What is proper for a classis to declare when a minister resigns?


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 the resigned minister's status that is appropriate to the way and spirit in which the minister acted during the time leading up to and including the minister's resignation from office."  From what I've seen in practice, this seems to give classes every opportunity to be vindictive and "fire a parting shot."  What are we to make of these four options: "honorably released," "released," "dismissed," and "in the status of one deposed"?

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 to share your own questions, comments, opinions as well.

Posted in:

The Network hosts user-submitted content.
Posts don't necessarily imply CRCNA endorsement, but must comply with our community guidelines.

Let's Discuss…

We love your comments! Thanks for your help upholding the Community Guidelines to make this an encouraging and respectful community for everyone.
Community Builder

First, you should take careful note that these four possible declarations were not invented by Synod 1998. This assembly was the first to apply them to ministers resigning in order to serve in another denominational context or in an independent congregation. But the declarations actually functioned in practice much before that year. All along, there have been those, for example, who resigned by reason of a growing conviction that they could no longer assent to the church’s confessions (“honorably released”) or those who resigned under the pressure of special discipline instead of following the process through and looking toward repentance and restoration. In the case of the latter, it is better to declare such persons to be “in the status of one deposed” than to depose them after a resignation has been submitted (something the courts would not judge to be appropriate). Next, as you suggest, we need to acknowledge that vindictiveness has no place in making these declarations. In fact, it is not so much a declaration to and about the person involved as it is a signal to the church at large. Congregations need to know whether they should ever invite such a person to mount a Christian Reformed pulpit again. If the assemblies have said that a person is “dismissed” or “in the status of one deposed,” congregations would normally not extend such an invitation. If it was an “honorable release” or just a “release,” the broader assemblies might allow for a preaching visit or even a possible reentry into the denomination. We should also observe that it is primarily the classis that makes the determination with respect to the kind of declaration that is appropriate. The reason for this is that the classis is in a far better position to make these judgments than the synod would be. Even if, for example, a resigning minister has made some problematic statements in the news media that perturbs synodical delegates, the classis would still have a much clearer and more balanced view of that minister’s past service. Synod 1998 acknowledged that fact in an action with respect to one such resigning minister by attaching the following note: “In the broader context of denominational life a declaration of ‘released’ might have been more appropriate than that of ‘honorably released’” (Acts of Synod, 1998, p. 431). Still, it approved the work of synodical deputies who concurred in the judgment of the classis that, on balance, the person should be given an “honorable release.”