Looking for Balanced Educational Materials on Women in Office

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As described in the position statement on Women in Ecclesiastical Office, the CRC believes that two sincere, educated, and devoted followers of Christ may come to different conclusions about the issue of women as elders, ministers, and evangelists, each based on an understanding of scripture. There is no higher ground here.

Our congregation has for many years avoided the debate by just continuing with historical precedent, largely avoiding the potential conflict and division that other churches have experienced. However, our demographic is changing as more people are joining from different faith backgrounds, and questions come up about the lack of women among our elder nominees. The Council feels it is time to bring this issue before the congregation in small group educational sessions over the next few months, and then decide where the Lord is leading for this church.

We believe that it's important to hold a series of small group sessions with members of the congregation, objectively explaining the two interpretations of scripture, and emphasizing the CRC's position that biblical scholars have concluded that neither is definitive. We would prefer to use denominational resources to explain this, so that individual Council members are not seen as promoting their personal agenda or bias when describing one position or the other. Ideally, we would like to show a video that describes each interpretation clearly, earnestly, and with respect, followed by group discussions that help us avoid the distinctly unhelpful scriptural arguments from each side that simply divides.

Unfortunately, when looking for balanced educational materials, we find only one-sided views that refers to the others as either "the patriarchical unenlightened who promote the oppression of women" or the "liberal feminists who substitute political correctness for biblical authority." (Neither is a direct quote!)

Can anyone recommend objective materials that we can use to help present the two sides, and then help us lead our congregation to a decision that is in the best interest of our congregation, whatever the Lord may desire for us at this time? 

Thanks in advance,

Tom Cooper, Elder

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Community Builder

Tom,

We commend your approach of educating and discerning where the Spirit will lead.  Several individuals at Calvin Seminary and in our churches provided some excellent recommendations below: 

As far as resources that give balance to the two views, the report to Synod 2000 of the Committee to Review the Decision re Women in Office includes a section called “Two perspectives: biblical-theological argumentation for each of the two CRC perspectives on women in the offices of elder, minister, and evangelist.”  (Women were already allowed to be deacons at that time.)  This report begins on pp. 351 in the Agenda for Synod 2000, and that particular section starts on p. 355.  It’s also linked on this page: https://www.crcna.org/resources/synod-resources; scroll down to Reports and the year 2000 for it. 

Another resource is a booklet by John Cooper, who taught at Calvin Seminary for years and did many adult educational presentations on the topic of women in office.  The booklet is called “A Cause for Division? Women in Office and the Unity of the Church,” published by Calvin Theological Seminary in 1991. He explains Reformed hermeneutics and principles and methods of exegesis and applies them to the two views on women in office.

We also suggest a vimeo recorded last year at Calvin Seminary of a panel of professors.  The panelists are John Cooper, who summarizes his booklet, Matt Tuininga, who came very recently to change his mind about the issue, and Amanda Benckhuysen, who approaches the topic as a biblical scholar and an ordained woman.  As we understand, this video could be very helpful to your congregation.  Here’s the link: https://vimeo.com/210631868 . Admittedly, this vimeo is on the side “for” women in office, but does so very respectfully of the two views.

Our office will assist you by making some recommendations of individuals to talk through a process or speak to your Council and/or congregation.  If you have any questions, please feel free to send an email to [email protected]

May the Spirit continue to guide you in discerning a process that meets your congregation’s needs.  We hope these resources will be helpful. 

 

Community Builder

Tom,

I would like to thank Rev. Kathy Smith, Adjunct Professor of Church Polity, Calvin Theological Seminary, for providing the response to your inquiry.  She is quite knowledgeable about this subject and one of the first people I contacted when I saw your question. It is appropriate for me to mention that in my response.  

I have found Neal Plantinga's small little article to be so well articulated as well as Tony Campolo's article (the others are good just not as good, in my humble opinion): https://www.amazon.com/Changed-Mind-about-Women-Leadership/dp/0310293154 

Community Builder

Another suggested resource

http://fuller.edu/womeninministry/

 

 

Tom,

Thank you for your letter and leadership.   It takes courage to go down this road.   Your situation pretty well describes our church as well.  One major difference is that your leadership is taking the lead in presenting the study, rather than reacting to a set of people who were seen as "pushing for change."    However, just by bringing it up, the council will be upsetting the status quo.  I think it would be wise to think through as a council some sort of timeline that you are implementing, so that you are not forced to be reactive.   Perhaps you will give 6 months for study before you discern the next step.  And who will make that next step?  Will it be the council? The elders? Or a congregational vote?   During this time, some will say, "Let's just focus on the essentials".   It is helpful to remember that almost everything we do as Christians is non-essential to salvation, but we do them anyway.  And sometimes, these things are matters of justice or matters of cultural relevance as we minister to a new generation.  So the important thing is to give an opportunity for the congregation to see that the Scriptures can be interpreted faithfully by either position.  We are. after all a scripturally based church.   It is most helpful to hear both positions from start to finish within the context of a creation, fall, redemption, consummation framework.   Then go back and show how each side makes different interpretive choices.  For instance, it there a hierarchy already in Genesis or not?  Is the curse prescriptive or descriptive?  Is the fact that Eve is named after the curse significant?  Are OT examples of female leadership to shame males? Or is it foreshadowing?  On and on.   Clearly, this is not a small task, but blessings to you and your congregation.  I hope and pray you can navigate these waters in a way that is a model for others.