Monday, March 31, 2008

Comment Of The Week - Open for next week

Great idea John. I'll start this as a highlight to the many daisy chained comments that readers may be missing. Go and search and you will find the most interested posts. Joan of Ark.

Joan, I'd like to nominate this comment as comment of the week, worthy of its very own post on the front page of the blog.

"I suppose I feel as comfortable going to elders of THIS church for spiritual counseling as much as I feel comfortable as a chicken farmer doing my paps smear or yearly breast exam. I'm not saying that it can't be done it just feels icky and weird and I'm terrified of their credentials."


Saturday, March 29, 2008

Article Post for Reader

I've been seriously thinking about the whole issue of women's place, particularly in the church as well as in other places and situations.

For those of us who read the blog regularly this is not new, but I've appreciated all the input and it has made me think about it all once again and made me see some aspect with new eyes. The comment by "lambda" displays the inconsistency of women voting in church matters and as he/she says " in most churches women outnumber men and so could have the deciding vote " .(paraphrase) Which made me consider all the ways in which a woman could teach (have authority?) over men , ages 14-18.

I would consider a 16-17 yr. old male a man. They're allowed to drive and participate in other adult activities, aren't they?

Not only are women teaching boys/men of that age group in churches, they also teach those men in high schools and when older, in colleges & universities.

To the parents who read this, isn't your son attending a Christian , Public or Roman Catholic High school where men and women both teach them?

Aren't your daughters and sons attending universities & colleges where both women & men teach? I know that our Christian institutions i.e. Redeemer, Calvin College, King's College in Edmonton and non-Christian institutions of higher education all employ professionals of both gender, rightly so. What's to stop us from applying the same principle to the positions in church? Or do you object to having your children taught by a female teacher or professor? Or do you differentiate between the teaching of the Bible(theology) and other subjects ? In a "religious" school all subjects are under the Lordship of Christ , so we are taught and we confess. The CRC also confesses that all of life is religious(in the broadest sense) and therefore not an inch shall be left out but is important to God and under his control. ( Kuyper paraphrased)

I am looking forward to a response.


Statistical Information

One reader asked if I could post some of the statistics for the site in addition to the counter.

Here are just a few of the rollup statistics.

These graphs show individual computers per day. If 4 people checked the site 5 times per day it would only count as one hit.

The first graph is January, then February and lastly and missing the last 5 days of March. It is interesting to see how the readership has gone up. The middle of March spike for a few days was the Vellinga debates and banter and the last spike is the Council Gate Affair.

The graph below shows where people have been checking the site from this week. There has been a sizable number of hits from universities across Canada and the United States, notably from Calvin College.

This is what the pinmap of North America looked like for this week regardless of the number of times they visited. The hits in southern Ontario is too congested.

If someone used a search engine such as Google to find our site the "search term" records the words the user used to arrive at the site. Again, this is just this week.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Domestic Violence and the Church

Thank you to the Michigan Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence. JofA

My husband and I were married for over 10 years. Those years were fraught with physical violence, threats of violence, emotional abuse, spiritual abuse, and various forms of exertion of power and control. Throughout this time we were very involved with our church. Both of us had ministries, my husband on the governing body of the church, and I worked in children’s ministries.

Early in our marriage my husband was physically violent with me. I told him I would leave if he ever laid his hands on me again. At that time I tried to contact my pastor; however he wasn’t available when I called. After I made the call I began to fear the implications of telling my secret. What would everyone think? Would they believe me? My husband is Mr. Wonderful, everyone likes him. Then the personal self doubt started. Am I making a bigger deal out of this than it really is? Do all husbands act this way? What I saw as a child was nothing like what I was experiencing. My Dad loved my mother: treating her with love, respect and kindness. I was completely unprepared for the abusive situation I was experiencing. The doubt lingered and festered.

As time passed, the abuse transitioned to verbal and emotional. Name calling, threats of physical violence, breaking of personal property, verbal abuse of the children, neglect, spiritual and financial abuse were all methods that he used to perpetrate domestic violence. For years I lived in fear. My children were young and with the birth of each he got worse. The more perceived responsibility he had, the more abuse I incurred. It got to the point that my eldest started being a target for abuse. That was when I knew I had to make some changes in our lives.
I began meeting with a friend from church and we discussed and prayed about the situation. We prayed for healing of my husband and we prayed for relief for me and my children. During that time I went to my church leadership and explained what was going on and that I needed help. The church leadership decided to involve him in a general bible study and never came to me and ask me how things were going, or if he was improving. They never confronted him or held him accountable for his behavior.

