Prof. Decker is professor of Practical Theology in the Protestant Reformed Seminary.
This is what one keen analyst of this year’s synod of the Christian Reformed Church (CRC) said in reaction to that synod’s decision re opening the offices of minister and elder to women, and to its decision not to break fraternal relations with the Gereformeerde Kerken in Nederland WW “We have only two options,” said the analyst, “Take it or leave it. The CRC is not ‘headed in the wrong direction’; as of Synod 1995, it is on the wrong course. Our choice is no longer to change the CRC because Synod 1995 has locked the door on the conservatives and thrown away the key. The only choice is—how to get out. Basically there are only two options for every member of the CRC: take it(pay all the bills and watch the tragedy of the GKN be re-enacted in the CRC) or leave it (the only questions being—how and with whom?).”
The CRC synod of 1995, the reader will recall, declared that 1) both views on women in office (closing the offices and opening the offices) are acceptable within the denomination; 2) the issue is not a confessional one; 3) it does not impact one’s salvation; therefore synod will compromise not by changing the Church Order Article 3, deleting the word “male” which is the only legal thing to do, but by issuing a “supplement” to Article 3 which allows a classis to declare the word “male,” stated in Article 3 as a requisite for office, to be “inoperative,” and, in cases where a classis will not declare the word “male” inoperative, a church within that classis may do so by itself. The synod also declared that this solution “avoids the danger of congregationalism.” If allowing individual congregations to declare a part of the Church Order “inoperative” is not congregationalism, what is?
The decision is wrong on all counts. Does Scripture teach both views? Of course not! One is clearly taught, and one is by that very fact clearly forbidden. Women, the Bible says, may not preach or rule in God’s church. The issue is a confessional issue, no matter what the synod may have said. In a Reformed Church the Church Order itself has confessional status. The Three Forms of Unity teach that only men qualify for the offices in the church. And, as if that is not sufficient, what does one do with the Forms for ordination of ministers, elders and deacons, missionaries, and professors of theology? All of these subordinate standards speak of the “brother” or “brothers” who are being ordained.
Does the women-in-office issue impact one’s salvation? Surely it does! It does because it contradicts Holy Scripture (cf. I Timothy 2:8-3:13)! Besides, if the Bible does not speak clearly to this issue, how can I trust it to speak clearly on any issue, including the issue of one’s salvation from sin and death through the cross and resurrection of Jesus’ Christ?
In the last issue we reported that the reaction to this decision on the part of three sister denominations was “strong and immediate.” Such is also the reaction from within the CRC. The CRC of Escondido, California is asking its classis (California South) to “invite all classes (as well as all councils and officebearers) who share our convictions to attend an assembly in November to formulate appropriate actions and responses to Synod 1995.” The Escondido church wants the decisions re women in office and re continuing the sister church relation with the GKN changed.
Finally the decision re women is not presented as a change in the Church Order, but as a supplement to Article 3. Does this “supplement” clarify or further explain Article 3? No, it flatly contradicts Article 3.
All that the conservatives can do now is protest the decision of synod 1995. Assuming that the protest is not sustained, the analyst is right, the conservatives have only two options: take it or leave it.
Southern Baptists Condem Slavery And Racism
At its 150th anniversary celebration, the Southern Baptist Convention condemned slavery. The SBC, the largest Protestant church in the United States, has never officially rejected the racism in their history, but in late June they engaged in an act of confession. “We lament and repudiate historic acts of evil such as slavery from which we continue to reap a bitter harvest, and we recognize that the racism which yet plagues our culture today is inextricably tied to the past,” the resolution read. “We apologize . . . for condoning and/or perpetuating individual and systemic racism in our lifetime; and we genuinely repent of racism of which we have been guilty, whether consciously or unconsciously…. We ask forgiveness from our African-American brothers and sisters, acknowledging that our own healing is at stake.”
The SBC resolution is the latest in a series of reconciliation efforts in American evangelical churches. Last year the mainly white Pentecostal Fellowship of North America disbanded. Its members regrouped in a new interracial body. In January of this year the National Black Evangelical Association and the National Association of Evangelic& formed a joint task force to promote reconciliation.
After surviving seventeen months of captivity, two U.S. missionaries were killed July 19 during a fight between rebel and government troops in Colombia. The government troops say they were on a rescue mission and that the rebels killed the captives to aid their own escape. Some local press reports, however, allege that it was the military that killed the missionaries.
The two men, Steve Walsh and Timothy Van Dyke, both 43, were missionaries with the New Tribes Mission. They were teachers at a school for missionaries’ children. They were kidnapped January 16, 1994. Three other New Tribes missionaries are missing since their capture in January 1993, and a fourth missionary, with Wycliff Bible translators, has been a captive of the rebel forces since March 1994.
The New Tribes Mission had no comment on the charges about government responsibility. They did say that they had not requested or approved any rescue operations.
This is the last contribution of the undersigned to “All Around Us.” Beginning next month, my able colleague Rev. Gise Van Baren will return as editor of the column and I will be contributing to the rubric, “Ministering to the Saints.” This change enables me to do some writing in the subject area which I teach at the seminary.
I take this opportunity to acknowledge and thank those of our readers who from time to time sent me items for the column. These were much appreciated. We encourage you to do the same for Rev. Van Baren.