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If you have it available to you, you might wish to read my answer to this exact question in Christian Reformed Church Order Commentary, pages 311-313.

Just my two-cents worth ..........


Keep it Simple, Avoid legalistic roadblocks to our Lord. Christ died for the ungodly and all the sinners in this World.  We shall be saved by His Life. Go baptize your grandchild with the permission of its parents with the free gift of Jesus.  As grandparents you can be instrumental in leading and teaching your grandchildren of  Christ Grace and His Love.

I am aware of the "Halfway Covenant" history and error. It appears to be resurfacing. I sense the heart break of believing

grand parents whose unbelieving son or daughter produces a grandchild from a "shack-up" scenario. Should we uphold

the principle or make grandparents happy. Church discipline requires withholding the sacraments from those who are

practicing a contra Biblical life-style. Will appeasing the grand parents help a sinful couple come to repentance?


I found the book.  Brownston goes in some detail into the HalfWay Covenant in colonial history, where grandparents who had professed their faith would present their grandchildren on behalf of the parents who had been baptized but not professed their faith, "as long as the immediate parents were not involved in scandal and continued in the fellowship of the church".  

 After a couple of pages of discussion he says "The church should only baptize infants who have at least one parent who is a believer.  By parent I mean someone who has a recognized and final responsibility for the care and nurture of that child.  The question of who counts as such a "parent" may vary, depending on the cultural context.  Some culturees have much more extended households where grandparents may exercise a significant role in the lives of children. But even in such cases, I believe the final determinant should be whether that "parent" has a recognized and final responsibility for the care of the child.  The parent of a child is the person on whom this primary and ultimate responsibility rests.  If this most basic parental relationship is not infused with the presence of the Spirit emenating from the life of a believer, then the household in which this relationship exists is not a believing household and the infant born to such a household should not be baptized on the basis of God's covenant promise to believers and their children.  This is the essential error of the HalfWay Covenant, which abstracts God's covenant promise from the actual faith life of believing parents."

Thank you for that information. I will investigate that. I thought this would be a simple question since the Scripture says "the promise is to you and your children" not to your grandchildren. There should be some reference in the CO I am guessing.


James Brownston has a book "The Promise of Baptism" where he devotes a chapter to this issue.  If you can get your hands on it you might find it helpful.

The final chapter has been written.  Even though a strict interpretation of church may suggest that an unordained lay member should be examined by classis prior to being licensed to exhort, the route prefered was to embrace the concept that the local council answers to no higher assembly and to "waive" the classical exam and simply review the individuals qualifications and grant permission to exhort. 

Thanks Henry for your comment...dialogue is necessary in our denomination, monologue seems to get us in trouble- i.e. "Fractured Flocks..." per recent Christian Courier (I really need to read that article), or the Blog "Why I left the CRC..." (after reading it the best discriptive reaction- wow.)

Yes, there is room for exception; and I find your comment "emerging churches are  not obligated to follow church order" rather interesting... my fertile imagination paints a "lemming run" for emergent status by some flocks circling not knowing were to land.

Your words continue to offer wisdom and please find time to write a sequal to your most recent book- there must be more  stories without end you have gathered that will enlighten all of us on this jewel called the CRCNA.


One more thing.  Emerging congregations, whether an initial plant or one that has reverted from organized status, are not obliged to follow the Church Order.  They should move in that direction, of course, anticipating organized status down the road, but an unordained person leading an emerging congregation is not a violation of the Church Order.

Yes, Dutchoven, I am quite aware that this happens.  And with respect to the exceptions that are always there, I assure you that I am not a legalist and a wink from the classis is sometimes OK.  What I don't accept is that churches start doing this on a regular basis.  I've heard of one that has a young person as an "apprentice," taught the entire seminary curriculum by the ordained pastor on the scene, truly believing that one day he can become a candidate that way.  I think that's just wrong and it shows how some do not covenant to follow the rules faithfully in spite of their vows of ordination, submitting to the government of the church.



Oh but this is happening Henry- a bending of the the short ticket I have had on this “planet ride” there have been "others" in the pulpit - rightfully or wrongfully so; and my hunch is this coming Sunday it will be happening somewhere beyond the cloistered walls of the Church Order.

An ordained pastor may begin and end a service but invite others to "teach" the congregation, or give a narrative which in itself is a one-way conversations of spiritual journey with full knowledge of a Council, or wink on the part of a Classis; perhaps an aged evangelist who is dear to a congregation who has spent a long time traveling 50 miles each Sunday to "lead" a small group of people that now ordained minister would find "led to;"  or to consider a small struggling church that no longer can be "organized" and reverts to "emerging" in order to survive and while no pastor can be afforded members of that group continue on to minister to each other. 

So yes, perhaps we need to take a look at Art 53a and see if there is a way to "stretch the mold" it to the extent it does not break with our correct interpretation of collaborating as a denomination to protect which we have cultivated for so long- solid reformed preaching... and that I must admit is unfortunately slipping a way down a slope whether an ordained minister or not is standing in the pulpit.

My thoughts are not to indict anyone- nor a particular process, but just this...I'm wondering, hopefully not wandering:-)

Thank you Henry, I appreciate your depth of knowledge and understanding of a document we as a denomination have agreed to honor.

