Overtures 3 & 4: Laying Out the Debate

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I apologize for my absence, friends. I confess to having run stuck on Overtures 3 & 4.  Perhaps you have too?

Overtures 3 & 4 read like this:

“Therefore, Classis Grand Rapids North overtures Synod 2013 to direct the Board of Trustees to help establish a new classis in the Michigan area in accordance with Church Order Article 39.  The purpose of this would be to create a classis in which churches whose convictions do not allow women to serve in the offices of the church to participate freely.”

and,

“Classis Kalamazoo overtures Synod 2013 to direct the Board of Trustees to facilitate the establishment of a new classis in Michigan in accordance with Church Order Article 39 and to permit the transfer of Second CRC from Classis Kalamazoo to this new classis.”

(There is more to these proposals than that and I strongly urge you to read it for yourself – pages 398-406.)

You might easily see why a gal – a Reverend gal, no less – might get stuck here.  No matter your opinion, most of us aren’t diffident in holding them or taciturn in voicing them.  Let’s own that at the outset.  These overtures seem likely to create a 2013 synod sensation. 

With as objective a voice as possible – tantalizing polemics to follow in a few days – let’s look at the mechanics of these overtures.  Reaching back for my college debate training, the initial prejudice always lies with the status quo, which is to say that Classis are regularly appointed according to geography and have never been previously created on the basis of a theological barrier or divide.

These overtures, therefore, must meet the burden of proof:

a. The current system (geographical Classis) is unable to meet the demand of the current situation

and

b. The proposed solution (a refugee Classis) is the best way of solving the problem. 

They must do this in keeping – as they properly and good orderly noted – with Church Order Article 39.  Church Order Article 39 states:

“A classis shall consist of a group of neighboring churches. The organizing of a new classis and the redistricting of classes require the approval of Synod.” (Manual of CRC Government; 2008)

An earlier version of the CRC Government Manual (2001) is quoted in Overture 3 to provide this further instruction:

“The desirability of organizing a new classis depends on the consideration of the number of families, the number of congregations, the geographical distances, the effectiveness of ministry and other factors.”

Therefore, these are the questions we must answer:

  • Do classis seating women delegates irrevocably undermine the effective ministry of a) churches in that classis who do not hold a Biblical conviction that women ought to serve in their congregations or b) the classis as a whole?
  • Conversely, does the self-imposed exile of such congregations from their classis irrevocably undermine the effective ministry of a) the classis as a whole or b) the congregations there represented?
  • IF the case is made that this is a significant problem, THEN is the proposed refugee/affinity classis the best solution?

What do you think?

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Participant

BOQ.. which is to say that Classis are regularly appointed according to geography and have never been previously created on the basis of a theological barrier or divide.  EOQ

 

where I struggle is this theological barrier/divide seems to be totally ok at the denominational level, but then not ok at a classical level...   how can we apply this to one level, and totally ignore it at a higher/broader level?

 

isn't this how the CRC broke away from the RCA in the first place?

 

maybe our "denominations" should also be regional instead of based on theological, etc. differences....  maybe we need to be looking at a bigger dimension than just classis...  it seems we are ok with gathering all the "like" minded denominations into alliances.... and that's not by region/geography...  so which one is it?  is the Church to be expressed by region or by like mindedness?  Which one does Scripture support? 

It's an interesting point, Bev.  When Jesus commanded us to be one, just as he and the Father were one, what exactly did he mean?  I don't know that the Bible gives us a direct answer to the formation of church clusters based on geography or theological affinity as most of that work had to be done by the churches after the canon of Scripture was closed.  The church fairly quickly went toward geographical distinctions, as demonstrated by the 12 Patriarches of the early church.

Since then, of course, the church has made an unseemly mess of itself through schism, division and the like.  On the other hand, the early church was tasked with the work of crafting Orthodoxy and any attempt at crafting Orthodoxy requires a distancing of self from heresy, right?

Augustine of Hippo said: "In the essentials, unity. In the non-essentials, liberty and in all things, charity."  The church gets itself "all twist-turned up-side-down" because we don't know how to parse the essentials (requiring unity) from the non-essentials (allow for distinction.) One of the benefits of being a creedal/confessional denomination (it seems to me) is that the work of discerning essentials/non-essentials has been done for us.  In this case, then, is the seating of women delegates at Classis -- according to our Creeds/Confessions -- an essential or non-essential issue? And, regardless, how are we tasked to demonstrate charity?

 

Participant

bless your heart Meg for your response... that is a great quote, and it was also the motto of the Moravians in the 1700's, who if you aren't familiar with them, they are worth researching...

this is an amazing thing i have found, when I pray with brothers and sisters in the LORD, from all different streams, we are almost always in unity... as soon as we finish praying and start talking, I quickly realize we have some different theological pages...  but yet, when we pray together in the Name of Jesus, there is a definite sense of unity.

