Would you agree that denominational leaders are sending a confused message to the church regarding the need for change? Could you imagine that not only are we experiencing a decline in numbers, but that church members are experiencing such poor quality of community life that it's difficult to invite new people in?

June 12, 2012 0 7 comments

Synod is like an 8 day classis meeting, with harder beds and worse food, but the real trial will be having to both learn to love our enemies while God forces us to decide his will while He shuts up. Seems unspiritual and unwise, maybe...

June 5, 2012 0 0 comments

We need to talk! Talk as never before, talk as family, bound together across our differences by His blood and Spirit and love. We need to relearn to speak the truth in love, to engage each other with patience, with good listening, with thoughtful discernment, with humor, with...

May 16, 2012 0 0 comments
Resource, Article

Church services are for worshipping and Synod is for fighting and Synod season is upon us.

Two of the hot topics for this year are the update to the Form of Subscription and the Belhar confession. Whatever you think of the Belhar one of the things it has done for us is to bring the...

May 9, 2012 0 11 comments

 Yes our classis has taken a bold step to actively engage and support church renewal … one church at a time. This decision was born out of dialog about who is helping congregations and how it’s going. There are some good resources, but much more to do. 

May 1, 2012 0 0 comments
Discussion Topic

Delegates from classis voting opposite from classis'  vote on an issue....   Briantebben mentioned this in another thread.  This was in reference to a vote on whether to accept the Belhar or not.  Classis voted no, but Briantebben said the delegates would vote yes.  My question is this, if the...

April 19, 2012 0 7 comments

If the CRC is going to continue to allow both the egalitarian position and the complementarian positions on women in office, how should the complementarian position be expressed in classis? 

April 13, 2012 0 108 comments

One of the best kept secrets about the CRC’s life as a denomination is that exciting changes are percolating at the classical level. We take it for granted that agencies are thriving and doing effective work.  But exciting change at the classical level? Have you heard any recent buzz about that?

April 2, 2012 0 2 comments

It's not easy to take a picture of a classis. Both Rev. Devries and Rev. Boot spoke about how this project is helping both denominations move closer together, and this I celebrate. But I think it's also important to see how in many ways classis is a better initial level in which to pursue practical collaboration and unity.

March 22, 2012 0 1 comments

When you step off the plane in Missoula, MT, you feel embraced by the surrounding hills. I felt that way at the meeting of Classis Yellowstone too.

March 13, 2012 0 1 comments

Dr. John Bolt confesses his lack of classical involvement and learns that classis can be a place to see the beauty of what God is doing in this diverse world. Oh yeah, and he talks about the Belhar. 

March 5, 2012 0 4 comments

Feeling like denominations are a waste of time? I'd argue that it's tough for a Christian to "think global, act local" without a glocal ecclesiastical space, and your classis or a cluster within it might be the perfect place to start. 

February 24, 2012 0 1 comments

Have you ever thought of what 5 words you would use to describe your classis? Encouraging? Supportive? Enjoyable? Helpful? Stimulating? Or how about slow, frustrating, boring, irrelevant, sclerotic?

February 6, 2012 0 0 comments

What starts a classis on the journey to renewal? What factors can contribute to getting a classis started on the journey? Happily, many of these factors we can learn from the experience of classes that are already on the journey!

January 24, 2012 0 0 comments

We have no titles, hats or golden staffs in the CRC, but don't be fooled, the CRC has bishops and I praise God for them. I think we might benefit from chilling a bit on our egalitarian and libertarian culture and find ways to recognize how to employ this natural dynamic of leadership for the benefit of the church. 

January 9, 2012 0 2 comments

What are the factors that can really help a classis experience positive change? I’ll be the first to say I’m no expert, but I’d like to put forth a few thoughts for discussion. OK, I know you’re going to ask, “Yes, but what IS a healthy classis?” What are its “essential” characteristics? How do you get there?

January 4, 2012 0 1 comments
Discussion Topic

There was a time when ministers would hole up in their studies, surrounded by commentaries and occasionally distracted by a phone call.

Though I am not a pastor, I suspect that today's minister has a few commentaries or other pertinent thematic texts on the book shelf but that the...

December 27, 2011 0 38 comments

We're not alone in focusing on congregational health. What's not so clear is how "middle judicatories" like the classis figure in. I can't help but wonder - is the classis a potential key as we try to balance all the organizational dynamics we're trying to address?

December 13, 2011 0 7 comments

Here's an amazing story of transformation in one powerful paragraph! Stan Workman of Classis SEUS (no relation to the Doctor) wrote a testimony about his peer group’s experience and its effect on his classis. What’s so great is how many different people connected and 

December 6, 2011 0 2 comments

In church order language Article 17 is a no-fault divorce between a pastor and their church. Churches and pastors avoid invoking Article 17 because they don't want the stigma of this flagging system? Ought we to keep the flags or lose them? 

November 28, 2011 0 24 comments

I was never as upset after a classis meeting as I was after my first meeting of CANE. The meeting was toxic, petty, negative, and I could go on. Classis was all about blame and taking sides, partly relative to women in office but also showing a deep distrust on the part 

November 22, 2011 0 0 comments

The CRMT is committed to help foster fellowship, prayer, and spiritual growth at the classical level. To what end? So that classes can do a better job of creating and sustaining the health of their member congregations. To what end? 

November 1, 2011 0 2 comments
Discussion Topic

I hardly know how to  come at this topic, and I don't want to sound mushy.   I'm wired to appreciate lots of procedure, order, predictability, and all that ....

But - when I think of "renewal" in the arena of ecclesiastical assemblies, especially classis, I find myself thinking about a...

October 25, 2011 0 8 comments

Are egos getting in the way of church collaboration? Do local CRC congregations see themselves competing with each other for a limited membership pool?  

October 25, 2011 0 2 comments

What is the cost to your classis if one of your larger, key established congregation implodes? How can a classis do its best to promote healthy senior leadership transitions in important congregations? Consider hiring a Classical Interim Pastor. 

October 10, 2011 0 0 comments



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......

Ok, been following this thread since it started, all 90+ comments...  I made one comment early on (April 14), but no one touched it and I'm baffled when it seems like such an obvious answer to me, so I'm very curious why (or so it seems) no one is interested in pursuing the prophetic gifting of the Holy Spirit.

I will state it again, using this phrase from one of Dawn's posts on 4.19.12 at 2:32 whatever time zone that might be..

BOQ...So one piece of advice I have for the CRC is to figure out how to build up the structures that build up people, not the ones that deny them a seat at the table. EOQ. EOQ

So, I mention the prophetic "table" again...  Scripture (I Cor. 14:1-5,12) tells us we are to eagerly desire this gift, which I'm not seeing this in the crc to any extent (yet), and then that this gift is used primarily for strengthening, building up, edifying and encouraging the Church, the Bride of Christ.  Acts 2/Joel 2 clearly states it is for male and female, sons and daughters, all flesh, young and old, I don't think anyone can argue that point.