John V.,

The interpretation of Article 53 you report certain councils holding is definitely not acceptable.  When the article says "Worship services," it means all worship services, in your own as well as other congregations.  When it then calls for licensure to exhort, it is referring back to Article 43 (license by the classis) and Article 22 (students, by the denomination -- Board of Calvin Seminary).  Councils that permit a person to exhort without licensure by the classis are in violation of the Church Order.  If they wish to start or continue such a practice, they must ask synod to change the Church Order so that, in amended form, it is allowed.  Of course, Article 53 does say that an unlicensed person appointed by the consistory may "read a sermon," that is, literally read one prepared by a minister of the Word and approved by the council.  If you then ask why is all this the case, the answer is that councils are accountable to the classis in the important task of guarding the pulpit so as to maintain good Christian and Reformed preaching in accordance with who we are as a denomination.

I would like to drill down to Article 53a a bit more.  I am finding that there is an interpretation that a local consistory may on it's own without any interaction from the local classis to permit any person of there choosing to conduct worship services.  Permission is granted by the authority of the local congregation after leadership finds that the individual is reformed in his teaching and may preach/exhort only within the walls of that congregation.  Examination is needed only if he is preaching/exhorting in other churches within the classis.  This interpretation is based on Article 53a period, going no further to what CO may say.  Any thoughts out there???

Henry, I would by no means  call what you say in the commentary a bunch of hokey;  I think you are expressing some very common understandings.   Nor do I hold you responsible for the way the church order is written, or for what it says or doesn't say, nor for what people think it says (when it doesn't).   And in this your comment, I would agree with you in any case.   But in the issue of whether an ordained elder could write a (pre-approved) sermon, the church order itself does not directly seem to forbid it, if the consistory gives permission.   You seem to agree that ordained elders could raise their hands in the blessing, or conduct ordination of elders, which are considered to be official acts of ministry (sort of).   Therefore official acts of ministry are permissable for ordained elders, though not often done.   The church order does not specify chair of elders for these tasks, so it would seem not restricted to that, although that would be a reasonable way of doing it without restricting another elder if the circumstances seem to advise it under the approval of the consistory. 

I agree we should attempt to guide ourselves by the church order, but I suspect you are also aware of the sometimes arbitrary selection of church order articles to live by.   The range of options within the parameters of the church order are also larger than many people realize, do you agree?   I would also suggest that it is permissable to express some disagreement with the church order and the way it is written, even while respecting the intents of it, and living with it in the meantime. 

Could you tell me when synod decided that it was okay for ordained elders to raise their hands and pronounce the blessing/benediction?  


On that same page 119 of my Commentary, my advice for those who are not (or not yet) ordained is "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 ..."

Then, indeed, I advise such folk not to "do the laying on of hands" but have the chair of the elders and the chair of the deacons do it because they ARE ordained and because Synod 2001 ruled that official acts of ministry are entrusted to the church's ordained leaders, not to a specific office.  That reference in on page 294.

You are also free to call all of what I write a "bunch of hokey" (or any other similar expression) since it is what it says it is, a Commentary, but nobody should undercut the authority of the Church Order itself.  We have covenanted to observe it faithfully.


In the interests of not making this quite so easy, I would like to point out that a license to exhort was originally so-named in order to distinguish it from preaching.  It was thought that those qualified to exhort, were not really qualified to preach, so we would call them exhorters who exhorted, but did not preach.  We distinguished three types of service/sermon leaders;  those who preach, those who exhort, and those who "read".   Of course, in some rare cases, we have preachers and exhorters who mostly read their sermons.....   And it is hard sometimes to distinguish between an exhorter who seems to be preaching, and a preacher who seems to be reading, or exhorting. 

The church order including the supplements,  itself does not specify the origin of the sermons that the council may approve.  The reason for council approving the sermons was to prevent heresy or personal attacks, mostly, but the church order does not say that.  Nor does the church order indicate how it is to approve sermons or by what method.   The thought is that a crc committee approving reading sermons should be good enough, but the church order does not say that.  There is no direct indication in the church order as to the possibility of the range of the origin of a sermon that it might approve. 

Article 43 seems to deal with a student fund, and the license to exhort (strange that they are put in the same article).  There does not seem to be an indication in the article itself that 43b only applies to those who have no intention of entering the ministry. 

Article 53 indicates that others (non-preachers and non-exhorters) may be asked by consistory to lead a service.  They should refrain from official acts of ministry, including preaching, but may read a sermon approved by  consistory.   There is no indication as to the method of approval of the sermon.   The acts of ministry are "entrusted to the church and its ordained leaders and not to a specific office..."(supplement).  Therefore it would seem that consistory could approve someone (presumably an elder) to lead a service, and read a sermon.  It would also seem that consistory could approve a sermon.  If the "sermon" is written by an ordained elder, there does not seem to be any direct prohibition for approval.   The reader cannot preach nor exhort by virtue of not being a preacher or exhorter;  therefore he must only "read", thus fulfilling the requirements of the church order as read.  Do you have a reference for a decision on this issue? 

