The Synod of the Protestant Reformed Churches was not the only synod to meet this past June and make decisions settled and binding for their federation of churches. Others did too. One in particular was the General Synod of the Vrijgemaakt-Gereformeerde Kerken (GKv), known to us as the Liberated Churches of the Netherlands, the mother church and sister denomination of what we commonly refer to as the Canadian Reformed Churches.
The GKv synod made a couple of significant decisions this past June, decisions dealing with granting women the right to hold office in Christ’s church. We speak of ‘decisions’ in the plural because the GKv not only made a decision granting women the right to hold the office of deacon, but also a second decision granting its women the right to serve as elders in Christ’s church.
Yes, we say ‘in Christ’s church’! Not because it cannot be challenged whether, when women are ordained into ruling offices in a church, that denomination deserves to be called “Christ’s church” any longer, but because that is what a synod that makes such a ruling is saying. They are saying, “We are yet Christ’s church! And the decision we now make, we make representing Christ. In Christ’s name we inform you that we are convinced Christ grants women the right to rule as elders in His church!”
That is quite a claim.
One claiming to represent Christ better be sure of himself before making such a decision and claim.
Or, if you will, following this decision, one better be sure of HERSELF before making such a claim and then proceeding to make decisions for the church in Christ’s name.
We can think of no greater transgression as an officebearer than to misrepresent Christ.
And to do that knowingly!
The decisions are what we call ‘watershed’ decisions.
We label them ‘watershed decisions’ because once a denomination’s synod makes decisions of this sort, decisions so clearly contrary to the ‘settled and binding’ statements of the apostolic Scriptures (in this instance, apostolic instruction concerning the governing of Christ’s church), that synod has set its denomination on an irreversible course of fast-moving apostasy that must inevitably end up in the sea of destruction, where every teaching of Holy Scripture will be denied as regards both confession and godliness.
What follows is a translation of a report received from a good brother in Europe following the decisions of the GKv synod on the issue of women in office. The report informed its contacts (translation from the Dutch is ours):
A bullet has been shot through the church!
[On] June 15, 2017, the General Synod (at Mappel) of the Liberated Reformed Churches made a decision to allow women to hold the offices of deacon and elder.
In a long, tiring session (unusual and unplanned) that extended beyond supper, the Synod decided to open up the office of elder to women by a vote of 23 [in favor] to 9 against. Earlier Synod had already decided the issue of women as deacons, with only 2 votes opposing [the recommendation to allow it]. A counter-proposal, in which it was proposed that the church council (composed of men and women) would operate under the overall oversight of a ‘nuclear consistory’, or council of elders consisting exclusively of men, was defeated; only 10 delegates were in favor [of that proposal].
The Synod has yet to come to a decision about giving its consent to women giving sermons as preachers. But, considering the direction of the discussions and arguments made for women serving as officebearers, that will only be a matter of time—the final hammer blow!
…By these decisions the Synod has broken with the church of all ages and has struck out on a new path. We expect the decisions will have significant consequences for the relations with various domestic churches (meeting the approval of the NDA, but repellant to the CGK-GTU for example!) and also for foreign churches around the world. Various churches have already indicated that their sister-church relationship with the GKv will be broken if the positions [offices] are opened up [to women]. Also, no doubt, membership in the International Council of Reformed Churches (ICRC) will be an issue of discussion.
The report then goes on to give synod’s grounds for its groundbreaking decision to grant women the right to serve as elders as well as deacons. The synod declared that it was persuaded that there were scriptural grounds for women as well as men called to service (in Christ’s church) in the area of “… pastoral care and education, and thereby to the office of elder.” The grounds given were:
1. The characters of Miriam () and Deborah ( ) allowed women in the old covenant to labor in cooperation with men in areas of government and law. They could be called by God to do so, as evidenced by Micah 6:4, where the Lord desires to convey to Israel: “I sent…Miriam to you to go before you.”
2. As well, the New Testament also calls older men and older people (seniors), including older women, to serve as examples and for the care of souls ().
3. Paul’s designation of Junia and her husband Andronicus as spoken highly of by the apostles (), as well as reference to other couples and his assistants (Rom. 16:3), and his mention of a couple, of a brother and sister who housed a church ( ), give the impression that male and female were in equal positions of leadership in Christ’s church.
The decision to open not only the office of deacon to women but that of elder as well, shows just how far down the road of apostasy the Liberated Churches in the Netherlands have traveled.
[Just prior to this issue going to the printer we learned that the synod also voted (by a 21 to 10 vote with 1 abstaining) to open to women the office of minister of the Word.]
The decisions do not come as a surprise.
Over the last two decades concerned members of the denomination have voiced their concern over various issues: the toleration of sabbath desecration (a growing number of members engaging in common labor and recreation on the Lord’s Day with no church discipline applied); the alarming upsurge of members divorcing for nearly every reason and then being allowed to remarry, and yet remain members; and, last but not least, professors and clergy being allowed to challenge the literal interpretation of Scripture, starting with the historicity of Genesis 1-11, of course. Evolution has become an accepted explanation of the origin of creation.
