Where Are the Women at Synod?
May 26, 2016
Updated December 5, 2017
7 comments 492 views
With the addition of deacon delegates to synod, churches are seeking a more complete representation of the body at synod. And yet a Network reader recently raised an important question, asking: “If there should be a full representation of the church, where are the women and children?”
The question seems fitting as a motion was made (and unanimously passed) at Synod 2015 to bring back the practice of delegating women advisers whenever there are fewer than 25 women delegates. Click here for the full CRC news story on the return of women advisers.
I’d be curious to hear your thoughts and reactions. Why ARE there so few women at synod? Why is this still a challenge in the CRC? What changes do you hope to see take place in the next few years? How does the CRC move forward when there may still be varying opinions?
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While I don't believe women should be excluded by rule from any church offices, I also don't believe we should seek mathematical, or even approximate mathematical, gender parity in church offices, nor in delegation to classis ir synod. Rather, we should allow that to happen as it happens, which means differing local contexts will aggregately and ultimately determine the delegation make up at the broader assemblies.
To do otherwise is just more "rule from the top," a perspective not consistent with our church order, nor conducive to the unity of CRC churches.
In other words, if indeed "churches are seeking a more complete representation of the body at synod," then those same churches (plural) will send delegates that represent what they seek, and the broader assemblies (and BOT and bureaucracy) should simply acquiesce in that result.
It would be helpful in responding to this to know how many women are delegated this year. And was it necessary to implement the role of Women Advisers for Synod 2106?
I was at Synod twice as a Deacon Adviser. It was a challenging and very worthwhile experience. I did not feel as the woman quoted in the report about Synod 2015 that it was an "old boys club" atmosphere--at least not anymore for the women than for the men who found themselves in this setting for the first time; I had a conversation with several men about this very topic. Each Synod has a significant percentage of first time delegates. And for all it is a learning experience--kind of by the end of the week you understand the rhythm and the ropes--and then it's over.
At classis this spring, I did try to encourage a couple of women deacons to make themselves available. They said no. For them being a deacon was relatively new. Coming to classis was even newer. Thinking that they might go to Synod was really new. For some of the people of ethnic diversity at classis, I think some of the same steps were being felt--each step was new, how many did they dare to take. It takes time.
But I noticed that even the men who were in the majority at classis and for the most part had much more experience in denominational roles weren't exactly jumping up and down to volunteer either. There were many qualifiers uttered as the roll was taken and the question of availability for Synod was asked.
It is hard work preparing for Synod. It is hard work being there. We trust that it is God's work we are doing.
Thanks for talking about your own personal experience at synod. Helpful thoughts. I haven't checked out the number of women going this year but the 2016 Agenda would give us the names.
Praying and trusting with you that God is at work as the delegates prepare for the hard, important work of synod.
Thanks for posting this, Staci. In going through the Agenda, it looks like there will be 44 women delegates to Synod this year, roughly 23% of the delegates, which I am guessing is a record. Since 25 of the women delegates are deacons, it seems that the change we made last year to seat deacons at Synod certainly has made an impact. Rev. Chelsey Harmon is the only woman serving as a Minister delegate, but I know that there are women filling the "Other" slot who are ordained.
I am hopeful that some day soon we will not need advisors to Synod in any category, but the slots we fill with delegates to Synod will be more representative of our congregations by including the people of color, women, and young adults in our pews.
You have neatly written out the other half of the comment, regarding children. A related post from 2009 talked about official 'youth' attendees at synod who were aged 18 to 26. In my 'youth' I had four children and people of that age were the elders of the church. Nowadays youth lasts until you're forty.
Children should be attending synod, and they should be heard. I'm speaking about littlies aged 4-14. They don't need to be paid up, done their profession of faith, respectable, coached, scripted, and rehearsed. They can and should be asked for their opinion in matters that affect them, while respecting their tender years.
Come on, people! You are smart enough to figure out a way to make that happen!
There is a famous phrase "let the water seek it own level". We have too many people (in the church) building dikes and channels.
Or are they tearing down the dikes and filling in the channels previously built?
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