I have a question for Dr. Henry DeMoor.   In an earlier discussion, you indicated that elders could lift their hands for the blessing and benediction when leading a service, even though the church order did not so indicate.  I was not able to find a reference for that.  Could you refresh us as to when and where that was decided?  It's also interesting that your commentary seems to have no difficulty with ordained elders ordaining new elders("laying on of hands"), even though that is indicated to be an "official act of ministry" as well(page 119). 

I think this is sometimes a touchy issue for a whole bunch of reasons (I have read your entire church order commentary).   Just wondering if it is permissable to sometimes disagree with some of the comments in your commentary?  

Thank you all for your input.  A number of you have taken time to review this question and commented honestly.  I believe the answer is clear and appreciate those who attempt to abide to the intent of these guidelines as set forward in Church Order.


Article 43 of the Church Order speaks of licensure given by the classis for persons to have the right to exhort.  Commissioned Pastors also receive the right to preach after they have been examined by classis and subsequently ordained.  This is covered in Article 24.

The council is not permitted to use a "lay person" who has not been given the right to exhort of preach by the classis for preaching in his or her own church.

If you wish to get "behind" these regulations, I urge you to read my commentary on Article 43.  The commentary is available from Faith Alive Resources, our denominational publishing ministry.

For what it's worth, I just finished serving a church where there were 4 deacons and 2 elders. This was based on the giftedness of the individuals who allowed their name to stand for council, though this also fit well with the needs of the church. (Ideally, at least one more elder would have made the workload more manageable.) Stan

The classical licensure to exhort process is still in place, through Church Order Art. 43.     Check it out in the latest Church Order (2012) at

Commissioned pastors (formerly ministry associates, prior to Synod 2012) are examined by classis for a position in a local church (Art 23 & 24).  Some of them have preaching as part of their job descriptions, but that is limited to their local church. They can be licensed to exhort in the classis as well, but would need to follow the same Art. 43 process as others who are licensed to exhort in the classis.  

For the answer to your question about lay persons leading worship and preaching, look at Art. 53 which limits preaching to ministers, persons licensed to exhort, or persons appointed by the consistory to read a sermon that is pre-approved by the consistory.   You may want to also know that the CRC has a committee that approves sermons for this purpose and they are posted online at

See Article 23 and 24, and their suppliments.  The denomination makes exception for special circumstances under the title of "Ministry Assistant."  Specifically look at pages 40 and 41.

Here is the link to a pdf of the church order:


There is no rule on that.  Having six elders and four deacons is perfectly acceptable.  It all comes down to a judgment of the local council as to the needs that have to be attended to and whether the officebearers' work gets done efficiently and effectively.  Peace.


Yes, Randy, Synod 2012 reinserted the sentence into Article 59-b as originally proposed.  See Acts of Synod 2012, page 771.

Has any progress been made on this issue?

Although it's not related to congregational approval, I just wanted to make sure that you saw the article Sheri has linked on this page (it's called "Cell Tower Leases - Do's and Don'ts for Churches"). Seems like a great resource.

Jim, I agree with Jeff basically.  However, it might depend on policies that the church already has in place.   If you have policies relating to public use of the facilities under certain conditions, and if the antenna does not significantly alter the ambience or spiritual atmosphere of the building, a council might take it upon themselves to make a decision without having a formal congregational meeting.  Sometimes a simple yes/no ballot vote after a church service may be sufficient, or an announcement with opportunities for individuals to raise objections to council could suffice. 


I would recommend it.  According to the 2008 Manual of Church Government (may be a more recent one, this is the only one I have) "In matters pertaining to certain items of facilities, other capital assets, and salaries, the council is required to seek the judgment of the congregation.  As a corporate entity the council serves as the board of trustees of the congregation."  Hopefully that answers your question.


Again with respect, everyone knows it is a great oversimplification to say that we know what "retirement" means.  

Many retired occupations do not result in a complete cessation of activities.   A "retired" carpenter may still occassionally build something.   A retired farmer may still often drive a combine or a tractor.  A retired mechanic may still repair his own or neighbor's vehicles.  A retired preacher may still ocassionally preach when called on.  Many "retired" persons often take on part-time contract work.   So no, we do not know what it means clearly. 

While we do indeed know that retired officebearers are no longer on the board of trustees, and should no longer exercise a vote in council, we do not have an explicit understanding of how their other "elderly" tasks should be terminated.   Should they stop making visits to the sick?  Should they stop teaching catechism?  Should they be prevented from leading a service, reading a sermon, or critiquing the preaching?   Should they stop providing pastoral advice to council?  Are they not permitted to attend council meetings, just as any member?   Should they stop providing spiritual guidance and leadership?   Should they be denied the respect of their calling?   Should we then disregard the prerogative of council to respect their general calling and ocassionally ask them to assist in certain "elder" tasks due to their previous ordination (as you yourself seem to have done in your previous example)?     

Come on, everybody, Article 25 of the Church Order uses the term "retire from office."  We all know what that means.  If we want to change that, fine, let's have an overture and we'll consider it.  In the meantime, these words mean exactly what they say.