Some time later, I summoned the courage to leave. With the help of a neighbor who I had been confiding in, they kept my husband busy and I literally escaped from the house with my children. Shortly after I left, I contacted an elder from my church to inform him that I had gone. He and my pastor came to my new home and discussed what had been transpiring in our marital home. I poured my heart out to them again. I told them that someone was going to get hurt, that he was out of control, that I was terrified and I wanted out of the home and relationship. After I filed for divorce they came to me and said, “Don’t do this. Please go to counseling with him. You don’t have biblical grounds for a divorce.”

So I rescinded the application for divorce and went to counseling. Counseling with the Christian counselor was grueling. I told her that I had read that in situations of abuse the individuals should be counseled separately. She disagreed. He denied the abuse and I was afraid to say anything. It was a worthless and agonizing exercise with him blaming me for everything wrong in his life. I sat there terrified to speak the truth of the abuse that had transpired. What I did learn from this counseling was that I was a complete doormat and I had allowed that to happen in the name of keeping peace. He said that I was not being a good wife because I didn’t submit to his authority. At one point during counseling the pressure was so great to reconcile that I verbalized consideration to moving back into the marital home. When a friend of mine begged me not to do it, I told him I wasn’t ready. The next night he came to my new home and proceeded to assault me, calling me all kinds of names, choking me, throwing me to the ground and beating my head on the floor. When he finally left, I called 911. He went straight to the home of someone on the governing body of the church. I was taken by ambulance to the hospital and church leadership finally convinced him to turn himself in to the police.

We both filed for divorce. Church leadership told me that if I continued to go through with the divorce they would dis-fellowship me from the church, because I did not have biblical grounds for divorce. Then my husband rescinded his filing. After the pressure of church discipline, I rescinded my divorce filings.

He plead guilty to misdemeanor domestic violence charges and court proceedings ensued. My husband didn’t come back to the church but he met with people individually to recruit people from church to testify for him in court. He told them I was crazy, belittling me and minimizing his own actions.

I tried to stay at the church for the sake of my children. I kept saying that he broke the covenant by virtue of his abuse, that husbands were suppose to love their wives like Christ loved the church. This fell upon deaf ears. The small group we belonged to decided not to have me involved. Few people spoke to me when I attended church, whether it was because they didn’t know what to believe or what to do, I don’t know, but I felt ostracized in the place I sought sanctuary. My place of sanctuary became a battle ground. My church repeatedly became a place of revictimization. Clearly, my church and the leadership did not understand the dynamics of domestic violence and how they contributed to its perpetuation.
I was the elephant in the sanctuary that people didn’t want to admit was there. I reminded them of the ugliness of the world. Ugliness that made them uncomfortable and didn’t fit into there perfect ideation of what Christianity and Christian marriage was about. It was unfathomable that evil lurked amongst them. Couldn’t be….it just couldn’t be. The thought was “If we ignore it, it will go away”. While I wasn’t the evil, I was the “it”, and eventually I did go away. For my own well being, I had to leave that church behind, one where I had so much history. I fled my home and now I had to flee from my church. My home and my sanctuary were both gone.
I came to the realization that “sanctuary” was not in the building but in my personal relationship with Christ. I came to understand that I was going to go through some time where all (and the best) that I could do was to rely on Christ. It became important for me to take time to heal and tell my story as part of that healing process. I hope that leadership in churches will be open-minded enough to realize they need knowledge regarding the issue of domestic violence. I would like to see church leadership accept that domestic violence is a real problem in faith communities and become responsive to the needs women involved. Women, by virtue of their gender, are not lesser vessels in the eyes of God, just different. Until society values women to the extent they do men, there will be little assistance afforded in these situations. Society has recognized substance abuse as a sickness. Domestic violence is a sickness also, it represents a character flaw. It is not just a person who has a temper. It represents their world view of the purpose and value of women.

Men in the eyes of Christ have a great responsibility to care for their wives. Husbands are to love their wives as Christ loved the church. Christ never abused or belittled
people. Clearly, it is not what he intended for women. Educating church leaders with regard to the realities, prevalence and pathology of domestic violence will help women who are literally trapped in their domestic situation. God did not intend for me or any other women to live in the bondage that is the reality of domestic violence. He intended for women to live a life of freedom to help make the world a better place for all his creation, especially to let his creation know about Christ. By ignoring the reality of some women, churches are devaluing what Christ has made and thereby ignoring their call.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Readers Plea for Support

Could you do a post asking the supporters of this blog to send us encouragement and show support for "women in office". I am thinking of all the christians who are checking this blog every day from other communities and could even have women in all offices in their church. I know it is something I long for and need and I am sure many othersdo too. It is a very difficult time for us here in the Exeter CRC and very little support. The blog is becoming very important to me and I amstarting to see it as a voice for us here. But to have others reach outand help us would be wonderful. I love the debates that are starting but to have someone say I understand what you are going through and ampraying for you would be so encouraging for us who are trying to staystrong in this church. Even some good advise as to how to bring about much needed changes would help us.

Christian Reformed women clear leadership hurdle

A reader wished for me to remind the Blog of this story in Christian Week. Here it is. JofA

Council's Letter to the Masses

March 19, 2008

Dear Congregation:

There has been a recent attack against our church and church council through an internet blog site. An internet blog allows people to anonymously make public statements without any personal accountability - similar to a bulletin board with anonymous letters pinned to it. This internet blog is critical of our church council, our pastor and some church members.

Recently there was posting claiming to have been written by a council member. At the March 19th council meeting, we discussed this posting and confirmed that it was not written by a council member. Collectively and individually, Council has not contributed to the blog site and does not endorse anonymous participation in any media format. Exeter is blessed with a very diverse and yet unified council.

We believe that as Christian brothers and sisters we are called to communicate with each other in an open, honest and respectful manner. Ephesians 4: 2-4 reminds us how we should interact with each other:

“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit- just as you were called to one hope when you were called.”

Thank you for your concerns. We solicit everyone’s prayer so that God’s glory may be reflected through our church, within ourselves, toward others and in our community.


Exeter Christian Reformed Church Council

Monday, March 24, 2008

Musings from Jon of Arcadia

Posted for Jon Of Arcadia

On Anonymity and Participation

There have been some comments (not to mention the recent letter from consistory) criticizing the use of anonymity by Joan of Ark, myself, and many other regular participants in this blog, so I thought it may be pertinent to address the question of why I do not use my "real" name.

On this blog, there are discussions taking place that are historic in the life of this church. Never before have people felt comfortable discussing this divisive issue- and if it were only Joan of Ark espousing the pro-women views, it would be one thing. But there are many distinct people sympathetic to her views contributing to the comments on this blog, and all of them, save one, are either anonymous or using pseudonyms. And I think that, instead of condemning this practice, we should try to understand the why.

Fear of Reprisal
"I can't speak for council because we are under a gag order. But, be rest assured that this blog is being read by many Council members. I don't agree with what we are doing and will just pass my time until the end of my term. I would hope that we can respond to this post but I'm not putting my head on the chopping block. I have to live and work in this community." -Anonymous

Now, it must be said that council, in their letter to the congregation has asked itself if this comment has come from one of their members, and they have determined that it has not. And perhaps they're right- the comment is anonymous, it could have been posted by anybody. On the other hand, if you were a council member who posted this (and I'm speaking strictly to the men here), would you say, "Oh- yeah! That was me. Sorry, I meant to mention it, but it had slipped my mind." It is no secret that the people who are against the concept of women holding positions of authority in this church are both in the majority and in power. And these people are willing to officially and actually Shun members of this congregation who disagree with them. "I have to live and work in this community." Say my employer is a member of this congregation who has taken to shunning- I would be exceedingly hesitant risk my livelihood to participate in a theological discussion. However, if I have an opportunity to do so anonymously....

Ad Hominem
"The Ad Hominem argument consists of replying to an argument or factual claim by attacking or appealing to a characteristic or belief of the person making the argument or claim, rather than by addressing the substance of the argument or producing evidence against the claim. The process of proving or disproving the claim is thereby subverted, and the argumentum ad hominem works to change the subject."

When I first began participating in Joan of Ark's discussion, I had referred to her as him/her, s/he, because, really- I don't know. It could be a woman, or it could just as easily be a man (or, for that matter, a couple writing together- a concept I like better. It's more romantic.) The point is, it doesn't matter if it is a man or a woman. The same goes for me- I could be young or old, a man or woman, a new member of the congregation, or a charter member. It doesn't matter. What matters is what I have to say. If the audience of readers knew who I was, attention would be drawn away from my message, and pointed towards me as an individual, much in the same way as was done to Jonathan. Jonathan's arguments were too powerful for a certain reader, who decided that, if s/he couldn't refute what Jonathan had to say, s/he would attempt to reveal something about him that might potentially discredit him, and "the process of proving or disproving the claim is thereby subverted."

Why participate at all?