This ‘broader perspective’ has resulted in declining membership and a number of congregations ‘liberating’ themselves from the GKv and beginning new federations.
And now this decision, described by the correspondent as “a bullet shot through the church” (and lodged in its heart, we suppose he means).
A fair appraisal.
What we have always found so intriguing about decisions like the one just made by the leaders of the GKv, decisions that so clearly contradicts apostolic words, in this instance, apostolic words of instruction to pastors of early New Testament churches that were dealing exactly with this issue, namely, who according to the Lord Christ may serve as officebearers and rulers in HIS church (cf. I Tim. 3 and Titus 1, to say nothing of), is how these leaders and their synods try to justify their undeniable departure from apostolic, scriptural doctrines.
By quoting Scripture! That’s how.
It is downright ingenious, to say nothing of being devious.
By which I mean, I suppose, it is disingenuous!
“Why may we, in the name of Christ and truth, make decisions that so clearly go contrary to the apostolic teachings on various matters found in Scripture? Because the Scriptures allow us too! That’s why.”
An attempt to use the Word of God against itself, or if you will, the words of the Holy Spirit against Himself. As if the Holy Spirit speaks out of two sides of His mouth.
Either that, or one is saying that the apostle Paul really did not know the mind of the Spirit when he wrote what he did to young pastor Timothy and his beloved Titus to give them authoritative ‘advice with teeth’ on how to order the churches of Christ entrusted to their care.
Either perspective is an assault on Scripture and a slander of the Holy Spirit.
Why is it that highly educated churchmen who insist on these new policies, imposing them on their denominations against the will of many, do not have the honesty simply to say, “We have come to the conclusion that we are not bound any longer by what the Scriptures say. Those days are past! We have decided to go in a way that has contemporary approval instead.”
But no, instead, having cast aside various plain passages of Scripture in which the apostles are clearly addressing the very issue being considered, which clearly oppose these new notions being proposed, these fellows come up with wonderful committees that latch on to this or that ‘out-of-the-way’ passage that perhaps with some stretch of the imagination could, by some ‘nuanced’ insight that only the intellectual elite can discern, be applied to the issue.
To prove what?
That this present departure from what the Reformed churches of Christ have always maintained is really scriptural after all and the will of Christ for His church.
And they themselves know it.
Which simply underscores the seriousness of it all.
To appeal to Old Testament references to Miriam and Deborah, as one of the grounds does, and to have these women serve as the standard for the New Testament church age, is without merit.
We are surprised the synod did not make reference to Huldah the prophetess while they were at it, as did the CRC on this issue in their capitulation to our contemporary, feminist-fueled society some years back.
How foolish to make reference to Deborah, whose serving as judge was evidence of what? Of how deeply into apostasy Israel had fallen (as was true of the days of Huldah the prophetess as well). Deborah’s very serving as judge was set forth as a reproach to Israel, because “not a man could be found in Israel” to serve with wisdom and courage.
Is that the state of affairs in the GKv?
We doubt, however, the synodical delegates intended their votes to acknowledge that as the reality.
And as for the reference in Micah 6:4 to Miriam whom the Lord used along with her brothers Moses and Aaron to lead Israel out of Egypt, it proves nothing about women serving in office. What is clear from that history is that God did put Moses and Aaron into office, but not Miriam. What we learn from Micah is, that for all that, Miriam was, as a woman, useful to the church and used by God. For that usefulness Miriam did not need a special office.
As for the synod’s reference to the number of couples greeted by Paul in Romans 16 and thanked for their service, and the synod using these references as a ground for their momentous decision to approve of women as rulers in Christ’s church—by which decision, as the report correctly states, “…the Synod has broken with the church of all ages”—simply shows how desperate the synod was to find any scriptural, apostolically sanctioned proof for their decision.
When it came to Romans 16, all that even the synod could say was that the passage “leaves the impression that male and female were in equal positions of leadership….”
Passages that “leave the impression.”
And on that basis a denomination justifies kicking aside I Timothy 3 and Titus 1 and I Corinthians 14 (and others), with their clear teachings about whom Christ calls and qualifies to serve in church office.
That what governed the Synod of the GKv 2017 was not the fear of God and His Word, but the fear of men, of contemporary society, and a desire to have its approving words.
Be assured, that spirit will bear only the bitterest of fruits, as has come to evidence in denomination after Reformed and Presbyterian denomination that has chosen this way.
The Christian Reformed Church is clear proof of this reality, as evidenced by a report its synod considered in its recent gathering, one from Classis East (Grand Rapids, MI), calling for a re-examination of its position forbidding gay marriage.
Something the SB will report on in a future issue.
Be that as it may, what the report on the GKv synod states is true: its decision is going to force a number of denominations to re-examine their present relationship to the GKv.
This includes the Canadian Reformed Churches in North America.
We would suppose it means the termination of her relationship with her mother church.
We shall see.
And to think, this is the denomination of Dr. Klaas Schilder, who a short 75 years ago ‘fathered’ a denomination that was formed to stand for Reformed, biblical truths against the deep-rooted apostasy that had taken hold of its mother church, the GKN of Dr. A. Kuyper.
As our European contact remarked in his cover letter, “How very, very sad!”