Last year the synod of the Reformed Churches in-the Netherlands (“Liberated” – hereafter GKN-Lib) decided that women may participate in the congregational meeting as voting members. They may enter into all the debate that takes place at this meeting. They may vote on all matters that come before this meeting. Most importantly, they may vote for pastors, elders, and deacons.


By this decision, the GKN-Lib let the nose of the camel of feminism into their church tents. In time, this decision, unanimously taken, will be followed by decisions approving female deacons, elders, and ministers. These decisions will necessarily involve rejection of the biblical teaching that the husband is authoritative head of wife and family.


The GKN-Lib deny that their decision approving female participation in the congregational meeting is the nose of the feminist camel in the tent; They were at pains to deny this in the very decision by which they approved women voting at the congregational meeting. The conclusion of their decision attempted to put to rest any fear that this decision represents a concession to worldly feminism:


Allowing women to vote is not an expression of un-scriptural individualism or of democratising in the church, and must therefore not be regarded as a concession to a drive towards a false spirit of emancipation;


 Since voting must not be regarded as a form of governing, the granting of voting rights to the sisters should not be considered a first step on the road toward the opening up of the office of minister or elder to the women.

About the sincerity of the Dutch Reformed synod, one need have no doubt. Nevertheless, the members of the GKN-Lib and the Reformed churches in fellowship with the GKN-Lib should not be misled by these reassurances. Allowing women to vote at the congregational meeting of the Reformed church is a “concession to a drive towards a false spirit of emancipation.” The granting of voting rights to the sisters at the congregational meeting should be considered a “first step on the road toward the opening up of the office of minister or elder to the women.”


The reassurances by the synod of the GKN-Lib are not at all reassuring. For, first, this synod showed itself strangely unaware of the tremendous pressure that the feminist movement is presently exerting upon Christ’s church and surprisingly indifferent to the mortal threat that this ungodly movement poses to the church. In a time when feminism, with the drive for acceptance of homosexuality, is the issue in Western society and when church after church, including Reformed churches, are falling to this movement, the GKN-Lib abruptly overturn their own and the Reformed tradition by permitting women to vote at the congregational meeting. As they do so, they express that the threat of feminism is of little concern to them: “(The church should not) withhold the voting rights (of women at the congregational meeting) out of fear for the spirit of the times.” Indeed, they find it in themselves to speak a good word on behalf of the modern feminist movement: “The spirit of the times does not necessarily always have a negative impact, even the present manner of electing has been influenced by it.”


There is no sharp denunciation of the feminist spirit of the times. There is no urgent warning that the Reformed churches stand in mortal peril of being influenced by this antichristian movement.


Instead, “the spirit of the times,” that is, the feminist spirit of the times, “does not necessarily always have a negative impact.”


Such lack of appreciation for the power and danger of modem feminism does not engender confidence in the synod’s reassurances that its decision allowing women to vote at the congregational meeting does not represent a concession to the spirit of the age nor open up the way to women officebearers.


Radically different was the attitude of Abraham Kuyper toward the same movement. Writing some 80 years ago, when the feminist movement was not nearly as powerful as it is today, Kuyper warned the Reformed believers in the Netherlands against feminism in these words:


The spirit of the age is such an almost irresistible force. Also from our own circles, one who is not very solidly grounded is easily swept along with it (De Eerepositie der Vrouw, Kok, 1914, p. 5).

A second reason for finding the reassurances by the GKN-Lib unconvincing is the history of other Reformed churches. Other Reformed churches have traveled the same path that is now being followed by the GKN-Lib. One, well-known to the GKN-Lib, is the Christian Reformed Church in North America (CRC).


In 1957, the CRC approved women voting at the congregational meeting. In this decision, the CRC, like the GKN-Lib, expressly denied that “participation in such meetings would also involve the right to hold office” (“Acts of Synod,” p. 311). But the opening up of all the offices in the church to women did follow in the CRC. At every step of the way, appeal was made to the decision of 1957 permitting women to vote at the congregational meeting.


