Women Leaders Gather at Synod 2022
Over 50 women attended a special dinner on Friday, June 10 during Synod 2022.
Elaine May, who leads an office to support women’s leadership, organized and led the event. During the dinner, she encouraged those present to learn from the story of Phoebe, a woman whom biblical scholarship and Christian tradition suggests carried Paul's letter to the church in Rome.
“I wouldn’t say overtures to Synod are quite on the same level as an epistle of Paul to the churches,” joked May, “However, like the delegates, Paul’s letter carriers were trusted partners who embodied the message they were delivering. They were individuals who could further expound on the written communication and apply the principles it contained to questions posed by those in the recipient church.”
She explained how Epaphroditus was a trusted “brother, co-worker and fellow soldier” (Phil. 2:25) who was asked to carry Paul’s letter to the church in Philippi. In his letter, Paul explains how the character of Epaphroditus models the same self-giving love that Paul saw in the Lord Jesus (Phil. 2:5-8).
“He embodied the message. He was an example of what Paul desired to see in the believers in Philippi,” said May.
In the letter, Paul invited the church in Philippi to sacrificially give to those in need in Jerusalem. The presence of Epaphroditus supported and strengthened the message in the letter.
The same was true for Phoebe, said May. In his letter, Paul was emphasizing a message about the importance of finding unity in Christ. The Roman church was struggling with distrust and suspicion between Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians. In the letter, Paul urges the church to differentiate between theological and cultural disagreements, between essentials and non-essentials.
Once again, his letter carrier reinforced the message.
“Phoebe is an illustration of Paul’s teaching that, ‘in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith… There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is ther male or female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus’ (Gal 3:26-28). Phoebe is a living example of equality in the church and Paul’s call to unity (Rom. 12:5),” said May.
“While the integrity of the message is most important, the integrity of the messenger is significant. God always intended that his people would embody his message,” May added, pointing to the role that Israel had in the Old Testament to demonstrate that God was the one, true God, as well as to New Testament calls for Christ followers to be ambassadors and witnesses.
“We are his delegates intended to embody the message of forgiveness, love, and generosity,” May said to those gathered. She challenged them to consider how they can live out that calling during their time at synod and beyond.
This was the fourth time that a dinner for women in leadership in the CRCNA was held during synod. The first event took place in 2017 and was quite informal. In 2018, a banquet was held in partnership with the Reformed Church in America as part of a joint synod, and a celebration of 40 years of women in ordained office in the RCA. And in 2019, about 50 women gathered to hear a guest speaker.
The CRCNA recognizes that there are two different perspectives and convictions with regard to women holding church office, and acknowledges that both of these positions honor the Scriptures as the infallible Word of God.
This year, the CRCNA will commemorate the 25th anniversary of the decision to allow women to hold ordained roles in the church. A video presentation, which was shown to the dinner participants, will be made during Synod 2022 to all delegates on Monday afternoon.
Synod 2022 will run through the afternoon of June 16. For news before and during synod, subscribe to Synod News and the CRC News weekly email (which will include links to Banner stories). Or follow the CRCNA on Facebook or on Twitter (#crcsynod).
Also visit crcna.org/synod regularly during synod to access the schedule, advisory committee reports, stories, photos, and livestream access to synod deliberations. (Note that livestream will be on a 20-minute delay.)