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How should complementarian classes encourage women to use their gifts in classis? 

Dawn is a member of a church within a classis that won't seat women. In a comment on a previous posting (and on other forums) she shared that this leads her to the conclusion that classis is a broken structure and should be replaced. 

Even though I believe all offices of the CRCNA should be open to women I've got doubts about Dawn's position. Part of this arises from my ideas about how culture and gospel work together in church structure. 
My experience in other cultural contexts in the US and overseas leads me to believe that church structures need to reflect both the gospel (none do so perfectly) as well as the culture of the community. If the structure is too far out of alignment with the cultural understanding of community the church structure will be unintellible and probably abusive and unproductive. 
For this reason I am disinclined to advocate for a synodical level effort to force these classes to change their policies. I think the present denominational position is appropriate for where we are at culturally, allowing each classis to determine its own position. Understanding cultural contexts and accomodating cultural needs is more than just recognizing the needs of communities defined by ethnicity or language. 
Dawn is persistent if she's anything and she has brought me to think about the reality of seeing classis narrowly as a delegated voting body that appears and evaporates two or three times a year. Unlike congregation/council, and denomination/synod, we have one word for classis/classis. I think complementarianism is as much a cultural position as a hermenutical one and if it is pursued any classis that does not recognize women elders or pastors must somehow find a way to embody the principle in the classis in some better way than having women serve the lunch. 
In 2006 I visited Redeemer Presbyterian church in NYC and had the priviledge of not only meeting with Tim Keller but also with his church staff. Redeemer is part of the PCA which does not permit women to be elders. I spent an day meeting with most of the heads of ministry groups in the church and to my surprise found that most of them were women. If you want to hear Tim and Kathy Keller's position on Women in Office there are recorded talks on the Redeemer website and probably other places on the Internet. Even though I disagree with the Kellers' position on women elders I was pleasantly surprised to see how much positional power, control and responsibility women had in their church.
Again, I do not advocate for the PCA position that Redeemer is in compliance with. My sympathies are more with my friends at City Church San Francisco, a church similar to Redeemer (complete with former Redeemer staffers) who left the PCA for the RCA. Yet for those who are working to embody a complementarian ethos it seems to me that something else is needed in classis to bring expression to this position than simply a prohibition.
Cultures that I know who can't envision women pastors or elders (if they have elders) at this moment almost all have other positions for women within their cultures of great power and responsibility that afford expression of a complementarian ethos, valuing the gifts, leadership and expression of both sexes. I think classes that wish to try to develop the complementarian ethos should see this as part of the package. 
Now I write this post with a great deal of hesitation because I don't wish to ignite a Women-in-Church-Office flame war. This debate has been a part of my experience in the CRC for all of my life. We've too often handled this conflict poorly. At the same time I think the topic is worth discussing. 
Do you believe the existence of CRC classes that don't seat women elders condemns classis as a structure? If so, what should replace it? 
If you are a complementarian, how should that ethos be reflected in classis? If you have a complementarian classis what concrete steps are you pursuing to give expression to God's gifts given to women? 


Bev Sterk on May 22, 2012

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

yep... ran into all of those!!  plus some...  makes one wonder why the enemy might be working so hard at keeping this gift of the Spirit from flourishing... I believe because it has incredible potential for the Kingdom, once we intentionally start operating in this gift in step with the Spirit...  I'm working on a study of the "logos" and "rhema" word of God connected to the gift of prophecy... 

Aaron V. - For what it's worth, Back to God Ministries are not at 2850 K-zoo in G.Rapids.  They're in Palos Heights, IL.

Wonder if there's a connection between that fact and their relative effectiveness......

Bev, I don't believe that anyone is disputing the gifts of the Holy Spirit to both men and women. This is obviously something that has scriptural witness from the New Testament. However, this was true without women holding office in the Church.

If you're making the case that the Holy Spirit is now doing something new, and to listen to him is to do something that breaks with the teaching and actions of Jesus and the apostles, then you are making the case for ruling out scripture as a guide for the church in many areas of life. I don't know if I can go with you down that road.

On the other hand, if that's not the road you're going down, then please explain further.

Bev Sterk on May 22, 2012

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Yes, I will further clarify, as I have found the prophetic gifting can cause a lot of misunderstandings, and so clear communications is very important...   I understand that the Holy Spirit will not doing something new that's not in scripture or that breaks with the teaching and actions of Jesus.  That is a primary test of whether a prophecy is from the Spirit or not.   The Spirit will not contradict Scripture and the character of God.

The prophetic gifting is of course not dependent on a woman holding office, just like any other gift is not dependent on that. 

 e Paul VK's original question asked how can complementarian classis encourage women to use their gifts in classis?

When we recognize that you don't have to "hold office" to have the spiritual gift of prophecy, then women should be able to operate in this gift somehow for the edification of the church at a local level, and at a classis level and beyond?... I don't think the Holy Spirit will give women prophetic insight just regarding the kitchen and the children (I'm being a bit snarky here =).  At this point in our structure, there is no official way for women in a complemantarian structure to share the prophetic insight they receive from the Holy Spirit.  There is no table that they are welcome at in this way.   Now, there are of course ways that these insights can be shared, but it is informal and lacking structure and often, very limited.    I submit that we need to set a table, where women are invited and welcome to share and test what is being received from the Holy Spirit through the gift of prophecy in regards to the church, at whatever level, whether they hold office or not.   Again, I see this gifting as an open door for women to be a part of building up the Church, whatever their "official" role in the church might be, whether the congregation/classis is complementarian or open to women in office.

I hope that helps clarify? 



Thanks, Bev! That does help a lot.

