Classis does a lot of things, but what is it really responsible for?
It’s surprising how much the church order talks about what the classis should NOT do. It is also noteworthy how much of what classis should do is defined as things the congregations cannot do.
Historically, the key thing is: the classis must exercise “mutual supervision” of the congregations. But HOW to do that meaningfully? The classis must respond to requests for help from congregations, and at least once annually should discuss a ministry issue that is germane to the congregations of classis. (Art 41 of the CO) . These points are now in the Credentials every church must provide to classis meetings (as of Synod ’06). Of course, much depends on how congregations make use of these tools.
Classis must also make counselors and advisors available, maintain student funds, maintain a Ministerial Leadership Team, and I suppose there are a few other things for which classis must take responsibility, notably credentialing clergy. But an awful lot of what classis does is what it MAY do, not what it MUST do.
Because classis is a part of the Body, I’m wondering about things classis ought to do that often just “go without saying”. Stuff that goes without saying, can often just go - away.
Is classis required to conduct its business in ways that contribute to (or at least don’t detract from) the spiritual health of delegates? Is classis required to spend much time in prayer together, interceding and listening and discerning? Is classis required to nurture and nourish leadership for the church (and the Church)? Is classis required to ensure the mission aspect of its life together?
You see where I’m going with this. I want to argue that every classis needs to think prayerfully and carefully about its identity and purpose, and then go on to ask the hard questions about whether HOW things are getting done truly contributes to the desired WHAT is being done. So both WHAT and HOW need fresh attention on a regular basis. There’s room within the Church Order for lots of creativity, and we have ways to reform that too if necessary. Let’s not act as though our systems and structures and plans and strategies are good enough to carry us to The Day with only occasional grudging tweaks.