The idea of ordination...  I am reminded of King David, who was annointed as a young man by the prophet Samuel, long before he became king.   For years he was annointed, (selected, ordained), yet not serving in the complete function of king.  Perhaps we can see this as being somewhat analogous to elders who were called, selected, and ordained, but no longer specifically serving in certain aspects. 

  Henry, with respect, the church order is not incredibly clear about the limitations of the office of elder.   It says they shall normally retire from office.  This has no scriptural sanction whatsoever, unless understood in the sense of a change of service.  The church order says they shall serve (not "be") for a limited time.  The church order says the time shall be designated by council.  They can be re-elected, and terms can be changed.  Thus the aspect of "serving" and "non-serving" elders can also be designated by council if it so chooses.     This would not be disimilar to "retired" preachers continuing to preach, at the request of various councils.  The church order uses the term installation in the case of re-election.  It also uses the qualifier "immediate eligibility", but this is artificial, again with no scriptural sanction, nor a practical exclusion for someone who is re-installed one week or two months after his term is up, or one year after his previous term, or four years after his previous term.   Thus it is reasonable to install, and not re-ordain an elder who has been previously ordained.   As far as you asking a non-serving elder to serve, of course there is no problem with that, assuming that your council approves and you are preferably not doing it arbitrarily and individually by yourself.  In the same way, there is no problem with council inviting non-serving  or "retired" elders to participate in the laying on of hands.   It is their decision.  From the perspective of the non-serving elders, they ought to make sure however, that they understand the intentions of the serving council, when they assume certain tasks, including participating in ordinations or sacraments.  If the council would rather that they did not participate, then they should honor that. 


The Christian Reformed Church Order does not know of an "inactive elder." The Presbyterian churches do and so does the RCA, but not the CRC. An elder whose term has ended has no more authority of office than any other member. In practice, we sometimes bend things a little. When I became an elder recently and the communion schedule came out, I realized I would be on vacation the first time out. So I asked the elder whom I replaced to do it for me. Nobody takes anybody to classis or synod with a protest over such. But we do see it as an exception and the elder whom I replaced would rather "rest" from his labors for a while anyhow. So I don't keep asking him to do this. Strictly speaking, you may not participate as an elder when your term has ended. You are unordained. I do not know how to say this any more clearly and hope this is back on the path you set out on.

It's interesting how when you post a comment, the responses can turn the direction of the original comment in a different path. I accept the fact that I am not presently serving in a decision making capacity as a ruling elder. At the same time, I believe that since I was ordained to this office, that my calling is more than a 3 year term. I am still looked up to as a leader and I am active as a teacher to our Friendship Class for adults with intellectual disabilities. I would challenge someone to find me a passage in the Bible that says that an elder's (and deacon's) term are limited to a set number of years. So, let me restate my original question. If I, as an "inactive" (for lack of a better term) elder happen to be in a worship service where there is a call for any elders to help serve communion or to participate in the laying on of hands, may I participate as an elder?

Steve (and others),

I am being encouraged to contribute to this discussion.  I will do so shamelessly by asking you all to read pages 133-135 of my Christian Reformed Church Order Commentary to gain some historical perspective on this issue of limited or permanent tenure and to read pages 136-138 of that commentary to see what can be done about a "high turnover rate" that sometimes impedes our ministry.  You will be amazed, when you read the latter part, how flexible our Church Order really is on this issue of how long a term might run........  (No, I do not make royalties on the sales of this commentary, but your buying it if you haven't done it already will definitely support our Faith Alive Resources agency).

See?  Steve, I told you there were different perspectives.  Kathy's perspective is related to Synod.  My perspective is related to council.   But Kathy is correct in the sense that a "non-serving elder" cannot be a delegate, or have voting privileges, unless re-appointed as an elder by council, or having the term extended by council.   So "non-serving" elders are not members of council.  

But there is much more to being an elder than simply having voting  privileges or delegation responsibilities.  And these other tasks are the tasks of greater significance.   The office of elder is much more  than a mere administrative task.   It is a calling by God to lead and teach spiritual truths and Godly living to the people of God, to demonstrate christian service, exercise admonition, promote evangelism, and supervise the preaching.   This calling is confirmed by God's people but it is ultimately God's call.  The "legal" part of it means that when the term is up, there is no more voting.  But the general service and leadership part does not end.  For that reason, elders can still lead services, even when they are not on council, provided they have the approval of council.  They can still assist council with the supervision of preaching.   They can still provide council with counsel and advice.   And because council has the authority to make decisions, council can ask them as previously ordained  "called" elders to carry out certain elder tasks or duties such as serving or supervising communion, laying on of hands, making a specific visit, or supervising preaching, or supervising a worship service when official elders are absent due to vacation or illness.   Some of these things are rare circumstances.  But there needs to be certainty about what council/consistory is asking them to do, or about approving their actions. 

So don't totally discount your eldership.  But recognize it needs to be subject to specific council decisions.      Bu

Article 25 of the church order recognizes the principle that  elders can be re-installed without requiring re-ordination, since they have been ordained previously.    Article 25 also confirms  that the council designates the term (or limited time) that elders shall serve.   Presumably council can also change or extend this term from time to time as it sees fit, as appropriate to the circumstance and profit of the church.   So councils have  a couple options available to make delegation to official bodies possible if necessary.  