It seems the prophetic table is an open door for women, but for whatever reason, we/crc are hesitant/resistant to walk through that door. 

As was mentioned, we have bigger problems than women and classis, even though it is a significant and sensitive underlying one.    We desperately need the power of the Holy Spirit, which has been significantly lacking for a variety of reasons in the crc (and it seems other denoms similar to crc).  It will not matter if my voice as a woman is heard, when we are not hearing the Holy Spirit to any significant extent.  The Holy Spirit's one "thought" given to His Church through the gift of prophecy can easily trump a thousand human thoughts. 

Am I saying that we don't have the Holy Spirit?  No, I'm saying we haven't been listening to Him very well.





Granted, some operations at 2850 are bearing fruit for the kingdom in major ways. Back to God Ministries comes to mind. The amount of countries they reach with radio programs and websites and text messages has been huge for nations like those in the Middle East and North Africa where being a Christian is taboo and converting to Christianity is lethal. There is good stuff coming out of 2850 also.

Sorry about getting the thread off track.

You're exactly right about "self-perpetuating" and "broad authorization requests." One example: Someone from one office recently replied to a concern about endorsing the "faithful budget initiative" in Washington DC, (which is partisan politics at its worst, essentially advocating for the Democratic Party platform,) by simply stating it is within their synodical mandate to make such an endorsement. Upon reading the mandate, the word "broad" surely comes to mind. Who knows how many CRC Democrats there are in the USA, but here at North Blendon there is maybe one out of 380. Moreover, West Michigan is the most Republican area in the entire state, and NW Iowa is also very "red" on the map. It seems safe to say that this one office doesn't care that huge cross sections of the denomination have a different view about how the government should address poverty, etc.
The connection between 2850 and members grows more thin.

I agree with your assertion that "the CRC has bigger problems than the role and structure of classis," and that the "CRC as an organization has become very top-heavy and it weighs down all the operations," although I'm not sure that isn't another topic from that intended by Paul for this thread.

At least somewhat related to this thread though, I think the only game in town right now for reversing the top-heaviness of the denomination are the classes, the structure of which I don't consider "broken."  Unlike the denomination, classis tends much more to be "run" by those delegated to it. On the other hand, I do think our denomination stucture is breaking (has broken?), by which I mean this. While it used to be the case that denominational bureacracy considered it's function to narrowly follow the mandates (instructions) of synod, that relationship now is almost reversed. Today, the real agenda of synod is pretty much pre-established--in a very practical way--by the bureaucracy, which essentially places before synod a series of "broad authorization requests" so that it (the bureaucracy) can say it is doing what synod told it to do (Creation Stewardship Task Force Report is a great example). In short, the CRCNA bureaucracy has effectively become what might be fairly called "self-perpetuating."

The only antidote to this is synodical delgates aggregately finding whatever it takes to do a 180 (including but not limited to getting out of politics and the WCRC) but that's always a really hard thing to do after the self-perpetuation process has established itself (and it has).  I would suggest synod won't find what it takes unless a lots of members from the denominational ground floor get involved and start clamoring for it. And that will happen, if it does, largely through the conduit of the classes.

For me personally, after about ten years of not watching things denominationally (but rather focusing on the local), I "woke up" to find my denomination having taken a very long off-road trip in the last 10-15 years or so. I saw that green cover Banner declaring the CRC's position on global warming. Then I checked out Belhar, WCRC, the Accra, OSJ, etc.  Couldn't believe where we were. So what changed?  Although everything and everyone changes, I'm not persuaded the denominational change is reflected in the local congregations.  Rather, I'm persuaded the denomination has transformed from "servant to master" if you will, declaring its own life, will, and right to create the agenda instead of receive it.  The BOT is now much more meaningful than synod.  We need a 180 turn-around on this and I think the classes will play a key role in that happening--if it happens.  This coming Synod may give us a sign as to whether it might/can happen.  The bureaucracy has been tirelessly pushing the Belhar, but the more folks in the pew find about it, the less they like it.  So, which will win out. Classical overtures against Belhar greatly outnumber those in favor.  One would think the Belhar certainly will not pass.  If it does, it is a sign that it is nearly impossible to reverse the relationship between the CRCNA bureaucracy and synod.

Going off of what Dawn is suggesting, it seems the CRC has bigger problems than the role and structure of classis. The CRC as an organization has become very top-heavy and it weighs down all the operations. How many offices do we need at 2850? Every office means more ministry shares, more snailmail and email, more groups vying for churches' attention. As opposed to what Michael Bentley said, the need is for less structures. (Sorry Mike, I seem to agree with you on a lot of topics but maybe not his one.) This might be why non-denominational churches are doing so well. They don't have anything to do except worship together and minister to their communities. I am not advocating for zero structures and offices because that creates different problems, but a thinning out would be beneficial. More attention, money and time on a congregation's own community translates into more effective ministry. Just a thought.

OK, I think you are understanding much of my point. What I might not be stating well at all is that classis is not just a problem for those who want to seat women. I think you are aware of the churches that made an issue of classis before I spoke up here. They were not for seating women, they were against it. The fact is that classis is a broken structure. I do not see that we are inclined to fix it, although Hoksbergen's take was informative and could help us get real fixes. 

If you agree that the denomination has no stomach for fixing classis right now, then I think that for the sake of "both sides" (recognizing there are more than 2 opinions) and for the sake of the whole, we should make sure that we treat classis as being as insignificant as we possibly can within the policies we have.

As for your last point about going forward and doing things, I am using my gifts to the extent that I know how. I am not going to be starting any skunk-works or other projects of the nature you suggest for a number of reasons. Why I can do is share what I have learned through my experiences to date in providing some recommendations here.

I am suggesting that this blog morph into a blog related to regional ministries, mentioning classis as infrequently as possible rather than being a blog about classis, a structure associated with perhaps the worst of what we have to offer. I would prefer to cheerlead this blog from the sidelines as I think that the entries in this blog related to regional efforts are to be applauded. I know it is far easier to start something new than to change something that exists, so I suspect my suggestion to remove the word "classis" from this blog series and from project proposals and our typical community language will not get far, but I figured if I send out these signals soon enough anothers see that we have some org culture issues too, eventually the right person in the denomination will suggest that we either morph this blog or end it and start a new one. Eventually we will either fix classis or come up with ways to mitigate this. Since I am a futurist (by nature and profession), I thought I would pass along what I see. Maybe someone else sees a better way to move forward, other than either fixing or minimizing classis, but I do not.  