What is interesting to me, is how in Revelation, the 7 churches are addressed by geographical area.  I think God intended us to have to work through our theological differences of understanding (iron sharpens iron), and yes, when it is heresy, then to deal with it and repent, again using the letters to the 7 churches as examples.. however,  what is heresy, and what is not, can be a difficult question, and the Word of God, under the enlightenment of the Spirit, is our plumbline.  The confusion comes in with interpretation/understanding.  (This hits so close to home, as I just got an email re this very thing, so sorry if I'm vague and just scratching the surface on this, but it's a huge topic)

 

and your last question:

And, regardless, how are we tasked to demonstrate charity?

honoring each other is huge (Rom 12:10), we honor the Church, as the Bride of Christ, and so we honor each other as brothers and sisters in the LORD. 

a second thing that has helped me, is knowing that our battle is not against each other, not against flesh and blood, but it's against the enemy who is trying to steal, kill, destroy, divide and deceive.

 

but here's our assurance!!  Greater is He that is in us...

http://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=victors+crown&mid=6EEDEC9F617436DB646F6EEDEC9F617436DB646F&view=detail&FORM=VIRE3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Participant

Hey Meg... just an fyi on the quote, it's not Augustine, although that is a common misperception...  it took me a while to follow up on this, but finally did...  it sitll is a great quote and was well used by many great leaders  ;)...

http://theflamingheretic.wordpress.com/2011/03/25/in-essentials-unity/

 

As we can see in the quote Bev, from your linked site, the difficulty is usually in deciding what is essential, and what is not.  We know from the epistles of John that obedience is "essential" to sanctification, to christian living and christian witness, and we know from Jude that we should contend for the faith, and that "certain people have turned the gospel of grace into a license for immorality", which would suggest that morality is also essential.   But the details, the details of how to work this out.... that's where we often run into trouble... 

"Schultze’s sermon indicates, though, that by 1902 there was no agreement on just what things were essential and which were non-essential within the Moravian Church let alone in the wider church. Despite the fact that the “Moravian motto” does not clarify what are essential things, the call for a type of unity that allows liberty of expression in some things clearly resonates with many people. Other denominations today claim this same phrase as a motto, especially churches that emerged out of the Campbellite movement in 19th century America."

Participant

Thank you, Meg. There is complementariansm, and then there is the way one expresses it. I wonder if this recent post on CT may be quite relevant to this point. http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/mobile/hermeneutics.html?id=105509. My opinion is that when we Balkanize ourselves into affinity classes, we all lose. We lose the opportunity to disagree with civility. We lose the benefit of radically different perspectives. Synod has rejected this before and it should do so again.

That article certainly is an important read but I'm not sure how much it applies here.  I do not want to lump the members of Classis Grand Rapids North or my own beloved Classis Kalamazoo in with the likes of John Piper.

Participant

Regarding "the likes of Piper," well, Piper is very popular among some of our most conservative members. He has some valuable contributions on topics like desiring God and finding joy in God, but I find he often lacks pastoral sensitivity. But the connection is this: Why does the presence of women at classis create an intolerable scandal for some complementarians, in the same way that Piper can read a commentary by a woman but he can't tolerate seeing her offensive female body when she is in a teaching (or pastoral or elder) role? And why can the presence of women be tolerated at synod but not at classis? I work with clergy from other denominations with whom I disagree about a great many things, and yet I still work with them. I have attended classis meetings with persons who, in my estimation, have little use for our Reformed confessions and our denominational covenant in the Church Order, yet I still attend classis meetings. Give me a confessionally Reformed female colleague / elder over a wishy-washy liberal (or emergent or generically evangelical-Fundamentalist) man any day.

Participant

Full disclosure: I'm appearing in a book with Piper ( http://www.crossway.org/books/from-heaven-he-came-and-sought-her-case/ ). Fuller disclosure: I disagree with Piper on more than a few things. I was in a Sustaining Pastoral Excellence group in which a group of us studied Piper's works and went to hear him speak in the Vancouver area. I found his tone troubling, particularly his public humiliation and criticism of the music leader at the event. But he was nowhere near as offensive as Mark Driscoll, who not only claimed that male leadership of the church was a sine qua non, but also that only urban ministry makes any difference in the world and the kingdom. As the pastor of a vibrant, growing rural church at the time, I found that just a wee bit offensive.

Randy, re  your offense at Driscoll:  yes, he is sometimes prone to hyperbole, and gives offense to some.  However, you and I probably also give offense to some.  That is no criteria for serious evaluation.  Matthew 13:57, Mark 6:3, are a couple of examples where people took offense at Jesus.  Romans 9:23 and I Peter 2:8 (NKJV) calls Jesus a rock of stumbling and offense.  

Driscoll's point about city churches is not a slur, but an encouragement towards priorities.   I belong to a "rural" church as well, but I fully understand Driscoll's point, and his examination of demographics, culture, and lostness from an evangelical perspective.   Sometimes offense is taken where none is intended.  (you may ask yourself). 

