Q&A

What should one do in the case of a tie vote when electing officebearers?

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...

February 4, 2014 0 1 comments
Q&A

I am sure I am not going to ask this correcly, but what are the "liturgical limits" of using the font/waters of baptism in worship times that are not, strictly speaking, baptisms? For instance, I've read a couple of times about "renewal of baptism" or "rememberence of baptism" services within...

January 14, 2014 0 14 comments
Q&A

Article 28 speaks of “minor” and “major” assemblies. What is actually meant by these adjectives, and is this the best way to refer to the council, the classis, and the synod?

This question is from a real-life situation to which Dr. Henry DeMoor has responded to based on his extensive...

December 20, 2013 0 2 comments
Q&A

Is this something that goes contrary to our theology or is it something that has just not been part of our tradition? I thought I read somewhere that this was part of the baptismal ceremony in Geneva.  If it is within the tradition, are there any resources you know of for exploring its role in...

December 14, 2013 0 2 comments
Q&A

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.

...
November 25, 2013 0 3 comments
Q&A

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...

November 5, 2013 0 4 comments
Q&A

We have a member who feels we need a majority of our confessing members present at our congregational meeting where we approve the budget.  Is that correct?

October 21, 2013 0 5 comments
Q&A

I have observed that a number of denominations work with a system of “ratification” whereby a significant decision of the synod or general assembly must first be approved by the classes or regional assemblies before it is deemed to be in effect. Does the CRCNA have similar procedures?

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October 15, 2013 0 1 comments
Q&A

I'm getting mixed answers here on the Network, and it sounds like this may be more of pertinent in Canada with its rules for non-profit organizations. I may have missed it, but I do not see a line in Church Order that explicitly says whether ministers may or may not vote. Thank you!

August 14, 2013 0 7 comments
Q&A

At our Classical Interim Committee meetings, we have been musing for some time about two pastors, both of whom have served their respective churches for more than a decade.  They just never seem to get calls to move on for a new start.  What we were toying with is to have them simply exchange...

July 9, 2013 0 1 comments
Q&A

Does the denomination have some principle in mind for having a separate seminary where theology is pursued apart from the other academic disciplines? Why not incorporate it into a university setting? I recently heard a sermon on Genesis 1 and 2, be it an enthusiastic one with some valid points,...

July 2, 2013 0 2 comments
Q&A

I'd like to educate interested members in some of the practices of the CRC that are often overlooked. Is there something in the Church Order that addresses the practice of shaking hands?

June 30, 2013 0 6 comments
Q&A

May grandparents present a grandson for infant baptism when neither parent of that child is a professing member of the church?  The parents have no intention of joining, have no objections to the baptism, but won't be attending.

...
June 25, 2013 0 3 comments
Q&A

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...

June 18, 2013 0 1 comments
Q&A

I am writing you anonymously for good reason.  Please call me "Karen" and use the P.O. Box I have supplied.  I have been sexually abused by a pastor.  I don't want to get into the details of him doing this to me right now.  I'm probably to blame too.  But I feel so cheap, so used, and so...

June 10, 2013 0 1 comments
Q&A

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....

June 4, 2013 0 13 comments
Q&A

In the Supplement to Article 14b, synod calls for "a proper resolution of dismissal" when a minister resigns and asks classis to "make a declaration reflecting...

May 28, 2013 0 1 comments
Q&A

We’re becoming increasingly disillusioned about Reformed polity dictating a high turnover rate in the offices of elder and deacon. It seems like people are just “warming up” to the job when they must leave in favor of others. In the case of one of our deacons, frankly, we were glad to see him go...

May 21, 2013 0 2 comments
Q&A

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.

We encourage you...

May 14, 2013 0 1 comments
Q&A

My favourite sport is hockey, the way we play it north of the border, of course.  Is it true that the favourite sport of the Christian Reformed Church is shoving all important issues into study committees?

...
May 7, 2013 0 1 comments
Q&A

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.

We encourage you...

April 30, 2013 0 15 comments
Q&A

We are currently studying the possibility of joining CRCNA, and would like to know why CRCNA has not adopeted the Westminster Confession as aN OFFICIAL creed/faith in it's constitution.

Thank you for your brief response to my e-mail addr., a_goe@msn.com.

Arthur Goe

 

April 29, 2013 0 2 comments
Q&A

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.

We encourage you...

