Women’s Voting Rights in the CanRC.
Should women vote for office bearers in our churches? This is a heated discussion that is happening all over the Canadian Reformed Church. The reason I am writing this is because it was brought up at men’s society. Perhaps we should discuss this, because playing an ostrich with our heads in the sand is not going to prevent this issue from coming up in our congregation at Chilliwack. The status quo will be questioned eventually, so why not discuss it now?
Synod 2010 decided that who votes in congregational elections for office bearers is a matter for local churches. This has been a controversial decision. And I have discovered that it was certainly not a unanimous decision at all. The votes in favour were 14, the votes against were 10. Most decisions in synod are unanimous…this was certainly not unanimous.
Sadly, I fear for our churches because of this decision. This decision will cause rifts in our churches. How can I say that? Well, for instance within 20-25 minutes of each other are the churches in Yarrow, Chilliwack and Abbotsford. Imagine if two of these churches permit women to vote and 1 does not. The one church that does not permit women to vote will appeal to the more traditional and conservative person, while the other two will appeal to the less traditional and more liberal. A member could then pick the church which has the views and the practices that he or she prefers. Is this biblical? I am not a proponent of homogeneity (all churches being exactly the same) as I see the good in our differences, but when it comes to controversial matters such as this we need synod to be stronger and take a stand on it. Having an almost 50/50 split between the men who are our representatives is very telling. And further, their saying to the local churches, “We’ll let you decide this one,” in this bloggers mind, is not a good way to do things. I believe it should have been a unanimous vote to change, or we stay with the status quo.
So after some initial reading, it appears that the Bible does not say anything really clear about churches voting for office bearers, let alone who should be voting, or if there should even be voting for that matter. The Bible never tells specifically voting was ever really done. Congregational participation in choosing the office bearers is certainly biblical, but the exact nature of that involvement is not really defined. We read of lots being cast and overseers being chosen, but there are no explicit rules so to speak. The way our churches vote on these matters has been a tradition dating back centuries. Even the 3 year “term” which office bearers serve is something specific to our tradition which we do not see in most other churches. Most other denominations view ordination as a something for life, not just a 3 year term. The whole way we choose our office bearers is something that we agreed upon seeking and applying biblical wisdom. And now we have the issue of “who” can vote.
As a congregation in Chilliwack we use a democratic election where only the men vote. But women can nominate. Women can also submit a lawful objection to the nomination or the result of the vote. But they cannot actually vote…do you not find that extremely inconsistent? I certainly do. In essence the women can choose the men to nominate, they can bring forth their objections to the men, but they cannot vote…they do not have the final say. If I might make a clarification here… in the end, even if you vote, the existing consistory (council of elders) must approve the nominations. Then they must appoint the man you voted for. So essentially even though you vote, the elders of the church, and ultimately God himself, have the final say in who becomes an office bearer. In my mind give women the vote, or take away all their rights, which include nominating and objecting. The way it is now is flawed.
Some would say that voting is an act of authority. It is not at all an act of authority. Voting does not give you authority over the prime minister or the president, or the elder in the church. In fact your vote does nothing but aid in the process of God ordaining a man to have authority over you. Think on that for a moment. Besides, Synod 2010 also declared that voting is not an act of authority.
I was not going to post my stance on this, as I admit that I have not really researched and studied in depth what, if anything, the scriptures teach about it, so this view could change depending on what the Lord has said in scripture. I believe that the spiritual heads of the homes should be the ones nominating, objecting and voting for who is to be ordained to office. As the head of the home is responsible for leading the family in worship, and will be held accountable for their family, so should the heads of homes also be involved in the spiritual supervision their family will receive. While voting itself is not an act of authority, is it not a violation of the marriage covenant if a wife rejects of a certain man that her husband approves of to nominate and then nominates him without her husband’s approval? Yet we already permit married women to nominate and object already! So by that line of reasoning it would sound like I am saying that only men should vote. Ideally yes, but at the same time…not at all. If there is a widow in the congregation, is she not now the head of her home? Should she not have a vote? Or should she now simply trust in the Lord’s goodness to provide an overseer for her? A single lady who is not living at home…is she the head of her home? Should she not vote? Or is she still subject to her father’s authority? What if her father is dead? Can she vote? In my mind there should be one vote per family and that vote should be submitted by the spiritual head of the home, in most cases that means men. I am sure that my view will never be accepted, since women can already nominate and object.
I am concerned with the way this was handled at Synod 2010. I am concerned that our churches will be divided over it. I am concerned that when the other local churches make their decisions, that some will leave and change to go to the church that “feels” right to them. I am concerned that those who want to see female office bearers will grab a hold of this Synodical decision and use it as a catalyst to further their cause of worldly feminism within the church. There is a lot of lament over this decision; there is a lot of rejoicing as well. In fact it is about 50/50…ironic huh? I am doing neither lamenting nor rejoicing; I am simply concerned about the future of the Canadian Reformed Churches, I am concerned that the glory of God is being undermined as we seek to appease those who have loud voices.
I am concerned, but I trust the Lord completely. I trust in his supreme providence, unfailing faithfulness and divine wisdom. I trust His promise that he will keep for himself a faithful remnant, that He will preserve the true church, as he has throughout the ages. He is Faithful, even though we are not. I pray that he would keep for himself and preserve the Canadian Reformed Church even as we venture forth from this decision into the unknown future. All I know is this: We are sinful and God is good.