Prof. Decker is professor of Practical Theology in the Protestant Reformed Seminary.\
That is the situation in the Christian Reformed Church in North America (CRC): she’s a house divided. Divided is the CRC on the issue of women in office. Twice in recent years the CRC synod decided to open all offices in the church to women, and twice subsequent synods refused to ratify those decisions and make the necessary changes in the CRC Church Order. Last year the synod refused to admit women to the offices of minister and elder on the ground that this is contrary to the plain teaching of Scripture. Meanwhile there are a number of churches which have installed women into the office of elder and are refusing to dismiss women from office as the 1994 synod urged them to do. While this issue has been studied, debated, and voted on several times, a goodly number of people have left the CRC. A few of these have joined existing Reformed denominations (among them our own Protestant Reformed Churches) while the majority have formed independent Reformed churches. As a result of this exodus the CRC, as reported earlier in these columns, has lost a significant number of members.
One would think that most of those opposed to the opening of the offices to women have departed the CRC, so that she could now get on with her agenda and allow women to serve in office. But apparently such is not the case. The CRC synod of 1995 will be faced with at least two overtures calling for action against those churches which continue to allow women to serve in the office of elder. The one overture from Classis Minnesota South consists of three parts. The first part asks that the synod ban churches with women elders from sending delegates to synod. The second part calls for the synod to prohibit from serving on denominational boards and committees those individuals who agree with their congregations’ decision to allow women to be in office. The third part of the overture is to ban Classis Grand Rapids East from sending delegates to synod until it rescinds its support for churches with women elders. Rev. Eric Verhulst, pastor of Hull, North Dakota CRC, said, “These actions are moderate attempts to deal with these churches. This particular overture is a response to the decisions of some churches to simply say we are going to do what we want and do our own thing, and that can’t be tolerated.” The first part of the overture passed unanimously, while parts two and three were passed by near unanimous votes.
An overture from Classis Hudson calls for even stronger action. This classis is asking the synod to “adopt a policy, effective immediately, that all members of such congregations (those which allow women elders, RDD) not be allowed to function as synodical delegates, synodical deputies, members of denominational boards or committees, or classical delegates.” The overture goes much farther than this by asking the synod to “declare that all churches which refuse to submit to the urging of Synod 1994 (to remove women from the office of elder, RDD) be declared outside the CRC and removed from the official registry of the Christian Reformed Church in North America effective immediately.” In the grounds for the overture Classis Hudson, citing a number of prior precedents in which synod disciplined local congregations for ecclesiastical disobedience, states that “strong action by synod is legitimate.” “The widespread abuse of the church order in the CRC and the refusal of classes to respond appropriately makes a denominational response imperative,” the overture continues. “Failure to respond to violations of Church Order Article 3 will render the authority of Synod null and void. Our denominational unity will be broken and congregationalism will replace it. ‘In those days Israel had no king, everyone did as he saw fit’ (Judges 21:25).”
Classis Lake Erie also is sending an overture to synod. This Classis is asking the synod to revise the 1994 decision against women in office and to allow women to serve immediately as ministers, elders, and evangelists.
What will the synod do with these overtures? No one knows. One thing the synod will not do, we make bold to predict, is expel those churches which allow women in office from the denomination. Whatever the outcome, one thing is certain, the CRC is a house divided against itself and a house divided against itself . . . (Luke 11:17).
Boesak In Trouble Again
Dr. Allen Boesak is the former moderator of the former Dutch Reformed Mission Church of South Africa and the former president of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches. He resigned from both of these positions in 1990 in the wake of a marital scandal. Now Dr. Boesak is being charged by Scandinavian aid officials with misappropriation of funds. The Scandinavian church organization had donated about $1.2 million to Boesak’s Foundation for Peace and Justice. They allege that about 75% of the money was misused. They say that private loans were given to Boesak, to the foundation’s bookkeeper, and to other staff members.
While denying any wrongdoing on his part, Boesak announced he would sell his Capetown home to replace some of the missing funds.
South Africa’s Anglican Archbishop, Desmond Tutu, said Boesak should clear his name before taking any official post. Said Tutu, “Boesak has played a tremendous role in our struggle, and I . . . would want to see him cleared.”
Following meetings with Boesak on February 8, the Scandinavians filed a charge with South African police. They claim Boesak was unable to give a satisfactory account of where the money had gone. Boesak called the meeting “a farce.”
Together On the Way
In January the three Dutch denominations in the union process Samen op Weg (Together on the Way) began phase three of organizing the union. In the first two phases they developed a basic church order and the general lines of structural organization. In phase three, committees will plan the details of how organizations will blend. Both the committees of directors and the staff workers in the organization will be involved in the planning.
Participants in the union process include the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands (GKN) and the Dutch Reformed Church (state church) and a Lutheran denomination. When the union is finally realized the churches in which most of us have our roots, the GKN, will cease to exist as a separate denomination. This is the denomination of Hendrick De Cock, Albertus VanRaalte, Abraham Kuyper, and other champions of the Reformed faith. What a shame! But it makes little difference, since the GKN has long since departed from the Reformed faith. Had this not been the case she never would have participated in the union process.
This year marks the fortieth anniversary of the Reformed Theological College (equivalent of our seminary) in Geelong, Australia. The College is the seminary of the Reformed Churches in Australia. This denomination is composed largely of immigrants who came from the Netherlands to Australia after World War II. The College was begun “to teach, defend and propagate the Reformed Faith and to train students for the holy ministry.” One of its first faculty was Dr. Klaas Runia.