In 2013 my wife and I were in Holland and spoke with a couple of widowed cousins about the decline in the GKv. We were unable to persuade them to leave the GKv and to join the continuing reformed churches of our Lord. However, they assured us that, if ever the GKv would decide to have women office bearers, they would certainly leave. We have yet to see them leave; but they might, along with others. In anticipation of this, there is at least one GKv minister going into ‘damage control’ by publicly urging people not to take action on the GKv’s decision to admit women to all the offices.
We read of this in an article appearing in the Dutch daily, Nederlands Dagblad (27/6/2017), titled “Whether you’re for or against women in office: don’t take action”. In it Rev E leeftink, who openly favours women in office, said he would find it lamentable if people left either because their local congregation did not (yet) introduce women in office, or because it now permitted women in office.
“I would find it such a pity,” says Rev Leeftink, “if those opposed to women in office would now call on everyone to leave the GKv.” He said that it would give him the impression that people are not prepared to discuss the matter because they are forcing a break when they are not even sure yet whether their own local congregation will introduce women into the offices. He urges everyone to respect the decision of the consistory, whatever it may be, because if you can see two lines in the Bible [one for women in office and one against women in office] then you need to give one another room to make a choice that will promote peace. You can then reassess the situation after some years, he adds. He concludes by saying: Let us with our differing views continue to accept one another as Christ has accepted us for the Holy Spirit calls us to do this in Romans 14.
But this is false prophecy for several reasons:
First, it promotes a dualism which robs the Word of God of its authority. Leeftink is saying: if you choose for women in office, that’s okay because you can draw that conclusion from God’s Word; but if you choose against women in office, that’s okay too, because you can also draw that conclusion from God’s Word. Basically, he is saying: if you want to believe what Paul says when he commands, “I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence” (1 Tim. 2:12) that’s fine. But if you believe this is contradicted by other passages of Scripture where women have shown leadership, e.g. in the OT, then that’s also fine. Just tolerate each other’s views for some years and reconsider after that. However, in this way the ultimate authority is given to man; not to God.
Second, what Leeftink advocates is contrary to what we confess. In BCF 28 we confess that everyone is duty bound to join the church of our Lord Jesus Christ which, says article 29, can easily be identified by it marks. By refusing to heed the Scriptural admonitions directed to it by both its own members and other sister-church federations the GKv shows itself to be a false church because it “assigns more authority to itself and its ordinances than to the Word of God” (BCF 29). Believers should leave the GKv and consider joining De Gereformeerde Kerken (DGK), a bond of churches which, as far as I can see, shows the marks of the true church and whose members liberated themselves from the GKv after it resolutely refused to repent from unscriptural doctrines and practices.
Third, the tactic of postponing a decision has always been the devil’s way of keeping people in the false church. Notice that Rev Leefink doesn’t even say: stay in order to keep expressing your concerns (also wrong). He goes a step further and advocates silence. His advice: tolerate each other’s views; don’t take action; give one another room to make a choice because this will promote peace. This is Ahithophel advice; it sounds good but does not serve the cause of Christ’s church-gathering work. Whole generations have been lost as a result of taking that position. Christ’s church “governs itself according to the pure Word of God, rejecting all things contrary to it …” (BCF 29). But Rev Leeftink says in effect: accept things contrary to God’s Word and in this way promote peace.
Fourth, he appeals to the possibility that one’s own local congregation might even decide not to have women in office. His argument implies that if that were to happen the question of leaving becomes a non-issue. However, in a bond of churches all the churches share a responsibility for what synods decide. One cannot wash one’s hands off responsibility by saying: in ‘my’ congregation the marks of the true church are still maintained and therefore there’s no need for me to leave. In a church federation we are mutually responsibility for one another. The church order and church visitations are based on this Biblical principle.
Fifth, Leeftink says: Let us with our differing views accept one another as Christ accepted us. But how does Christ accept us? What characterises Christians? Not only that they believe in Christ as their only Saviour, but also that “they flee from sin and pursue righteousness, love the true God and their neighbour without turning to the right or left, and crucify the flesh and its works” (BCF 29). Christians submit to God’s holy Word; they regulate their lives according to His commands. But Leeftink in effect accepts sin—the sin of reinterpreting Scripture and robbing God’s Word of its divine authority through a man-centred interpretation, evident not only in relation to women in office but also Sunday rest, divorce, sacraments, etc.
Finally, Leeftink wants GKv members to stay and accept one another with their differing views because, he says, “the Holy Spirit calls us to do this in Romans 14”. But Romans 14 does not speak about doctrinal issues; it speaks about not judging one another in relation to eating and drinking. The strong felt that, having been redeemed by Christ, they could eat meat and drink wine which the weak, still influenced by OT directives about clean and unclean animals, etc., felt they could not do. One should not use such a directive about non-essentials and apply it to doctrinal issues.
It is to be hoped (and for this we pray) that concerned GKv members will not allow themselves to be lulled to sleep by the sorts of arguments that Leeftink and no doubt others are employing to keep people in the GKv. This is not a time for non-action but for action. The action is to be obedient and “Come out of her, my people, lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive of her plagues” (Rev 18:4), and to join and unite with Christ’s true church (BCF 28). The blessings of the Lord always rest on humble submission to His commands.