I'm not sure how to answer the idea of informally adressing official bodies. To make a table "official" without "official" participants may be a problem in semantics (brown is the new black, etc.), and may not offer a real solution. Not much of this is nitpicked in scripture, so many ways of solving the problem may be relative to each congregation, giving each classis a unique flavor (although your 'snarkyness' is well recieved and understood). The questions that need answering seem to be, ‘how are prophets identified?' and 'how is prophecy received by congregations and classes?' To answer this problem certainly requires wisdom and a spirit of edification (gifts of the Spirit themselves). 

In our congregation, all sorts of stuff filters up to classis from the council, which is informed by committees (men & women with a council representative), personal visits and written statements from anyone in the congregation. While our council is male (due to scripture), the information we recieve comes from all sources in the congregation on all topics without a preference to male 'prophetic' insight over female 'prophetic' insight. Therefore, there is no "women's table" at our council,  precisely because is the council's responsibility – inherent to their office – to actively consider all of the congregational needs and expressions, as well as relating that voice to classis. LIke I said above, this requires wisdom and a spirit of edification, which may be more powerful in some council members than in others. I am a relatively new pastor in my congregation, but as I have seen the Spirit working here I have personally asked certain women with specific gifts to move forward with programs and consider serviing on committees where their gifts will be used and treasured, as well as encouraging and training the council to creatively use the gifts of the whole congregation.

Hopefully, your council and classis are open to hearing these voices and creatively opening all sorts of avenues to edify the local congregation(s) and promote Christ's gospel in the hearts of those in your community – it is their responsibility! If that is not the case, then I understand the frustration. I have preached from the pulpit, specifically to the men, that it should not come as a shock to them that women made in the image of God should wish to see mercy and justice done in our family – and will become more active in realizing those evidences of the kingdom when the men abandon their calling and responsibility.

Bev Sterk on May 22, 2012

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

whew... glad that helped..

Those are good questions that we would need to work through.

I'm not looking for a "table" that's all women, I'm looking for a "table" that includes women along with men, and no it doesn't matter whether the "insight" is received by male or female, but recognizing that women do receive prophetic insight, and when these insights are not included, pieces of the "puzzle" will be missing..  I'm suggesting a prophetic table... one where believers (male and female) that are open to the leading and prompting of the Spirit through "listening" prayer, one where there will be a time of quiet reflection together, one where there will be a time of sharing what God is putting on their heart for whatever purpose is at hand, and one where there is testing/sharpening of the "insight" shared.  I have my own experiences with this with family and personal situations, but they are very limited in an expanded group setting for a variety of reasons.  I will share that what the Holy Spirit reveals through these times of "listening" is powerful and profound.   I believe when we "practice" this at a group level, there will be profound insight given on behalf of the church.  It often takes a group to operate in the prophetic per I Cor 14:29-33 (please compare NIV and NKJV on v33).  When we operate individually, it's often not complete, because we are just given one piece.  God's heart is for us to work together, that we need each other to get the bigger picture. 

the prophetic insights are not canon, as the revealed insight will not be universal, but instead for a specific time, place, group... with specific guidance for a specific situation.   If you ever have the chance to pick up any of Loren Cunningham's (YWAM founder) books, I would encourage anyone to read these.   He shares many testimonies of "listening" prayer for guidance with YWAM.   and times where they messed up... we will make mistakes (or hopefully we can learn from his =)...

Do we need to add the office of "prophet"?   Somewhere we (reformed) say that all believers are "prophets, priests and kings"..  however, at this point, I'm just trying to get the prophetic gifting to be intentionally incorporated into our structure.  to raise awareness that this gifting is significantly lacking in our denomination, and now how to move forward intentionally incorporating "listening" to the Holy Spirit in how we "run" the church. 

Again, if something is not clear, let me know, because as PVK said, we have not done a lot of work in this area...

Recently, I have become aware of Mars Hill and Mark Driscoll.  What I found interesting was:  1.  They have grown as a church from about 60 members to over 5,000 members (and 15,000 weekly attendance) in about 16 years.   2.  They focus much of their effort as a primary ministry, towards abused women and single mothers.  (His "Real Marriage" course and book is an example.)   3.  His wife assists in prayers and advice in the Real Marriage sermon series.  4.  Their target audience is people between the ages of 17-34.   5.  They have about 100,000 downloads of sermons and seminars every week.  6.  They are intentionally "complementarian" in church   and family . 

I am a woman and I would definitely not want to attend a Church that has a woman pastor.  It is not a case of men better than women.  We have God ordained roles.  For example mothers have babies, not fathers.

1 Timothy 2: 12 But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. 13 For Adam was first formed, then Eve. 14 And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.

In the garden of Eden they had such yummy fruit etc.  They were definitely not deprived.  There was just one fruit they were not to eat and that is the fruit that Eve was deceived into eating.  Similarly there are Biblical roles for women.  However the one role that is reserved for men, some women insist on fighting against the Word of God to do the one role not designed for them.  

What I have noticed is that Churches that allow ordination of women seem to go downhill from that point.  An example is the United Church of Canada.  Look at their 'PR' campaign

Another example of why women should not be ordained: Female vicar causes stir with obscene car sticker ( Read more: )

The analogies that have been posted here are not related at all.  Women are NOT being denied membership of any Church.  Of course slavery is also totally unrelated.  

Actually what happened with the Blacks brought to America as slaves is far beyond slavery mentioned in the Bible.  Exodus 21:16 "And he that stealeth a man, and selleth him, or if he be found in his hand, he shall surely be put to death." In other words what they were doing was a capital crime.  Slavery in the Bible is either due to the person/family's debt or to make amends for stealing.

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