maintenance of good order in the church of Christ it is necessary that
there should be: offices, assemblies, supervision of doctrine,
sacraments and ceremonies, and Christian discipline; of which matters
the following articles treat in due order.
Of the Offices
are of three kinds: of the ministers of the Word, of the elders, and of
though he be a professor of theology, elder or deacon, shall be
permitted to enter upon the ministry of the Word and the sacraments
without having been lawfully called thereunto. And when any one acts
contrary thereto, and after being frequently admonished does not desist,
the classis shall judge whether he is to be declared a schismatic or is
to be punished in some other way.
calling of those who have not been previously in office consists:
First, in the
ELECTION by the consistory and the deacons, after preceding prayers,
with due observance of the regulations established by the consistory for
this purpose, and of the ecclesiastical ordinance, that only those can
for the first time be called to the ministry of the Word who have been
declared eligible by the churches, according to the rule in this matter;
and furthermore with the advice of classis or of the counsellor
appointed for this purpose by the classis;
the EXAMINATION both of doctrine and life which shall be conducted by
the classis, to which the call must be submitted for approval, and which
shall take place in the presence of three delegates of synod from the
the APPROBATION by the members of the calling church, when, the name of
the minister having been announced for two successive Sundays, no lawful
objection arises; which approbation, however, is not required in case
the election takes place with the cooperation of the congregation by
choosing out of a nomination previously made;
the public ORDINATION in the presence of the congregation, which shall
take place with appropriate stipulations and interrogations, admonitions
and prayers and imposition of hands by the officiating minister (and by
other ministers who are present) agreeably to the form for that purpose.
already in the ministry of the Word, who are called to another
congregation, shall likewise be called in the aforesaid manner by the
consistory and the deacons, with observance of the regulations made for
the purpose by the consistory and of the general ecclesiastical
ordinances for the eligibility of those who have served outside of the
Protestant Reformed churches and for the repeated calling of the same
minister during the same vacancy; further, with the advice of the
classis or of the counsellor, appointed by the classis, and with the
approval of the classis or of the delegates appointed by the classis, to
whom the ministers called show good ecclesiastical testimonials of
doctrine and life, with the approval of the members of the calling
congregation, as stated in Article 4; whereupon the minister called
shall be installed with appropriate stipulations and prayers agreeably
to the form for this purpose.
shall be at liberty to serve in institutions of mercy or otherwise,
unless he be previously admitted in accordance with the preceding
articles, and he shall, no less than others, be subject to the Church
No one shall
be called to the ministry of the Word, without his being stationed in a
particular place, except he be sent to do church extension work.
have not pursued the regular course of study in preparation for the
ministry of the Word, and have therefore not been declared eligible
according to Article 4, shall not be admitted to the ministry unless
there is assurance of their exceptional gifts, godliness, humility,
modesty, common sense and discretion, as also gifts of public address.
When such persons present themselves for the ministry, the classis (if
the synod approve) shall first examine them, and further deal with them
as it shall deem edifying, according to the general regulations of the
without fixed charge, or others who have left some sect, shall not be
admitted to the ministry in the church until they have been declared
eligible, after careful examination, by the classis, with the approval
once lawfully called, may not leave the congregation with which he is
connected, to accept a call elsewhere, without the consent of the
consistory, together with the deacons, and knowledge on the part of the
classis; likewise no other church may receive him until he has presented
a proper certificate of dismissal from the church and the classis where
On the other
hand, the consistory, as representing the congregation, shall also be
bound to provide for the proper support of its ministers, and shall not
dismiss them from service without the knowledge and approbation of the
classis and of the delegates of the synod.
Inasmuch as a
minister of the Word, once lawfully called as described above, is bound
to the service of the church for life, he is not allowed to enter upon a
secular vocation except for such weighty reasons as shall receive the
approval of the classis.
who by reason of age, sickness, or otherwise, are rendered incapable of
performing the duties of their office, shall nevertheless retain the
honour and title of a minister, and the church which they have served
shall provide honourably for them in their need (likewise for the
orphans and widows of ministers) out of the common fund of the churches,
according to the general ecclesiastical ordinances in this matter.
minister, for the aforesaid or any other reason, is compelled to
discontinue his service for a time, which shall not take place without
the advice of the consistory, he shall nevertheless at all times be and
remain subject to the call of the congregation.
No one shall
be permitted, neglecting the ministry of his church or being without a
fixed charge, to preach indiscriminately without the consent and
authority of synod or classis. Likewise, no one shall be permitted to
preach or administer the sacraments in another church without the
consent of the consistory of that church.
The office of
the minister is to continue in prayer and in the ministry of the Word,
to dispense the sacraments, to watch over his brethren, the elders and
deacons, as well as the congregation, and finally, with the elders, to
exercise church discipline and to see to it that everything is done
decently and in good order.
ministers of the Word equality shall be maintained with respect to the
duties of their office, and also in other matters as far as possible,
according to the judgment of the consistory, and if necessary, of the
classis; which equality shall also be maintained in the case of the
elders and the deacons.
