Is Heidelberg Catechism Required?


I am an elder and former deacon in our Reformed church. I'm in a small congregation in New Jersey.

Our Pastor has been reading weekly from the Heidelberg Catechism.  There are members of the congregation, myself included, who simply don't agree with everything the Catechism says, and find some parts of it dark and lacking in the spirit and love that is found in scripture and in the teachings of Jesus Christ.  Some members are complaining about it. I understand that many in the Reformed tradition believe strongly in the Catechism and that it is based on scripture.  Well, others in our tradition disagree, and interpret scripture differently.

Our Pastor said that, while she agrees with some of the objections of the members, she's required to make the Catechism part of the service once every three years.  This came as a surprise to me because I don't remember hearing it in a service before.

Are we really required to include it in our services?  Is this part of the RCA bylaws? Can a vote of the consistory override that requirement?

I wouldn't want to lose any members over rigid adherence to such a requirement.  Frankly, the readings have taken the joy out of some of the services for me, and the fact that I don't believe everything in that catechism makes me wonder if I'm in the right place. 

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Thanks for your question.  I am unclear if you are a member of the CRC or RCA.  The two denominations have slightly different relationships with the Heidelberg Catechism and requirements regarding its preaching.  I can only speak to the CRC's position. 


In the CRC every officebearer (pastor, elder, deacon) is required to sign a covenant which states: "We also affirm three confessions—the Belgic Confession, the Heidelberg Catechism, and the Canons of Dort—as historic Reformed expressions of the Christian faith, whose doctrines fully agree with the Word of God. These confessions continue to define the way we understand Scripture, direct the way we live in response to the gospel, and locate us within the larger body of Christ."  The full Covenant for Officebearers is found here:


As for whether or not the Heidelberg Catechism should be included in our preaching.  According to Article 54 of the Church Order: "At one of the services each Lord’s Day, the minister shall ordinarily preach the Word as summarized in the creeds and confessions of the church, especially the Heidelberg Catechism". The full church order can be found at: 

Of course this assumes that there are 2 services every Sunday.  If your congregation meets only once then I think your pastor is correct in interpreting the spirit of this church order by preaching through the catechism once every three years. 

So it seems that your pastor is acting appropriately from a CRC perspective. 

There are guidelines available for pastors, councils, congregations, and individuals to challenge any doctrinal or church order stance.  I suggest you begin by discussing your concerns with your own elder. 

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I looked up the position of the RCA and found the following in their Directory for Worship: "Heidelberg Catechism 
The Book of Church Order of the Reformed Church in America requires that all the points of doctrine of the Heidelberg Catechism be preached every four years. Although the ecumenical lectionaries cover the points of doctrine, those who wish to follow the sequence of the Catechism may refer to the Liturgy and Psalms,1968, which has a lectionary for such catechetical preaching. Its advantage is that it offers the congregation a structure of theology and a familiarity with one of the finest of our confessions of faith."  You can find the full Directory for Worship here: