Complementarian* classes and delegates—people who theologically view women and men as having different, complementary roles—who record their protest against the seating of women delegates on the grounds that it is contrary to their reading of Scripture, will no longer hear those protests aloud on the floor of synod.
Since the seating of women delegates at synod in 2007, delegates who object to the ordination of women to the offices of the church are permitted to register their protest according to Article 45 of the Church Order.
Synod is the annual general assembly of the Christian Reformed Church.
Every year, Classis Minnkota attaches a note to its delegates’ synod credentials that is read aloud at synod. It reads, “They wish to make clear that their protest is not against women or against using the gifts of women, but they wish to uphold their understanding of Scripture’s teaching regarding the roles of women and men.” At Synod 2023 two such communications were read, one from Minnkota and one from a delegate from Zeeland classis.
However, it was clarified during discussions on the floor of synod that there was no actual requirement to read aloud such protest notes attached to credentials, only that they "shall be recorded in the minutes of synod" (Church Order Supplement Art. 45, b. 1).
Classis Niagara submitted an overture (a formal request) asking Synod 2023 “to refrain from reading these repetitious notes,” considering “the inappropriate nature of the message conveyed by the note appended to the credentials submitted by the Classis Minnkota delegates.”
Synod 1995 declared that both complementarian* and egalitarian* views are faithful interpretations of the Word of God. Classis Minnkota, LeRoy G. Christoffels, stated clerk wrote, “As members of the body of Christ in the CRCNA, Classis Minnkota does not present this communication in order to offend our brothers and sisters who hold to the egalitarian view; rather we wish to explain that our convictions are rooted in the Word of God. Though under protest, we continue to participate because we love the CRCNA and seek God’s blessing upon our denomination.”
Synod 2023 recognized that any classis or delegate has the right to written protest; however, “the repeated reading of these protests has caused pain to some delegates.”
Therefore, while not acceding to Niagara's request, synod decided "if a notice on credentials present a protest about seating female delegates, the president of synod would name the individual or classis," according to Church Order Supplement, Art. 45, b. 1, and the following acknowledgement will be read: “We, as delegates, acknowledge that there are a multitude of perspectives and opinions represented among us. We recognize ‘that there are two different perspectives and convictions on the issue of allowing women to serve in the offices of deacon, elder, minister or (commissioned pastor), both of which honor the Scriptures as the infallible Word of God’ (Acts of Synod 1995, p. 731). Some object that there are women seated as delegates; others lament that there are not more women among us. We choose to work together despite these differences.”
Sonya Boersma, Classis Eastern Canada, objected to even including that acknowledgement. It’s unnecessary, she said, and “extremely unwelcoming for many delegates, both male and female.”
In the end, Synod 2023 approved the change from specifically reading the submitted protests to recording them and reading the acknowledgement.
Editor in chief's note: A subtitle was added (June 12) and a paragraph was added (June 13) to the original story for further clarity.
*Asterisks added (June 15) - Although the article was drawing from the language of Classis Minnkota's communication and Classis Niagara's overture, the terms complementarian and egalitarian may have wider applications than the CRC's official position on women in church office, which is more narrow and specific, as decided by Synod 1995.
Synod 2023 is meeting June 9-15 at Calvin University in Grand Rapids, Mich. Find daily coverage from The Banner news team at thebanner.org/synod. Visit crcna.org/synod for the synod schedule, webcast, recordings, photos, committee reports, and liveblog. Synod is the annual general assembly of the Christian Reformed Church.