The office of
the professors of theology is to expound the Holy Scriptures and to
vindicate sound doctrine against heresies and errors.
shall exert themselves, as far as necessary, that there may be students
supported by them to be trained for the ministry of the Word.
have received permission according to the rule in this matter, and
persons who have according to Article 8 been judged competent to be
prepared for the ministry of the Word, shall, for their own training,
and for the sake of becoming known to the congregations, be allowed to
speak a word of edification in the meetings for public worship.
consistories shall see to it that there are good Christian schools in
which the parents have their children instructed according to the
demands of the covenant.
shall be chosen by the judgment of the consistory and the deacons
according to the regulations for that purpose established by the
consistory. In pursuance of these regulations, every church shall be at
liberty, according to its circumstances, to give the members an
opportunity to direct attention to suitable persons, in order that the
consistory may thereupon either present to the congregation for election
as many elders as are needed, that they may, after they are approved by
it, unless any obstacle arise, be installed with public prayers and
stipulations; or present a double number to the congregation and
thereupon install the one-half chosen by it, in the aforesaid manner,
agreeably to the form for this purpose.
The office of
the elders, in addition to what was said in Article 16 to be their duty
in common with the minister of the Word, is to take heed that the
ministers, together with their fellow-elders and the deacons, faithfully
discharge their office, and both before and after the Lord's Supper, as
time and circumstances may demand, for the edification of the churches
to visit the families of the congregation, in order particularly to
comfort and instruct the members, and also to exhort others in respect
to the Christian religion.
shall be chosen, approved, and installed in the same manner as was
stated concerning the elders.
peculiar to the deacons is diligently to collect alms and other
contributions of charity, and after mutual counsel, faithfully and
diligently to distribute the same to the poor as their needs may require
it; to visit and comfort the distressed and to exercise care that the
alms are not misused; of which they shall render an account in
consistory, and also (if anyone desires to be present) to the
congregation, at such a time as the consistory may see fit.
where others are devoting themselves to the care of the poor, the
deacons shall seek a mutual understanding with them to the end that the
alms may all the better be distributed among those who have the greatest
need. Moreover, they shall make it possible for the poor to make use of
institutions of mercy, and to that end they shall request the board of
directors of such institutions to keep in close touch with them. It is
also desirable that the diaconates assist and consult one another,
especially in caring for the poor in such institutions.
and deacons shall serve two or more years according to local
regulations, and a proportionate number shall retire each year. The
retiring officers shall be succeeded by others, unless the circumstances
and the profit of any church, in the execution of Articles 22 and 24,
render a re-election advisable.
consistory shall take care, that the churches for the possession of
their property, and the peace and order of their meetings, can claim the
protection of the authorities; it should be well understood, however,
that for the sake of peace and material possession they may never suffer
the royal government of Christ over His church to be in the least
Of the Ecclesiastical Assemblies
Four kinds of
ecclesiastical assemblies shall be maintained: the consistory, the
classis, and the general synod.
assemblies ecclesiastical matters only shall be transacted and that in
an ecclesiastical manner. In major assemblies only such matters shall be
dealt with as could not be finished in minor assemblies, or such as
pertain to the churches of the major assembly in common.
If any one
complain that he has been wronged by the decision of a minor assembly,
he shall have the right to appeal to a major ecclesiastical assembly,
and whatever may be agreed upon by a majority vote shall be considered
settled and binding, unless it be proved to conflict with the Word of
God or with the articles of the Church Order, as long as they are not
changed by the general synod.
proceedings of all assemblies shall begin by calling upon the name of
God and be closed with thanksgiving.
Those who are
delegated to the assemblies shall bring with them their credentials and
instructions, signed by those sending them, and they shall have a vote
in all matters, except such as particularly concern their persons or
assemblies there shall be not only a president, but also a clerk to keep
a faithful record of all important matters.
The office of
the president is to state and explain the business to be transacted, to
see to it that everyone observe due order in speaking, to silence the
captious and those who are vehement in speaking; and properly to
discipline them if they refuse to listen. Furthermore his office shall
cease when the assembly arises.
has the same jurisdiction over the consistory as the general synod over
churches there shall be a consistory composed of the ministers of the
Word and the elders, who at least in larger congregations, shall, as a
rule, meet once a month. The minister of the Word (or the ministers, if
there be more than one, in turn) shall preside and regulate the
proceedings. Whenever the number of the elders is small, the deacons may
be added to the consistory by local regulation; this shall invariably be
the rule where the number is less than three.
where the consistory is to be constituted for the first time or anew,
this shall not take place except with the advice of the classis.
as yet no consistory can be constituted shall be placed under the care
of a neighbouring consistory.
shall meet monthly, or more frequently as the need arises, to transact
the business pertaining to their office, calling upon the name of God;
whereunto the ministers shall take good heed, and if necessary they
shall be present.
meetings shall consist of neighbouring churches that respectively
delegate, with proper credentials, a minister and an elder to meet at
such time and place as was determined by the previous classical meeting.
