(Recently GKv synod deputies appointed to study the position of men and women in the church submitted their findings, namely, that Scripture and confession allow for women to be deacons, elders and ministers of the Word. The following article by T L Bruinius responds to this. It appeared in De Bazuin 25th September 2013 and was kindly translated and submitted by Br P ‘t Hart.)
Men / Women in the church
A brief history [of this subject in the GKv]:
- 1930 – General Synod (GS) Arnhem – Decision: sisters in the congregation do not have the right to vote;
- 1958/9 – GS Bunschoten-Spakenburg – maintain Arnhem 1930;
- 1964/65 – GS Rotterdam-Delfshaven – maintain Arnhem 1930;
- 1972 – GS Hattem – appointment of deputies to look into the matter of voting rights for women in light of Scripture;
- 1975 – GS Kampen – New Deputies appointed since sharply divided opinions meant that no meaningful decision could be reached;
- 1978 – GS Groningen Zuid – Minority Report accepted – 1930 decision maintained;
- 1993 – GS Ommen – 1930 decision set aside; women are given the right to vote;
- 1996 – GS Berkel – 1993 decision upheld;
- 1999 – GS Leusden – 1993 decision further substantiated and upheld;
- 2003 – New Liberation [calling itself De Gereformeerde Kerken (DGK)];
- 2005 – DGK: GS Marienberg – Rejects Ommen 1993 and reverts to Decision Arnhem 1930 / Groningen Zuid 1978
- 2005 – GKv: GS Amersfoort – appointment Deputies `Women in the church’;
- 2008 – GKv: GS Zwolle Zuid – New deputies: Reflection, Discussion, New Report;
- 2011 – GKv: GS Harderwijk – Development of new starting points re Deaconry: Women can act as Deacon provided the Deaconry is disconnected from the Consistory / Ruling Office; New Deputies M / W to strengthen arguments and satisfy questions;
- 2013 – GKv: Release of Report Deputies M / W in the church: It falls within the parameters of Biblical evidence and the reformed doctrine that women can be admitted to all offices: Deacon, Elder and Minister.
During the first week of September 2013 the press reported, “Deputies M/W in the Church” of the liberated Reformed Churches [GKv] released their Report as charged by the General Synod of Harderwijk 2008.
Have you read it yet? Were you surprised?
The Deputies propose that the coming 2014 General Synod at Ede decides:
“The view that beside the men also women may serve in the ecclesiastical offices, as described in this report, fits within the parameters of what can be identified as scriptural and reformed.”
This means: it is not in conflict with the Bible to have female deacons, elders, and ministers. On the contrary, that fits within the doctrine of Scripture – and is therefore reformed. This is the conviction of the majority of deputies (one of them does not agree).
Guard that which was entrusted to you
The instruction of Paul to Timothy in 1 Timothy 6:20, “Guard what was committed to your trust” is the instruction for Christ’s entire church. Hold fast to the Word you received from God! At all times! And keep yourselves far from what is falsely called knowledge! The knowledge referred to by the apostle was the so-called higher knowledge. Briefly, it was the study of truths beyond and above the Bible, by which, according to the theologians who occupied themselves with this knowledge, a man could climb up to God and reach eternal salvation. In short: the clear Bible alone was not enough for these people.
But Paul warns: Guard the Word which has been entrusted to you! Stay far away from that knowledge which regards the Word as insufficient, because that so-called science leads you away from the Word!
Yes, hold on to what has been entrusted to you! The Lord Jesus Himself says it to the church at Thyatira, “But hold fast what you have till I come!” (Rev 2:25).
Perfect and sufficient
This is what it is always about. The church of Christ must simply hold fast to the Bible, the Word of God. Just as we confess that, and echo the Bible in Article 7 of the Belgic Confession, “We believe that this Holy Scripture fully contains the will of God and that all that man must believe in order to be saved is sufficiently taught therein. The whole manner of worship which God requires of us is written in it at length. It is therefore unlawful for anyone, even for an apostle, to teach otherwise than we are now taught in Holy Scripture: yes, even if it be an angel from heaven, as the apostle Paul says (Gal 1:8). Since it is forbidden to add to or take away anything from the Word of God (Deut 12:32), it is evident that the doctrine thereof is most perfect and complete in all respects.
This is what is always at the heart of the struggle of the church and of the struggle within the church.
The brief history sketched above illustrates this for us. When we speak about the place of men and women in the church, we are time and again confronted by questions from people who want to change things, who do not want to accept what the LORD has said about it. They refuse to acknowledge that God’s Word is perfect and sufficient and they want to inject their own knowledge and human insight into the Word of God.
And that can lead the church into the wrong direction. When we look at the history of the Reformed Churches (GKv) we see that for more than sixty years, since 1930, errors regarding the place of men and women in the church were recognised and rebutted. By God’s grace Synod delegates showed discernment, insight, and simple faith. The church held fast to what she had received.
Start of deformation
Until 1993. At the Ommen General Synod. That’s where they let go. The diversity in calling by the Lord, as the Bible teaches it, was replaced by the right of the church member. The right of man in place of the calling of God. Quite discreetly many theologians and ministers started to apply the modern hermeneutics. Hermeneutics give rules to the reading and explanation of the Bible. And modern hermeneutics is Scripture-critical; it does not, as previously, have Article 7 of the BCF as starting point. The modern hermeneutics speaks about Bible passages as time-bound or culture-bound. God’s Word as written is no longer plainly God’s Word for us, modern people. Instead it says we must view the words of the Bible through the lenses of the time in which they were written – and then make these Bible words relevant to our time. Concretely: the biblical details about the differing positional tasks of men and women are bedded in a world in which the relationships differed greatly from those of today. We now live many centuries later in history, it is said. Men and women relate differently to each other – hence we need to give a different interpretation to those Bible texts.