When I was in Synod in 2010, there was some discussion about  churches who wanted to change classis for the same reason. So why not have another classis?  We should be agreeable and only argue heavily on what separates Chirstians from Non-Christians. I feel sorry for the women in the new Classis as well as all the men.

August Guillaume

 

Ah, then, you know this conversation well.  It is the same churches petitioning for the development of a new classis because, at Synod 2010 they were not allowed to join a Classis hundreds of miles away from their own churches.  Surely the distance was thought to be a hindrance to effective ministry.  So just because it was discussed then does not, I believe, necessarily translate into acquiescing this request.  There is MUCH precident set for individual congregations joining like-minded classis.  There is no precident set for the establishment of a new classis for the purpose of theological affinity.  

Community Builder

Without debating the issue here, this probably a key reason there are fewer and fewer denominations and more and more community churches. It's another manifestion of individualism at work.  But like you say, it will liven up Synod (but not the church in the eyes of the world).

Help me understand your point, Harry.  Is the church better in the eyes of the world in multiple independant church variations or is it better when churches hold onto each other in affiliations (even though that requires debate and argumentation at times)?

In an effort to address this as you have framed it (though I think Bev's post hit the nail on the head)...

  • Do classis seating women delegates irrevocably undermine the effective ministry of a) churches in that classis who do not hold a Biblical conviction that women ought to serve in their congregations or b) the classis as a whole? (Of a individual congregation, no. The council makes its own choices and classis has little say in the matter unless there is a discipline issue. A pro-wico classis won't and can't force a anti-wico congregation to have female officers. Of classis, only in so far as delegates from those congregations would participate in an examination of a female candidate (which they don't have to). If there are other situations that are affected, I'm having a hard time seeing it.)
  • Conversely, does the self-imposed exile of such congregations from their classis irrevocably undermine the effective ministry of a) the classis as a whole or b) the congregations there represented? (Yes and Yes. Calling this a self-imposed exile is a nice way of saying it. A mini-schism is probably a better description. Classis (and the denomination) is a gathering of congregations that covenant to work together for the forwarding of the gospel. Withdrawl is breaking that covenant. The question is whether WICO is worth splitting over. The tension behind these overtures is that these congregations don't seem to have settled on the answer to that question. There is enough people who say 'yes, this is worth splitting over' that they don't participate at classis. But there is also enough people who say 'no' that they are doing amazing church order gymnastics just to stay in the CRCNA. As Bev noted, the result has been an illogical division of 'we won't participate in classis because of WICO, but we will participate in the denomination inspite of WICO.' Another point of damage to the classis/denomination is the disrespect to the offices. I see this self-imposed exile as a violation of Belgic Confession Article 31 (last paragraph). While these congregations disagree with WICO, they most certainly may not disrespect officebearers. They must honor and respect officebearers because of the offices they hold and work that they do. There is a stunning disregard to all officebearers in the classis by these two congregations by their absence. Proper honor and respect would say, "I disagree with the decision we have made as a classis, but I will respect it because I respect the authority of the officebearers of classis who made this decision." Regardless of the gender of the officebear, the office must be honored and respected.)
  • IF the case is made that this is a significant problem, THEN is the proposed refugee/affinity classis the best solution? (No. The underlying logic needs to be cleaned up. Namely, is this worth splitting over. If it is, let's bless these congregations as they go to the URC or the like. If it is not, they need to honor the covenant they have with other CRC church in their classis and the denomination as a whole. If this logic isn't cleaned up, a whole classis will be formed and live by it. The logical conclusion to this senario is that the whole classis will leave the CRC because of women officebearers at denominational gatherings. The big question for me is whether this synod will be so bold in a) confronting the breach of convenant and doctrine, and b) directing the congregations to go through the leaving the CRC process or reengage in ministry in their classis (depending on their response to whether this is worth splitting over).) 

stay tuned for two more posts where I attempt to lay these arguments out.  PLEASE feel free to respond there.  As always, you have quite a remarkable gift for the politics and nuances of these things.  Henry DeMoor should be proud!

When you try to decide if something undermines a ministry, ask yourself if another situation was at question, how you would answer that question?  For example, suppose the issue was re-baptism.  If some adopted it, and others did not, and wanted a separate classis, would having the separate classis or not having it undermine someone's ministry (either position)?   What evidence or proof would you use to demonstrate that someone's ministry was undermined?   Would it be good or bad that someone's ministry was undermined? 

John,

The true trouble with our denomination's situation with regard to differing opinions on women serving in ecclesiastical office is that there are no easy parallels -- at least none that I can find.

Our denomination's position with regard to baptism/re-baptism is clearly a confessional matter. We have determined that women's ordination is not a confessional matter. On the other hand, the example that readily came to my mind (to own my own prejudices) was the issue of worship style in which there is much freedom within the denomination to believe and practice several different options.  But I understand (as a former Baptist Fundamentalist/Evangelical, perhaps more than most) that the argument over women serving in ecclesiastical office is far more deeply rooted and profound than praise chorus v. organ.

