More than three months after the Christian Reformed Church’s (CRC) highest deliberative body hammered out a compromise on women in ecclesiastical office, the 316,000-member denomination is showing signs of fraying at the edges. Churches on both sides of the issue are either disobeying the synod or leaving the church altogether.

The CRC Synod was poised last June to ratify a decision of Synod 1990 that would have opened all offices to women; instead, it approved a compromise statement encouraging the denomination’s 980 member churches to “use the gifts of women members to the fullest extent possible in their local churches, including allowing women to teach, expound the Word of God, and provide pastoral care, under the supervision of elders” (CT, July 20, 1992, p. 51).

Vocal conservatives in the denomination charge that while the synod ruling does not allow for official women’s ordination, in practice, the women may as well be ordained.

On the other hand, “progressives,” who saw their victory of two years ago turn sour at this year’s synod, think the ruling patronizes women by giving them all the duties of office while not allowing them to be ordained or to vote at church assemblies.

The Fallout

A conservative CRC group called the Committee of Concerned Members approved a resolution in late July promising support for CRC members or churches that wanted to leave the denomination: “Unless there is a fundamental return to a proper understanding of the Word of God,” the resolution reads, “there will and must be a separation of the ways so that we may serve God according to his revelation.”

Seven conservative churches, already upset by synodical rulings that upheld the teaching of a nonliteral reading of the Creation account, have followed ...

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