Is this something that goes contrary to our theology or is it something that has just not been part of our tradition? I thought I read somewhere that this was part of the baptismal ceremony in Geneva.  If it is within the tradition, are there any resources you know of for exploring its role in...

December 14, 2013 0 2 comments

This question is from a real-life situation to which Dr. Henry DeMoor has responded to based on his extensive knowledge of the Christian Reformed Church Order. The first answer given has been taken from the Christian Reformed Church Order Commentary written by Dr. DeMoor.

November 25, 2013 0 3 comments

A candidate has just accepted the call to our church, and we are eagerly planning for his ordination service. Some of us on council believe that only other ministers of the Word who may be present should be invited to join the officiating pastor in the laying on of hands; others believe that the...

November 5, 2013 0 4 comments

We have a member who feels we need a majority of our confessing members present at our congregational meeting where we approve the budget.  Is that correct?

October 21, 2013 0 5 comments

I have observed that a number of denominations work with a system of “ratification” whereby a significant decision of the synod or general assembly must first be approved by the classes or regional assemblies before it is deemed to be in effect. Does the CRCNA have similar procedures?

October 15, 2013 0 1 comments

I'm getting mixed answers here on the Network, and it sounds like this may be more of pertinent in Canada with its rules for non-profit organizations. I may have missed it, but I do not see a line in Church Order that explicitly says whether ministers may or may not vote. Thank you!

August 14, 2013 0 7 comments

At our Classical Interim Committee meetings, we have been musing for some time about two pastors, both of whom have served their respective churches for more than a decade.  They just never seem to get calls to move on for a new start.  What we were toying with is to have them simply exchange...

July 9, 2013 0 1 comments

Does the denomination have some principle in mind for having a separate seminary where theology is pursued apart from the other academic disciplines? Why not incorporate it into a university setting? I recently heard a sermon on Genesis 1 and 2, be it an enthusiastic one with some valid points,...

July 2, 2013 0 2 comments

I'd like to educate interested members in some of the practices of the CRC that are often overlooked. Is there something in the Church Order that addresses the practice of shaking hands?

June 30, 2013 0 6 comments

May grandparents present a grandson for infant baptism when neither parent of that child is a professing member of the church?  The parents have no intention of joining, have no objections to the baptism, but won't be attending.

June 25, 2013 0 3 comments

As an EPMC student at [a seminary in Canada] now licensed to exhort, I find it very difficult to know where the boundaries are in terms of what I am permitted to do and what I am not permitted to do.  I would like to do only that which is appropriate and to be humble enough in my conduct so as...

June 18, 2013 0 1 comments

I am writing you anonymously for good reason.  Please call me "Karen" and use the P.O. Box I have supplied.  I have been sexually abused by a pastor.  I don't want to get into the details of him doing this to me right now.  I'm probably to blame too.  But I feel so cheap, so used, and so...

June 10, 2013 0 1 comments

This question is from a real-life situation to which Dr. Henry DeMoor has responded to based on his extensive knowledge of the Christian Reformed Church Order....

June 4, 2013 0 13 comments

In the Supplement to Article 14b, synod calls for "a proper resolution of dismissal" when a minister resigns and asks classis to "make a declaration reflecting...

May 28, 2013 0 1 comments

We’re becoming increasingly disillusioned about Reformed polity dictating a high turnover rate in the offices of elder and deacon. It seems like people are just “warming up” to the job when they must leave in favor of others. In the case of one of our deacons, frankly, we were glad to see him go...

May 21, 2013 0 2 comments

This question is from a real-life situation to which Dr. Henry DeMoor has responded to based on his extensive knowledge of the Christian Reformed Church Order. The first answer given has been taken from the Christian Reformed Church Order Commentary written by Dr. DeMoor.

We encourage you...

May 14, 2013 0 1 comments

My favourite sport is hockey, the way we play it north of the border, of course.  Is it true that the favourite sport of the Christian Reformed Church is shoving all important issues into study committees?

May 7, 2013 0 1 comments

This question is from a real-life situation to which Dr. Henry DeMoor has responded to based on his extensive knowledge of the Christian Reformed Church Order. The first answer given has been taken from the Christian Reformed Church Order Commentary written by Dr. DeMoor.

We encourage you...

April 30, 2013 0 15 comments

We are currently studying the possibility of joining CRCNA, and would like to know why CRCNA has not adopeted the Westminster Confession as aN OFFICIAL creed/faith in it's constitution.