So it's hard for me to follow the hypothetical situation you pose.  

Participant

The re-baptism analogy does not work at all. The question is: can we live with each other with respect and charity despite our disagreements on a non-confessional issue? Forming an affinity classis seems to be an easy way out, in contrast to the difficult work of making the effort to work together.

So, the analogy or comparison of re-baptism does not work then for you?    You suggest that re-baptism is a confessional issue, and that women in office is not.   Hmmm.    Is not one of the foundational confessional precepts, that scripture is our authority for life and doctrine and practice?    Compare these two issues then on the basis of scripture.   On the one hand, re-baptism.  Name the passages or the scriptural reasoning (reasoning found directly in scripture)  that forbids or even recommends against re-baptism.   I am not talking about extrapolation or deductions from a scriptural view of covenant, but from scripture itself. 

Now name the passages and practices found in scripture that indicate against women in office (having authority over men).   Regardless of your conclusions on each of these practices, it is undeniable that scripture gives more direct indications against women in authority over men, than it does against re-baptism.  

To say that women in office is not "confessional" is muddying the waters.   I believe that infant baptism is a good practice, that it indicates God chooses us before we choose him, and that God works through believers and their families.   However, there is also a very good case to be made that baptism should follow belief and repentance and confession, regardless of  the covenant of grace with believers.   I do not hold to that, but it is still a good case.   The confessional issue is the covenant of grace;  the practice of denying re-baptism may not be necessary to hold to that covenant of grace.   I know it is not strictly or absolutely necessary, since I know people who hold to the covenant of grace working through believers and their children, and yet participate in re-baptism.   

The apostle Paul made women in authority a confessional issue by the parallels he made with Christ and the church, as well as the origin of sin and the fall.  

So the argument could be made  that ministry is hindered when these precepts are ignored or denied. 

Participant

John, with respect, that argument cuts off all discussion, because it makes every theological issue a confessional issue. In that case, the supralapsarians at Dordt could have broken fellowship with infralapsarians. Moreover, the claim that WICO is not a confessional issue, while re-baptism is, is not a personal opinion; it is the official position of the CRCNA. If it were a confessional issue, it would be grounds for leaving the CRCNA. Some have seen it as such and have left the CRCNA.

This argument also implies a harsh judgment on those with whom one disagrees, namely, that they "ignore" or "deny" scriptural precepts. If they did so, they would be worthy of rebuke and discipline. But what if they honestly disagree about the interpretation of scripture, without any wicked intent?

Some guy named John Calvin wrote about the fact that equally diligent and pious persons disagree on the interpretation of scripture, in his dedicatory epistle for his commentary on Romans:

“It is, therefore, presumptuous and almost blasphemous to turn the meaning of scripture around without due care, as though it were some game that we were playing. And yet many scholars have done this at one time. We, have continually found, however, that there is by no means universal agreement even among those who have not been found wanting in zeal for godliness, or piety and moderation in discussing the mysteries of God. God has never so blessed His servants that they each possessed full and perfect knowledge of every part of their subject. It is clear that His purpose in so limiting our knowledge was first that we should be kept humble, and also that we should continue to have dealings with our fellows. Even though it were otherwise highly desirable, we are not to look in the present life for lasting agreement among us on the exposition of passages of scripture. When, therefore, we depart from the views of our predecessors, we are not to be stimulated by any passion for innovation, impelled by any desire to slander others, aroused by any hatred, or prompted by any ambition.”

I hope that we don't accuse those with whom we disagree with presumption and blasphemy, or with playing games with scripture. People honestly struggle with the biblical text and come to different conclusions. I hope that we "continue to have dealings with our fellows," despite our differences.

Randy, I agree with John Calvin on this issue.  But it is my perception, that you have avoided the main question I asked, to which disputable matter, women in office or rebaptism, does scripture address itself more specifically?   Downloading this question to what synod said at one time or another abour confessional vs non-confessional is not helpful.

Participant

Ephesians 4:5: "There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism..." On rebaptism, see St. Augustine's writings on the Donatist controversy, and Martin Luther and John Calvin on the Anabaptists. Even Karl Barth, after he came to reject infant baptism, vigorously repudiated the practice of rebaptism. And note Belgic Confession art. 34: "For this reason we believe that anyone who aspires to reach eternal life ought to be baptized only once without ever repeating it—for we cannot be born twice. Yet this baptism is profitable not only when the water is on us and when we receive it but throughout our entire lives." This position arose not merely from proof-texting, but became the consensus of the church through the crucible of controversy. The principle of sola scriptura does not mean that the Reformed church rejects what the church has learned through its history (a position that is sometimes described as nuda scriptura--scripture in a vacuum). Calvin himself learned this the hard way when he refused, early in his career, to endorse the Athanasian creed, and thus earned the suspicion of being Arian. He quickly remedied this situation. (Forgive my constant use of church history; we church historians can't help it).