I am OK with helping to seed the air with positive directions forward and letting them play out over many years, if need be, but obviously I would prefer to have action sooner than that.  cheers!  --dawn

Dawn: I think I understand you point quite precisely.  You wish to diminish the role of classis and create a new regional sort of structure in order to "go around" the problem (as you see it) created by some classis being unwilling to seat women.

Let me give you a suggestion. Don't try to dimish the role of classis. If you do, that will will be (accurately) perceived as trying to "silenc[e] hermeneutical opponents by eliminating denominational structure?" (You may recall this post -- was a good point actually).

And instead of diminishing the role of classis, begin some regional cooperative efforts that do constructive things (to "move the church forward" as you say). Don't want for some official body like synod or even classis/es to design it, or even OK it. Just do it -- sort of private-sector-entrepreneur-like.  I could give you examples, but I think you probably have plenty of your own.

Yes, good, you are recognizing the problem too and coming up with a possible solution. THAT's what I'm talkin' about. There are many ways to address this, even if there are also issues with any possible approach, but we really ought to do something.

For those who think that the thing to do is put as many eggs as we can in the classis basket, I am suggesting that is an anti-pattern, not a good way to try to address this classis issue. A multi-level denominational authority structure in place of what we have would be one possible way to address it. How would you see this working out? Do you like the presbyterian approach?

And on it goes. This post proves why we need a multi-level denominational authority structure.

Sorry for the typos. I have a policy of only proof-reading materials directed related to my job (ok, that was just a joke). Yes, I understand that I am employing superlatives while trying to get this point across. Given your response here, I still am not stating things clearly, I fear, so I'll give it another shot. The problem at the classis level is not just "felt by" me and people like me who are pained by "being members of a country club that does not permit black tee times." You might have noticed that classis is also a problem for folks like 2nd Kalamazoo. We have some organizational culture issues, some of which are directly related to classis. I am trying to suggest a means of mitigating this.

Now, I would rather fix the situation and Hoksbergen's comments about classis, synod, and churches could be addressed to get us some distance on that front. I realize others might disagree, but I think that not having our classes vote (some doing so regularly) to decide whether a woman can be seated at their meeting would help with the organizational culture for both sides of this. I will suggest that fewer people feel the pain of women at synod than feel the pain of women being seated or not seated at classis. Classis is broken in a way that our church and synod approaches are not.

If we cannot fix the situation immediately, then we would be well-served to come up with a way to mitigate it. It might even be the case that whomever came up with the idea of a blog about classis thought that this might help, recognizing that we have some brokenness with classis. I am suggesting that I think that trying to advance classis in this way does not help with the organization culture issues. It seems to be putting a spotlight on what ails us in a way that does not heal it. I am not suggesting classis under the carpet (well, maybe I am), but at least not throwing in the faces of those pained by classis. 

I don't know if I have laid out a case yet or not, but I hope you are tapping into my thinking here. I am not trying to reargue the theological issue. I will accept that people with either of the two primary views can be under our CRC umbrella. That will not keep me from working toward what I think is important for helping our world relieve some of the crimes against women, but I can share the planet with those who disagree with me on this. I think our denomination will be better positioned to thrive and do our work if we mitigate the issues we have with classis unless or until we can fix them.  Tell me you are catching on to what I am saying or let me know if I am still not making sense.  Thanks.  --dawn

What I heard from synod was that "forward" was that we would share the planet together (the denomination, that is) in spite of our differences. This sounds good in theory, but there are some glitches in the way it was worked out. The primary glitches are at the level of classis.

It makes complete sense that when a decision regarding theory was reached (that we could understand how each of two primary views could be derived from Scripture), that we might not have an immediate, ideal approach to putting this into action. It makes sense that it would need tweaking, just as the new health care bill does. There are few implementations that nail down all details immediately. It is only if we disallow change that we are stuck. It "feels like" the denomination has stopped when it comes to the implementation, rather than tweaking it so that it works. The place it is really broken is at the level of classis.

If we can fix classis, great, but you know that I can't, so I'll rely on the men (at least in my neighborhood) to get that job done. In the mean time and just in case I am right in thinking that the denomination has no stomach for fixing classis in this regard, I think we need to minimize the damage that classis brings by narrowing down classis work to the very bare minimum. It is very frustrating to read that some grand new thing is happening in some classis that could not possibly include anyone of my gender in my area. So, stop it. Don't highlight classis. If classis is sometimes going to be a secret boys club, then don't throw it in my face. Hey, I think I'm on a roll here so I'm hoping that I am communicating my point well enough. I know that I employ hyperbole, a rhetorical form frowned upon by some, but a way for one person to try to communicate what they are seeing in a way that others might see it as well.

Have I been clear on this point? Could anyone help me be clearer? Do you (anyone) disagree or can we put a blanket on this classis trumpeting and highlight regional ministries without referring to classis?  Thanks.  --dawn

Dawn: Such superlatives. If the church is now, as you say, "stagnant and not move forward" because some classes do not permit the seating of women, then it follows that the church was stagnate for most of its existence, that the apostle Paul kept the church "stagnant" and from "mov[ing] forward," and, arguably, that Jesus himself, by his example in selecting disciples, kept the church "stagnant" and from "mov[ing] forward."

You make some good points Dawn, but so many, like this one, are expressed with such hyperbole (also the whole racist analogy) that the quality of the points made are lost. Worse, they foster division, a much greater concern to the biblical authors than the question of whether all organizational distinctions in the church between men and women should be obliterated.

It would be a whole lot easier to move the church forward if we could be certain about which direction is "forward".

And therein lies the pain of the original compromise.  Synod essentially said "forward" was in two opposite directions at the same time.

As for stubbornness, God made Frisians too, but, yes, I understand that there has been a compromise, so now I am asking questions about what to do in light of this.

I do not agree that the church should remain stagnant and not move forward. There were many stubborn people on either side of the civil war and many other disagreements in history. Those who were in the South really do have to accept the decisions made about which they did not agree. Those agreements do change over time, however (think about discussions related to the confederate flag).

Given the wisdom provided by Hoksbergen here, it might very well be that the actions of synod were out of order, that synod cannot give Classis the right to forbid women to be seated at its assemblies. In that case, it should be revisited, I would think.

My comments here were related to 1) accepting the actions of synod as a compromise, awful as it was and 2) figuring out how to move the church forward in spite of some problems with our organizational culture given that we have in that those whose consciences are torn by having a woman at the table (2nd CRC in Kazoo, for example)  and those, like me, who find it very difficult to understand how I, personally, am willing to permit myself to be a member of a country club that does not provide tee times for black people (or the analogous in the case of women in office). How can we address this "org culture" issue so that we can sail into the future?

