Which office discusses and decides who is eligible for call to Elders and Deacons?

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In the CRC Church Order, Article 4 seems to make clear that the calling of Elders and Deacons is entirely the responsibility of the Council and clearly spells the process out. Article 35a seems to give a little wiggle room where the Consistory can say it determines the qualities of who is eligible because 35a states the Council "Approves" the nominations as one of the example of its tasks.   Throughout the Church order, it takes great pains to describe the tasks of each of the 3 offices and what they do.  It goes to the extreme in 35b & c and states in those articles (paraphrased here,) that the tasks belong to each office distinctively. I do not see anything that grants this task to anyone other than the Council.

My Question: Which office discusses and decides on the eligibility of potential Elders and Deacons?  Let’s cast a wide net on the question, Women in office?  Unmarried Deacons? Elders that partake in Alcohol? (The first ones that come to mind that seem to make some people squirm.) All potentially gray areas depending on how you apply biblical teachings. Where does this get weeded out and decided.  Why?

Out of respect for Henry DeMoore’s book, if he’s already answered this there, let me know and I will run out and buy it sooner that I planned…  (Smile…)

Thank you in advance for your input!

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Participant

David,

Looks like there's no "takers" so far.  So I'll respond and see if others want to join in on it.  Indeed, Article 4 provides that the council must provide the names of nominees and then the congregation chooses.  There are models other than election.  My commentary contains quite a number of them, but in all these models it is the council that nominates.  Council means: the minister(s), elders, and deacons combined.  This is confirmed in Art. 35a where approval of nominations is also said to be a part of the common administration of the church to be dealt with by the council.  Neither the consistory (minister and elders only) nor the diaconate has the right to "trump" the council's responsibility in any way.  So eligibility for office is also decided upon by the council (all local officebearers together).  So whether women are eligible in that local church or whether drinking alcohol is tolerated, etc. -- this is all up to the council.  The only thing some councils have done at times is to leave such an issue up to the congregation at a congregational meeting where adult confessing members vote.  They decide that eligibility issues like this is a "major matter" as Article 37 has it so they let the congregation decide it after they've recommended something like this.  Other councils have argued that this should not be decided "democratically" by the congregation (even though there may be an opportunity for members to express themselves on it) but by council that is ultimately responsible for the issue and this, says Article 37 also, is possible because the "authority for making and carrying out final decisions remains with the council as the governing body of the church."

Faith Alive Resources would appreciate it if you ran out and bought the commentary or your church decided to buy a copy for anybody to consult.  I don't make any $ on royalty, so this is strictly a matter of charity to your favorite publishing house!

Grace and peace,

Henry,

Thank you for the responce.   I would be most interested in any oposing views and the support for them if anyone has them.

After reading your responce another question comes to mind, would it be fair to say that bringing new members into the body is solely the job of the Council?  If so, would the Consistory be out of order if they were to require additional steps without Council approval?  For example, as a condition of membership the canidate must sign a form of some sort that they acknowledge the Consistorys (or other)  authority, or some other requirements? 

BTW, the order is in!  Looking forward to reading the book!

Thank you in advanced for any insight anyone can offer..

 

David.

Participant

David,

"Bringing new members into the body" is covered in Article 59 of the Church Order and you will note the use of the word "consistory" in that article.  That, again, is deliberately chosen because this falls clearly within the responsibility of the minister(s) and the elders, not the deacons.  Conditions of membership are also the responsibility of the consistory, although if this is discussed not with reference to any particular person joining but with reference to membership conditions in general, it would be wise for the consistory to ask for and receive council approval.

Historically, none of our churches that I know of have asked those wanting to be full members to sign anything, but profession of faith, if that's what's done, involves a liturgical form where the person, in a worship service, promises to submit to the government of the church.  Even if such a promise where made in an earlier congregation and the person is now transferring membership to another, that promise made in a public worship remains.

Blessings,

That makes sense.  I am sure that I will have more questions as things come up.  The book should arrive tomrrow!  (That in itself may generate more!)   Thank you for your thoughts..

 

Blessings!

Eligibility of officebearers is ultimately the responsibility of the elders.  According to the example of scripture, they chose or made the final decision on nomination of office bearers.  If they choose to involve the deacons, then they may do that.  If they choose to ask the advice of the congregation, then they may do that as well.    In smaller churches, it is advisable to involve the deacons in decision making matters about church governance for the purposes of adding more "heads" to the discussion.   In larger churches, this would not be necessary, and would relieve the deacons to carry out their own particular tasks and roles more adequately. 

Participant

While I respect John's view here expressed, I must point out that Article 4 uses the word "council" for the assembly that is responsible for nomination procedure.  It uses that word upon deliberate decision of the synod that carefully chose either "council," "consistory," or "diaconate" throughout the Church Order.  I think that nomination of new deacons procedures should not neglect the input of hte deaons.

 

It is probably a good idea to involve the existing deacons in the nomination of new deacons.  However it is important to realize that in general, the difference in roles between elders and deacons is that elders are called ruling elders.  Deacons are not given that mandate or task.   When the church order fails to recognize that distinction, the order fails as a point of good order.   In small churches it may be that the deacons are also given the responsibility of elders.  In other words they are elders who focus on diaconal tasks, but are not limited to them.  

In a sense the church order here has illegitimately usurped the authority of the local congregation to decide what portion of the council or consistory would be involved in nominations.   The fact is that in most cases the entire congregation is involved anyway, while the final decisions ought to be left to the elders unless they choose to delegate that decision. 

If both elders and deacons are listed as members of the board of trustees of the local church, then I would agree that both would have to be involved in the final decision for nominating new members of the board of trustees.