Hi Steve,

No, you are not considered to be an elder any more after your term expires.  In the CRC we have limited tenure of officebearers--that is, they are called and ordained to office and that ordination clings to the office, not the person.  So there is no special role in the CRC for former elders or deacons, although the council may ask them to serve in some ministry as an experienced member of the congregation.  But they are not officebearers and wouldn't function as such in an ordination or communion service.    

Synod addressed this question when the suggestion was made (by an overture) that former elders be delegated to synod, but that's not possible because they are not officebearers, and synod (and classis and councils) are assemblies of officebearers.  

Thankfully, there are many ways to serve in the church when one is no longer serving a term as an officebearer!  


Kathy Smith

There are different perspectives on what it means to be an elder.   I have heard sermons for retiring elders that advised these elders that in one sense they were still elders;  they still provided spiritual leadership, they still had a responsibility to use their eldership talents to teach, to provide guidance and advice and leadership.   They have been ordained, and not deposed, (and no article 17 for elders) so their qualifications and calling still stands.  However, since the term is over, they are not officially part of the governing body.   The tasks they might carry out are subject to the requests and approval of the elders who are serving their terms.  What they can do is regulated by their council.   Ultimately council also has the ability to determine the length of the terms of office as well.   At the request of council, they could help to serve Lord's supper, or be part of the laying on of hands, or visit the sick, or be delegated to some organization or committee, or lead a service, or assist with some visits.   But they are not responsible to attend council meetings, nor to initiate certain activities as council members are.  They are not part of the board of directors aspect while they are past their term, and should not be voting on council matters. 

At least this is how I would interpret the calling and tasks of "non-serving" elders, within the general description and limitations indicated by the church order.  "Non-serving elders" is a misnomer, a poor term to use, and "retired" elders is also a poor term, an unscriptural term.  Can anyone come up with a good term to use?  Maybe we have to be satisfied with using poor terms for this? 

It would be nice if we did not regard the primary task of elders to attend meetings and vote on things.   Instead, we should regard their primary task as one of providing spiritual leadership;  this would relate better to the qualifications as outlined in scripture, and would contribute more to the spiritual health and growth of the body of Christ. 

Are blog posts a dangerous trap?   I would suggest that they are not as dangerous a trap as an individual preacher or teacher making certain statements or pushing positions in an individual church or council meeting or college classroom.  At least blog posts can be accessed by more people and can be addressed by people not under the local influence.   They will tend to achieve a much broader perspective and response, which hopefully will provide illumination about the path of truth that God wants us to follow.     

The idea of "mutual censure" for Classis is still evolving, and since nearly half of our delegates are not repeats, the whole concept will take time to unfold; for the couple of time we have done this it has been met with somewhat expected, yet surprising results.

One time, the conversation was rather heated, and the chair needed to rule one emotional delegate out of order- who when "called out" graciously retreated resulting in reconciliation and a Classis motion to deal forthrightly with the brother's need.

Most often it allows a bit of editorial time by the participant.  This is not all bad since often some delegates are not included in the conversation of the day, and this is the first time the individual actually was asked an opinion- the result is a surprisingly enlightening thought.

However, the last Classis the time was met with general silence- "pass" was the most common answer.  This is not all bad either, b/c it indicates struggle perhaps played itself out during the duration of the meeting.

Our "mutual censure" is actually termed mutual accountability, and is directed for the current session at hand- this is a strict limitation enforced by the chair.

So far mutual accountability seems to have allowed for conflict resolution; few have left Classis like "deer in headlights" as issues zoom by.  This was the intent, and as mutual accountability develops in the coming Classis meetings it may continue to allow for a more gracious and constructive Classis "endgame"...Lord willing.

Will the upshot be no more conflict in Classis...perhaps not; conflict resolution is the target of this device and it will continue to be used to create common ground until it is no longer useful, or desired.  Isn't that how Classis works- or should work?

It's reassuring that at least you read what I had to say.   It's confusing that of all the points I made, you were able to find only two small discrepancies, and thus avoid addressing all the rest, and avoiding the still legitimate points made even within the two supposed discrepancies.

Of your two points, to distinguish between the supplements and the church order, is diverting and technical.   It does not address the real issue of churches being referred to as "vacant", which term the article 8 supplement uses.  Most consider the supplement to be part of the order, since most of the supplement articles are written in a similar fashion and with a similar effect,  and which is why the supplement has now been inserted in its relevant locations within the order.   However, even if the order did not use it, the perception and common usage of the term still relates to my valid point, and even without using the word, the church order still seems to leave the impression (IMHO). 

Your second discovery on my behalf, that the church order only prescribes three times per year for classis to meet is correct, my mistake, but still does not invalidate my main point;  classes usually don't meet every four months in my experience.   

In this vein, I'm surprised that you did not draw attention to my point number 7, about the 24 articles for ministers vs one for elders and deacons combined, since it is actually 18 articles for ministers vs one for elders and deacons combined (plus at least five for combined offices of deacons, elders, ministers).  But even so, whether 18 or 24, the point of the huge difference is still the same. 

