The name: “Censura Morum”.
The practice: at the council meeting, just before the Sunday of the Lord's Supper, the chairman will ask each office-bearer whether he/she can participate of the sacrament without ill feelings toward fellow office-bearers.
The name and the practice have a nobler origin than it would appear. Years ago a synod of the CRC decided that it would be a good practice if local churches would periodically review and evaluate their ministry practice. Then synod added, for good measure, that this be done four times year. And subsequent synods made that part of the Church Order. Here's how it reads:
“The council, at least four times a year, shall exercise mutual censure, which concerns the performance of the official duties of the office-bearers.” (Art. 36 b).
The thrust of the article was, it may be assumed, “let's, as a council, from time to time consider whether we diligently do the work of ministry...” Instead councils, through the years, took it to mean: “Can we get along as office-bearers...?”
The stipulation four times a year was added to assure that it was done regularly. Curiously enough, however, the Lord's Supper was then mostly also administered four times a year. So the two were closely associated: link the practice to the Lord's Supper and assure that the table of the Lord be kept holy.
This might well be one of the most enduring misunderstandings in our denominational history!
From positive it became negative. And that's how the answers, individually, were given: “Do you have anything against your colleague office-bearers?”, answered by: “no, I don't”. My mini-survey indicated that many counsels have forgotten about Article 36 b. That, in itself, is regrettable. Synodical decisions ought not to be allowed to fade away. But, even more important, the article has value. Councils should regularly engage in self-evaluation: together, as a team, do we all pitch in and do our work with vision and diligence?
So dear readers: what do you think? Does your council have good self- evaluation practices? Can you think of better ways to implement the intent of Article 36 b?