Thank you for your brief response to my e-mail addr., a_goe@msn.com.

Arthur Goe


April 29, 2013 0 2 comments

This question is from a real-life situation to which Dr. Henry DeMoor has responded to based on his extensive knowledge of the Christian Reformed Church Order. The first answer given has been taken from the Christian Reformed Church Order Commentary written by Dr. DeMoor.

We encourage you...

April 23, 2013 0 4 comments

There is a couple who have a grand child born out of wedlock. Their daughter and male live in fathered this child. The parents have made no profession of faith and do nt attend worship services. Now the grandparent are requesting baptism. What do you advise?

March 21, 2013 0 9 comments

A number of years ago, church order made provisions for a local congregation to request Classis to approve a lay leader the license to exhort for a varitey of reasons.  The one I was familiar with was a congregation remotely located and this person licensed to exhort could assist the pastor with...

February 5, 2013 0 15 comments

We have assigned roles for out elders and deacons (E.G. Worship Elder; Youth Elder; Compassion Deacon; Finance Deacon). We currently have five elders and five deacons. We believe that one of our positions that is currently filled by a deacon would better be filled by an elder. Is it acceptable...

February 5, 2013 0 3 comments

New to this list--pardon if the topic has been addressed before. Our church has an offer from a cell phone company to lease a part of our building for placement of a booster antenna. Assuming that all our questions and concerns are answered to council's satisfaction, must the measure still come...

October 7, 2012 0 4 comments

 I was ordained as an elder and served my 3 year term. Now that I am done with that term, am I still considered to be an elder? If I happen to be at a service where there is a call for elders to participate in Communion or laying on of hands for an ordination service, may I participate as en...

August 22, 2012 0 13 comments



It's not clear to me what you mean by "covenant renewal"?  Would you please explain.  Thanks

So if I hear you correctly, Henry E., you are in favor of times of covenant renewal, as we do see in the OT, but see that those times of renewal should be very strongly, or exclusively, linked to the Lord's Supper.  Is that correct?

How wonderful - a ceremony to celebrate a ceremony!  The only issue is that the truth of the scriptures is replaced by human imagination.  The risen Lord Jesus Christ is replaced by "I THINK" fantasies.  Obviously, the living Word, the Risen Christ, the teacher of the church by his Word and Holy Spirit is so weak and feeble he needs to be propped up with all kinds of human inventions, OT type ceremonies, and visible object lessons of all kinds.  "And Jehovah saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually."   (Genesis 6:5) 

I think it's a fantastic idea to dip one's hands in the baptismal water to "remember your baptism". Is this really an issue?

No, it does not. Synod has seen to the preliminary testing of the internal call and the required gifts and training, and now announces that these persons are eligible for a call to one of our churches. This is referred to as the “external call.” If that is forthcoming and the candidate accepts, he or she will first be subjected to yet another examination by the classis in which that calling church finds itself (Article 10). While the candidate’s biblical and theological position is still probed, the exam concentrates on service in that particular region within the CRCNA and that particular congregation, paying attention to local issues and concerns. When that exam is sustained, the classis gives permission to the calling church to ordain the individual to the office of ministry in its midst. Only when that ordination occurs, complete with the “laying on of hands,” has the person actually become a minister of the Word.

Elections for officebearers are governed by local articles of incorporation, bylaws, or any other rules adopted by the local council. If they say nothing about tie votes, my advice would be to decide between two options: (1) have the congregation vote a second time to see if that breaks the tie, or (2) have the council exercise its right to have final authority in such matters (Article 37) and, by its vote, break the tie. If the vote by the council is a tie, the chair of council (who should not be voting in the first round) may break the tie and choose. The only local article governing this that I have seen that does not call for a reelection is one whereby a tie is broken by having the older person serve. That too is the council’s prerogative. But it’s probably best not to exercise that option in this case. You must never change the rules during the game. Change them after the game.



However the decision is made, be careful.  The church may be exposed to discrimination charges if you rent or lease to some, but refuse to do so to others, on the basis of doctrine.

Is not the Lord's Supper, at least in part, a "remembrance of baptism" or "renewal of baptismal vows"?  Do we not at the Lord's Supper profess that we renounce sin and desire to follow Christ?  Why do we need somthing along side of the Lord's Supper.  Apparently the Lord's Supper, God given, instituted by Christ, and biblically based is no longer sufficient.  Why is the CRC continuially adding Old Covenant type ceremonies, rituals, and objects for the purpose of enhancing the worship experience?  The Belgic Confession Articles 25 and 29 make clear that it is the false church that is not satisfied with what God has provided by the preaching of the Gospel and the (only) two sacraments and "basis itself on men, more than on Jesus Christ"?