April 23, 2013 0 4 comments
Q&A

There is a couple who have a grand child born out of wedlock. Their daughter and male live in fathered this child. The parents have made no profession of faith and do nt attend worship services. Now the grandparent are requesting baptism. What do you advise?
 

March 21, 2013 0 9 comments

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Absolutely, for as long as the pastor continues to be eligible for call. While the new “external call” is sought, the pastor has authority to perform official acts of ministry (preaching and administering the sacraments included) in all Christian Reformed congregations. This denomination-wide authority to do so is withdrawn only if and when a final release from office is implemented by the classis.

Baptism points to entry into union with Christ.  The Lord’s Supper points to our continued union with him.  Christ by his Holy Spirit uses these to confirm and strengthen our faith.  Thus they are both signs and seals.  We can create all kinds of visible representations and ceremonies.  But we cannot effect what Christ alone can do.  Dipping your hands in water may mean something to you but it is simply useless to confirm and strengthen faith.  We can create signs but we cannot effect the sealing of the Holy Spirit by any of them.

It puzzles me why someone invented a visible church ceremony to rehearse entry into Christ when we have the Lord’s Supper, which is not a human invention but God given, and should remind us not only of our entry into him but also our continued union with him.

Why do you wish to add to what God has given in Scripture?   Why do you think that the Lord’s Supper is not sufficient?   Why do you think that what God has given needs to be propped up with man’s devices and ceremonies?

I would really like to know the reason why.

Sorry I goofed your name.

 

I see what Calvin is saying, and I agree, but to me simply dipping one's hands into the water as a reminder doesn't seem to me to be anything beyond that-i.e. a simple reminder. It's not another sacrament-just a reminder of one.

My  position which you label as "such an extreme" is essentially that of John Calvin.  You may find it helpful to read Book 1, chapter 11 and Book 4, chapter 10 of Calvin's Institutes.  Calvin's understanding is also embodied in the Belgic Confession and the Heidelberg Catechism and has been the position of the reformed and presbyterian churches until this modern era.  Should I be insulted that you got my name wrong?
 

Jonathan, I was simply asking for another perspective than Harry's since it represents such an extreme end of the spectrum here. I believe my comment was respectful, I don't especially appreciate the censoring over such a simple post.

Thnaks to Josh and Derek for e-mails. A number of years ago we had similar situation in our church. :

 

1. Several high school youth who were very involved in our hi school group desired to make professuion of faith.. Most were baptized members from other denominational churches.

2. We talked with the parents and also at least one church leader from their "home" church concerning their desire to proceed with POF at our church.

3. These students went thru our POF mentoring process, made POF and ultimately joined our church.

 

I think the key to this proces working as well as it did,  was due to time taken to pray,  listen/talk with student's home church leaders and family members.  All involved understood that this was the work of the Holy Spiit leading them in their journey.

  We have been all blessed.

 

 

Arnie

Thanks for the question Josh. I reached out to Howard Vanderwell at Calvin Seminary to ask for his advice. Here's what he offered for consideration: 

1. In which of these congregations does he intend to remain affiliated, either, or both?  How he answers that might provide insight into which is his "primary membership".

2. Normally baptism and profession of faith are combined as a unit in the same congregation, so it's rather unusual to have one here and another there.

3. Possibility #1 is that he "transfers" his baptism record to the new congregation (yours) at the time of making POF there. Then they are together there which is the usual way.

4. The other possibility is to receive a statement by him, if necessary verified by the other congregation, that his is in fact baptized, and then the profession of faith can proceed without an adult baptism. A statement that there is a baptism in his past is usually sufficient. Your congregation/Elders can then acknowledge his baptism at _____, and proceed with his POF.  But some churches are very careless in keeping record of such things.  If  he  has not been baptized, then his POF should be turned into an adult baptism.  

I hope this helps. It does seems like a decision that should be made by your council since they know the situation best. You could always reach out to your classis for guidance on the issue as well. 

 

 

Hello my name is Jonathan and I am the Community and Content Manager for The Network. While reading some recent comments we want to remind all of our Network users about our Comment Guidelines. Please take a moment to take a look at them and remember to please make sure your comments are "friendly and polite in tone and language, even when you strongly disagree."

Thank you for participating on The Network.