It is important. As our congregation is sinking more and more into the minority of acknowledging and admitting women into positions of authority in our denomination, this issue becomes more and more critical. Certainly, as other anonymous people have suggested in the comments, I and others could go to another church. But that would mean giving up- giving up a denomination and this specific community that I have grown to love so well. (I don't know about you, but an Anglican or Roman Catholic church just won't cut it for me... I love my CRC.) We would also be giving up this fight- if we were to leave, who would be left to carry it on?

And so, here I am, participating in this blog, anonymously doing my best to follow God's word of speaking the truth in love. Consider it my interpretation of how to live out Matthew 6:3, as written in the New King James Version: But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.

Council Recognizes the Train Wreck

Exeter CRC Council has finally made a united response to the blog. It didn't answer any burning questions but went on a righteousness tour in an attempt to legitimize their views.

Council suggests that that the blog was an "attack" against the church. Perhaps they missed the point. The blog is an accountability mechanism for Council, not the church, not Exeter CRC, not the denomination. The Council. The Council is being asked to be, in a word, "accountable." This Council is garnering a long history of keeping issues secret. Why would it go to such great lengths to make their vote regarding women in office by "secret ballot?" Why would they be under a gag order? Could it be because they know full well that they would be the object of ridicule and persecution if they individually and publicly made their views known? Council's secret vote is the mechanism of allowing Council members to make anonymous, hurtful public statements while keeping their identity beyond scrutiny. (It is a veritable public blog in it' own right!)

Council did however convene all of the men into a room and asked them if they were responsible for writting the dissenting post to the blog. They all said no, so, it must not be true. Case closed. How quaint. Did you really expect a member to say, "yes, I posted a note to the blog that said we were under a gag order and I'm not putting my head on the chopping block?" Wouldn't this meeting BE THE CHOPPING BLOCK? Do you not think there is an element of fear of reprisal? The whole congregation is walking on eggshells and you expect someone to hold the axe while you prepare to chop? How self serving was this demonstration of mutual finger pointing?

Council states that it wishes members to speak in an open, honest and respectful manner. There was however, no open forum or open discussion before they decided on the fate of women. They then insulted many more by making a 5 year moratorium on discussing the matter.

Ask yourself, does this really sound like an open, honest and respectful manner? What it does sound like is a patriarchal, unilateral, closed and disrespectful manner. Quoting the Bible does not legitimize your sinful behavior, nor does it even qualify as a discussion as that would include the interaction of people other than yourselves. I too, would like to remind Council of their own words and be an example of what they speak of.

Anger in and of itself is not sinful. Jesus was angry with the money changers in the temple. It was justifiable so Jesus took fast and furious action. In another verse when the Pharisees refused to answer Jesus’ questions, “He . . . looked round about them with anger.” This verse goes on to give the reason for His anger: “the hardness of their hearts.” Wow. Talk about a parallel!

We often think of anger as a selfish, destructive emotion, however, the fact that Jesus become angry indicates that anger itself, as an emotion, is “amoral.” African Americans were legitimately angry about their historic treatment and it was justified. Rev. Martin Luther King Jr was angry, critical and forceful. Angry does not justify violence but it is a legitimate emotion that can drive issues. Council should be the champion of healing, reconciliation and comfort.

Yet, Council laments about a blog not having any accountability. It is Council that has no accountability. Whether that be to the 40% of the congregation that wanted to see women in office, or to the ambivalent, if not fearful 60% of the remaining congregation that is seeing the turmoil in their congregational family. Council has lorded over their weakest and has shirked their responsibility and have shown their incompetence to lead our congregation. Mere numbers does not make right anymore than does "might make right." Council may be irritated that one can make an anonymous blog that criticizes them but perhaps should channel their efforts into doing good with the God given power.

Council can continue to ignore this issue as it has or it can attempt to salvage what it can, admit it's mistakes and show a new kind of leadership that doesn't lord over it's people but takes on the form of servant, not master. It takes a big man to admit his mistakes especially in the path of self destruction we have been accustomed to. It is time for the congregation to step in and demand a non-confidence vote on the leadership of Rev. Harry Frielink and bring this congregation back to where it was, two steps back. At least from that point we can choose a new path, perhaps not the path that can be shared by one side or the other but a path that considers open talk amongst the congregation with an air of compromise.

The point of the blog was to keep this issue in the forefront and I think that it has succeeded in that respect. I would like to thank Council for legitimizing this blog and increasing it's readership.

Joan of Ark

Monday, March 17, 2008

Childish Posts and Meaningless Drivel

...will be blocked. There are just too many nasty one liners that don't make any sense. I will let all on topic related subject to stand and provide a forum for debate. We will have to go back to waiting until I get around to posting the comments. I'll try to look at them each day or two, but this still seems to be the best of both worlds. Still trying to find a niche.


