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A candidate has just accepted the call to our church, and we are eagerly planning for his ordination service. Some of us on council believe that only other ministers of the Word who may be present should be invited to join the officiating pastor in the laying on of hands; others believe that the council executive or even all the elders and the deacons ought to be involved as well. Who’s right?


Synod 1973 provided a clear answer to this when it decided that “to invite only ministers, and not elders also, to participate in the laying on of hands is a departure from biblical example” (Acts of Synod, 1973, p. 64). Since a minister receives the call of God through the congregation, and since that minister’s work will be supervised by the council, it seems right and fitting to have the local elders and deacons involved. This would also reinforce our belief in the parity of the offices (Article 2) and our determination that “no officebearer shall lord it over another officebearer” (Article 85). So when this Article 10 uses the words “by the officiating minister,” we understand it to be referring to a minimal requirement and not to an absolute rule that forbids the involvement of other officebearers.

This very question reminds me how little we are taughrt or informed regarding the ordination service, either the local traditions or denominational expectations.

I think that the question reflects the changing nature of the CRC. Back when the local congregations worshipped with almost the identical order of worship from NJ to CA, hard and fast "rules" gave us comfort. Today, especially with new church development congregations made up of a majority of it's members from outside the "reformed" tradition, flexibility is necessary. The truth is that many of those "rules" are still important to life long CRC members but absolutely meaningless for new Christians. As "reformed" Christians we know that the "laying of hands" is symbolic...we are not dispensing grace, therefore it is right to follow tradition and have ministers for ministers, elders for elders and deacons for deacons, however it is just as correct to have ministers and elders and deacons to be included in the symbolism. ..and I think it is even richer and more meaningful for all.

Texts such as the following indicate that the laying on of hands is much more than symbolism.

Acts 13:2-3 While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off. off.

1 Timothy 4:14   Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through prophecy when the body of elders laid their hands on you.

Acts 8:14-17 When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to Samaria. 15 When they arrived, they prayed for the new believers there that they might receive the Holy Spirit, 16 because the Holy Spirit had not yet come on any of them; they had simply been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 17 Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.

In some congregations, anyone is invited to lay on hands. What I read in Scripture is the Apostles and Elders exercising the laying on of hands. This signifies "Apostolic succession" and the receiving of God,s gifts to adiquately accomplish the calling of God Himself. I believe that ministers and elders are those who should participate in this function which visibly conveys being set aside by God to minister the Word and sacraments.


I'm curious on your opinion of women participating in the laying on of hands.  (We do not currently ordain women as Elders, Deacons, Pastors in our church body.

Thanks for your thoughts.


If your church does not currently ordain women as elders, deacons, pastors, the following answer applies, as you can read in my Church Order Commentary (2nd Ed., p. 73):

"May unordained church members participate in the laying on of hands ceremony associated with installation/ordination?

No, I don't think so.  A congregation elects but a council ordains to office.  This is the clear lesson of Scripture and of church history."

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