I surely do not have all of the answers to this question, although I have spent some time designing an approach that I think would work (even if taking a lot of work). I am able, I think, to detect an anti-pattern when I see one -- something that will surely not help us move forward on this front. The one I am seeing here is too much attention being given to classis -- such as this well-done blog on the subject of classis. That is where I differ with Paul. I think we need to focus our local and regional attention on everything but classis, a place where we have severe issues (as evidenced by 2nd Kazoo and also what I can feel in my own wrenched conscience, especially when I again hear that my classis voted against women being seated).

So, yes, I hope that someone takes and runs with the Hoksbergen information to try to redeem classis, but if we cannot, then let's at least take the spotlight off from it and put our resources into non-classis work.  Make sense?  --dawn

BP: There certainly is "stubbornness and arrogance on both sides of the issue," as there was in Acts 15, which was cause for the Council of Jerusalem.  In both cases -- Acts 15 and CRC decisions re women in office -- compromise decisions were made. Part two of the process was/is to accept the compromise decicsions made.

As for your specific case, you ask "Should our church struggle because we are not allowed to have women serve on Council?", but your church IS allowed to have women serve on Council?  You need to talk to and about your church Council, not Classis.

I, for one, am a woman who would like to serve on Council.  Many of the men in our church do not come to church on the Sundays they are scheduled to collect money.  One rarely goes to Council meetings.  Much of the leadership outside of Council is done by women -- including me.  If the men aren't willing to be committed servers on Council, why is it wrong for women to want to serve even on Council?  THAT is precisely why I feel it should be left up to the individual churches.  If we would have more leadership by men in Council, perhaps I would feel differently.  For me, and many women, it has nothing to do with a "RIGHT" or "POWER".... we are a small church and lack men who are committed.  We only have 4 deacons and last Sunday, for example, there was only one deacon there -- it happened to be my husband.  We need committed leaders and we are at the point it doesn't matter if they are men or women.  We just need leadership period.  Should our church struggle because we are not allowed to have women serve on Council?  No, I would think God would want dedicated people to serve on Council, regardless of if they are men or women.  So.... I think it should be left to the individual churches then if not all in classis want that, at least OUR CHURCH could do what we want.  It would help us tremendously.  And, as I read all these posts, I think there is some stubbornness and arrogance on both sides of the issue.  That is not a trait God would want any of us to have.  I would think God would want us all to work together -- and that may mean different things for different congregations. 

I can name quite a few women who wouldn't want to be included as you say.
Rights and power seem to be everything in mainstream culture and unfortunately in the church.

I am not a CRC native.  I am one of those under 50 folks who grew up basically unchurched in a Protestant liberal tradition, became a believer in Jesus, and then grew to understand and appreciate that the bible itself matches the disctinctives of Reformed theology.  Why?  Because the Reformers did all that they could to articulate what the bible taught.  Obviously their writings reflect their struggles with those who disagreed with this biblical teaching.  This does not  make their work mere historical expressions.  It does add context to their articulations, but it does not nullify their scriptural observations.

The pathway of "Jesus is Lord" as all we need is well tread.  It is the siren call that rings throughout the history of Protestant liberalism.  I have lived through and seen the results of such sloppy thinking.  If the CRC moves in this direction, we will believe we are being loving by opening the "theological tent" wider.  Unfortunately, in opening the front door wider, we will also open the back door and the sides of the tent.  Those who are thinking, Reformed, and serious about their faith will leave.  It looks like you are willing to have this happen for the sake of progress.  

Please read church history!  No denomination or group has grown with this mode of operation.  Notice how Presbyterians, Methodists, Disciples of Christ, Lutherans, and numerous other denominations have listened to these same words of wisdom.  In fact, if you look through their debates on confessions, many pioneers of liberalism stated the very same opinions in the very same words.

This debate is vitally important because it will shape and form who and what the CRC is and will be.  Lord help us if we allow such sloppy thinking that pits heart versus head to rule in our denomination.  To be Reformed means to articulate and live a theology that balances the heart and head in unity both individually and corporately.  

The confessional crisis is, in fact, a crisis of identity.  Although ostensibly a confessional church from its inception, since the immigration to the U.S. (and later Canada) the CRCNA has defined itself primarily by a cultural homogeneity.  This has been fed by successive waves of immigrants up through the aftermath of WW2.

But that's over now.  We cannot survive as a Dutch immigrant church.  This has been obvious since Kuyvenhoven put burning wooden shoes on the cover of the BANNER nearly 30 years ago.

As we seek some basis for our existence, some sense of identity, different factions in the CRCNA have pushed for one thing or another - most of them rooted in their own cultural experience of the CRCNA.  Since that culture, however, is no longer homogeneous, these efforts have failed.

Others have rooted around in the denomination's structure, thinking it's an organizational issue, that if we just get the structure right the rest will fall into place.  It is increasingly evident that this, too, is failing to provide a reason for our continued existence as a denomination.

And over the last 20 years, significant numbers have said that there is no reason for our continued existence, so they've left (we've lost a net of 65,000 members since 1992, out of a total of 316,000 that year).

If there is anything that can hold the CRCNA together, across boundaries of culture, race, nation, and language, these common confessions are it.  Get rid of them, and we are not the CRCNA but a generic kind of evangelical church - and there are thousands of congregations and denominations that already do that, and do it better than we ever could.  Get rid of those confessions, and we have nothing particularly unique to say to the North American Church as a whole or to our surrounding culture(s), and those who think we should cease to be are correct.  If we would be one, then these confessions are the only place left where we <em>can</em> stand as one.

But that means we have to be much more overt, conscientious, and determined to teach them.  If they remain an appendix in the back of a Psaltar Hymnal that is itself rarely opened (the songs are on the screens these days), then they are nothing, and the CRCNA will die.  Sure, we may merge with another denomination at some point, hang around for a few more years, but we're losing a net of 3,000 members per year as things currently stand.  At 250,000 members currently, that hits zero well before 2100, and we'll have to close the doors long before we get to zero.  If we would remain, we must be what we have always claimed to be - a confessional church, standing on these particular confessions.

Suk calls this coercive.  I call it fulfilling our mission in the Body of Christ.

On my personal blog I created a page of links to blog posts on this debate that I've discovered to date. You can find the post here:

One could, I suppose, say that a certain poetic meter is "coercive", or that a DNA sequence is "coercive"...or one might say that these things are the neccessary framework for beauty and life.