You should be aware that in critiquing the church order, I am speaking the truth in love, and that we are all corporately responsible.  The fact that I never really studied the church order seriously until 2008 does not make me less culpable, since I have been a serving elder at least five times.

My language is deliberately superlative, because that is how I feel.  And it is not just a matter of some intellectual disagreement;  it is to me a matter of a spiritual problem, and a lack of reliance on scripture and scriptural principles.  

Most young people do not read the church order until they become old, and even then most have not read it, and particularly not the supplements. 

Okay so we each think the other is in the small box, and we each think we see the larger picture.....   Either way, you have not really addressed or answered anything on what I have raised, and my deal is still that if your book addresses all these issues, then I promise to buy it (and read it).   You have not affirmed that yet, and so I am led to believe that your book does not address these issues. 

But I do not want to be unkind.   If you think I am missing part of the larger picture you may tell me what I am missing.   It is possible that I am only seeing half of it.   And of course it is possible that I have not missed the larger picture, but simply see it differently. 

In any case, thankyou kindly for your response. 


Dear John,

It is truly difficult to communicate with each other to the benefit of all who visit this website when assertions are made that are simply not true.

I will give you but two examples.  In number 1. of your September 2008 material you forwarded you make the assertion that the Church Order of the CRCNA uses the terminology: "vacant church."  It may be that you read this in synodical decisions, perhaps even one or two recorded in the Supplement to Church Order articles, but I can assure you with certainty that the Church Order itself uses no such terminology.  In number 3. you say that the Church Order requires meetings of classis four times a year.  In point of fact, it is three times a year (Article 40b).

So, no, the Spirit does not allow me to understand your comments here even if it was intended for the benefit of the CRC.  I do not question your motives.  But you are not speaking the truth.

I would also like you to cool your terms.  Superlatives like things being "absurd" and "heaping precept upon precept" are not helpful.  To accuse prior synods of "pretentiousness" in adopting articles of the Church Order such as they are also goes far beyond what is required to make your argument.  I don't believe young people in our denomination are helped by such rhetoric.

Please do not refer to me as being in a "procedural box."  I do not recognize myself to be there.  Are you quite sure that you are the one that is seeing the "larger picture"?  Is that not possibly also a bit on the pretentious side, to use your words?

Let's speak the truth to one another in love, not use hyperbole to make sure we win our arguments.

Not to preempt your reply, Henry, but following are concerns I have with the church order.  And I will make you a deal:  if you can promise me that your book answers all of these concerns, then I promise to buy your book. 

I wrote this in September, 2008.

I've been perusing the church order today, to see what I could find out about installing elders, and begin to realize how ridiculous it is in so many ways. 

((  these are personal comments for edification, not vetted through the council of our church, which is a small church and has many other things of greater importance to deal with, so I’ve not bothered them with this )

Perhaps my recent reading of the book, "Pagan Christianity" has colored my mind somewhat, but most of my thoughts are not new, just coalesced into an overall perspective. 

1.  For example, do you realize how absurd and unscriptural it is to name a church as "vacant"?  (which the church order does).  First of all, if it really was vacant, then it would not be a church.   Second, to suggest that a lack of a minister makes a church vacant, is no more valid, than to say a church is vacant because there is no pianist, or no janitor, or no child on the third pew.  The term "vacant" brings to mind a bunch of blank-eye zombies on the pews, and a zombie elder leading the service, etc.  The term reduces the greater membership of that church to a matter of no consequence.  It also minimizes the presence of the Lord among His people.  It emphasizes the centrality of the pastor at the expense of the Spirit.   So not only is it unscriptural, it is also unChristian to use that type of phraseology. 

2.  Second, article 3 says all who meet biblical requirements can fill any of the offices, but the bible does not indicate any academic requirements for holding any of the offices, and later the church order adds academic training requirements for ministers, which is a contradiction in requirements, an extra-biblical requirement. 

3.  Third, the church order requires classis to meet four times a year, and my impression is that most only meet twice a year?  (Which is probably okay, but there it is in the church order...)

4. The church order requires two services per Sunday, and a very sizeable number only have one service per week. 

5.  The church order requires ministers to conduct worship services, and in a very sizeable number of cases, churches have others conducting half or more of the service. (Not that I necessarily have a problem with that, but ....)

6.  An elder is appointed for a fixed term, and must be "re-installed" and considered unordained, which has no biblical grounds, while a teaching elder, or pastor, or minister of the word has no fixed term.  This puts to ridicule the church order notion that these various offices are equal in dignity and honor, but different in function.

  7.  In addition, the amount of attention paid to office of ministers, preachers, etc.  in the church order is incredible (24 articles), compared to that paid to elders and deacons(one article), if you simply look at the table of contents to get an overview.  If they are equal in theory, they are not equal in practice, which puts the lie to the statement, or disobedience to the practice. 

8.  Another example of this unequal treatment is the fact that ministers supposedly require classical approval to be ordained, while elders and deacons do not.   