Another option would be to use anointing oil during part of the ceremony.  Oil is a symbol of the Holy Spirit, as is water.  When I did a renewal of baptism, I asked the congregant to give a personal testimony of his life and why he wanted to renew his baptismal vows.  I read a scripture passage that he selected shared about his journey.  Then in front of our baptismal font anoited him with oil making the sign of the cross on his forehead using the words, "You are a child of God, you belong to God, live for Him, In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit."  However, I like Henry's Idea of the renewal liturgy.  I'll use that in the future. 


In our congregation we have "remembrance of baptism" or "renewal of baptismal vows" from time to time, perhaps twice a year depending on the occasions for it, and then we do not apply water to anyone's head or hand.  Instead, the minister has a big cup of water that he/she visibly pours into the baptismal font.  We then say the renewal liturgy together: Do you renounce sin and do you desire to follow Christ, etc. and the congregation says "We do."  Since it is not applied, there is no doubt that this is NOT a rebaptism of any kind.

Just as cheerfully yours,


I appreciate this question. Thanks for the historical context from Henry. I've had several inquiries about this as we have a diverse church with a mixture of backgrounds. We haven't actually allowed it thus far, but I know there are folks who want it. 

"...higher authority because it's cumulative..."   That is a really intiguing concept.  Secondary and derivative, but still higher.  It's very hard not to think of that in some sort of democratic way....  so that the more people are voting, the higher the authority.  and then I want to take the next step and say that the greater the majority in the vote, the more authoritative it is.  I know this is not a valid progression of logic, but my instincts are to give so much credibility to democratic decision making.  somehow that is what happens at assemblies, and yet I don't want to say that the church discerns God's will via the number of votes.....   and neither do I want to place all the authority in a person.   It's a dilemma for me as to how to think about cumulative authority specifically, and authority of decision making in the church more broadly.  Thanks for thinking about this with us!

Indeed, in Reformed polity the classis and the synod are referred to as “major assemblies,” and the council and classes are referred to as “minor assemblies,” even in the Church Order itself. The intent is not so much that classis and synod have a higher authority than that of the council of the local church, although that is secondarily and derivatively true. It is higher only because it is cumulative. The primary intent is to honor the principle of catholicity: the greater the geographical spread of churches represented, the more significance we attach to the decisions made.

In the classis and in the synod we are dealing with the phenomenon of accumulated authority. For the local council, there is accountability to the broader church. It is for this reason that you will often hear the expression “broader assemblies” in our circles. I admit that we don’t often hear the term “narrower assembly.” But the adjective “broader” does say more precisely what “major” refers to.


I am not aware of any official position taken by the CRCNA.  It's true that there was this custom remaining in Geneva for a time.  But the earliest of Reformed synods in the 16th century continental Reformed tradition left the use of godparents ("doopgetuigen" - literally, baptismal witnesses) as one of the diaphora (indifferent things).  There was a rejection of earlier Roman Catholic practices in this regard, and the use of godparents fell into disuse fairly quickly.  In general, later assemblies insisted that one of the (natural or adopting) parents must be a confessing member and present for the sacrament, taking upon him- or herself the responsibility to lead the child in the way of the Covenant.

Since it is an indifferent matter, some churches have re-introduced this phenomenon, but never as a replacement for one or both parents.  In our congregation, we've had "mentors" stand with the parents as those who agree to be more especially involved than most members in the task of the entire congregation to bring up this particular child in the Christian faith.

I'd be interested in knowing about other instances of use of godparents in our denomination.




I presume this question would have come from someone studying in seminary and dislikes the rigor (aka torture) of learning Hebrew and Greek. I am often disapponted when a pastor ordained in a Reformed church says something like "Oh yeah, I had to study Hebrew and Greek, but (ha-ha) I don't remember any of it." This is not only disappointing but also reprehensible. I can, and do, use an "exhaustive concordance" in which I can see how words in the Hebrew and Greek  languages are translated into English. However, I am not ordained in the ministry and I expect much more than that of an ordained Reformed pastor. I expect a deeper level of understanding of the meaning of the Scripture text than what I can discern on my own, or with rudimentary helps. If seminary students do not understand that, perhaps they are seeking the wrong profession. As any seminary student knows, they will be proclaiming the Word of God to the people of God, and that is an awesome responsibility.