In a Facebook posting earlier today, John, you claimed you are aware that the Confessions do lots more things than bring on wrath.  Yet you seem unable to articulate anything other than their "coercive" nature.   And now in this reply to Paul's blog you tip your hat in the direction of dumping the Nicene Creed eventually so as to bring the whole of our ability to articulate our understanding of Scripture and the faith to just the Apostles' Creed.   I know of many traditions that have gotten themselves to that point and though sincere and true brothers and sisters in Christ exist all over the place, a lot of some of the worst theology and most watered-down stances on Scripture, Jesus, and salvation come from precisely those places that long ago dispensed with articulating standards of belief.   True, no one is "coerced" into toeing the line but the alleged "freedom" that a lack of confessional integrity opens up becomes freedom in pretty much the worst sense of the word.   There is no "bottom," not bottom line, no way even to have a conversation with some pastors I've met up with over the years because there is not even a common vocabulary left with which to converse.   (And by the way, in a lot of those places, even the Apostles' Creed eventually gets regarded with a wink and a knowing little smile.)   No, I don't want the Confessions to be used ever and only coercively--they've got so much more going for them than that.  Within them there is also delight and freedom to explore, to teach, to proclaim.    And yes, we can always have conversations about individual portions of the Confessions--things we want to think more about, propose changes even.  But the bare idea that just having Confessions means coercion is the order of the day--because all forms of toeing a line are, apparently, a bad thing--makes little sense to me.   Is the New Testament coercive in that it appears pretty uncompromising on the claim "Jesus is Lord"?   Is Paul coercive when he tells us that without Christ, we are flat out dead in our sins (even though many folks today and all along history have regarded that claims as bogus)?   Doesn't having faith mean we submit ourselves to things and doesn't being a part of the graced community that just is the Church of Jesus Christ mean we draw lines, we make distinctions between what represents an accurate view of Scripture and of the faith once delivered to the saints and what counts as variants that ought not be accepted?   If every time we say to someone, "That's not right" or "That's just not accurate to the tradition of our faith" we are being unduly coercive, then it strikes me we're a short hop, skip, and a jump away from not being able to uphold any even vaguely robust form of the faith at all.

Excellent post, although we could have a good discussion over a cold beer regarding your third proposal.

"This requires that we figure out how to wed this reality with our inherited confessional system and make these new practices intelligible to those who have no experience in our inherited confessional system."

This is the biggest challenge we have, both in our Reformed churches and Christian schools.  As elders and ministers in the CRC we need to look back at our Dutch (and other) ancesestors who gave us such a rich heritage and not ask "What did they do?", but instead ask "What would they do now?"

"But the only official confession... we really need anymore, as far as I can tell, is the one scripture suggests in Romans 10:9: Jesus is Lord."

The problem with this line of thinking is that even our LDS neighbors are quick to say the same exact thing.  Except they define the words "Jesus" and "Lord" quite differently than the historic Christianity does.  There's a reason the apostle didn't start of the book of Romans with this confession- first he defined the terms.  And as excellent as the book of Romans is, it still depends on a bunch of presuppositions taught elsewhere in scripture.

This is the value of having confessions- so that we can all agree together on what scripture 'says' regarding core doctrines of the faith.  It would not be difficult to demonstrate the chaos that ensues within the Christian church when this common understanding is lost.

I've been teaching the Confessions to 8th graders for most of 20 years, and there's a lot more than LD1 that sticks with them.

Also, the fact that you would conclude that Confessions "only real function is coercive" indicates you really need to spend some time re-reading (or perhaps reading?) them.  I'm not trying to be snarky here, but it's beginning to really bother me that some of the most vocal opponents to confessionalism seem to be so ignorant of what they are criticizing.

You are right about one thing- "The confessions will never live again in the CRC."  What a shame.

The confessions are, and should be, a summary of what God tells us through scripture, about who God is, and who we are in relation to God.  The confessions are not the church order, which is what we tell each other about how we want to behave within the institution.  The church order can be ignored, or changed, without imperilling our faith and witness.  The confessions cannot really be ignored or contradicted without denying the significance and unity of our faith.  Even if there were a necessity to revise a 0,1% of the confessions, that would not invalidate the 99.9% that speaks from scripture to us.

To use the excuse that our confessions are limiting change is to not understand or know the confessions.  It would be similar to saying that scripture is limiting change.  Well yes, it limits some things, and not other things.  Some things need to be limited, while others things scripture does not speak to, and in fact in some things, scripture has encouraged change.  A blanket generalization on this is inappropriate. 

The confessions do not prevent various musical instruments from being used, or various classes and conventions be held to teach, or various ways of loving your neighbor, etc.   To use someone's attachment to a program, and compare our attachment to a confession, is inappropriate and illegitimate.  

Confessions are not primarily a means of coercion.   They are a means of teaching, a means of summarizing, a means of unity.   Coercion is merely a by-product of a level of unity.   Without the confessions, there really is no denominational identity.  In fact, without the confessions, there is really no denomination at all. 

I've always thought that a confession, in its plain English sense, was something that lived in your heart and thus needed to find expression on your tongue. Our confessions--except, perhaps for short stretches, like LD1, don't do that. So they fail as expressions of piety, and are good only for defining orthodoxy and bounderies. That means that their only real function is coercive. I really wish we could put them into the category of "even more important to our tradition than Berkhof's Systematic Theology." Honor them, as DeMoor says. But the only official confession (not talking creeds here, though getting those down to the Apostle's would save us making a whole bunch of ancient Greek metaphysical claims  that border on hilarious, such as God has "substance") we really need anymore, as far as I can tell, is the one scripture suggests in Romans 10:9: Jesus is Lord.

Of course, that isn't practical, some will say. People will leave the church. They'll make threats. They'll make judgements. There will be schism. All probably true if a surprising majority of synod decided to get rid of that irksom Form of Subscription.  Remember, after all, that the only real function these confessions have today is . . . coercion. We're in a pickle.

Sort of reminds me of how some "Old First" churches plateau at a certain level, and change becomes impossible with its present membership because too many people have a stake--in the organ, or the pews, or a coffee break program that is only working for retired women, or whatever. So some members leave and start a new church where anything goes, and it flourishes. You know, unless a seed dies . . . Well, as a confessional church we're stuck with Old First's great memories and all of its problems, too. Meanwhile, I fear our plateau days are past, and we're in slow decline. Change has become impossible, unless it is change that sanctifies the language of modern commerce, such as missions "Enterprize Zones." That's almost blasphemous! 

Sure, some traditional Reformed congregations are flourishing (anyone not on Keller's bandwagon out there?). Many more are not. But if you look around, there are at least a few churches of all stripes (including more than a few liberal ones) flourishing somewhere (especially Mormon ones, interestingly enough--do we want to get on that bandwagon?). 

No, I fear we're stuck. We'll muddle on. The confessions will never live again in the CRC they way they did when they were written. We'll just keep on pretending, though, that they might. And we'll keep using them as a means of last resort to make people sit up straight and behave.

Thanks Jeff for your comment. 

When I talk about confessional growth and development you're very much on the same page with your metaphor. In the Karin Maag article she pretty clearly illustrated how the Belgic confession was forged as a way to communicate and defend the Reformation to their Roman Catholic overlords. The document reflects that purpose. 

