Delegates to the Christian Reformed Church’s (CRC) 1992 synod tried to strike a compromise over the issue of women’s ordination. But judging from reactions to its resolution, debate on the issue could grow hotter rather than cooler.

Delegates representing the 316,000-member denomination met at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, last month and adopted a statement encouraging Christian Reformed churches to “use the gifts of women members to the fullest extent possible in their local churches” and to let women “expound the Word of God.”

But the statement stopped short of affirming the ordination of women, prompting about 200 CRC female leaders to demonstrate against the synod’s action. Holding candles and singing “We Shall Overcome,” the women gathered during a lunch break in the seats of the meeting hall where the 184 male delegates normally sat. As the delegates returned from eating, a few of the men joined in the singing. The group later filed from the hall, blew out their candles, and left quietly.

“We’re saying we’re not going to go away,” Mary Stewart Van Leeuwen, a Calvin College professor of psychology and philosophy and author of Gender and Grace, told the Grand Rapids Press. She said the compromise statement was “patronizing.”

Delegates on both sides of the issue said the statement failed to provide needed direction. “The majority report is indecisive,” said Alfred Lindemulder, a supporter of women’s ordination. “It says, ‘Don’t ordain women,’ and then it tries to go ahead and let them do as much as possible without ordaining them.”

Preserving Unity

Joel Nederhood of the “Back to God Hour” broadcast ministry said he supported the measure as necessary to preserve the CRC’s unity. “We proceeded on the assumption that ...

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