In the same way, the statement that WICO is not a confessional matter is the consensus of the CRCNA, and to say so is not "downloading this question to what synod said at one time or another." In fact, (forgive me if I misread it), that sounds contemptuous to me, either to our deliberative process, or to the CRCNA as a whole, or (least importantly) to myself. I find that statement of the Synod eminently "helpful," as it enables persons with differing views on the matter to live together, and it intentionally and with integrity (I would argue) de-escalates the issue. That statement was also borne out of the crucible of controversy. It may be the case that those who believe that it is in fact a confessional matter and that a pro-WICO position is a willful perversion of scripture by persons of ill-will should seek a different denominational home, because that position shuts down all discussion.

 Randy, your use of church history is apt.   It helps us to understand why positions were taken at the time, and helps us to question whether those conditions still exist.   It was important at the time to stress God's sovereignty, faithfulness, pre-eminence, which are all embodied in the idea of supra-lapsarianism.  The  church at the time needed visible signs of God's amazing grace, as well as His election choices. 

 Back to Eph 4:5, "one Lord, one faith, one baptism".   John the Baptizer baptized a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.   Jesus himself was baptized by John, yet not for the remission of sins, since He was sinless.  Paul in Acts 19 says that John baptized for repentance, but people needed to be baptized by the Holy spirit.  Romans 6 says that baptism means walking in newness of life.  I Peter 3 says that baptism is the answer of a good conscience before God (thru Christ's resurrection).  Hebrews 6 talks of the doctrine of baptisms (plural).   So from their point of view, it is not as simple and straightforward as some like to think.   We sometimes oversimplify much more than scripture does. 

True there is one baptism by one God, who is also Spirit and Son.  There is one salvation, not several.  There is one redemption for sins, and Christ is not crucified over and over again.  We are buried with Christ once, but also continually, and also raised with Christ.   We are raised, but also being raised (sanctified).  But baptism by water symbolizes that;  it doesn’t equal that.  

Even though we have been sanctified by Christ before God, yet sanctification for us here is still also a process.   That is why we are “called” to obedience even though our spirit renewed desire is already to do God’s will, since as Paul says, we still do the things we do not want to do. 

I’m not arguing for a re-baptism.   I am merely putting forth an argument that presents an alternative perspective which may be still scriptural.  I am certainly not arguing for re-baptism on every whim and caprice for a renewal which in  occurs daily.   But I am merely suggesting that when people have been baptized as children, by parents who either were not Christians, or who completely disregarded the covenant of believers in the way they raised their children as pagans, then it might be appropriate to permit to baptize these children when they become new believers as adults.    (There may be grounds also for not permitting this, but such illegitimate baptisms based on formula and forms seem to be illegitimate in spite of using all the right words.  God said he didn’t want sacrifices from the Israelites if their hearts were not right.   Paul was clear that outward circumcision meant nothing; only circumcision of the heart mattered.   Perhaps our practice of baptism could also include a recognition of those teachings as well.) 

As far as consensus is concerned, we all know that consensus is a result of a discussion, that it does not apply if some seriously disagree, and that consensus is not in itself the basis for the validity of anything, especially when it comes to our faithlife. 

Participant

My reply no work :(

If enough churches get together to make a request for such a classis, that is, the number of such churches would be proportionate to the number of churches in any other classis, then it would be difficult to deny such a request, anymore than it would be difficult to deny one particular church's right to not attend classis, or to maintain its stand on this particular issue, which synod has said both positions have valid scriptural grounds.   (perhaps I am mistaken, but don't the korean churches and native churches have a separate classis each?) 

As a side note, Meg, you said "a) churches in that classis who do not hold a Biblical conviction that women ought to serve..."    This is semantics partly, but these churches are misportrayed.   These churches do believe that women ought to serve, but not as office-bearers.  Secondly, it should be reworded to say that these churches hold a biblical conviction that women ought not to serve as office-bearers.   (It is not that these churches do not hold a position, as your statement implies.)  

Norm,  semantics are not lost of me.  I have been on the receiving end of similar slights of course.  I will work hard to not allow good argumentation to become bogged down in petty jabs.

The distinction between Classis Red Mesa/Classis Pacific Hamni and this proposed Affinity Classis is that the line being drawn is theological rather than cultural/linguistic.  (Of course, if we were all living into the Shalom of Christ's Kingdom coming, even these distinctions would become unnecessary.)  It seems the original geographical set-up of Classes was a practical one.  Are we at a place where dividing up along party lines with regard to women serving in ecclesiastical office is a practical necessity?