I presume this question would have come from someone studying in seminary and dislikes the rigor (aka torture) of learning Hebrew and Greek. I am often disapponted when a pastor ordained in a Reformed church says something like "Oh yeah, I had to study Hebrew and Greek, but (ha-ha) I don't remember any of it." This is not only disappointing but also reprehensible. I can, and do, use an "exhaustive concordance" in which I can see how words in the Hebrew and Greek  languages are translated into English. However, I am not ordained in the ministry and I expect much more than that of an ordained Reformed pastor. I expect a deeper level of understanding of the meaning of the Scripture text than what I can discern on my own, or with rudimentary helps. If seminary students do not understand that, perhaps they are seeking the wrong profession.

For the long answer, please consult with our professors at Calvin Theological Seminary. You might sense first-hand in what they tell you that they would not describe the training our synod insists on in such drastic terms. But I’ll give you the short answer.

There is no way to live into the meaning of the ancient text for the first hearers without reading and hearing that text in its original shape and context, and, therefore, no way to apply that Word with its inherent relevance accurately and reliably to our contemporary world. Without this direct access you will forever be dependent on translators and commentators without any assurance that they actually “got it right.” That can’t provide much in the way of your being utterly comfortable in what you’ll be saying from the church’s pulpits.

I promised a short answer so, enough said.

Texts such as the following indicate that the laying on of hands is much more than symbolism.

Acts 13:2-3 While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off. off.

1 Timothy 4:14   Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through prophecy when the body of elders laid their hands on you.

Acts 8:14-17 When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to Samaria. 15 When they arrived, they prayed for the new believers there that they might receive the Holy Spirit, 16 because the Holy Spirit had not yet come on any of them; they had simply been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 17 Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.

In some congregations, anyone is invited to lay on hands. What I read in Scripture is the Apostles and Elders exercising the laying on of hands. This signifies "Apostolic succession" and the receiving of God,s gifts to adiquately accomplish the calling of God Himself. I believe that ministers and elders are those who should participate in this function which visibly conveys being set aside by God to minister the Word and sacraments.


I think that the question reflects the changing nature of the CRC. Back when the local congregations worshipped with almost the identical order of worship from NJ to CA, hard and fast "rules" gave us comfort. Today, especially with new church development congregations made up of a majority of it's members from outside the "reformed" tradition, flexibility is necessary. The truth is that many of those "rules" are still important to life long CRC members but absolutely meaningless for new Christians. As "reformed" Christians we know that the "laying of hands" is symbolic...we are not dispensing grace, therefore it is right to follow tradition and have ministers for ministers, elders for elders and deacons for deacons, however it is just as correct to have ministers and elders and deacons to be included in the symbolism. ..and I think it is even richer and more meaningful for all.

This very question reminds me how little we are taughrt or informed regarding the ordination service, either the local traditions or denominational expectations.

Synod 1973 provided a clear answer to this when it decided that “to invite only ministers, and not elders also, to participate in the laying on of hands is a departure from biblical example” (Acts of Synod, 1973, p. 64). Since a minister receives the call of God through the congregation, and since that minister’s work will be supervised by the council, it seems right and fitting to have the local elders and deacons involved. This would also reinforce our belief in the parity of the offices (Article 2) and our determination that “no officebearer shall lord it over another officebearer” (Article 85). So when this Article 10 uses the words “by the officiating minister,” we understand it to be referring to a minimal requirement and not to an absolute rule that forbids the involvement of other officebearers.

Professor DeMoor,

Military chaplains in the CRCNA at nearing a crossroads.  In the near future, our CRC Chaplaincy Committee will have to provide a statement to the Department of Defense regarding what we can and cannot do regarding ministry to and with persons in same-sex relationships.

Many of the issues are black and white.  For example, we are not permitted to officiate at a same sex marriage ceremony.  However, some issues are less clear.  For example, can we co-celebrate communion with another chaplain who comes from a denomination that endorses same-sex relationships?  Is there a difference between co-celebrating with a heterosexual UCC pastor or a practicing gay UCC pastor?  Both would endorse same-sex relationships, but only one actually practices it.

We are hesitant to make agreement on same-sex relationships the litmus test of whether or not we co-celebrate communion.  Although it is a hot issue, I don't think that it is on the level of core doctrines like justification by faith, the virgin birth, or the inspiration of scripture.


