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Synod nixes new classis concept and inclusive language for God

Shortest assembly in decades

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

GRAND RAPIDS, Michigan - They could have blazed a new trail in church polity but the orthodox wing which proposed 'theological classes' in the Christian Reformed denomination failed to convince enough delegates. Supporters of the new non-geographical concept wanted to allow churches which oppose women in office to transfer to 'theological classes' composed of like-minded congregations. Hotly debated, the proposal failed.

While the new concept was thrown out, congregations still may request a transfer to another like-minded classis. Such a request by three churches for a transfer were approved.

The 'theological classis' concept originally was launched by Classis California South which saw its proposal be accepted by a Fall 1996 Conference of CRC conservatives. No other Reformed denomination has ever introduced such a system. Classis California South declared itself such a 'theological classis' recently. A similar proposal in Classis Zeeland failed.

Another classis decision will receive a review. Grandville Classis recently granted a honourable release to a well-known conservative minister who left the denomination to start a Presbyterian church in CRC heartland Holland, Michigan. The move was appealed to Synod which referred the matter back to Classis for a review. Meanwhile, Synod upheld the deposition of another outspoken and combative conservative minister after he and his congregation seceded from the denomination.

The shortest CRC Synod in decades firmly opposed initiatives by progressives who want to call God their 'Mother'. A committee headed by a Calvin Seminary professor submitted a 107-page report which takes a clear position against inclusive language for God and asked Synod to declare such incompatible with the confessions of the CRC. Synod decisively rejected calling God 'Mother,' 'She,' or other feminine pronouns and other linguistic structures that imply personal gender.' The issue came up in 1990 when a CRC progressive women's group in a newsletter advocated women's equality in the church's offices by using feminine imagery for God.

Rev. M. De Vries of the historic Pillar CRC of Holland, Michigan chaired Synod 1997.