What has been your experience with Article 17 A?


Maybe this topic is a little too painful for some but I am hoping there is some healthy comments and advise we can share with one another.  Some of you have experienced the pain of Article 17.  Maybe it wasn't even painful for you?  Some of you found great ways to heal and grow others are still in that process.  I'm wodering if those who are well along in their healing might share what you found helpful or not so helpful.  Please no grinding axes though.

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First, I was wondering if there are statistics kept on the number of Pastors or churches who go through an article 17.  Second, I realize that not all article 17 applications are negative:  one pastor from our classis used article 17 to return to Seminary to work on a Doctorate: he wants to go into the teaching ministry, either at a college or at a Seminary some where.  He's a young guy.  But the majority of cases are not like his.  But I am interested to know if more pastors are going through article 17 in the last decade or two than in previous decades, and to what factors we might attribute an increase if there is one.  I wonder also if our way of doing things like calling pastors to a church for an indefinate amount of time, or without a regular review of the pastor's work and the congregation's vision/fit, contribute to "surprises". 

I also wonder whether or not unordained staff, like Youth Pastor's or Youth Leaders or Evangelists should be given any kind of opportunity for classical intervention when they are suddenly "terminated". 

Hi George and Ken!

I have a keen interest in this topic, an interest which was in place before I had my own personal experience with Article 17.

George it is impossible to answer your questions objectively. My main summary statement of the general subject would be "we do not now how to have open, honest, loving, direct-feedback conversations about how ministry is going" and "when things don't go as hoped or expected, we resort to some of our most un-Christlike behaviours." That's about all it would be fair for me to say now.

I can answer Ken's first question quite specifically, as the Pastor-Church Relations office has compiled some statistics on the use of Article 17a and b since 1980, based on the "Routes to Ordained CRC Ministry Study Report of 2000) and the Yearbook data. Here are the numbers:
                           1980 to 1989:   24 Art 17a,   7 Art 17c
                           1990 to 1999:   25 Art 17a, 13 Art 17c
                           2000 to 2009: 146 Art 17a, 26 Art 17c

The description says Art 16c's are included in the 17a stats.

In general, my sense is that the increasing number is actually a sign of health. It is a sign both ministers and congregations are admitting there are problems, rather than just sending a problem on to another church or a new pastor coming into a problem congregation.

I'm pleased now to be working as a Specialized Transitonal Minister who is being trained to come in to transition a congregation to a new phase of it's life and maybe clear out some of the things that create difficulties.

Pete - Who had a few good weeks on Ken's brother's "ranch" duing an unplanned wait to cross the border this summer.

Thanks brothers. I appreciate your comments but want to call us back to my original request:  I'm looking for a word from those who have been there but have healed.  What did you find particularly helpful in the healing process.

I want this to be a positive sharing of how God's grace flowed.



Community Builder

George, my only experience with Art 17 was in a very difficult situation in a church where I was a (lay) member; I think your question is excellent.   I want to encourage us to have a good dialog in response.  

I have a strong hunch that Pete is onto something very important in these lines:  we do not know how to have open, honest, loving, direct-feedback conversations about how ministry is going" and "when things don't go as hoped or expected, we resort to some of our most un-Christlike behaviours."

I have that hunch based on four decades of working for denominational agencies, and seven decades of membership in the CRC.  We are just not good at dealing with our passionately held differences, and that's a shame.  Art 17 is a tool that's available to us to help in extreme situations (as well as to help people who are going back to school etc).  

I wonder if Pete's quote can be taken to say that all too often there is brokenness that remains unhealed.


Thanks for the data.  I was reflecting on the incredible increase in the stats of Pastors and Churches that have gone through an Article 17.  I have a hunch that a few cultural things are happening:  first of all the Baby Boomers are now in council:  the generation that has less denominational loyalty, less respect for "titles and positions of authority", and so we tend to be quicker to publically criticise and move to "remove" those we are not seeing eye to eye with.  We are the ones who prefer to be called Pastor, rather than Rev. and certainly not "Dominae".  We want to meet the congregation as friend and colleague, and at the very same time, place ourselves either at the very same plain or even see ourselves as "less than" members of the congregation.  Perhaps I am exagerating things a bit, but if it isn't true of the pastor himself, it may often be true that the perishioner sees us that way.  We are certainly not "beyond rebuke".  It can be a good thing in the sense that a Pastor will not last if he doesn't make the effort to do his job.  Slothfulness or disfunctionality probably isn't going to be tollerated like it was in the past. 

All I have said is based on a hunch, I wonder if research might have been done that verifies the hypothesis.


Walt:  Thank you for your brave act of sharing this.  It means a lot to me.  It is very timely that I should read your post only a few hours after a session with my own counselor where we talked about self care.  In the case of Pastors and all believers perhaps it should be called soul care.  I am wondering if you found any resources to guide you in this or did you use a spiritual adviser?  This whole area of developing our soul seems to be very thin in our reformed circles.  My couselor said she had a whole coarse in her training on the subject.  I don't remember anything about it during seminary.  Perhaps some on keeping sabbath, but not the importance of self care so much.

Opening this up:  Does anyone have resources they would like to recommend on soul care for Pastors and other care givers?