What guidance does our church order have for us?  Your thoughts would help us in the process of formulating a policy that would be sensitive to multi-denominational environment in which we operate each day.


Dave Jeltema

Chaplain, US Navy

To boost congregational meeting attendance, a few years ago we introduced a 'newspaper' theme where we asked each area of ministry to give us a:

- Headline (from the prior year)
- Forecast (for the next year, also written in a headline format)
- Help Wanted (volunteers or other support needed)

As we walk through each ministry/budget area, we show the Headline, Forecast, and Help Wanted on the screen. Because they're in headline format, it goes quickly. Some of them get really creative, or funny, or poignant. And all give a fun glimpse into what God's been doing among us. I'm not sure it's translated into higher attendance (yet) but it sure makes the meeting more interesting.

Hi Scott...

There is a caveat in Church Order, Article 37 which I had highlighted, i.e. "except in those matters stipulated otherwise in the articles of incorporation or by law." 

Congregational meetings that are called under Articles of Incorporation, in particular those dealing with financial matters fall under the caveat above and therefore authority rests with the quorum of the congregation at the meeting and not council.


Thanks Lubbert, for the quote of the new proposed Model Articles of Incorporation. 

In my previous church we did not have anything about a quorum in the articles of incorporation. Thus, because the CRC Church Order (also quoted by Lubbert) gives final authority to the council in all manners, a congregational meeting is technically advisory and a quorum is not needed. In my former church, and perhaps my present one as well, I have a hard time imagining anything motivating 50% of the confessing members to attend a congregational meeting. I think that's a sad commentary both on member commitment and on the fact that our congregational meetings are too frequently handled as business transactions rather than opportunities to reflect together on what God is calling our congregations to do for HIm. 

As I understand the situation, CRC congregational decisions are made by the consistory and congregational meetings are only advisory. That's how First Everett CRC (WA) functions.

The two things to take into consideration are Church Order, Article 37 and the church's articles of incorporation, i.e. the Constitution & Bylaws. In particular, Article 37 states "Although full consideration shall be given to the judgment expressed by the congregation, the authority for making and carrying out final decisions remains with the council as the governing body of the church, except in those matters stipulated otherwise in the articles of incorporation or by law." 

As an incorporated entity, the church's bylaws will usually specifiy what constitutes a quorum required to constitute a congregational meeting.  Best to check there first.

The new proposed Model Articles of Incorporation and By-Laws (Canada) released by the CRCNA states "Quorum at All Member Meetings. At each meeting of the Members a quorum shall be 50 percent of the Professing Members present in person or by such electronic means as is approved by the Council as deemed necessary to permit them to participate in the meeting. If a quorum is not present, the meeting shall be adjourned to a date and time set by the Chair."

The bar in your bylaws regarding a quorum may be set lower, or perhaps higher. In the case of the church I attend, the bylaws state "The professing members attending a general meeting, including the annual general meeting, shall constitute a quorum."

No, it does not. Our rules seek to ensure that minor assemblies have sufficient time to consider important matters before synod meets and to present any viewpoints they may have by way of overture or communication. Any item in the printed Agenda for Synod is “fair game” in this respect. Once synod is constituted, of course, the minor assemblies are all present by way of delegation to make a final decision.

Thanks Ken and Scott, I remembered the part about charing the meeting and Roberts Rules of Order about ten seconds after I hit 'save'.

If the pastor chairs the council, then it is appropriate that he doesn't vote. This is following the practices laid out in Robert's Rules of Order. 

If the pastor is not chair of the council, he is a voting member. This is in accordance with CO art. 35. B. a. mentioned in Tom Van Engen's post. Leaving the pastor off of council, or making him/her an "ex-officio" member or some other kind of non-voting member, would create a power imbalance in the leadership of the church whereby, at least on paper, the elders and deacons are over the pastor. It is important that we realize that no branch of the council is supposed to be over another, only the council as a whole (all pastors, all elders, all deacons) can be over any one ordained office bearer. This effectively gives each officebearer a share in his/her own oversight - providing the freedom necessary for each officebearer to follow what they believe is God's call for them. The council stands as the highest earthly authority under God, and each officebearer has a share in that responsibility, even while submitting him/herself to the authority of the whole when intervention is necessary.

I think today we take the "paperwork" worth a grain of salt until things go wrong - then we scramble to understand and often further complicate things because we had things confused on paper the whole while. I've found that getting the details correct on paper is tremendously helpful when problems occur.

