Banner Blasts Official Church Position

The Banner is the official publication of the Christian Reformed Church. Most of our readers are familiar with that periodical. One would have reason to expect that an official publication of a denomination would set forth the official position of the church it represents. One would expect that it would maintain the church’s position over against those who oppose it. One would expect that those who disagree with the official position of the church would not be given a forum in the official paper of the denomination. One might expect all of this—but anyone reading the Banner the past year or so, would find that it is not true there. It seems that the Banner and its editor take a certain pride in presenting both sides of an issue—and at times weighted against the official position of the church which it represents. 

The Christian Reformed Church has also its Church Order—revised in 1965 from one which was virtually identical to our own. The revised version states in Article 30 (similar to our Art. 31), “. . . The decisions of the assemblies shall be considered settled and binding, unless it is proved that they conflict with the Word of God or the Church Order.” One would think that an article of this nature would make it inappropriate (to say the least) for the official church paper to present a position contrary to the established and binding decisions of the church. But that is being commonly done. 

All of the above is meant to lead up to the fact that a recent issue of the Banner (Jan. 23, 1984) was devoted to the question of women in office in the church. In a rather heavy-handed way the official paper of the C.R.C. blasted the position of the C.R.C. on women in office. The barrage began with the editor who wrote:

Some day the Christian Reformed Church must answer the question whether or not women will be forever barred from holding office in the church. . . . 

. . . Christian Reformed people, myself included, who read on page 10-12 of this issue of the Banner that women have left our church because they wanted to obey God rather than our Church Order will feel hurt. . . . 

. . . Today more than twenty women are enrolled in Calvin Seminary. Such a situation was unthinkable when I was in seminary . . . . 

. . . We have drawn a magic circle around our consistory rooms. Women may be seen and heard anywhere, but in this hallowed chamber they may not help to build the church. 

Not all of those who want to keep women out of the consistory are led by ancient male prejudice. Many of us are genuinely convinced that here the Bible draws the line. And when God says no, let no one say yes. 

The church would be well served if we who say that the Bible allows women to hold office in the church frankly admit that we have made a hermeneutical decision: we have decided how to interpret certain Bible texts. One should not try to make these texts say the opposite of what they seem to be saying to the ordinary reader. 

There is no doubt in my mind that Paul was prescribing a restricted role to women in the service of worship when he wrote

I Corinthians 14:34

and

I Timothy 2:12.

However, the reasons for the restrictions were local, cultural, and therefore temporal. Paul could appeal to what was in his day a common moral judgment: a woman speaking in church looked “bad,” “shameful.”

I Cor. 14:35

But when such an appeal can no longer be made, the special apostolic prescription is also removed.

. . . At one time the forwardness of a Christian woman would discredit the Word of God.

Titus 2:5

Today our efforts to hold back female members might discredit the church.

Just as the gospel liberated the slaves, who were constantly taught submission in Paul’s historical situation, so the equality of men and women was taught in the gospel but had to await its own cultural revelation . . . .

An article is included in this issue about C.R.C. women who have left this denomination on the question of women’s ordination into the ministry—and, of some who are presently ordained ministers in other denominations. 

A story is presented by James C. Schaap meant to show the silliness of old people who still childishly hold on to the idea that women ought not to serve in office.

An article is presented showing that certain biblical texts don’t really mean what they seem to say about women serving within the church. 

There is a “Soapbox” article complaining that though the Synod has allowed women to vote in the congregational meetings, the Synod thus far has refused to mandate this “right” to all women of the congregation. 

And, inevitably, there is presented the results of a survey in the C.R.C. on the question of women in office. The poll shows that, generally speaking, the younger and more educated are more in favor of women serving in the offices than those who are older and less educated.

If? As time passes, younger members will replace older ones. Also, more and more members of the CRC will achieve higher educational levels. Recalling from our data that it is the younger, more educated members who are more accepting of women in office, it seems clear that increasing proportions-of the CRC’s membership will come to accept the idea of women in office.

And although the surveyers insist that “we do not believe nor do we mean to imply that the leadership of our denomination ought to decide the issue of women and ordination on the basis of survey findings,” still the survey is there and its results are obvious. The total shows the following: 36% would favor ordination of women as deacons; 26% would favor women ordained as elders; 23% would allow for women as ministers. Although the survey shows that the vast majority oppose women serving in any office, still this attitude will gradually change when people are forced to “rethink” their former beliefs. 

It is interesting also to note that before changing their stand on movies and on dancing, similar surveys were also conducted and presented to Synod as evidence that a change was required. One is almost forced to conclude that there is an element in the C.R.C. convinced that when the percentage of people, though this be a minority, is large enough, it is time to move forward and force the rest to “rethink” their beliefs in light of the changed official position of the church. 

But again one faces the question: when a decision is “settled and binding,” is this the way to overthrow it? Does the official church magazine blast away until its Synod sees the light? And what of their Church Order which still states in Article 3, “Confessing malemembers of the church who meet the Biblical requirements for office-bearers are eligible for office . . . .” 

And when the church struggles, howbeit somewhat belatedly, to catch up with the position of the world on the issue of women’s lib, some within the world seem to be realizing the foolishness of their own position. There are some beginning to understand, though not on biblical grounds, that there are sad consequences when “women’s lib” is pushed in the way it has been. In commenting on a recently-written book, Time, January 30, 1984, states,

Brownmiller’s thesis, somewhat reluctantly broached, is that femininity (“a nostalgic tradition of imposed limitations”) is making a comeback because of the fierce competition among women for men and jobs. “Men are in shorter supply than ever,” she says. “The rise of the gay male population has been extraordinary, and it has left a reservoir of desperate women.” New York City, for example, has about 500,000 more females than males, as well as a male homosexual population estimated at 300,000 to 400,000. “This is something we never envisioned in the feminist movement,” says Browmniller. “We thought we would collect our grievances and present them to men. Fifteen years later the men aren’t there, and there is no one to listen to the complaints.”

If one can not accept the plain, literal teaching of Scripture, if (after some 2,000 years) the church now must introduce a different hermeneutical principle, then perhaps he ought to examine the consequences of “women’s lib” in the world and ask himself what consequences will also soon be seen within the church.

Do-It-Yourself Abortion Drug?

Christianity Today, October 7, 1983, presents a news item concerning what seems to be a development of a drug by Upjohn Company of Kalamazoo which would safely bring about an abortion. Though the company denies that it is producing the drug for “home use,” the fact is that the drug is available for use in hospitals—and at least one salesman resigned his position because he was convinced that the drug is destined ultimately for home use.

It was his suspicion that Upjohn was sponsoring further research on prostaglandins for home use that caused pharmacist George Schimming, one of the company’s most productive salesmen, to resign in April. He left after he discovered that Upjohn was providing drugs and financial support for projects whose clearly stated goals included the refinement of an abortion-inducing drug for home use.

Such a drug, if introduced on the market, would add a frightening dimension to the murder of abortion. How many more lives would be snatched away before birth by those who did not want to go through the trouble of a pregnancy? Already millions of lives have been snuffed out. Additional millions might well be added to an already large number of abortions presently done.