Friday, March 14, 2008

Biblical Truth or Hidden Agenda?

The Grass Withers And The Flower Fades

But the word of the Lord will stand forever

I used to love that verse. To me it meant that the things that we fuss over throughout our lifetime i.e. the riches, pursuit of careers, anything that didn't stand the test of time post death is not only meaningless but a distracting and fruitless pursuit. The shiny nuggets of gold and all things that sparkle that pass when we move from earth and cross the divide into heaven, will all pass. The flower in all its fragrence and beauty lives its dawn to dusk, it's seed to flower if you will, will too, succumb to death.

However the Word of God Himself, like an immovable mountain, the truth, will continue to live, strong regardless of earthly tides.

So, what happened you say. Perhaps it was the repetitive mantra from Rev. Harry Frielink before each service. Perhaps it is the not so subtle hint from an ultra right wing conservative pastor that dimmed my love for that text. It is unfortunate that a man's thoughts could inject hate like the venom of a snake, into a sacred text and change it's very meaning. It is of no wonder that, as one reader mentioned earlier in a comment, that she just couldn't bear the words coming out of Frielink's mouth, that it has taken on a whole new life of it's own. That the words seem to no longer come from God but rather from man.

From one's perspective the new meaning is this:

The word of God is unchangeable and the very idea that any view that changes the status quo is of Satan. It is "of" the world and "worldly" driven. I just cringe when he says parrots that verse now which has taken on a mocking form. It seems, especially at this time of turmoil in our congregation and the pastor's diabolical seed planting of misogyny, that it is an abuse of biblical text. It heralds the proclamation at the beginning of each sermon that I am right and you (referring to the 40 % of our congregation that wished to have women in the office of elder and minister) are wrong.

I guess perception IS everything.

Joan of Ark

Monday, March 10, 2008

Exeter Christian Reformed Church Council Boycotts Own Prayer Service!

Shame. Shame. Shame.

A number of readers have contacted me to tell me that Council has apparently boycotted it's own prayer service last Friday night.

I invite a Council member to please comment on why they would set up a prayer service, as one reader suggests, only to boycott the service? From this vantage point it appears to be nothing more than an extension of an earlier Council ban on having Pastor Willemina Zwart preach from our pulpit. Was Pastor Zwart allowed to preach because it wasn't a Sunday?

Rev. Zwart, we apologize for this utter embarrassment. To quote one reader, "The lack of testosterone was palpable and galvanized the notion that Exeter CRC's Council has no intention of calling a truce."


Saturday, March 8, 2008

Quote of the Day

Jesus of Nazareth (c. 5 B.C.-c. 30 A.D.)

What can you say about a wandering Jewish teacher who loathed materialism, ranted about hypocrisy and castigated the smug religious establishment of His day?

That He was the Son of God and the Savior of mankind.

Author unknown

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Comment From Reader

I thought Jonathan put a lot of time into writing this comment that it is worth re-posting.


jonathan has left a new comment on your post "Reader Comment":

Your definition of legalism doesn't even refer to law, and it probably should. We say 'legal' about anything pertaining to laws. We say 'legalism' about the abuse of those laws.

The pharisees provide a good example. They spent a great deal of time trying to trick Jesus with their legal expertise. They were very well versed on God's law, and were able to trap the unwary listener less familiar with the law. It didn't work on Jesus, though. We could all learn a lot from Jesus.

This is not to say there is anything wrong with laws! Far from it. Laws aren't the problem, legalism is. One way we can tell that the subjugation of women, via scriptural quotes, is legalistic is the degree that one sees such a law alive in the lives of believers. An excellent metaphor, straight from the bible, can be found in 2 Corinthians. Paul declares:

"You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everybody. You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts."

Paul makes a pretty clear distinction between two expressions of God's word: One is written on stone, and the other written on human hearts. Are both God's word? I don't know, but Paul is pretty clear about WHO the word of God is: It's us! We are letters from Christ. We are the result of ministry, and we are words written not with ink but with the Spirit of the Living God. When we do not let women be letters of Christ, well, what does that make us?

That's why I don't believe you when you say "Yes". The Bible did not die for your sins. 66 books did not feed the five thousand. Not a single book has ever raised anyone from the dead. Books are dead. I would hope that your one true Lord and Saviour is not a book at all, but a person.

How would you help us better understand the laws about women in the bible, aside from citing them incredulously? Is citing them enough? Or is their wisdom behind these laws?