Following on my own request for helpful resources I just read an article by Dallas Willard:  http://www.dwillard.org/articles/artview.asp?artID=106

Very good begining point.

Community Builder

Thanks, George. More Dallas Willard also, which is really helpful: Spirit of the Discplines; The Divine Conspiracy (more discipleship that soul/self care, but excellent and also preachable often!)

More good material that I have used to supplement or actually BE devotions (I know; it's not Bible, but this stuff is pretty good): 

William Willimon--Character and Calling.

Marva J. Dawn--The Sense of the Call (sometimes a bit pedantic and preachy, often using personal examples that tend to pile up, but still a helpful, solid and realistic core of material for us types to check out and re-affirm our calls OR to change careers and callings.

NOT for devotions, but still old and helpful for insight into humanity and self: M. Scott Peck: A Road Less Travelled and also (for a study of negative examples and what to avoid w/ grace and prayer) People of the Lie.

Blessings and prayers always.

Hey Walt! Thanks for sharing your experience.

With Respect to Art 17, were there not other options to take in a "crash?"

Your words "This was the first I had heard of "self-care," which seems at first to be selfish, but in reality is a healthy awareness of our limitations as humans" ring true about a vacuum I learned I had in my life. The things I 'felt' like doing to take care of myself were all considered 'lazy' in my upbringing. I first learned about what I now think of as Sacred Selfishness from a book by that title by Bud Harris. Here's how it starts out, a beginning that immediately resonated with questions I'd had. He goes on to help make some psychological and theological sense of it:

Sacred Selfishness; A Guide to living a life of substance by Bud Harris, Ph. D.


"There are two general kinds of selfishness in life. One is sickly, and we often refer to it as egotism or individualism. Its practitioners are emotionally hungry for power, starved for affirmation, and drive to use and impose on us for self-serving ends. They steal our energy and vitality. Our consumer-driven society fosters sickly selfishness because it thrives on teaching us that we always want or need more of some product to feel good about ourselves."

"Sacred selfishness is the second kind of selfishness. It means making the commitment to valuing ourselves and our lives enough to pursue the decision to become people of substance...  what ... Ralph Waldo Emerson refers to as 'character--a reserved force which acts directly by presence, and without means... it works with most energy in the smallest companies and in private relationships.' Sacred selfishness teaches us to love life, and its practitioners give energy. vitality, and hope to the people around them.

Sacred selfishness causes us to step outside of the everyday... pressures of getting life "right." ... -- page 1 & 2

End of Quote

That book got me on the beginnings of a new way of doing things many years ago, and I'm still learning...

I'll share a few other books another time.


Community Builder

Yes, the Article 17 separation is a painful process ... for both pastor and congregation. While it is always easy to level blame -- either at the pastor or at the congregation -- both suffer. It seems to me that it is important for both pastor and congregation to have a lengthy 'sabbatical' after they part ways. Churches often provide a three- or six-month paid leave to their departing pastor. I wish that there were more concrete guidelines -- even spelling that out in Article 17 -- where a minister receives an automatic 12 month paid leave AND where the church council also devotes the next 12 months to self-examination and reflection before it can even consider beginning a search process.

There are instances where pastors are forced to accept a call to another church after an Article 17 separation, even though they have not healed sufficiently from their past hurt, or dealt sufficiently with underlying reasons for the separation. There are many notable instances where churches seem to pick up where they left off, seeming eager to call another pastor ... without spending significant time in prayer as council and as congregation to deal sufficiently with underlying reasons for the separation.

In short, time heals. At least, it helps the process. The Article 17 process needs allow room for both healing and a reality check.

Until the CRC decides to appoint bishops to oversee congregations and pastors -- and that will never happen -- Article 17 is the only means we have to deal with intolerable marriages between pastors and congregations.

In 2009 I worked out an amicable separation agreement with the church I pastored. After submitting it to Classis, 17a was administered. I went to a counselor who gave me a clean bill of health after six sessions and recommended that I return to the ministry. It was not what Classis wanted to hear. They removed my ordination at the end of the year without even reporting my counselor's findings. 

Because 17a does not require any due diligence or any hearing or any witness of wrong doing as required by Scripture, I could not defend myself. I asked for what I had done that was worthy of the discipline of removal of my ordination, and I was simply told that I was not being disciplined - that would have required a hearing and charges and witnesses.

I was at a loss. How could our denomination allow for a loop hole that allowed ordination to be removed without "discipline"?

God is so good. I came to understand further the errors I made as a pastor and have grown immeasurably from this process, but it has been over a year now and no one from my Classis has contacted me. There has been no effort made to disciple me or walk along side me. I love the CRC, having come into it through a Home Mission church. I love Calvin Seminary for what it taught me. I love my CRC church and the healing I have found there. But I am confounded by the cold shoulder and lack of love I have experienced from my classis, my brother pastors, and my denomination.

The church is broken, but it is also the bride of Christ. I will not leave the ministry and the calling God placed on me. I love the church and will serve her. If the CRC does not want me as one of its ordained pastors, I can live with that. My only question is why have the pastors of the CRC allowed this loophole for the removal of their ordination without cause to remain in the church order?

Very interesting