Worshipping by dipping your hands in water is no more scandalous or idolatrous than Eve’s eating the fruit of the forbidden tree in the Garden of Eden.  The essential point: does God tell us how he wants to be worshipped or do we tell him how we are going to do so?  The essence of sin is to think that we know as God knows and therefore we can add all kinds of ceremonies and visible images to our worship.  Christ gave the HIS church, not ours, the gospel and only TWO visible outward signs and SEALS for the growth and confirmation of our faith.   My question for you is why are you not satisfied with with Chriat has provided? Is it not sufficient?  Do you know better than he does?  See the description of the church that acts falsely in Belgic Confession Article 29.

Your worship ceremony of hand dipping in essence and nature is identical to all the OT God given liturgical practices which the NT describes as “elements” and “rudiments” of the world which kept Israel in bondage until Christ came.  They were all God given and he made exceedingly clear that Israel was not to add or subtract anything from what he had revealed.   The OT liturgy was composed of “shadows” and now we have the reality.  Why the urgency to return to shadow land of our own devices.  The second commandment forbids any attempt to make God visible and the NT forbids returning to OT type ceremonies.  Furthermore the NT forbids adding or subtracting anything from God’s revelation.

When Christ is central and we realize the fullness of all blessings that are in him, how he shares all that with us and the great hope that he is – dipping hands is quite meaningless.  Paul in Philippians 3 clearly considers that  all his attempts to live as an OT Jew are simply manure compared to the excellency of the knowledge of Christ. 

Furthermore Jesus in talking to the Samaritan woman at the well makes clear that no longer in the mountains and high places with man made statues and idols, nor in Jerusalem with its God given OT liturgy,  has any relevance to the true worship of the God and Father of Jesus Christ.

We can create all kinds of worship ceremonies and visible representations and teaching tools but we cannot create seals.  We simply cannot decide for God by what means the Spirit of Christ is going to work in our hearts and lives.  Nevertheless, the church continually wants to abandon faith and seeks to live by sight.   The problem of the false prophet as recorded in scripture makes clear the human attempt to abandon God’s word and live by man’s imagination and fanciful ideas.  Not a good idea.  See Calvin’s Institutes, Book 1, Chapter 11.

I'm so surprised this is an issue, it just seems so innocuous. Henry, is dipping one's hands in the baptismal font to remember God's covenant of grace really that scandalous? 

It's not clear to me what you mean by "covenant renewal"?  Would you please explain.  Thanks

So if I hear you correctly, Henry E., you are in favor of times of covenant renewal, as we do see in the OT, but see that those times of renewal should be very strongly, or exclusively, linked to the Lord's Supper.  Is that correct?

How wonderful - a ceremony to celebrate a ceremony!  The only issue is that the truth of the scriptures is replaced by human imagination.  The risen Lord Jesus Christ is replaced by "I THINK" fantasies.  Obviously, the living Word, the Risen Christ, the teacher of the church by his Word and Holy Spirit is so weak and feeble he needs to be propped up with all kinds of human inventions, OT type ceremonies, and visible object lessons of all kinds.  "And Jehovah saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually."   (Genesis 6:5) 

I think it's a fantastic idea to dip one's hands in the baptismal water to "remember your baptism". Is this really an issue?

No, it does not. Synod has seen to the preliminary testing of the internal call and the required gifts and training, and now announces that these persons are eligible for a call to one of our churches. This is referred to as the “external call.” If that is forthcoming and the candidate accepts, he or she will first be subjected to yet another examination by the classis in which that calling church finds itself (Article 10). While the candidate’s biblical and theological position is still probed, the exam concentrates on service in that particular region within the CRCNA and that particular congregation, paying attention to local issues and concerns. When that exam is sustained, the classis gives permission to the calling church to ordain the individual to the office of ministry in its midst. Only when that ordination occurs, complete with the “laying on of hands,” has the person actually become a minister of the Word.

Elections for officebearers are governed by local articles of incorporation, bylaws, or any other rules adopted by the local council. If they say nothing about tie votes, my advice would be to decide between two options: (1) have the congregation vote a second time to see if that breaks the tie, or (2) have the council exercise its right to have final authority in such matters (Article 37) and, by its vote, break the tie. If the vote by the council is a tie, the chair of council (who should not be voting in the first round) may break the tie and choose. The only local article governing this that I have seen that does not call for a reelection is one whereby a tie is broken by having the older person serve. That too is the council’s prerogative. But it’s probably best not to exercise that option in this case. You must never change the rules during the game. Change them after the game.

