In an interview with The Banner, the vice president of synod Thea Leunk expressed concern and cautious optimism about the progress of women pastors in the Christian Reformed Church. [Synod is the CRC’s annual general meeting.]
Women are receiving calls, Leunk said, but “few of us are solo or senior pastors. Usually women are called to be co-pastors.” Leunk is an exception. She has been the head pastor of Eastern Avenue CRC in Grand Rapids, Mich., for 11 years.
But Leunk noted that in 2017, she is the only female synodical delegate who is an ordained minister of the Word. “It’s been 20 years,” she said. “There is [among female pastors in the CRC] an impatience with how long it’s taken to become fully integrated into the leadership of the CRC.”
Leunk did not have a singular answer of why women pastors are not better represented at synod. For some classes (regional assemblies that send delegates to synod), there are one or two women pastors. “You can’t keep sending them every year,” she said. Other classes choose not to send women. How to encourage the classes to delegate more women pastors? “The directive is already out there,” she said. “More encouragement? More reminders?”
Leunk has been heavily involved in denominational ministry for many years. She served previously as vice president of synod in 2008 and was also on the executive in 2012. Asked how she deals with her role as the face of women pastors in the CRC, she said, “I try to model as best I can what it means to be a pastor.” She added, “To be a pastor. Not a male pastor or a female pastor, but just a pastor.”
Synod 2017 is meeting at Trinity Christian College in Palos Heights, Ill., from June 9-15. For continuous coverage, download the Banner app on your mobile device or follow The Banner Magazine on Facebook or @crcbanner on Twitter. You can find more tweeting by following hashtag #crcsynod. News stories will be posted at thebanner.org several times daily. For CRC Communications releases and the webcast, please visit crcna.org. Unless noted otherwise, all photographs are by Karen Huttenga.
About the Author
Clayton Libolt was the long time pastor of River Terrace Church in East Lansing, Mich. Since his retirement, he has served in a variety of interim positions. He is presently serving as the interim senior pastor of Sonlight Community CRC in Lynden, Wash.