Thank you, everyone so far. Good reminder, Ken! ~Stan

I am a pastor in the US. I chair most council meetings, but there is an understanding that I do not vote unless there is a tie vote. In the few instances where we have had a tie vote, I have called for a time of prayer and hold the vote till the end of the meeting or, at the following meeting. That has worked well for us in the past. I feel that a council must own the decisions that are made, and not look to the pastor to take one side or the other. I saw the value of stopping to pray when I served on a committee at Synod a number of years ago. Rev. John Algera stopped the meeting a number of times when there was no clear consensus. Each time we stopped to to have prayer, attitudes changed and we reached a consensus. Prayer is a powerful means of reminding us that this is God's church.I praise God for lessons learned in the value of seeking Him in all things.

While it is possible too much is presumed, Article 35 B. a. in the church order simply says "In every church there shall be a council composed of the minister(s), the elders, and the deacons."  These are 'members' of the council and members of any board, consistory, council, deaconate, etc, have a vote unless they are somehow determined to be 'ex officio members'.  This may or may not settle anything, but in my many years as an elder and more recent years as a pastor it has been the norm for my experience in the U.S. (and now in Guam, also part of the U.S.)

The bylaws of the congregation I currently serve clearly state that the minister is an "ex-officio member of Council." Therefore the minister doesn't have a vote.  That has been the case in the CRC congregations I have served as pastor (2) and pastoral intern (4), mainly in Ontario.


Did you see this thread:

Should ministers (who are essentially "paid employees" of the church) chair council meetings or be members of the council?  It still may not have answered your specific question.  I just wanted you to be aware of it, which you may already have been. 


A discussion on coffee row between old administrators who have worked for and on boards works for me having lived in Saskatchewan in a previous life for 20 years. Like Keith, I am a stated clerk, chair of the personnel committee at church, etc. Won't bore you with the details: http://ca.linkedin.com/pub/lubbert-van-der-laan/19/53a/391

Dialogue is perferable. Thank you. Hope it's not to hot in Montana. Just got back from Saskatchewan, where for a change it was muggy because of all the rain.

Keith, looks like Henry's open question has turned out to be a coffee talk between us...that's OK. I think that if we were in the same church we'd get along like two peas in a pod. Before seminary I had a BBA degree with.majors in management and marketing. I functioned as manager, regional manager and VP of field operations in the home health care. I attended CTS for five years from age 37-42. I served two established churchs and started a nee one.

I say this sincerely, if only a minister could come into a congregation which had developed a visiion and were enthusiastically pursuing it and the pastor could just concentrate on preaching, teaching and pastoral care, you'd have to beat off the candidates with a stick! The problem too often is that the members believe the church is "theirs" and they would prefer that the minister function more like a country club pro than the shepherd of the flock who leads them from one green pasture to the next.

I believe Jesus was very clear in telling us the "vision" of the church: go into a the world BAPTISING (growing) and teaching them what I have tagh you. Then go to Acts 1:8 and he lays out the expansion plan of "start where you are at and progressively move out (outreach and growth.

I appeciate your thoughts and feelings and am sure you are a blessing to your congregation...have a great day!

I apologize for that, James. Indeed, this is a dialogue. That was a tad harsh.

By way of background, I wear a couple of hats: stated clerk of a Canadian classis and also the executive director of the Canadian Christian Business Federation. I regularly connect with about 3,000 Christian business leaders across Canada. I know their minds and I know their areas of expertise. Among them is a group of 300 Christian multimillionaires and billionaires.

I hear two interesting messages: one is that the church just doesn't know how to use the gifts of those business leaders (other than appoint them to a property committee or to head up a capital campaign). As I regularly 'preach' to those 30 groups of Christian business leaders, "if you're involved in business,you're involved in ministry."

The second message that I regularly hear ... through my contacts with various church leaders ... is that we don't have many really good preachers. I just came across this ad for a senior pastor: "We are looking for someone who has a passion to lead the congregation in ministry, someone with excellent interpersonal skills, who can work collaboratively to further refine God's vision for our church and to bring it to life practically. Top priorities would include preaching and teaching, oversight of the small group ministry, strengthening discipleship opportunities, and providing leadership, support and direction to a small staff."  This is a church council (ie elders) that has abrogated its responsibility as office-bearers. They want a CEO with an MDiv.

The church needs pastors who preach well. Throw in some pastoral care. Period.

Back to the original question, this is one of those binational structure issues. I don't know of any church within Canada where the minister serves as chair of council. He/she might serve as chair of the elders since he has a pastoral role to play there. It's simply the law.

