What are the "licensed to exhort" boundaries?
June 18, 2013
Updated June 28, 2013
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As an EPMC student at [a seminary in Canada] now licensed to exhort, I find it very difficult to know where the boundaries are in terms of what I am permitted to do and what I am not permitted to do. I would like to do only that which is appropriate and to be humble enough in my conduct so as not to give offense. Please provide some guidance in this area.
This question is from a real-life situation to which Dr. Henry DeMoor has responded to based on his extensive knowledge of the Christian Reformed Church Order. The first answer given has been taken from the Christian Reformed Church Order Commentary written by Dr. DeMoor.
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I am happy to do so. In a document we prepare for students at Calvin Theological Seminary, we enumerate seven items from tradition and Church Order that we deem to be “official acts of the ministry” (Article 53): the greeting or salutation, the blessing or benediction, the assurance of pardon, the reception or dismissal of members, the ordination of officebearers, the preaching of the Word, and the administration of the sacraments. The preaching of the Word is a recent addition by Synod 2001, and students, of course, are licensed to proclaim it, to “exhort.” The other six items do not all carry the same weight. Our advice about them follows. Do not raise your arms and pronounce the salutation and the benediction. You will undoubtedly upset someone if you do. Instead, change these pronouncements into prayers: “The Lord bless us and keep us . . .” The assurance of pardon is undoubtedly a word of Scripture, and the student pastor is perfectly free to read it. Say, “The Lord says in Isaiah 1: ‘Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.’” Reception or dismissal of members is really the act of the consistory as a whole. I see no reason why you couldn’t welcome people into adult confessing membership on behalf of the elders who have met with them. This makes good sense, especially if you were the one who, as an intern, led a number of young people to make public profession of their faith. It makes less sense for you to announce dismissal if you have not been involved in discipling the person(s) involved. Ordaining elders and deacons is also the act of the local council. If you are involved in that, the council must give its permission, and it must be clear to the congregation that it’s really the council doing the installing. Involve the chair of the elders and the chair of the deacons to make the point visibly. Have them—not you—do the laying on of hands, for example, since they are ordained and you are not. The sacraments, given our theology, are clearly to be administered by ordained persons, either a minister of the Word, a ministry associate, or—as a legitimate exception—an elder identified by the classis as having the authority to do so if no minister or ministry associate is available. We advise you as a student not to administer baptism or the Lord’s Supper. Finally, remember that you are not licensed to solemnize a marriage. Conducting funerals is another matter and, if it makes good sense, feel free to do so if requested by the family.
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