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Robert D. Decker is professor of New Testament and Practical Theology in the Protestant Reformed Seminary.

Lady in the Pulpit

The teaching of Holy Scripture on the place of women in the church is so clear that even a child can understand it. The Bible says, “Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression. Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety” (I Timothy 2:11-15). The inspired apostle Paul is speaking of the place of the woman in the church. She must learn in silence, not usurp authority over the man, and she shall be saved in childbearing in the way of faith, love, and hope coupled with sobriety. The passage teaches that God does not want women in the office of the ministry or that of elder. No one can deny this.

This means that the question of women in office which continues to plague many of the Reformed churches is not a question of what the Bible teaches or does not teach. It is a question of how one views the Bible, and it is a question of what standard one uses to arrive at his or her conclusions on this matter. An example of this appeared in a news story carried by The Banner(March 10, 1986). According to this report:

Rev. Gordon Van Enk and the consistory of Crenshaw Christian Reformed Church, Los Angeles, are still at odds with classis over Crenshaw’s use of a female seminarian for preaching last year. The church allowed Calvin Theological Seminary intern Leanne Van Dyk to preach about once a month during the 1984-85 school year.

Church visitors recommended that Van Enk and his church be reprimanded for allowing Van Dyk to exhort.

Classis reprimanded Van Enk in January. Christian Reformed Home Missions, which oversees Van Enk’s work, also reprimanded him, and the seminary, in a stern letter, dissociated itself from Crenshaw’s action. 

Rev. Douglas Warners, one of the church visitors who worked on the case, said in a telephone interview that Van Enk knew the rules and the position of the church but ignored them. 

Van Enk and the consistory of the multiethnic Crenshaw congregation insisted that they were “faced with a moral dilemma which (they) could not ignore.” 

“We acted,” they said, “the only way we felt our Christian consciences directed us. We felt impelled by the Holy Spirit to give Leanne this opportunity to ascertain her gifts and calling . . . .” They also said that they regretted any embarrassment to the seminary or Home Missions. “This is as far as we can go in good conscience,” they concluded. 

Has Van Enk apologized? “No. To apologize would be to declare that we were wrong. We don’t think we are,” he said. Van Enk also said he does not regret that the matter has become public knowledge. “The more exposure this gets, the better for everyone concerned. Some church had to take the initiative to support women like Van Dyk who feel called to the ministry.” 

Van Enk said he feels so strongly about women’s calling to the ministry that he is “willing to risk (his) professional future” to take a stand on the issue . . . .

Are our actions to be based on what we feel to be right or wrong.7 Is the Christian’s conscience shaped and guided by the clear teachings of Scripture or is it a standard of right or wrong independent of Scripture? The answers to these questions are obvious. How I may or may not feel about an issue is of no consequence. What the Bible teaches is of eternal consequence.

News Briefs

“American Lutheran Church bishop David Preus has urged Lutherans in the United States to enter altar and pulpit fellowship with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), the Reformed Church in America, and the Cumberland Presbyterians. Advocating ‘unity in reconciled diversity,’ Preus also called on Lutherans to continue ‘interim sharing’ of the Eucharist with Episcopalians while searching for more complete agreement, to ‘pursue with patience’ the goal of altar and pulpit fellowship with Roman Catholics, and to be willing to explore agreement in the gospel and sacraments with other Christian churches” (The Banner, Feb. 10, 1986).

Ecumenism, or the ecumenical movement, obviously is very much alive. A sign, this is, of the nearness of the end of all things.

Instructor of Feminist Theology appointed at Kampen Theological School

“The general synod of the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands (GKN) has decided to appoint a part-time instructor in feminist theology at the Theological School in Kampen. The current rector of the school, Professor K.A. Schippers, argued that the opening of such a position was not a fad inspired by the modern world; about half of the students in Kampen are female. For centuries women have been neglected and oppressed” (Reformed Ecumenical Synod, News Exchange, RES NE, January 7, 1986). One has long since ceased to be shocked at what goes on in the Dutch churches. One need not wonder what the fathers of the GKN would have thought of this. How far these churches have strayed from the course set for them through De Cock, H. Bavinck, A. Kuyper Sr., et. al. May God in His mercy preserve our churches in the truth of His Word in these troubled times.

Leuenberger Talks To Be Continued:

It is not only in North America that Lutheran and Reformed Churches seek closer fellowship. The same is happening in Europe, as this and the following news item indicate. Both are taken from the RES NE, March 11, 1986. ” (Leidschendam) The third general meeting of the Leuenberg Church Fellowship will be held in Straatsburg next year. The last general assembly (1973) produced the Leuenberg Concord between Reformed and Lutheran churches which declared that the former anathemas of the Reformation time were no longer in effect and churches of the two traditions should establish altar and pulpit fellowship. The Concord derived its name from the town Leuenberg near Basel, Switzerland, where preparatory talks were held.

“The Leuenberg Concord has been subscribed to by 80 European and a few Latin American churches. Both the Netherlands Reformed Church (NHK, State Church, R.D.D.) and the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands (GKN) will participate in the talks.”

Together On The Way—Twosome To Become Threesome?:

“(Hoekelum, the Neth.) The Evangelical Lutheran Church in the Netherlands has asked the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands (GKN) and the Netherlands Reformed Church (NHK), to be admitted as a participant in their Together on the Way (Samen op Weg) reunion process. The historic decision to make this request was taken by the 36 member Lutheran synod meeting here in November 1985. Less than 30,000 in number, the Lutherans have always been a minority in the Netherlands yet they operate their own seminary in Amsterdam. They already make use of the common hymnal of the GKN and NHK and are a full member on the Dutch Council of Churches. In 1968 they entered into an understanding with the Roman Catholic Church regarding baptism. Trigger for the decision to join the reunion process was the desire to be more fully involved in Dutch church life.”

Christian Schools In The Netherlands Attract Many Non-Christians:

“(Grand Rapids) The January news bulletin of the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands (GKN) reports that declining church statistics in the Netherlands are not reflected in the number of students attending Christian schools. Although the GKN has lost 5 percent of its members since 1975, enrollment in Christian Schools (Protestant and Roman Catholic) continues to climb. Enrollment in Christian schools on the elementary level is greater than in the public schools. This blessing of students from non-Christian families is not without its drawbacks, for the non-Christian presence drastically changes the character of the school. Particularly the influx of children from Muslim families of immigrant-laborers from Turkey and Morocco makes it more difficult to maintain the schools’ Christian identity. The problem is exacerbated by the fact that those native Hollanders who have severed their ties with the church or have become non-active church members but continue to send their children to the Christian school give little moral support to the school. The question now is, How should a Christian school with its unique Christian identity, relate to Muslims and to mere nominal Christians? In an effort to be of help, the GKN general synod has decided to appoint a person to prepare educational materials for the encounter with Muslims in education and related activities” (RES NE March 11, 1986).

It would be too much to hope, we fear, that these educational materials will be soundly Biblical and Confessionally Reformed. Is the problem, perhaps, that the children of Muslims and nominal Christians find themselves in a friendly environment in the Christian schools of the Netherlands?