Our present Form of Subsription tried so give latitude for this by having us subscribe to the doctrines, not necessarily the wording of the doctrines found in the actual documents. It's an interesting distinction really in that it gives leeway but what it doesn't necessarily do is create a path to improve our confessions. 

Even though at this point we're not facing a threat like Guy De Bres did, we still have a vital need to communicate our profession to the world and attempt to do so as a community. This has been expressed more recently in the Contemporary Testimony of course. 

Confessions are in a certain sense a way of crowd-sourcing our witness. We probably can't crowd-source writing, but the Christian church has long been about the community figuring out its faith together. 

The recent push for the Belhar has activated this because now the church is being asked to do this work again, and in some ways we're still stumbling around as in a sleepy stupor. We haven't done it for 400 years and the world has changed considerably. 

I'd like to have us find a way to make this a regular part of the church and do so in a healthy way. 

Two Calvin profs were recently "dismissed quietly", like Joesph tried to do with pregnant Mary. The issues they raised are real and have confessional implications. The issues don't go away just because they do. We need to figure out how to process these hard questions over long periods of time just like we've done with Women in Office. 

The church is a very long term project, theology sometimes takes hundreds of years to sort through and come to consensus on. This is difficult to do with a community of persons who live less than 100 years, but this is our calling. We are stewards of the message and when applied there is real work to do. pvk

It seems that historically sometimes the confessions have functioned as an exo-skeleton, a hard outer barrier to keep contents safe.  It seems that we are shifting towards confessions as endo-skeleton, an inner frame surrounded by something warm and alive.  Sometimes in these debates, though, it seems that some think that confessionalism itself is the problem, as though pulling out the skeleton will somehow help the won't...

Paul, what do you mean by "confessional growth and development"?  To use the body metaphor, are you talking about adding new bones to the skeleton, or strengthening the muscle that's already attached to it?

Antonio, there are no contradictions in what Paul is saying, no more than in how Jesus treated people.   If you understand what he is saying.  Jesus selected twelve men (only men) as his special disciples, and as his apostles.  They played a different role than the children who sat on his knee, and different than the roles of Mary, Martha, Mary Magdalene, Joanna and the other women who followed him.  But Paul is saying that all of these people are just as important to Jesus.  Just because someone is an apostle, does not ultimately make him more important than the child or the woman or the non-apostle or the non-deacon.   From our earthly perspective, we always want to think that someone with more authority is more important than someone who has less authority.   This is a very earthly perspective, very worldly.  Only Christ himself is more important.  Everyone else is equally valuable to God;  God does not give more worth to the high priest in the temple than to the boy who brought the two fish and five loaves to Jesus.  

The centurion, a non-Jew who had a sick servant had more faith than all the Israelites who were supposedly special, said Jesus.   The samaritan woman who begged for scraps from the table(for her son to be healed) was treated with the same love of Christ that the woman at the well received, or the woman whose son had died, or Mary and Martha who lost Lazarus, or Peter when he repented of his denial of Christ. 

Do not confuse authority or roles, with importance in the eyes of our Lord.  Then you will understand those verses better. 

Al: I appreciate and respect your perspective, and your arguments (and I think you make good CO arguments).  At the same time, your comment that you view "... the current debate about whether women should be accepted at classis as delegates to be both offensive and belittling to women" gives me pause.

You speak of "women" as if they are all of one mind.  I very much doubt they are.  Even in faith communities where the role of women is much, much more "rigid" than the CRC (e.g., many Mennonite traditions) I can't imagine there aren't a great number of women to believe that women have Scripture-prescribed, defined roles which both mandate and exclude in some respects.  So when you find the mere debate of the matter to be "offensive and belittling to women," some women (who have concluded other than as you have) would find it offensive and belittling that you assume for them what conclusions they have/must reach.

The greatest migration of mindset we've had in our modern era, even greater than the "individualism" and "materialism" we are so good at constantly lamenting in our prepared liturgy materials, is our tendency now to look at most everything as rights and power issues.  We have lost a great deal of our servant perspective. We really can't understand why Paul would tell Onesimus to go back to Philemon.  With this loss in our mindset, an Acts 15 kind of resolution cannot happen.

Two comments: When I grew up, men and women usually occupied roles that were suited primarily to them.  Churches did not consider women as eligible nominees for the positions of pastor, elder or deacon.  In the 1970s, my perspective began to broaden.  As a new awareness developed, I wondered how I would have dealt with slavery had my parents owned slaves.  Perhaps had I been challenged I would have used biblical texts to defend the position of my parents.  But I hope eventually I would have recognized the Bible's emphasis on freedom and that slavery denied the freedom Christ proclaimed.  I find the change that took place in my thinking to be similar.  I now recognize that it is wrong to put anyone down because of sex, race, social standing of any other issue society may use to differentiate between people.  Therefore, I find the current debate about whether women should be accepted at classis as delegates to be both offenisive and belittling to women.

A second observation: The church polity of the CRC is non-hierarchical.  Classis and synod are called major assemblies, but that does not mean they hold a position that is superior to the council,  The Church Order says the council is a minor assembly whose authority is "original" while that of the major assemblies is "delegated."  While major assemblies make decisions that are binding on congregations, synod defied its own Church Order when it gave classes the authority to refuse to seat certain delegated based on their sex.  Such a decision gives the major assembly authority that does not honor the non-hierarchical principle of the Church Order.  The decision to delegate persons to serve as representatives at major assemblies belongs to the minor assemblies only and that may not be challenged by a major assembly.

The CRC got off track with it authorized classes to make a decision the Church Order does not allow.  Synod should have made the same ruling for both major assemblies, namely that officebearers shall not be required to participate against their conscience should they be delegated to a major assembly (see the supplement to article 3-a of the Church Order).  Now we are faced with the challenge of getting back on track.  That could be a difficult road to navigate, but unless we take that route our denomination will continue to promote a biblicism which is not in keeping with Reformed principles and will frequently detract from effective evangelism.  Al Hoksbergen









If "Jesus" was not a revolutionary but "Christ" was indeed a revolutionary, then you must be talking about two different persons in such a way that Jesus Christ had a split-personality disorder. This is a denial of the Ecumenical Creeds, which the CRC stands on.

Do you believe that the CRC, with two equally valid positions on women in office, can indeed move forward in a productive way without either side eventually compromising or caving in?


I'm not an expert on Pauline literature to understand his real or perceived discrepancies. The statements you post are problematic and untenable however. For example, claiming that Paul contradicts himself implies that the Bible contradicts itself, which then implies that the Bible is untrustworthy since it says one thing and then the opposite. These claims, if pressed, lead to a position where we as fallible humans decide which verses of the Bible are valid/correct/inspiried and which are "Paul being his contradictory self."