And, as yet, it has not been shown that there are the required number of churches necessary to constitute a new Classis.  It almost seems these other churches who might be interested (as alluded to in Overture 4) are allowing Trinity Sparta/Second CRC to be their test balloons (kindly said)/whipping boys (less-kindly-said).  Surely Overtures 3 & 4 would have stronger merit if the churches who have alluded to possibly maybe being interested in joining Affinity Classis MI (what WILL this thing be called in the end?) would man up and own up.

Community Builder

I will just throw this out there.  To muddy the waters Synod 1996 determined: "Any request for transfer to another classis may include grounds that go beyond the sole matter of geographic proximity; synod is at liberty to consider such grounds in its disposition of the request".  (Manual of CRC Government, p.561.)  That suggests to me that Synod can consider other grounds besides geography in deciding Overtures 3 & 4.

Larry

Larry,

 

Does the 1996 decision, though, just apply to individual churches?

Participant

LORD, pour Your love into the hearts of Your followers, by Your Spirit, so that we can be one, as You and the Father are one!

my hope and prayer for Synod, is that there will be such an outpouring of the Spirit for unity...  going back to the Moravians, they had many struggles over doctrine - far more diverse than what we're wrestling with here, as they had religious refugees from various streams (moravian brethren / catholic / protestant / lutheran / etc) all coming together to live in Hernhut, close to Count Nicolaus von Zinzendorf's estate (he wrote #513 in Gray Psalter - Christian Hearts in Love United - works well with tune of Come all Christians be Committed as an option).  They were so divided that they walked to church/communion on separate sides of the street.  at one point, through prayer and research led by Zinzendorf, a covenant of unity was drawn up, and shortly thereafter the Holy Spirit fell upon them in one of the most powerful outpourings since Pentecost.  I think most of us would love for such an outpouring to fall on the crc / synod / michigan /any state / any congregation !!

here's a quote from the following link:   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moravian_Church

BOQ The refugees established a new village called Herrnhut, about 2 miles (3 km) from Berthelsdorf. The town initially grew steadily, but major religious disagreements emerged and by 1727 the community was divided into warring factions. Count Zinzendorf worked to bring about unity in the town and the Brotherly Agreement was adopted by the community on 12 May 1727. This is considered the beginning of the renewal. Then, on 13 August 1727 the community underwent a dramatic transformation when the inhabitants of Herrnhut "learned to love one another", following an experience that they attributed to a visitation of the Holy Spirit, similar to that recorded in the Bible on the day of Pentecost. EOQ

warring factions hmmm?  can we relate?

again, their history is fascinating, as the Moravian Brethren come from the pre-reformers of Jan Hus and John Comenius... I encourage you to do your own research on them... maybe this should be mandatory reading for synod delegates =)

 

 

Participant

These overtures, if approved, would be a loss for the classes and for the congregations that want to leave those classes. We need each other, particularly when we disagree. More "conservative" classes need the voice of more "progressive" congregations, and vice-versa (though I abhor those terms). The congregations should know that their voice is important in their respective classes. If they think their classes are "liberal," (I don't know that they think this or not), they should realize that their departure would leave these classes even more unbalanced (if in fact that is the case, which is always a very subjective judgment). I sympathize with the feeling of being a minority voice in classis; it is challenging and sometimes discouraging. But it is important to work through that and see the bigger picture: conflict is not always a bad thing; it can be an impetus to creativity, especially when that conflict is civil and takes the form of constructive and well-reasoned disagreement, and not personal attack. Don't give in to the narrative that the church is being taken over by rabid fundamentalists or raving liberals (I say, having committed this sin myself).

Participant

This is one of the best comments I've seen on the Network in a long time. Thanks for the level-headed and gracious approach here Randy. 

Yeah. What Derek said.

Disagreements have their place, and they are inevitable.   However, when a disagreement lasts for decades, it is not always good to have it too close to daily or weekly activities, such as the local church or classis.  If you live in a city, and want to attend a complementarian church instead of a "liberal" church, you can probably do so.  You can live in a semblance of peace, and still participate in the disagreement at various times via letters, internet, or different assemblies on a less frequent basis.   There is no need to assume a need to "differ" within classis, when there are numerous other places and ocassions for making those arguments known, such as synod perhaps, or in this day and age, discussion blogs, networks, etc.   Furthermore, there is the added benefit of having a larger audience, perspectives from outside the denomination, and being involved in a discussion that does not become so personal and acrimonious.  So I don't think the argument that we need to have differences within classis on this issue hold much water. 

Most classes only meet 3 or 4 times a year. Hardly in their face...

John, one could also use your logic about various avenues of communication and the like to note how pointless it is to create a theological insular classis. Best to learn how live with the diversity in one's backyard, because it is already there.

Mike, as long as you can continue to enjoy and encourage comments like mine , then you are okay with diversity. 

When Trinity, Sparta, approached Synod and asked to transfer to Classis Minnkota the response from the majority of delegates was something like, "There is a place for churches that hold to the earlier view on this issue; that place is in the classes that they are presently part of. Let them stay there and be happy."

