This past Tuesday, the deputies appointed to study women in office in the Reformed Churches of the Netherlands (RCN) released their final report to the 2017 Synod. If you can read Dutch, the 75 page report is here. The news is not encouraging. The deputies are recommending that the 2017 Synod decide to open all the offices of the church to women.
Some 11 pages of the report is taken up with considering advice from sister-churches. The report notes the objections/warnings of the Canadian Reformed Churches and Free Reformed Churches of Australia, but does not mention the Reformed Church in the United States (see here), perhaps because the RCUS Synod letter did not arrive in time to be considered. The report notes that two foreign sister churches currently admit women to church offices: the Reformed Church in Japan (all offices) and the Reformed Churches of South Africa (GKSA — these churches only admit women to the office of deacon and on the understanding that this office is not one of authority). This is in addition to a sister church federation in the Netherlands: Nederlands Gereformeerde Kerken. That section concludes by noting that, from the survey of sister churches, there is “room for diversity in how women in office is handled, appropriate to the time and culture in a particular region.” The deputies also recognize that moving in the direction of women in office is going to have consequences in some of their ecumenical relationships. They do not mention that this direction will also likely impact the membership of the RCN in the International Conference of Reformed Churches (ICRC). Several member churches of the ICRC were involved with removing the Christian Reformed Church of North America from the North American Presbyterian and Reformed Council over the issue of women in office. I suspect that they will not look the other way when it comes to the RCN and membership in the ICRC.
While we pray otherwise, the recommendations of this report will quite likely be adopted. As has been mentioned here previously, the horses are already well out of the gate in the RCN on this issue. Local churches are already opening the offices to women, regardless of this report and whatever the synod decides. A synod decision will just be essentially rubber-stamping what’s already going on and giving it official status. Should a synod decide otherwise, would one really think that these local churches would revert back to the way it was before? It seems a sad, foregone conclusion that even if permitting women in office is not the official position in the RCN, it will be tolerated.