No, we may not say that the Liberated [GKv] ministers at that time already embraced and propagated the new hermeneutics; but the influence was there, just as the influences of feminism and of individualism and of the teachings of equal rights for all.
The church had lost its capacity to sufficiently discern and turned her face to the erroneously called modern scholarship.
It was the start of the deformation, the forsaking of God’s Word.
Small beginning, awful consequences
A beginning of deformation, if not quickly nipped in the bud, leads, as the Bible (Judges, Kings, Chronicles, Revelations) and church history teaches, to further deformation. We are forced to conclude that this was the case also of that one decision in Ommen. In itself that did not constitute a reason to leave the church; in itself it was not a reason to determine that the church no longer showed the marks of the true church; not a reason to resolve that Christ called us elsewhere.
However, much happened in the liberated churches during the years after Ommen. It climaxed at the General Synod of Zuidhorn. That is where the explicit decisions were taken that immobilized the fourth commandment (about the Sabbath) and the seventh commandment (marriage and divorce). That is where the open Lord’s Supper table was introduced. That is where unbiblical hymns were added to the church song-treasure. That is where all scriptural protests were ignored. That is where the broad and deep deformation of the ten years since Ommen was sanctioned.
With deep disappointment and sorrow we had to conclude that the Reformed Churches (Liberated), the GKv, no longer showed the marks of the Church – and that Christ, after a last, broadly formulated and most profound plea for reformation, called us to depart.
Indeed, it was a small beginning, but it had awful consequences.
Were you surprised?
Did you not see it coming?
Also after 2003 the deformation in the GKv continued rapidly. All kinds of unreformed liturgical measures were taken. Lots more hymns were added. Much effort went into wrong ecumenical relationships; unity at the cost of the truth. The modern hermeneutics took firm root in the GKv (the interpretation of Genesis 1 – 3 by Rev JJT Doedens and Professor J Douma; the branding of Bible passages as metaphoric by Dr ALTh de Bruijne; the relegation of the miracles in the Book Joshua to historical legends in the Eastern story telling tradition; etc.). The General Synods have to this day refused to stand up to these teachings. The deformation continues, just as the Bible warns that it will get worse. When believers abandon the Word of God and ignore calls for repentance, there comes a time that the LORD abandons them; that He gives them over to their heresies; that he lets them go and takes away the candlestick.
And now there is this Report which says there is no reason not to allow women to be appointed to all offices.
That is what the Report says, giving stark evidence of being influenced by the current spirit of the age.
Hard at work
We must not think that such deformation comes upon the church by surprise or stealth. No, people worked hard to get to this point; worked hard also to get to this grave depth, to the opening of the offices in the church to both sexes. We have shown the process. Initially rejected, that subtle start, the right for women to vote. Then again introduced and rejected …. but once again placed on the table! A Deputyship, as yet no decisions. Rounds of discussion. A little book by one of the Deputies. In other circles this is called ‘massaging’, slowly but surely making the people ready to take an unwanted decision. It is a particularly effective tactical approach.
So now there is this Report. No, there are as yet no decisions. It will surface at the next General Synod, next year in Ede. But who still believes that this Synod will altogether reject this Report? No doubt they will endeavour to deal with it with much tact, perhaps in allowing women to take up one of the offices. That will allow them to further consider the matter in three years. Or…they may well leave the matter to the judgment of the local churches….
Humanly speaking this ongoing deformation is unstoppable.
This Report is the confirmation of all that has been warned against and fought against during the last decade. It is the confirmation of our obligatory liberation!
Obligatory, because our Lord Jesus Christ does not want His children to remain there where the biblical doctrine is no longer brought.
No, we are not surprised.
But once again we are disappointed.
Once again we have been touched by sorrow.
Outsiders, leaders in other conservative churches stand amazed at what is happening. Indeed, it’s not a trifling matter. This gets noticed, much more than the rejection of the Sabbath or the introduction of new hymns. This, to many people, touches the essence of the church; and they know themselves warned. They certainly had not expected this from the liberated churches. Read only what Reformatorisch Dagblad on September 7 wrote about it.
But it touched us. In our hearts.
All these years since our liberation we have hoped for a return in the GKv. We prayed for it, constantly, at home and in our Sunday church services. The GKv did not leave us cold or uncaring. But instead of reformation we see only continuing deformation.
No we are not surprised, and yet we too stand amazed. How is it possible that so many brothers and sisters, who see the developments and are genuinely concerned, yet let things slide.
And in the end, they do nothing. They do not break with these so serious sins of the GKv, sins of which they are partakers as members of these churches.
This Report is a brutal confirmation of the ongoing deformation in the GKv.
We would want to call all those brothers and sisters to come to deeds. To be courageous, to find their strength in the LORD, just as David in his trouble strengthened himself in the LORD, his God (1 Sam. 30). Only in God’s power, only by trusting in the faithfulness and the promises of the LORD, could he come to deeds.
May God grant all who in all honour want to hold fast to the Word, the needed wisdom, insight and discernment, the strength and the courage as yet to break with the continuing deviation from God’s Word.
In the coming months we hope to further consider the contents of the Report.