The Christian Reformed Church & Woman Suffrage

In his retirement, my father did research and writing about the denomination he loved. One of those articles traced the fight within the Christian Reformed Church over the issue of women voting. When he first told me about the research, I thought my dad meant women voting in church — fights I could remember from my childhood in the late 1960s. But my dad laughed and said that long before those fights, the Dutch folk of western Michigan had resisted woman suffrage. In the article he explains why, quoting Klaas Schoolland, a Calvin professor: “Woman suffrage will break the divine laws of human life.”

Conflicts in churches don’t change that much. People in power resist any attempts to shift the power balance, then ascribe their thinking to the Divine One. Today’s conflicts over women’s ordination, racial justice, and LGBT inclusion all stem from the same root.

It was exactly two years ago that I got the call that my father had been put on hospice care. I drove more than 600 miles to Michigan and was able to be with my parents during the last week of dad’s life. He died at home early on the morning of Father’s Day 2016, with my sisters and me in attendance. It was so hard to say goodbye. I miss him still.

For being born and raised in such a conservative subculture, my father was surprisingly free-thinking. I loved that about him. I also loved the fact that we shared a passion for writing. Dad?was always tickled when I “published” something he wrote on my blog, such as this post about folding socks, which is really a testimony to his mother, or this write-up of the “Honor Flight” he took to Washington DC as a WWII vet.

Yesterday I received a copy of “Origins” the historical magazine of The archives of Calvin College and Calvin Seminary. My dad’s article about woman’s suffrage is the headline article. Congratulations Dad! I know you would be proud and happy, and so am I.


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