PLEASE, THIS IS PERFECT YOU RALLY ANSWER MY QUESTION, I THING I AM AT THE RIGHT PLACE, THAT IS EXACTLY WHAT I HOLD STRONGLY IN ME, ABOUT THE ESENCIAL OF THE REBIRTH IN THE CHRISTAINDOM.

THANKS.

However the decision is made, be careful.  The church may be exposed to discrimination charges if you rent or lease to some, but refuse to do so to others, on the basis of doctrine.

Is not the Lord's Supper, at least in part, a "remembrance of baptism" or "renewal of baptismal vows"?  Do we not at the Lord's Supper profess that we renounce sin and desire to follow Christ?  Why do we need somthing along side of the Lord's Supper.  Apparently the Lord's Supper, God given, instituted by Christ, and biblically based is no longer sufficient.  Why is the CRC continuially adding Old Covenant type ceremonies, rituals, and objects for the purpose of enhancing the worship experience?  The Belgic Confession Articles 25 and 29 make clear that it is the false church that is not satisfied with what God has provided by the preaching of the Gospel and the (only) two sacraments and "basis itself on men, more than on Jesus Christ"?

Jeff,

Another option would be to use anointing oil during part of the ceremony.  Oil is a symbol of the Holy Spirit, as is water.  When I did a renewal of baptism, I asked the congregant to give a personal testimony of his life and why he wanted to renew his baptismal vows.  I read a scripture passage that he selected shared about his journey.  Then in front of our baptismal font anoited him with oil making the sign of the cross on his forehead using the words, "You are a child of God, you belong to God, live for Him, In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit."  However, I like Henry's Idea of the renewal liturgy.  I'll use that in the future. 

Jeff,

In our congregation we have "remembrance of baptism" or "renewal of baptismal vows" from time to time, perhaps twice a year depending on the occasions for it, and then we do not apply water to anyone's head or hand.  Instead, the minister has a big cup of water that he/she visibly pours into the baptismal font.  We then say the renewal liturgy together: Do you renounce sin and do you desire to follow Christ, etc. and the congregation says "We do."  Since it is not applied, there is no doubt that this is NOT a rebaptism of any kind.

Just as cheerfully yours,

 

I appreciate this question. Thanks for the historical context from Henry. I've had several inquiries about this as we have a diverse church with a mixture of backgrounds. We haven't actually allowed it thus far, but I know there are folks who want it. 

"...higher authority because it's cumulative..."   That is a really intiguing concept.  Secondary and derivative, but still higher.  It's very hard not to think of that in some sort of democratic way....  so that the more people are voting, the higher the authority.  and then I want to take the next step and say that the greater the majority in the vote, the more authoritative it is.  I know this is not a valid progression of logic, but my instincts are to give so much credibility to democratic decision making.  somehow that is what happens at assemblies, and yet I don't want to say that the church discerns God's will via the number of votes.....   and neither do I want to place all the authority in a person.   It's a dilemma for me as to how to think about cumulative authority specifically, and authority of decision making in the church more broadly.  Thanks for thinking about this with us!

Indeed, in Reformed polity the classis and the synod are referred to as “major assemblies,” and the council and classes are referred to as “minor assemblies,” even in the Church Order itself. The intent is not so much that classis and synod have a higher authority than that of the council of the local church, although that is secondarily and derivatively true. It is higher only because it is cumulative. The primary intent is to honor the principle of catholicity: the greater the geographical spread of churches represented, the more significance we attach to the decisions made.

In the classis and in the synod we are dealing with the phenomenon of accumulated authority. For the local council, there is accountability to the broader church. It is for this reason that you will often hear the expression “broader assemblies” in our circles. I admit that we don’t often hear the term “narrower assembly.” But the adjective “broader” does say more precisely what “major” refers to.

Jeff,

I am not aware of any official position taken by the CRCNA.  It's true that there was this custom remaining in Geneva for a time.  But the earliest of Reformed synods in the 16th century continental Reformed tradition left the use of godparents ("doopgetuigen" - literally, baptismal witnesses) as one of the diaphora (indifferent things).  There was a rejection of earlier Roman Catholic practices in this regard, and the use of godparents fell into disuse fairly quickly.  In general, later assemblies insisted that one of the (natural or adopting) parents must be a confessing member and present for the sacrament, taking upon him- or herself the responsibility to lead the child in the way of the Covenant.