 

I couldn't help but think of the message to women in the CRC of my youth. The message was, "There is a place for you in the church. That place is the kitchen. Stay there and be happy."

Eventually we realized that telling people "There is a place for you" ought to carry with it some freedom to choose their own place, and not be told where to stand, or  "hide in the corner"

 

If we really believe there is a place for churches like Trinity, Sparta, in the denomination we ought to have the decency to let them have some say in where that place is.

 

To do otherwise is sheer hypocrisy.

Thomas Niehof

 

Tom,

There is a big difference between the two in this "in the kitchen" analogy you use.

For churches who wanted female elders or pastors prior to 1995, they were designated to "the kitchen" as you put it. Those churches ministry was directly hindered because they could not ordain women as they wanted to at the local level.

For 2nd Kzoo and Trinity, the position of their classes has no obvious hindering on how they run their congregations. They don't ordain women nor are they being forced to do so. But that is ok, because that is not what is their concern. Their concern is classis. For your analogy to work, it needs to be established that their ministry in classis is being hindered (see this forum's original post). The only way one can see it being hindered is in the examination of a female candidate to the ministry. Otherwise, I don't see it (see my post above).

I think it would be helpful to the conversation if you or someone else could give specific examples and content to how the ministries of these churches are hindered in their current classes. And I can already say that violation of conscience is not a good enough hinderence. My conscience was violated when Synod didn't adopt the Belhar Confession, but I didn't cut and run either...

It has always intrigued me that we created Classis Pacific Hanmi precisely because of the issue of 'affinity'...It seems to be working for them. Why not for others? 

Because we speak English...

So do they...How do you think they function in American enterprise....No..we have a special classis for Koreans because of cultural affinity reasons....

I mean no disrespect to those parties for whom this is an important issue. But this does seem to me like arguing over what music to play while the Titannic is sinking. It is sad to me that a post on the command of Jesus to "Go and make disciples"--and how we might best accomplish that--would, regrettably, receive far less participation. How can we preach the love of Christ and his grace and reconcilliation when we can't even sit in the same room 3 or 4 times a year with our brothers and sisters with whom we disagree?

 

 

Admin

A good reminder, Julia. Thank you. I think we always need to watch:

- What We Discuss - This is a good and important topic to discuss, and completely appropriate for the Synod blog. But, as you point out, we should get as excited about discussing other ministry topics on this site and elsewhere.

- How We Discuss - A surprisingly large number of people watch these discussions (this page has had well over 1,000 views in the first 3 days). General comments like this

rel="nofollow">posted yesterday on Twitter

 always give me pause, depress me a bit, and then re-convict me on the importance of making the conversation itself a positive witness.

I don't say this as a critique of this particular discussion - which, at least from the portions I've read, I think has been pretty good. I say it as encouragement to keep this discussion going, keep it healthy, and then cruise over to other important ministry topics and discuss them too.

Participant

The twitter remarks seem particularly unhelpful and also condescending; ironically, I think they manifest what they purport to critique. This topic is not only legitimate (overtures are coming to Synod) but also profoundly important (how can we live and work together with our differences? Can we do so? Does how we do so contribute or detract from our witness to the world?) It's easy to bash others while simultaneously broadcasting an air of spiritual superiority, especially in 140 characters.

 

Admin

Note that the Twitter comments weren't about this thread specifically, but a general reference to comments posted on The Banner and The Network. It's easy to find examples that could fit that perception, and hopefully even easier to find ones that could refute it. But that's not the point. To me, it's a reminder that people are reading and forming opinions based on how we talk with each other, and what we talk about. So let's keep doing it as well as we can.

Participant

That's why it didn't make sense to me. I thought it was about this thread specifically. Never mind.

Do we have the capability of deleting our own comments?

Stay away from Twitter....  

Participant

Randy, if this parallel does not work for you let me suggest another one. A few years ago, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada allowed same sex unions to be blessed in congregations that allowed this sort of thing and if the presiding pastor was willing to do the blessing.  This is called the "local option."  A number of congregations have since left that denomination.  I believe that the same things happened in the USA with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA).

Now suppose that, in a few years, the CRC goes along that same path and that individual congregations allow their minister to perform same sex marriages, should congregations opposed to this be allowed to move from a "liberal" classis to a more conservative classis, even if this move would involve long distances?

Note that I am not advocating that the CRC should allow same sex unions but I see the CRC move in the same direction as the ELCA and ELCIC (and other mainline denominations) but with a delay of a few years.

Participant

If you want to compare being female to being homosexual, which is a dubious move. So that's one way in which it doesn't "work" for me. The CRCNA holds, along with the bulk of orthodox Christianity, that homosexuality is a disordered form of sexuality (leaving aside the excruciatingly difficult pastoral issues for the moment). One would not want to say that femininity is a disordered form of gender, or a result of sin, would one?