But even though the pastor doesn't chair council, he/she is still usually involved in leadership development and plays a role in casting the vision of the church. A 'non-chair' has a voice and much more weight in carrying discussions.

Most councils of which I have been a part over the years consists of at least some business types who know how to run a meeting and how to lead a group through strategic planning and vision-casting. And this process is always, always bathed in prayer ... whether that prayer is offered by a pastor or someone else.

I agree with you, James, that congregations and councils often look to a new pastor to add a spark to their vision-casting, and to inject enthusiasm and a new perspective in a council room that may have grown stale by decades of navel-gazing.

But a minister does not need to chair a meeting to accomplish that. In fact, by not chairing the meeting, the pastor can often accomplish a lot more.


"OUCH" Keith...this is suppose to be a diagogue...I'm not arguing for "one size fits all" and acknowledge that different pastors have different gifts. If you look at many of the ads in the Banner seeking a Senior Pastor, they use words like energetic...dynamic...enthusiastic. Most often they are seeking someone who will motivate and lead them from where they are to where they want to go (and most of the time that is from an "inward" oriented church to an "outreach" oriented church.

I will tell you that it would be a pastors answer to prayer to go to a church which is as you described, with goals and vision statements already articulated, but in 9 out of 10 churches that is not how it is.

Thanks for the discussion.

I sense a bit of unintentional arrogance in James VanderSlik's comments. "(The pastor) is in tune with God's will regarding the church and works with the leadership..."

Whose task is it to develop a vision for a local congregation: the pastor or the council/elders? Pastors come and go, and probably take their 'vision' with them as they make the church rounds. The local congregation is presumably there for several generations.

It is indeed somewhat arrogant that only the pastor is 'in tune with God's will for the church'. I would hope that the elders (and some churches have specific visionary elders) are equally in prayer and equally in tune with God's will.

I fondly recall a church that was vacant for four years. During that time the congregation decided that their church building was too small so they sold it, they held a fundraising drive, they collectively build a new church, they established a vision for the church as it related to the community, and then they called a pastor.

Vision, wisdom, strategic planning ... and prayer ... are not the sole pervue of pastors.

And as to Lubbert's comments, yes it is Canadian law that a minister who receives remuneration may not serve as a voting member on a church board/council. The Canadian Council of Christian Charities, which advises Christian non-profits, including churches, is diligent in regularly pointing that out.

Hi James...

My comment is not specifically directed at pastors, but the underlying theory of political governance imbedded in Church Order which comes from the 15th and 16th century. Throughout the 17th to 20th century this theory of governance was gradually abandoned. Also, over time, administrative and governance functions have become more clearly demarcated. 

Though pastors are "called" to the ministry, they are nonetheless also "staff" who are employed by churches.

Over the last 20 - 25 years federal and provincial governments, and oversight agencies like the Canadian Council for Christian Charities have put legislation and guidelines in place to regulate NGO's and charities to ensure transparency and accountability to deal with matters like conflict of interest, due diligence, fiduicary obligations, etc.

You're probably right in that churches are looking to pastors to take a lead in shepherding their communities as quasi CEO/executive directors, but these are paid staff [administrative/management positions] and not governance positions.

Governance ought to rest with the elected elders and deacons who are called by the congregation to serve in their respective areas. 

You are also right, in that the administrative and governance arms need to work in concert as shepherds of the flock.

Where this becomes problematic is at the classis and synodnical level where employees [pastors] are making decisions on behalf of local congregations that should rest with elected elders and deacons, especially in areas where there are obvoius conflicts of interest. This is not to say that the employees are not motivated by the best of intentions.


Lubbert, I'm on vacation in Montana and don't have my books (like CO), however is thd ruld you cited for Canadian churches? For my 22 years I was the President of the council and also the elders. I certainly did not have a kingly role.

Consider new church development, the pastor functions as the visionary leader and as the body matures, he teaches and trains the office bearers to assume more and more responsibility. I won't make a sweeping generalization however many of the GROWING and MISSIONAL CRC churches are "pastor & vision" driven, not lay leader driven.

Now just to clarify, when I say "pastor & vision" driven I don't mean that the pastor is a lone ranger doin his own thing, but rather that he is in tune with God's will regarding the church and works with his leadership team and is affirmed by them.


Though I can appreciate the matter of individuals being gifted in the area of administration and leadership, and that some pastors may possess these gifts.