Yes, I am aware that there are differences of opinion when interpreting Scripture. These have been visited and revisited in our denomination. Just with your few words above, I have no idea why you think that because Jesus had 12 male disciples that he was locking out women. Further, I cannot understand why Jesus having 12 disciples would prompt you to call women into discipleship (if you are among those who do) but think they should be locked out of other roles.

So my concerns about classis here are given that we have multiple interpretations that we have said are acceptable within our denomination, we need a better way of working this out. I think we need to figure out how to address the organizational cutlure issues that we have now, and I think some creative efforts related to classis could really go a long way. Sweeping the issue under the carpet, pretending that all is OK and causing one classis after the next to vote on whether women can move to the front of the bus is not cutting it, in my opinion. For example, how many more times do I have to hear that my classis again voted to refuse to seat women?

I would like to see our resources put into ways to mitigate the problems we have specifically with classis rather than putting lipstick on it at this point.   --dawn

Dawn: While I agree with you on the narrow question, I don't agree as to what you find in Scripture.  Paul did lock out women from teaching or having authority over women.  The OT sign of the covenant locked out women from having the sign.  Jesus did lock out women from being among his twelve disciples.

Conversely, I can find nothing in Scripture where races were locked out of anything.

Look at the issue of Infant Baptism. How long as this been going on? Neither side has given up, but many have learned to live with the disagreement. I would argue that infant baptism is a more important issue than women in office but clearly many more don't see it that way. I'm sure some have left the CRC over women in office only to get re-baptized. 

This is in my experience (as stated above) not really an issue that has separated the sexes. Many women don't believe in women in office and many men do. My heart mostly goes out to women (like Dawn and others) who wish to serve but don't get the chance. That's very hard. At the same time I've known men who very much wanted to serve and were never given the opportunity, not because of their sex but because of other things. Life is full of disappointments and injustices in the church and out of it. 

In my experience a small minority post on a forum like this. In my classis where women are allowed to be seated there are a good number of churches that don't have women elders or don't permit them. At every classis meeting one church from our classis attaches to their credential their protest over women in office. It is read or noted at each classis meeting. I know that bothers some, but it doesn't bother me. For the last 5 years I've always had a woman elder with me and I've seen nothing but graciousness and kindness towards them at classis, even from those who publically oppose it. My elders often are a bit hesitant about what will happen. Even though they are permitted to be there it is very much a majority male environment, out of 50+ delegates only 1-5 women often. I can appreciate their discomfort often. This is the difficult path that both sides are walking now, and on the path we learn to love our "enemies", which is what a foundational behavior of Christianity. 

The longer I ponder the miracle of the gospel, the more I see that love of enemy is not some optional merit badge in advanced, exceptional Christian practice, but rather the very basis itself. We made no greater enemy and no other enemy than God himself and it required the Son of God himself at no lesser expense than the cost of his life to get us back into the family. Why we imagine that we can finesse, negotiate or fudge our way through the inevitable conflicts of life in order to avoid loving our enemy is only attributable to the ever present blinding nature of sin. pvk

Good points regarding culture, Paul. I just want to pipe up on the word "complementarian" although I know Paul has heard this from me before.

I am certainly a complementarian in understanding that men and women complement each other. I think that the different nationalities and races are also complementary. Short people and tall people complement each other too. We can see that some tasks are easier for one group, on the whole (that is, as a stereotype) than for another group on the whole. Complementarian is a good thing.

What is not acceptable is to say that because we complement each other, we must lock out entire races, nationalities, or genders from something that some in that group think/feel they have been called to do. I see nothing in Scripture that ought to be applied as calling us to "play God" with lock-outs, whether of a race or a gender. We are instructed, rather, to see that we are all one in Christ.

The terms "complementarian" and "egalitarian" are not mutually exclusive. We are called to both of these.


The HISTORICAL Jesus was a good Jewish man.  He came not to break the Jewish law...

The Christ was REVOLUTIONARY because he resurrected and gave us, male and female, SALVATION. 

God bless the ordained women in the CRC!!!


It shows the Apostle's Paul own contradictions... in Corinthians women are NO GOOD in Galatians there is no male or female... if you get it, please explain!!!

God bless the ordained women in the CRC!!!

It's a generous position, Paul. However, I really don't see how this is going to subside. The root of all of this is hermeneutical, and nobody is giving up that ground easily. It is not the case that all the people who see a universal cultural application regarding gender have left the denomination. MANY remain, but are not willing to break the denomination again to press their view. Instead, they are content to wait for God to show the other side their error.

As long as we're all willing to let everyone else be wrong in their hermeneutics and still call each other "family," then we're a fairly quiet bunch. You see from this post, once someone advocates eliminating the opposite hermeneutic (especially through denominational government), the division is not re-opened, but exposed for what it has always been.

I don't know that we can have a conversation that asserts knowledge that transcends culture, not because culture cannot be transcended, but because we cannot transcend it. All of our conversations are within cultures and their mergers and collisions. Likewise the Bible cannot communicate to us outside of culture. Maybe this piece I wrote for a comment on another blog might help explain my idea. I don't think that means we can't learn anything or that everything is relative. It means that culture (practices and ways of thinking that frame our perception of the world) are always with us. It also doesn't mean that things can't be true for all human cultures or normative for all human cultures. It does mean that expression of those norms might have different appearances and practices. 

My understanding of a basic complementarian position is that it asserts than men and women have normative different contributions to make to the body of Christ. More on my position. I am not as convinced that keeping women from holding office is a universal normative mandate for the church. I am not sufficiently convinced of that position to advocate it's application in our context, in fact my experience has been that having male and female office bearers working together in church leadership has been better than having only one sex at work. 

Our current specific cultural application of office bearing, however, is also a cultural construct (hopefully pursuing more universal norms.). I've been active in the church in cultures where women did not serve in formal leadership but served in other leadership capacities within the church that exerted power and influence even if not in the structure that we are paying attention to in this debate. Korean congregations often have women called and commissioned (ordained would not be an inappropriate word given the language, ceremony, respect, position, etc.) in their churches. In the DR many churches has "damas misioneras" who preached, taught, led, etc. A similar thing. 

If our current cultural location is bringing churches to not use the gift God has given women in the church to exercise them because of a lot of cultural norms about what names and chairs they must exercise leadership from, then we need to do some re-arranging. How elders, deacons and pastors work today continues to change in our culture and others. Despite the language you're hard pressed to say that our application of the offices is identical to the NT context. That's OK because the world is different. Again, I'm not advocating for relativism, just application. CRC deacons sometimes give out food but probably not in the same way that it was happening in the Jerusalem church. 

In coming to application (as in just about every circumstance) we look to the word of God and the Spirit of God to guide us. Things may look different again 100 years from now and we have no idea how. 

