand that these churches, in keeping with their biblical convictions, do not wish to continuously protest or cause discomfort for those who believe differently than they do on these matters,” reads one of the overtures.
Synod 2007 opened all the offices to women, and most of the 47 regional classes also allow women to be delegated at their assemblies.
Some churches, such as Second CRC in Kalamazoo, Mich., chose to abstain from attending classis meetings, believing that attending under protest would soon become a mere formality.
Indeed, the Christian Reformed church in Medicine Hat, Alberta, requested at the most recent meeting of Classis Alberta South/Saskatchewan that the following statement be read and recorded in the minutes: “The council of Medicine Hat protests the seating of women elders and ministers at classis as we believe it is in violation to the Word of God.” After some discussion, the classis decided that in future the statement would no longer be read to the delegates but that the congregation could continue to have it recorded in the classis minutes.
Since 2007, as many as 11 churches in Michigan have discussed starting a new classis.
In 2010, Second CRC, along with Trinity CRC in Sparta, Mich., sought instead to join Classis Minnkota despite the geographical separation between Michigan and Minnesota. That classis is on record as excluding women as delegates to classis. However, Synod 2010 denied the request for the transfer, noting that classes are meant to be “neighboring churches” and suggested instead that the churches find a classis nearer by. However, the churches have not been able to find a nearby classis to call home.
Thus the request for creation of a new classis. “After much prayer and collective wisdom from church leaders . . . we believe that God is leading to a better option of starting a new classis in Michigan,” the overture reads. “This classis will be for churches who have deep convictions about the Bible’s qualifications for leadership in the home and in the church, and who wish to keep devoted male and female members, families, and churches from leaving the CRC.”
Synod 2013 will meet in Grand Rapids, Mich., June 7-14.