9.  Another example is the expectation that preachers, or ministers of the word, may administer the sacraments, while supervising elders do not.  I have not discovered any biblical grounds as justification  for this.  Certainly, if there is dignity and  honor attached to this,  then  this implies a difference in dignity and honor.   Some  elders can do it, but others, who do not happen to be preachers, can not?  Certainly  one would not suggest academic training as a requirement  for such  a simple  task?  

10.  Using the term "organized" vs "unorganized" church in the CRC context, is a misuse of the English language, and also leads to an emphasis on paper, and forms, rather than on the spiritual organization that should be the focus of any church .    Perhaps it is a small thing, I admit, but the use of derogatory terms to describe various worshipping groups which are part of the body of Christ, and for that reason alone are already "church", is not a Christian thing to do.  (Using the term "emerging" for a church that has been around and functioning for ten years, is also an anachronism.)

11.   The church order supplements in the table of contents, probably ought to have titles, not just numbers,   in order to provide a quicker reference as to their pertinence or relevance.  (I appreciate the recent change where the supplements are printed within the relevant articles.) 

12. Classis declaring a terminated minister’s eligibility for call on a yearly basis, or for whatever term,  implies that the simple lack of a call makes a pastor ineligible, until of course, when he receives a call, which would make him eligible. What business does classis have with the eligibility, unless there are specific reasons that make the individual unsuitable? (supp article 8)

13.  13.The use of terms such as "practica", "gravamen", "colloquium doctum", "mission deo" or "approbation" and "abrogated", hearkens back to the ancient desire of ancient priests and bishops to remove itself from regular people, rather than to improve communication with them. These terms should not be used in such documents.


  • 14.     For classis or synod to require a demonstration of need, from a local church, before that church can call anyone, is in direct violation of the principle of equality of church-classis-synod, with the local church having original authority. The local church obviously has a need, or they wouldn’t call a pastor, and they obviously believe that the person they desire to call will satisfy that need. Unless the one they call can be shown to be a detriment to their Christian life and growth, why should classis try to override their decision?
  • 15.    When classis or synod stipulates certain requirements for candidacy, why should that preclude or forbid local churches or classis from addressing these same requirements? (Supp art 8E8) (Supp art 10,6) Classis has no right, nor does Synod, to forbid any questions that might be asked by Council or Classis.
  • 16.      It is absurd to request permission from classis for any church to establish a new ministry position. (supp article 12c) That should be solely the decision and discretion of the local church.
  • 17.     It is absurd to establish governance on the issue of a minister serving in another denomination, or a non-denominational church. If this has only to do with how the pension fund works, then establish criteria for the pension fund specifically without all the window dressing around these positions. If the church chooses to fund pensions in a secular fashion, as it has done, then it ought to use the same provisions and options, such as funding by years of service, paying into the plan as part of the compensation package, opting into or out of the plan, and purchasing retirement benefits for years of contract work or for time spent in other churches/denominations.
  • 18.      Supp art 15 imposes a definition of "proper" support on local congregations that implies that these congregations are not responsible, or that the pastors are part of a union. As a suggestion, these may be good guidelines, but the wording implies no exceptions, and also implies a derogatory attitude towards congregations who have made alternate arrangements for support, which synod would deem "improper". This is an uncharitable attitude and un-Christian attitude towards those congregations.
  • There are some good points in the church order, 2008, including an attempt to protect the spiritual welfare of the churches, but there is also often a spirit of following form rather than function, of ordering the congregations about, of hierarchy, of "requirements" rather than suggestions or advice, and of contradictions. There is a preponderance of attention paid to synod, and classis, which should have separate working documents. (I appreciate that the the articles relating to synod have recently been removed into a separate document.)

    There is a preponderance of attention paid to ministers, which detracts from the idea that all offices are equal in dignity and honor. There is a lack of scriptural reference for administration of the sacraments by ordained preachers, vs other ordained elders.

     There is more pretentiousness within the church order, which maybe uses the biblical admonition to "do things in good order" as a kind of excuse to heap precept upon precept, far beyond what is necessary or advisable. 

    Perhaps the Spirit will allow you to understand my comments, which are intended for the benefit of the CRC as a whole.  

    All the best, and God's blessings. 

    John Zylstra, President of Church Council


    Perhaps it is in the terminology.   When a person resigns from ministry, then the classis attempts to "release" him at his request.  As if they could compel him to unresign.   I just see inconsistencies, and words that do not follow logically or consequentially from previous words in the articles.

    So we have in article 14c " a minister may not forsake the office..."   and then ..."may however be released..."   and then in 14d  "shall be released", and then article 14e   "may be declared eligible for call" and "re-ordained".  

    Lots of procedure etc.  He may not forsake, but if he does.....   But of what substance is this article?  

    If for example, this article was not there, what would be the effect?   A minister would take up another occupation.   The church would make an announcement of information: that so and so has left the pastorship and has become a teacher at the local school.   Four years later, a church in a neighboring town calls the former preacher, and installs him as pastor/preacher.   All this can also  happen with classis "releasing and not forsaking and declaring eligible and re-ordaining", but what is the difference?   It could presumably also happen without all this procedure.   What is the benefit and significant difference this article makes?  

    Even if the teacher were to ocassionally preach a sermon and perform a baptism, what would be the harm?  What great scriptural principle would be broken? 