As for the usual pessimistic prognostications of the CRC's inevitable slide into mainline liberalism, witness Synod 2012.

It sounds, frankly, like typical, boring CRC-bashing to me; and this close to mother's day, it's disrespectful to bash someone's mother (mater ecclesia, see Calvin, Institutes, 4.1.1-4). If you came from the GKN, I can see how you might fear this outcome for the CRC, and in the past I have had that same doom-and-gloom attitude, which I think is less than faithful and less than God-honoring, since God is sovereign over his church. I have many relatives by marriage who are members of the GKN, now the PKN. Moreover, the baneful influence of GKN theology from the 1960's has faded from our seminary and many younger pastors, I think, have an appreciation for biblical faithfulness and the confessions that I find encouraging.

My close colleague in the Ev. Lutheran Church in Canada has now joined NALC, the more confessional denomination, and were I in his place I would probably do the same. The ELCIC not only blesses homosexual unions, but has also arguably jettisoned its confessional Lutheran principles in doing so, defining marriage in purely voluntary terms (my colleague shared their report with me). They are also quickly becoming extinct. And our cousins the presbyterians are leaving the PCUSA for ECO, because they are either more confessional, or maybe more likely, because they are more "evangelical." If such a turn of events does happen in the CRCNA, I think there will be a mass exodus from the denomination, not a realignment of classes. That is a church dividing issue. But this misses the point. If the ordination of women is considered such an extreme fault, equivalent to making homosexual unions equivalent to marriage, why remain in the allegedly apostate and ostensibly ever-more-liberal CRCNA?

It's possible, just maybe, that the CRCNA is not yet apostate, is not heading inevitably toward the rejection of its confessional moorings, is not rushing to be mainline, is not moving to identify the gospel with left-wing politics. I think there is a segment of the denomination that would want to push us in that direction, but there is also a segment that would push us in a fundamentalist direction and identify the gospel with right-wing politics.

Because I am very confessionally oriented, I don't want to see the one wing of the church moving toward polarization or schism, and I see this as an intermediate step along that direction.

I once had a member of the URC, who was unhappy about her own congregation and her pastor (who was eventually forced out of the URC for his extreme views), complain to me about the "liberalism" of the CRC. I asked her what she meant. She said "the women in office." I replied, "we might be in error on that matter, but your pastor is preaching theonomy, which is a heresy." And this URC woman, quite well-versed in theology, had to concede the point. We got along pretty famously after that. So, there are various degrees of error. The question for complementarians, who see ordaining women as an error, is whether this error (as they see it) rises to the level of apostasy or a willful denial of biblical authority. If so, they have no business remaining in the CRCNA. If instead they view egalitarians (these terms are both distasteful in my opinion) as sisters and brothers with whom they disagree, that's quite different.

Can complementarians in the CRC also muster up enough humility to give a female colleague the respect due to the office, even if they believe that said female colleage is irregularly ordained to such an office? I don't know that we as a church body have ever been challenged to consider that question.

In any case, on mothers' day, though it's just a Hallmark holiday, let's respect and honor our spiritual mother. It is our obligation under the fifth commandment. My spiritual mother is the CRCNA, part of the church catholic, who evangelized my family into the faith, baptized me into the Christian family, and nurtured me in the Reformed faith.

Participant

Randy, no, I was not comparing being female with being homosexual; I was comparing the acceptance, by the CRC, of women in office and of the schism that it caused, with the acceptance of same sex unions by the ELCIC, ELCA, etc, that is also causing schisms in that ELCIC and ELCA congregations are moving away, in some cases, as you have mentioned, to NALC (and I should add at this point that a close friend, a pastor, also recently moved from the ELCIC to NALC).

I am not CRC-bashing at all and I am saddened that you read that into my comment. I hold the CRC in great respect and have always been supportive of it.  My leaving the CRC was not because of theological difficulties but because we were not prepared to drive 100+ km to participate in the life of the nearest CRC congregation.  Hence our journey via the ELCIC to The Presbyterian Church of Canada.  But it cannot be denied that the CRC saw fit to accept women in office, first as deacons, then as ruling elders, and finally as teaching elders.  I would suggest that much of this change was due to changes in the culture in which we live in North America.  Those who opposed the concept of women in office were told that the relevant Bible passages were either not applicable to the current culture of that an alternate interpretation was acceptable.  Therefore, is it unreasonable to suggest that the CRC is immune to a similar approach when it comes to homosexuality?  I seem to recall a number of articles in The Banner over the years [strongly] hinting that the CRC needs to become more acceptable of practising homosexuals (e.g., John Lee's article "A Valentine's Embrace" in the 2013 February issue although the author did no specifically mention anything about "practising" homosexuality).

Finally, I am encouraged to read that "the baneful influence of GKN theology from the 1960's has faded from our seminary and many younger pastors, I think, have an appreciation for biblical faithfulness and the confessions."

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