What Steps Does a Church Take When It Needs to Dismiss a Pastor It Cannot Afford?

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What steps must a church follow if it can no longer "afford" one of its ordained pastors? Does dismissal require a congregational vote?

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I referred to the "Manual of Christian Reformed Church Government," article 17 regarding release from ministry in a congregation.  Article 17a allows release "from active ministerial service in a congregation through action initiated by themselves, by a council, or jointly.  Such release shall be given only with the approval of classis, with the concurring advice of the synodical deputies, and in accordance with synodical regulations." 

This and more information  can be found starting on p. 85 and the book is available for order through Faith Alive at crcna.org.  If you have additional questions about synodical regulations, contact Dee Recker in the denominational offices.

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You should consult with the church visitors of your classis before going the article 17 route. Article 17 is associated primarily with pastor-congregation relationships that don't work out. It might turn out to be the correct course of action, but despite efforts to remove the stigma of an article 17 release, the stigma is still there, both for the church and for the pastor who is so released; thus it is not a step to be taken lightly.  The congregation must be appropriately informed of the process, but it is primarily a matter of the council and the classis.

I would suggest that the congregation ought to be heavily consulted, not just informed.   While indeed it is council who must make the decision, it is also the type of issue involving a large segment of the annual budget, and involving the calling or dismissal of pastors and other staff which is normally voted on by the congregation.   It would be out of place for council to make such a decision without consulting or conferring with a congregational meeting.   (regardless of whatever C.O. article is used.)

It is also important to realize that while some consultation with classis will occur that it is the local congregation under the authority of its office bearers who bear the responsibility for making the final decision with regard to the relationship of a pastor to the congregation.   This is because the pastor was called and hired by the local congregation, not by the classis, and also because the pastor serves primarily the congregation, not the classis.   (Although of course the pastor, the council, and each individual person ought to be serving Christ first, and serving Christ thru service to the congregation and to others.) 

I think also that it should be mandatory, or good Christian etiquette, for a congregation who releases a preacher or pastor for budgetary reasons, to make this well-known to all involved as well as to classis and churches of the denomination.   If this is not the primary reason, then the truth should not be white-washed, but opportunities to put the rift in context should be sought out.