In support of its recommendation to the 1978 synod that the CRC permit consistories “to ordain qualified women to the office of deacon,” the advisory committee reminded synod of the decision of 1957 permitting women to participate in the congregational meeting(“Acts of Synod,” pp. 103, 104).


The decision by the CRC in 1990 permitting “churches to use their discretion in utilizing the gifts of women members in all the offices of the church’ included a reference to the decision of 1957 “allowing women to vote at congregational meetings” in its grounds (“Acts of Synod,” p. 654).


This is the lesson of history. A Reformed church begins with a decision approving female voting at the congregational meeting. The decision passes at synod and is accepted by the people on the basis of a firm declaration that the decision has nothing to do with, and will not lead to, women in office. Nevertheless, in a few years decisions follow that open up all the offices to women. A ground for these decisions is the church’s original approval of women voting at the congregational meeting.


Women voting at the congregational meeting is the nose of the camel of feminism in the church tent. The rest of the camel is looming just outside the tent. The opening to the beast has been made. Before long, the entire camel will be in the tent.


The reason lies in the nature of camels and of congregational meetings.


It is the nature of camels to follow their nose.


It is the nature of congregational meetings that they rule the church. They do not rule over the consistory. They do not rule apart from the consistory. But they do rule with the consistory.


This is invariably denied by the Reformed church that is determined to have women at the congregational meeting as it is making the decision. In its decision, the synod of the GKN-Lib emphasized that the congregational meeting does not govern and that the congregation’s voting for officebearers is not an exercise of authority.


It may readily be admitted that a Reformed synod can make a good case for this view of the congregational meeting and, therefore, for the participation of women. The meeting of the congregation is a peculiar gathering in the Reformed system of church government. Article 29 of the Church Order of Dordt does not mention it as one of the (authoritative) ecclesiastical assemblies. It lives in the Reformed mind that the congregational meeting functions under the supervision of the consistory. The decisions made at the meeting are confirmed by a subsequent decision of the consistory.


The congregational meeting is a “soft spot” in Reformed church polity. This is why the camel of feminism thrusts its nose in at precisely this spot. This is the one place where Reformed church government is vulnerable to the intrusion of the world’s agenda that the headship of the husband be destroyed. Were the camel of feminism at the beginning to poke its nose directly into the consistory room, the Reformed church would bump that nose out without further ado. But women at the congregational meeting has possibilities. After all, the congregational meeting does not rule the church, not in the Reformed system.


In fact, however, this unusual meeting does exercise authority and does govern the church. It shares authority with the consistory, and it cooperates with the consistory in ruling the church.


That the congregational meeting governs is evident to all on the very face of it. Voting is governing. Voting for the governors of the church is an especially powerful form of governing.


The Reformed creeds, forms, and church order make plain that the congregational meeting exercises authority, that its decisions are binding, and that its function is government. Question 85 of the Heidelberg Catechism says of the minister and elders that they were “appointed by the church.” Article 31 of the Belgic Confession teaches that the officebearers are “chosen to their respective offices by a lawful election by the church.” The Reformed “Form of Ordination of’ Elders and Deacons” regards the election of these officebearers at the meeting of the congregation as the lawful call by God’s church. Article 22 of the Church Order of Dordt refers to the voting by the congregation as the “election” of the elders and requires the consistory to install the men who are chosen at the congregational meeting.


Denial that the congregational meeting shares in the government of the church by the consistory, in the interests of having women vote, is demeaning to the congregational meeting and ought to be offensive to the congregation of Reformed believers.


Permitting women to vote at the congregational meeting is the nose of the camel because this voting is a form of rule in the church. If the women are authorized by Christ to rule at the congregational meeting, they cannot be forbidden to rule in the offices. Only timing, not principle, restrains the entire camel.


The Protestant Reformed Churches have somewhat strengthened the “soft spot” of the congregational meeting against the camel’s nose. To Article 4 of the Church Order of Dordt, concerning the lawful calling of ministers, they have added this decision: “The nomination (of ministers) shall be submitted to the approbation of the congregation…From the nomination the male members assembled on a congregational meeting…shall elect by secret ballot.”