The subject as given to me was as titled above: “Women Suffrage in Church and State.” I would, however, prefer to discuss only woman suffrage in the Church while making a few brief comments on woman suffrage in the state. The reasons, I believe, will be obvious. In order to narrow the subject a bit further, woman suffrage in the Church will be confined to congregational meetings only, since the congregational meeting triggers this dispute.
The question of woman suffrage in the church is in all probability, a problem in Reformed circles only. The great majority of churches accept the right of women to vote in the Church as naturally as they accept the right of women to vote in the State. Even the Reformed Churches in a great many cases allow women to vote in Church matters. In the Christian Reformed Churches the issue has not been settled. The question was brought to the Synod of 1947 in the form of an overture to study the matter of women voting at congregational meetings. The overture was brought to the Synod by Classis Muskegon because one of its consistories had received a request from some of its women to partake in the activities of congregational meetings. The Synod of 1947 appointed a committee to study the question: the report of the committee came to the Synod of 1950 as follows:
“In view of the situation as indicated we believe it would be unwise for the Synod of the Christian Reformed Church to make a pronouncement on this important question at this time . . . Your committee advises Synod to urge all our leaders, consistories and classes to study the questions basic to this issue . . . And to request the next Reformed Ecumenical Synod for advice concerning the matter of woman suffrage at congregational meetings . . . It should be understood that pending the outcome of this further investigation, no church should undertake to introduce woman suffrage at its congregational meetings.” Acts 1950.
I don’t know if a decision ever has been made by the Synod on this question: however, the liberal trend in the Christian Reformed Churches will undoubtedly result in the permitting of woman suffrage in the Church.
Woman suffrage in the Church has always been opposed by leading Reformed authorities. In fact the reason that woman suffrage is even considered is that the State gave women the right to vote; and that only thirty years ago. It is rather puzzling to me that women should request the right to vote in the Church simply because the State gives them that right; however the so-called emancipation of the woman probably is encouraging them to conquer new frontiers. In any event let us consider a few of the reasons why women should not be allowed to vote in the Church.
The right to vote has inherent in it the right to rule. Suffrage in itself is a governmental act; it is the power of electing to an office. This has been borne out by events since woman suffrage came; the right to hold office was a by-product of suffrage. In addition, the right to vote is based upon the assumption that women are equal to men. This equality of women cannot be maintained upon the basis of Scripture. The inequality of the woman in relation to the man can be conclusively proved by many passages of Scripture. The woman was made after, because of, out of and for the man. She is made to be a help for the man; she is the wife. Even physically and psychologically she is different from the man. He is the leader and aggressor while she is the complement and the helper; the world itself will admit this. The marriage form is proof in itself of the inequality of the woman to the man. “In like manner must you, who are the bride, know how you are to carry yourself towards your husband according to the Word of God. You are to love your lawful husband, to honor and fear him, as also to be obedient unto him in all lawful things, as to your Lord, as the body is obedient to the head, and the Church to Christ.”
Although the above does not speak directly about congregational meetings or church activities, it has an important bearing on the question of woman suffrage in the Church. For if the woman is not equal to the man and has not the right to rule, she has not the right to vote.
The Word of God also speaks directly on the subject of woman’s place in the Church. In I Cor. 14;34 we read, “Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law.” And in I Tim. 2:12 Paul says: “But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.” This teaching of the woman, of course, refers to the exercising of authority or dominion over the man: this Paul condemns. In the same vein, the holding of office or governing in any way the affairs of the church is not the prerogative of the woman.
As far as woman suffrage in the State is concerned, we could easily be torn between principle and practicality. The votes of all the women in the Bible Belt and in our own area who abstained from voting in the last presidential election might have averted the disaster that struck this country. However, from the Word of God and the very nature God gave to the woman, we must state positively that woman suffrage in Church and State should not be tolerated.