Why Must You Be Ordained in Order to Administer Communion/The Lord's Supper?


I've been a pastor, with an education, for 9 years. In a different denomination.

Here in the CRC, I am not ordained and therefore not qualified to be a 'pastor', and not qualified to baptize individuals or lead the church in communion.

I just found this out, when our primary pastor was away for the monthly weekend that is designated to celebrate Communion. I was asked to not lead the Lords Supper because I am not ordained.

Respectfully, It bothers me.

Not because of my ego, or my desire for title and prestige. It bothers me because I can not for the life of me understand how this can be considered a biblical policy? In what ways does scripture teach that individuals have to go through years of Calvin or other reformed seminary, and become officially ordained, in order to lead a church in these celebrations? An individual is not qualified on account of their seminary training. There are plenty of terrible pastors with m.Divs. 

Obviously my bias is that it doesn't make sense. But I know that Reformed traditions generally value excellence and accuracy in their interpretation and application of scripture.

So is there anybody who could help me understand the reasoning for this?


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Thanks for the post and I appreciate your concern. I "hear" in your post that you feel disrespected by not being allowed to administer the sacraments, even though you have been ordained in another denomination.

I'd like to bring to your attention a couple things to think about. First, I think the issue you are identifying is not unique to the CRC or even the Reformed expression of faith. I would guess that you would not be allowed to administer the sacraments in most Presbyterian, Lutheran, or even Roman Catholic churches, for that matter. I am guessing the same would be for most churches from the Baptist or Methodist traditions. Only those ordained and authorized by those denominational bodies would permit someone to administer the sacraments. 

Secondly, and closely related, is the expectation and requirement that the person who administers the sacrament has an understanding of those sacraments that are consistent with the biblical understanding and theological teaching of the church and denomination. The CRC understanding of the covenantal promises of God in baptism and the true presence of the Holy Spirit in the Lord's Supper is significantly different than a Baptist, Lutheran, or Roman Catholic understanding of the same sacraments.  Therefore, according to our church order, the proper administration of the sacraments is done by one who is ordained, under the supervision of the council. The assumption is that this person understands and agrees with what the CRC believes that Scripture teaches about baptism and the Lord's Supper. 

Using this as a background, the Church Order of the CRC requires that the sacraments "shall be administered upon the authority of the the consistory in the public worship by a minister of the Word (CRC), a commissioned pastor, "or in case of need, an ordained person who has received the approval of classis..." In certain circumstances, a member of the council, ordinarily an elder, could administer the sacraments when an ordained minister is not available. (Reference Art. 53 & 55  and their supplements of the C.O.)

I provide this to you as information. Hopefully, you have a better understanding why the council asked that you not administer the Lord's Supper. You might not agree with these reasons, but the council acted consistently within the CRC's understanding of whom may offer the sacraments. 

Regards, Todd

Thanks for your response, Todd!

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Your welcome, and thank you for being willing to assist your church in the bringing the Word!

Hi Rob:

There are various ways to be ordained in the CRC. See https://www.crcna.org/candidacy/journey-toward-ordination

It does take some time since the church and local Classis will be involved.  Even if a minister takes courses at Calvin Seminary, the local Classis gets involved before the person is officially ordained.  Hopefully  that is one way to avoid really bad ministers to get ordained, although there is no guarantee.  However it does take some time so the process should start about 6 months or more before the lead pastor goes on vacation!

August Guillaume




Rob, I'm sorry, I wrote all of the following paragraphs before I realized you had already received answers from my friend Todd Zuidema (who signed my certificate of ordination) and someone else.  I also thank you for your willingness to help your congregation.  You may have figured out from the other answers that you would need to become ordained under article 7 or 8 or be ordained as a "Ministry Associate" under Article 23-24 and in all of these you need to deal with Ministerial Candidacy Committee, which in my opinion has become far too complex and restrictive.  If you do not want or need my more detailed answer, you may want to stop reading here. 

I'll try, Rob.  In the "Manual of Christian Reformed Church Government" 2008 Revision by Peter Borgdorff, after Articles 6, 7, & 8 detail the three ways to become an ordained "Minister of the Word" in the CRC, Article 11 emphasizes that is the correct title to be used.  On page 64 it is explained "Synod 1965 did not accede to an overture requesting that the title be made "minister of the Word and sacraments," because the term "minister of the Word" is commonly accepted as including the administration of the sacraments (Acts of Synod 1965, p.58)."  That paragraph also informs us other Reformed churches, including RCA, use...'and sacraments.'

The next paragraph admits 'the title "pastor" is common... but is not a title but a function of the office of minister of the Word.

In Article 12, p. 67 explains "The Bible couples the preaching of the WOrd and the administration of the sacraments (Matt. 28:19-20 and the history in Acts).  The oral proclamation of the WOrd should be accompanied by the visible signs and seals of God's grace contained in the sacraments."  The paragraph goes on in quoting the Acts of Synod 1973, pp. 62-64.

I was 'Licensed to Exhort' in various Classes for about 28 years before becoming ordained under Article 7 (before they changed the rules - long story) but always knew I could not administer sacraments or perform marriages, etc. until I was ordained.


Hi Rob,

You will, I trust, pardon me for laughing at the question. I want to emphasize, laughing at the question and not at you nor at you for asking it. It is a good question. Here is my answer.

We have deviated significantly from the way Communion/Breaking iof Bread/Eucharist/The Kord’s Supper was first “celebrated.” Let me explain.

If we see its roots in Passover, then it would only be celebrated once a year. It would be, most likely, in a home. It would be part of a full meal. The “officiant” would be the head of the household, not a priest or a rabbi, or a pastor, unless they were also the head of the household. I we see the roots in a more simply communal meal or agape, then , it too, would be part of a full meal and the individual offering the blessing would be the host . So to think we are doing what the first believers did . . or even what Jesus did, is pure deception.

If you follow the early history of the church, all manner of acts became gradually transferred from the community as a whole to those who would become priests. Everything became sacramentalized and formalized, losing much of its original context and meaning. Anointing, as an example, was simply the application of a healing balm. It was rudimentary medicine. Then then oil became holy. Then it had to be blessed by the priest. Then only the priest could anoint. I hope to see the drift of this.

The Reformation challenged and corrected some things; but not all. Much of the evolution (or devolution) of practice still remained and is with us today. But, of course, because we cling to it, we must defend it. It is difficult for us to ask hard questions of a sacrament that dates back 500 years. And then, of course, if we simply allowed everyone to baptize, serve communion, and preach, people like me would be out of a job! J

(Largely off the top of my heard; but not totally without merit)


Ron VanAuken

Pastor for 45 years and now and Elder within the CRC