I'm comfortable letting the process work its way through. If we look at the history of the church (Alister McGrath's fine book on Heresy) we find that over time the church figures out what is heresy often by dead ends. It may be that allowing women in office becomes a dead end and Christ's living church moves beyond it. At this point I doubt that but I could be wrong. The church often takes hundreds of years to work things through. The issues we're dealing with today will become clear in time, but I don't know that we know the outcome yet. Best to keep reading God's word and working with it and doing the work of the church. pvk


Forgive me if this has been addressed somewhere already but I have a question about what you are writing here. Do you believe that the complementarian view is based on culture? If the reason women officebearers are not forced upon all classes is because of differing cultures, then does that imply complementarians are complementarian because of their culture? It seems that the more these differing views are seen as cultural, the more it can be said that complementarians are just prejudiced and misogynistic.


Your post is most puzzling to me. Are you saying that Jesus was not a revolutionary in any way at all?


you say "The Apostle Saint Paul is a "man of his time period" a male centered Jewish culture..." but your statement about in Christ there is neither male or female comes from the same man of the same time period. I'm curious as to how these two statements can fit together. Care to revise, or am I missing something?

Dawn: You ask, "Are you able to understand that with my analogy to the civil rights movement, I am trying to shed light and not darkness?"

As I said in my very first post, that analogy just does not work.  It comes from a "rights based" mentality that is not biblically based.  Scripture teaches an "upside down", "first is last, the least of these is greatest," "blessed is he who serves," "incarnate God himself washes feet and dies a horrible death mentality."

I suppose I'll accept your statement that you "do not intend to characterized anyone other than myself and definitely do not intend to be demeaning," but not without saying as well that you are then -- and I say this respectfully -- not so careful about how you say things.  And then you say, "By choosing to be a member of the CRC, I am engaged in doing something that I find to be abhorable and sinful. I am a member of a country club that does not permit black tee times," which really contradicts your assertion just made a sentence before.  You didn't say "it sometimes makes me feel as if ..." but declare continuing membership in the CRC sinful and abhorrent.

Beyond that, if you really believe staying as a member of the CRC is engaging in something sinful and abhorrent, you simply shouldn't stay a member, and you seem a sincere enough Christian that I would think you would choose not to daily live a sinful and abhorrent life.  So I'm left to wonder: which is it?  Is Dawn just engaging in extreme hyperbole when she uses the race analogy or is she daily choosing to lead a life that in her mind is sinful and abhorrent?

I've always said to those opposed to women in office, that if the worst sin you commit is allowing a woman to preach and teach the gospel of Jesus Christ, I think God will forgive you.  To those on the other side (and you seem to be there), if the worst sin you commit is allowing others to follow what they believe Scripture says, I think God will forgive you.  The point of my thoughts is to communicate how small the real offense that is that is purported occurring here.  But if you really feel otherwise, that you truly, daily live a sinful and abhorrent life by remaining CRC (or whatever tradition), by all means, I can't figure out why you would stay within this tradition.  The CRC is not the Holy Catholic Church after all.

If Synod were still a deliberative assembly, then much of the difficulties John Z. mentions would be moot.  But it isn't.  It can't, because there isn't enough time.  Synod meets for a week, and that week often becomes little more than 5 days.  During that time, there are committee meetings, eating, sleeping, and various other activities necessary to sustain life in some measure of cleanliness and comfort as well as meetings of the full assembly.

The meetings of the full assembly are managed rather closely.  Often in the name of avoiding redundancy, deliberation and discussion is curtailed.  They've got to get through that whole big agenda in a very short time.

Which means the actual deliberation happens elsewhere - the Board of Trustees, Classis meetings, church councils, offices, comfortable living room chairs, and on the internet at forums like this one.  The net effect is that Synod, rather than being a place where matters are deliberated, becomes a place where differing conclusions are negotiated, that is, a political assembly. 

In Congress (or parliament, if you like) there is very little deliberation that materially affects the different views among the members.  The discussion is not about changing other people's minds but about changing their votes on specific pieces of legislation.  This process of negotiation - compromise - can only ever reach temporary conclusions because the relative strength of the various factions and sub-factions are constantly changing.  Nothing is ever permanently settled.

This is exactly what you see occurring at Synod in the last 30 years.  Things get kicked around, decided, re-decided, undecided, re-decided again, depending on which faction happens to hold sway at this year's synod.

What then happens is you get a few specific individuals who become permanent fixtures at Synod - some delegates, some staff support, some from one or more of the boards or agencies - but they're there year after year after year.  They become intimately acquainted with the process and also quite skilled at manipulating that process towards the ends they desire.  It's not a 100% thing (sometimes things get away from them, sometimes someone else equally up to snuff on the process out maneuvers them, etc.).

Given this context, it is appropriate for a classis to delegate those who will be able and willing to faithfully and accurately reflect the deliberations that occurred in the delegating body.  It is not required, but it is appropriate.

Doug - I definitely do not intend to characterize anyone other than myself and definitely do not intend to be demeaning. I think that it is OK for me to call my own sins the way I see them without calling out anyone else's sins. When I use the civil rights analogy, I really do not know if everyone who insisted that black people sit in the back of the bus was sinning by doing so. I also do not feel a need to judge them, even if I would think it was right for me to work to help society remove such an injustice. Similarly, I do not think of others being engaged in a sin when they lock women out of church offices. Not only do I not know if they are sinning, I do no think it is my place to be the judge. 

I DO look at my own sins. By choosing to be a member of the CRC, I am engaged in doing something that I find to be abhorable and sinful. I am a member of a country club that does not permit black tee times. I am a member of an organization that refuses to seat women in a regional decision-making body. I am appalled by my behavior. I know that there are people who go around pointing fingers at others, but that is not me. I hope you can tap into that and understand that my analogies are to help others understand the burdens of those who are like me so that we can figure out how to move forward. I know that the culture of the CRC that puts me in this position is a problem for our denomination.

Are you able to understand that with my analogy to the civil rights movement, I am trying to shed light and not darkness? Can you see that I am telling you how some in the CRC must live, with this tear in their spirit because they can see so specifically how complicit they are in the wrongs against women in the world? Can you understand that I think that I am living with something that I know to be a sin in my life BECAUSE I am a member of the CRC? Is this how we want the CRC to function? If not, then let's do something different. That's what I'm saying. I am not pointing fingers at any person at all, other than myself. I am not making such suggestions to claim any victim status. I am a future-leaning person. I am looking toward the future in my denomination and I want to help paint a brighter future.  Does that make more sense?  --dawn


Well, so much for 2 equally-accepted hermeneutical positions. However, I do feel a massive sense of freedom now that I can dismiss much of the Bible in my next sermon. To know that my contemporary views of culture outweigh Jesus’ is very empowering! Thanks for this post.