    The same question applies to article 17.   If the article was not there, what would be the effect?  

    If the purpose was to highlight a benefit in having classis or a classical committee interview someone who has not been in active pastorship/preachership for three or more years, then why is the article not written in that way?  

    (Just a note:   you seem to exist within the procedural box, while I am looking at it from outside of it and thus looking at the larger seems to me.  Maybe that explains why the question is confusing.   Hopefully I've made the question clearer.   If not, I will be willing to try again.  )


    The reason why I have thus far chosen not to answer is that your example is not clear.  There's a huge difference between a release from ministry at a certain place and a deposition.  If Art. 14 is used, for example, the minister needs to rethink his or her calling in its entirety, but if Art. 17 is used, the minister just becomes eligible for a new call and is not rethinking the internal call at all at this point.  In both instances, the Church Order makes provision in Art. 14 for a return to ministry after a "hiatus."  If your example would be clearer, John, perhaps more people could respond.

    I  see that some questions are difficult to answer.   Hmmnn....

    A recent example of the inadequacies of the church order, is the deposition or release of a minister who had taken on another occupation.  Besides being entirely unscriptural, it misses the point of what it means to be a minister.  For example, the apostle Paul continued in his tent-making while he preached.  And didn't he also take a three year hiatus in his ministry before he resumed his preaching after his conversion? 

    But, what does it really mean to be a "minister"?   A servant, right?  diakono, right?  The point is not whether they have taken on another occupation.   Does that mean they are no longer qualified to baptise or lead communion, or to preach?   Or even to revert back their occupation to that of a pastor or preaching elder?   What does another occupation have to do with that? 

    So to me in this case the church order is spiritually disfunctional.   And the proclamations of a classis in this regard are after the fact.  They don't "release".  They simply "acknowledge" what has already happened.   And illegitimately suppose that someone who was previously qualified to preach, is now unqualified?  someone who previously performed baptisms is now unqualified?  simply on the basis of taking on another occupation?   Not on the basis of some actual dereliction of duty, or moral failure, or theological heresy?   to me this is absurd and meaningless.  or perhaps beaurocratic "double-speak". 

    I would love for someone to explain this to me. 

    So I really appreciate what Henry DeMoor has written as quoted above.   The intent of church order and the respect given to it deserve some serious attention.  But at the same time perhaps a few statements or concepts that Henry expressed need to be examined a bit further. 

    First, the statement "some of the same old rules had to be smuggled back in through the back door in order to combat disorder and anarchy in the now-Protestant churches"  is making an assumption that these old rules "had" to be smuggled back in, rather than that the leadership felt uncomfortable without some of them.   To distinguish in this is not always easy.  Perhaps some were necessary, and others were simply attractive.  How do we distinguish?   """How

    Second, "Biblically based [church order] keeps us from repeating history's mistakes. "    I would argue that this sounds good, but is not entirely true.   It is not absolutely impossible to either ignore parts of the church order, or to change it from being biblically based, to a man-based church order.   In other words, if our social and cultural desires make us uncomfortable with the church order, our inclination is often to change it, looking for obscure scriptural validation.   The church order by itself is a guide, but our committment to it, and to making sure that it is indeed scriptural and necessary, and leading to edification, is really what will keep us from making history's mistakes.   Our assumption that our church order is biblically based does not mean that it really is.   The Roman Catholic church assumed that their order was biblically based, but it wasn't.  

    Third, "Without articles of church order as banks along the way, the waters of ministry flow chaotically. "   An interesting analogy, that makes me smile....    Naturalists would suggest that it is important for rivers to overflow their banks occasionally to enhance the growth of riparian areas.   Some have suggested that the church in Acts 2 was pretty chaotic, and was yet perhaps the greatest occasion of growth of the body of Christ at that time.   River deltas are low areas where a river splits up and spreads out into many different streams, often flooding and fertilizing the land between these streams before reaching the ocean.   It may be that river deltas where river banks are very low or non-existent are often the most productive part of the river.   Maybe this also applies to the body of Christ as embodied in our various ecclesia.  

    Another thought:   Just as reading sermons produced by crc preachers or Back to God Hour, or potentially presbyterian preachers, are implicitly approved by consistory, although I doubt you will find it recorded in the minutes of most if any council meetings, are not all ordained elders implicitly approved by classis?   Certainly we could not say that ordained elders have been disapproved by classis, nor do they received their authority from classis, yet classis acknowledges their ordination implicitly in their right to be delegates to classis.   Thus we could consider article 55 to imply that ordained elders have the approval of classis. 

    In addition, if consistory approves the reading of sermons, it could potentially approve the reading of sermons by someone who wrote his own sermons.   This may seem like semantics, is he preaching or reading a sermon, but then semantics seems to be the nature of much of this. 

    As a side note, as many of you may realize, the word sermon is not found in scripture at all.   We realize that the epistles may be regarded as sermons, but it is ironic that we do not place the same classical restrictions on writing letters as we do on presenting or reading sermons, or presenting God's blessings.   Making sure that God's word is truly and clearly preached is an honorable and important task.   However, perhaps we concentrate more on process and governance than on substance?