Since it is an indifferent matter, some churches have re-introduced this phenomenon, but never as a replacement for one or both parents.  In our congregation, we've had "mentors" stand with the parents as those who agree to be more especially involved than most members in the task of the entire congregation to bring up this particular child in the Christian faith.

I'd be interested in knowing about other instances of use of godparents in our denomination.

 

 

[quote=jpbandstra]

I presume this question would have come from someone studying in seminary and dislikes the rigor (aka torture) of learning Hebrew and Greek. I am often disapponted when a pastor ordained in a Reformed church says something like "Oh yeah, I had to study Hebrew and Greek, but (ha-ha) I don't remember any of it." This is not only disappointing but also reprehensible. I can, and do, use an "exhaustive concordance" in which I can see how words in the Hebrew and Greek  languages are translated into English. However, I am not ordained in the ministry and I expect much more than that of an ordained Reformed pastor. I expect a deeper level of understanding of the meaning of the Scripture text than what I can discern on my own, or with rudimentary helps. If seminary students do not understand that, perhaps they are seeking the wrong profession. As any seminary student knows, they will be proclaiming the Word of God to the people of God, and that is an awesome responsibility.

[/quote]

I presume this question would have come from someone studying in seminary and dislikes the rigor (aka torture) of learning Hebrew and Greek. I am often disapponted when a pastor ordained in a Reformed church says something like "Oh yeah, I had to study Hebrew and Greek, but (ha-ha) I don't remember any of it." This is not only disappointing but also reprehensible. I can, and do, use an "exhaustive concordance" in which I can see how words in the Hebrew and Greek  languages are translated into English. However, I am not ordained in the ministry and I expect much more than that of an ordained Reformed pastor. I expect a deeper level of understanding of the meaning of the Scripture text than what I can discern on my own, or with rudimentary helps. If seminary students do not understand that, perhaps they are seeking the wrong profession.

For the long answer, please consult with our professors at Calvin Theological Seminary. You might sense first-hand in what they tell you that they would not describe the training our synod insists on in such drastic terms. But I’ll give you the short answer.

There is no way to live into the meaning of the ancient text for the first hearers without reading and hearing that text in its original shape and context, and, therefore, no way to apply that Word with its inherent relevance accurately and reliably to our contemporary world. Without this direct access you will forever be dependent on translators and commentators without any assurance that they actually “got it right.” That can’t provide much in the way of your being utterly comfortable in what you’ll be saying from the church’s pulpits.

I promised a short answer so, enough said.

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 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.

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

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.

Professor DeMoor,

Military chaplains in the CRCNA at nearing a crossroads.  In the near future, our CRC Chaplaincy Committee will have to provide a statement to the Department of Defense regarding what we can and cannot do regarding ministry to and with persons in same-sex relationships.

Many of the issues are black and white.  For example, we are not permitted to officiate at a same sex marriage ceremony.  However, some issues are less clear.  For example, can we co-celebrate communion with another chaplain who comes from a denomination that endorses same-sex relationships?  Is there a difference between co-celebrating with a heterosexual UCC pastor or a practicing gay UCC pastor?  Both would endorse same-sex relationships, but only one actually practices it.

We are hesitant to make agreement on same-sex relationships the litmus test of whether or not we co-celebrate communion.  Although it is a hot issue, I don't think that it is on the level of core doctrines like justification by faith, the virgin birth, or the inspiration of scripture.

 

What guidance does our church order have for us?  Your thoughts would help us in the process of formulating a policy that would be sensitive to multi-denominational environment in which we operate each day.

 

Dave Jeltema

Chaplain, US Navy

To boost congregational meeting attendance, a few years ago we introduced a 'newspaper' theme where we asked each area of ministry to give us a:

- Headline (from the prior year)
- Forecast (for the next year, also written in a headline format)
- Help Wanted (volunteers or other support needed)

As we walk through each ministry/budget area, we show the Headline, Forecast, and Help Wanted on the screen. Because they're in headline format, it goes quickly. Some of them get really creative, or funny, or poignant. And all give a fun glimpse into what God's been doing among us. I'm not sure it's translated into higher attendance (yet) but it sure makes the meeting more interesting.

Hi Scott...

There is a caveat in Church Order, Article 37 which I had highlighted, i.e. "except in those matters stipulated otherwise in the articles of incorporation or by law." 

Congregational meetings that are called under Articles of Incorporation, in particular those dealing with financial matters fall under the caveat above and therefore authority rests with the quorum of the congregation at the meeting and not council.

 

Thanks Lubbert, for the quote of the new proposed Model Articles of Incorporation. 

In my previous church we did not have anything about a quorum in the articles of incorporation. Thus, because the CRC Church Order (also quoted by Lubbert) gives final authority to the council in all manners, a congregational meeting is technically advisory and a quorum is not needed. In my former church, and perhaps my present one as well, I have a hard time imagining anything motivating 50% of the confessing members to attend a congregational meeting. I think that's a sad commentary both on member commitment and on the fact that our congregational meetings are too frequently handled as business transactions rather than opportunities to reflect together on what God is calling our congregations to do for HIm. 

As I understand the situation, CRC congregational decisions are made by the consistory and congregational meetings are only advisory. That's how First Everett CRC (WA) functions.

The two things to take into consideration are Church Order, Article 37 and the church's articles of incorporation, i.e. the Constitution & Bylaws. In particular, Article 37 states "Although full consideration shall be given to the judgment expressed by the congregation, the authority for making and carrying out final decisions remains with the council as the governing body of the church, except in those matters stipulated otherwise in the articles of incorporation or by law." 

As an incorporated entity, the church's bylaws will usually specifiy what constitutes a quorum required to constitute a congregational meeting.  Best to check there first.

The new proposed Model Articles of Incorporation and By-Laws (Canada) released by the CRCNA states "Quorum at All Member Meetings. At each meeting of the Members a quorum shall be 50 percent of the Professing Members present in person or by such electronic means as is approved by the Council as deemed necessary to permit them to participate in the meeting. If a quorum is not present, the meeting shall be adjourned to a date and time set by the Chair."

The bar in your bylaws regarding a quorum may be set lower, or perhaps higher. In the case of the church I attend, the bylaws state "The professing members attending a general meeting, including the annual general meeting, shall constitute a quorum."

No, it does not. Our rules seek to ensure that minor assemblies have sufficient time to consider important matters before synod meets and to present any viewpoints they may have by way of overture or communication. Any item in the printed Agenda for Synod is “fair game” in this respect. Once synod is constituted, of course, the minor assemblies are all present by way of delegation to make a final decision.
 

Thanks Ken and Scott, I remembered the part about charing the meeting and Roberts Rules of Order about ten seconds after I hit 'save'.

If the pastor chairs the council, then it is appropriate that he doesn't vote. This is following the practices laid out in Robert's Rules of Order. 

If the pastor is not chair of the council, he is a voting member. This is in accordance with CO art. 35. B. a. mentioned in Tom Van Engen's post. Leaving the pastor off of council, or making him/her an "ex-officio" member or some other kind of non-voting member, would create a power imbalance in the leadership of the church whereby, at least on paper, the elders and deacons are over the pastor. It is important that we realize that no branch of the council is supposed to be over another, only the council as a whole (all pastors, all elders, all deacons) can be over any one ordained office bearer. This effectively gives each officebearer a share in his/her own oversight - providing the freedom necessary for each officebearer to follow what they believe is God's call for them. The council stands as the highest earthly authority under God, and each officebearer has a share in that responsibility, even while submitting him/herself to the authority of the whole when intervention is necessary.

I think today we take the "paperwork" worth a grain of salt until things go wrong - then we scramble to understand and often further complicate things because we had things confused on paper the whole while. I've found that getting the details correct on paper is tremendously helpful when problems occur.

Thank you, everyone so far. Good reminder, Ken! ~Stan

I am a pastor in the US. I chair most council meetings, but there is an understanding that I do not vote unless there is a tie vote. In the few instances where we have had a tie vote, I have called for a time of prayer and hold the vote till the end of the meeting or, at the following meeting. That has worked well for us in the past. I feel that a council must own the decisions that are made, and not look to the pastor to take one side or the other. I saw the value of stopping to pray when I served on a committee at Synod a number of years ago. Rev. John Algera stopped the meeting a number of times when there was no clear consensus. Each time we stopped to to have prayer, attitudes changed and we reached a consensus. Prayer is a powerful means of reminding us that this is God's church.I praise God for lessons learned in the value of seeking Him in all things.

While it is possible too much is presumed, Article 35 B. a. in the church order simply says "In every church there shall be a council composed of the minister(s), the elders, and the deacons."  These are 'members' of the council and members of any board, consistory, council, deaconate, etc, have a vote unless they are somehow determined to be 'ex officio members'.  This may or may not settle anything, but in my many years as an elder and more recent years as a pastor it has been the norm for my experience in the U.S. (and now in Guam, also part of the U.S.)

The bylaws of the congregation I currently serve clearly state that the minister is an "ex-officio member of Council." Therefore the minister doesn't have a vote.  That has been the case in the CRC congregations I have served as pastor (2) and pastoral intern (4), mainly in Ontario.

Stanley,

Did you see this thread:

Should ministers (who are essentially "paid employees" of the church) chair council meetings or be members of the council?  It still may not have answered your specific question.  I just wanted you to be aware of it, which you may already have been. 

 

A discussion on coffee row between old administrators who have worked for and on boards works for me having lived in Saskatchewan in a previous life for 20 years. Like Keith, I am a stated clerk, chair of the personnel committee at church, etc. Won't bore you with the details: http://ca.linkedin.com/pub/lubbert-van-der-laan/19/53a/391

Dialogue is perferable. Thank you. Hope it's not to hot in Montana. Just got back from Saskatchewan, where for a change it was muggy because of all the rain.

Keith, looks like Henry's open question has turned out to be a coffee talk between us...that's OK. I think that if we were in the same church we'd get along like two peas in a pod. Before seminary I had a BBA degree with.majors in management and marketing. I functioned as manager, regional manager and VP of field operations in the home health care. I attended CTS for five years from age 37-42. I served two established churchs and started a nee one.

I say this sincerely, if only a minister could come into a congregation which had developed a visiion and were enthusiastically pursuing it and the pastor could just concentrate on preaching, teaching and pastoral care, you'd have to beat off the candidates with a stick! The problem too often is that the members believe the church is "theirs" and they would prefer that the minister function more like a country club pro than the shepherd of the flock who leads them from one green pasture to the next.

I believe Jesus was very clear in telling us the "vision" of the church: go into a the world BAPTISING (growing) and teaching them what I have tagh you. Then go to Acts 1:8 and he lays out the expansion plan of "start where you are at and progressively move out (outreach and growth.

I appeciate your thoughts and feelings and am sure you are a blessing to your congregation...have a great day!

I apologize for that, James. Indeed, this is a dialogue. That was a tad harsh.

By way of background, I wear a couple of hats: stated clerk of a Canadian classis and also the executive director of the Canadian Christian Business Federation. I regularly connect with about 3,000 Christian business leaders across Canada. I know their minds and I know their areas of expertise. Among them is a group of 300 Christian multimillionaires and billionaires.

I hear two interesting messages: one is that the church just doesn't know how to use the gifts of those business leaders (other than appoint them to a property committee or to head up a capital campaign). As I regularly 'preach' to those 30 groups of Christian business leaders, "if you're involved in business,you're involved in ministry."

The second message that I regularly hear ... through my contacts with various church leaders ... is that we don't have many really good preachers. I just came across this ad for a senior pastor: "We are looking for someone who has a passion to lead the congregation in ministry, someone with excellent interpersonal skills, who can work collaboratively to further refine God's vision for our church and to bring it to life practically. Top priorities would include preaching and teaching, oversight of the small group ministry, strengthening discipleship opportunities, and providing leadership, support and direction to a small staff."  This is a church council (ie elders) that has abrogated its responsibility as office-bearers. They want a CEO with an MDiv.

The church needs pastors who preach well. Throw in some pastoral care. Period.

Back to the original question, this is one of those binational structure issues. I don't know of any church within Canada where the minister serves as chair of council. He/she might serve as chair of the elders since he has a pastoral role to play there. It's simply the law.

But even though the pastor doesn't chair council, he/she is still usually involved in leadership development and plays a role in casting the vision of the church. A 'non-chair' has a voice and much more weight in carrying discussions.

Most councils of which I have been a part over the years consists of at least some business types who know how to run a meeting and how to lead a group through strategic planning and vision-casting. And this process is always, always bathed in prayer ... whether that prayer is offered by a pastor or someone else.

I agree with you, James, that congregations and councils often look to a new pastor to add a spark to their vision-casting, and to inject enthusiasm and a new perspective in a council room that may have grown stale by decades of navel-gazing.

But a minister does not need to chair a meeting to accomplish that. In fact, by not chairing the meeting, the pastor can often accomplish a lot more.

 

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