Nonetheless, church polity is out of step with contemporary political governance being more in line with 15th / 16th century divine right of kings political theory.

Having an employee as an elected/voting member of the governing board/Council, and possibly as Board Chair, places the church as an institution at jeopardy legally, quite apart from issues of conflict of interest.

That doesn't preclude the pastor, as an elder, being an ex-officio non-voting officer. 

Even the Canadian Council of Christian Charities requiries the following standards of charities, i.e. churches:

Standards of Acccountability: http://www.cccc.org/standards_2 "No member of the governing board shall be entitled to receive, either directly or indirectly, any salary, wages, fees, commissions or other amount for services rendered to the organization."



I strongly believe in individual spiritual gifts and think that it applies to this discussion.  There are many ministers who possess the gifts of administration and leadership and when a church calls him/her to give leadership to the body, it is most appropriate that he "lead" the Council.  There are other ministers who do not possess such gifts and would prefer to devote their time and energy to other essential areas of ministry, who would be most relieved to have such leadership of the Council handled by an elder.

It must also be kept in mind that it is the minister of the church that eats, sleeps and lives for and with the church, whereas the elders and deacons have other areas of life as their higher priority.  Praise God that while the minister is no longer the most educated person in the church, he is the only one who has had the spiritual, Biblical, theological and church organizational training at Seminary qualifing him/her for such leadership.

I believe there is some history pertaining to the handshake of elder and minister.  After the 'reformational times' not all churhces had full time ministers.  There were a good number of itinerant ministers desiring to preach the Word from location to location.  Prior to having an ambulatory minister lead a community in worship,  elders would meet with the minister and thereby clarify to each other the worship purpose and sermon content.  Following a prayer, the leading elder would usher the minister to the front of the church and they would publically shake hands.  The handshake would publically indicate that the present nomadic minister was approved by the elders and deacons.

To this day, I have accepted the handshake to remain a confirmation of the leadership about to occur in worship.

First things first: Synod 1934 considered the possibility, but rejected it as “impractical” and not in keeping with Reformed polity. Previous cases in the Reformed tradition, it said, were not good precedent because they were events that occurred under “abnormal conditions” (Acts of Synod, 1934, pp. 64-65). In other words, this would be an illegitimate excursion into an episcopal form of church government.

Synod 1976 apparently had no such reservations. A report of the Ministerial Information Service indicated that many had requested the possibility and proposed a procedure that kept any inquiries in confidence. It envisioned two “single nomination calls” to be approved at congregational meetings of two churches held at approximately the same time, and suggested that if one such vote were to fail, the other church’s call would be “nullified.” The consideration that this might be an “episcopal detour” was pushed aside by the committee’s insistence that these were legitimate calls, not “placements” such as those a bishop would make. Synod agreed. So did Synods 1978 and 1980, when called upon to “review the arrangements.” Apparently, there had been only one attempt at an exchange that did not materialize and was “canceled by partial resolution of conditions” (Acts of Synod, 1980, p. 363).

The Ministerial Information Service reported to Synod 1983 that it had “worked with the concept” on three different occasions since 1976, but had “not been able to complete any of them.” The “concept has many built-in problems,” it observed, “and does not seem to have much chance of success at the present time.” Synod agreed that no further extension was in order (Acts of Synod, 1983, pp. 192, 620). The current Pastor-Church Relations Office that later absorbed the Ministerial Information Service into its operations has never requested a formal renewal of the experiment. What’s fascinating is that the episode did not end with the 1934 objection on the basis of principle, but with the pragmatic judgment that it simply wasn’t workable. So the answer to your question, I suppose, is that there is currently no synodically authorized way to do what you suggest, but also no inherent reason why you couldn’t ask the denomination to revisit the matter with yet another experiment. Are you intrigued enough to draft an overture?

Again, thank you for your reply. The practice of shaking hands was explained to me many years ago by my now deceased father. Your explanations refreshed my memory and I plan to pass it along in a "Did you know?" Piece in our church's monthly newwsletter.

Regardless whether parents or grandparents originate baptism, a baptized infant's salvation in unaffected by the baptismal ritual. In the case of older chilren and adults the water of baptism is an outward sign of their born again experience. That is, a tangible demonstration of what had already occured through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.  In the case of an infants we don't know who the elect of God are nevertheless, when children of unbelievers are embraced within  the covenant community of believers on the strength of their grandparents' faith, such children receive the same nurturing benefits as do "all who are far off - for all whom the Lord our God will call." (Acts 2:39).