TROY, Mich., (April 12, 1996) URNS – When Synod 1995 surprised most observers and distressed many by developing an illegal way to allow women in office by permitting classes to declare two parts of the denominational Church Order to be “inoperative,” it also declared that “this arrangement will be in effect until the year 2000, at which time it will be reviewed.” This decision was a significant shift from recent synodical practice, which has reversed itself five times in the six years Since 1990 on the question of whether women may be ordained.
Classis Lake Erie has now overtured Synod 1996 to implement the 1995 decision by appointing a committee “to receive the responses of the church to the decision,” to “report to synod annually via the synodical agenda” and to “submit a final report to the churches by November 1, 1999.” As precedent, the classis cited the precedent of Synod 1990 which deferred the ratification of its decision to open all the offices to women until Synod 1992. “Synod 1991 did not accede to thirty-one overtures, one protest and one communication on this matter, in large part because Synod 1990 specifically mandated a periOd of two years (or continued reflection before any further action should be taken on the matter.”
“Synod did this to remove the debate from the floor of synod for a number of years…to allow the denomination and its churches to concentrate on their ministries,” wrote Classis Lake Erie. “Even though we are not pleased with every part of the 1995 decision and would even like some changes, we believe Synod 1996 and succeeding synods should honor this 1995 decision.”
Pastor George Vander Weit, stated clerk of Classis Lake Erie and a member of its study committee on women in office, presented the overture as being beneficial to opponents of women in office, “if this doesn’t pass there will be some people who will feel they have lost their voice, so we feel this is healing, therapeutic, and positive.” Pastor George Vander Weit told Classis Lake Erie at its March 2 meeting.
Classis easily pass:ed the overture by voice vote and also passed an overture to replace the ban on synodical agencies appointing women ministers with a statement that “synodical agencies (e.g., Home Missions, World Missions, the Chaplain Committee, etc) shall respect local views on women in office in the placement of ministerial personnel.” Classis noted that if synod adopts the overture asking synod to appoint a committee to receive responses it expects that. its own overture asking for a change in the 1995 decision regarding women in office would be sent to that committee rather than acted upon by Synod 1995.
While presented as a way to maintain the voice of those opposing women in office, the vice-chairman of the Interclassical Conference of CRC conservatives said that Lake Erie’s proposal would actually take away their voice.
“To remove this from the deliberation of a synod by locking it into a committee for 5 years is a further aberration of due process which the Church Order grants,” said. Rev. Tom Vanden Heuvel, whose own church has submitted one of the overtures that would be sent to the committee proposed by Classis Lake Erie.
“The presupposition of this whole idea is that the Church Order has been changed; it has not been Changed, and to declare a certain word ‘inoperative’ is a total aberration in the whole history of Reformed church polity,” said Vanden Heuvel. “This overture builds on the aberration and assumes the aberration is the norm. The Scripture has not changed, the decision of 1994 has never been changed the Church Order has never been changed; rather a Supplement has been given which contradicts the Church Order.”
Darrell Todd Maurino, Press Officer United Reformed News Service