Such meetings shall be held at least once in three months, unless great
distances render this inadvisable. In these meetings the ministers shall
preside in rotation, or one shall be chosen to preside; however, the
same minister shall not be chosen twice in succession.
the president shall, among other things, put the following questions to
the delegates of each church:
the consistory meetings held in your church?
church discipline exercised?
the poor and the Christian schools cared for?
4. Do you
need the judgment and help of the classis for the proper government
of your church?
at the second to the last meeting and, if necessary, at the last meeting
before the synod, delegates shall be chosen to attend said synod.
Where in a
church there are more ministers than one, also those not delegated
according to the foregoing article shall have the right to attend
classis with advisory vote.
At the close
of the classical and other major assemblies, censure shall be exercised
over those, who in the meeting have done something worthy of punishment,
or who have scorned the admonition of the minor assemblies.
shall authorize at least two of her oldest, most experienced and most
competent ministers to visit all the churches once a year and to take
heed whether the minister and the consistory faithfully perform the
duties of their office, adhere to sound doctrine, observe in all things
the adopted order, and properly promote as much as lies in them, through
word and deed, the upbuilding of the congregation, in particular of the
youth, to the end that they may in time fraternally admonish those who
have in anything been negligent, and may by their advice and assistance
help direct all things unto the peace, upbuilding, and greatest profit
of the churches. And each classis may continue these visitors in service
as long as it sees fit, except where the visitors themselves request to
be released for reasons of which the classis shall judge.
It shall be
the duty of the classis and the general synod to furnish the following
meeting with the minutes of the preceding.
concerning matters to be considered in major assemblies shall not be
written until the decisions of previous synods touching these matters
have been read, in order that what was once decided be not again
proposed, unless a revision be deemed necessary.
[or if need be oftener] four or five or more neighbouring classes shall
meet as a particular synod, to which each classis shall delegate two
ministers and two elders. At the close of both the particular and the
general synod, some church shall be empowered to determine with advice
of classis the time and place of the next synod.)
shall be at liberty to solicit and hold correspondence with its
neighbouring synod or synods in such manner as they shall judge most
conducive to general edification.)
shall delegate some to execute everything ordained by synod both as to
what pertains to the government and to the respective classes, resorting
under it, and likewise to supervise together or in smaller number all
examinations of future ministers. And, moreover, in all other eventual
difficulties they shall extend help to the classes in order that proper
unity, order, and soundness of doctrine may be maintained and
established. Also they shall keep proper record of all their actions to
report thereof to synod, and if it be demanded, give reasons. They shall
also not be discharged from their service before and until synod itself
synod shall ordinarily meet annually. To this synod three ministers and
three elders out of every classis shall be delegated. If it becomes
necessary in the opinion of at least three classes to call a meeting of
synod within two years, the local church designated for this purpose
shall determine time and place.
missionary work of the church is regulated by the general synod in a
different languages are spoken in the churches, the necessary
translations shall be made in the ecclesiastical assemblies and in the
publication of recommendations, instructions, and decisions.
Of Doctrines, Sacraments, and Other Ceremonies
of the Word of God and likewise the professors of theology (which also
behooves the other professors and school teachers) shall subscribe to
the Three Formulas of Unity, namely, the Belgic Confession
of Faith, the
Heidelberg Catechism, and the Canons of Dordrecht, 1618-’19,
and the ministers of the Word who refuse to do so shall de facto
be suspended from their office by the consistory or classis until they
shall have given a full statement, and if they obstinately persist in
refusing, they shall be deposed from their office.
elders and deacons shall subscribe to the aforesaid Formulas of
To ward off
false doctrines and errors that multiply exceedingly through heretical
writings, the ministers and elders shall use the means of teaching, of
refutation, or warning, and of admonition, as well in the ministry of
the Word as in Christian teaching and family-visiting.
of God shall be sealed unto the children of Christians by baptism, as
soon as the administration thereof is feasible, in the public assembly
when the Word of God is preached.
shall do their utmost to the end that the father present his child for
ceremony of baptism, both of children and of adults, the minister shall
use the respective forms drawn up for the administration of this
through baptism incorporated into the Christian church, and are accepted
as members of the church, and are therefore obliged also to partake of
the Lord's Supper, which they shall promise to do at their baptism.
The names of
those baptized, together with those of the parents, and likewise the
date of birth and baptism, shall be recorded.
None shall be
admitted to the Lord's Supper except those who according to the usage of
the church with which they unite themselves have made a confession of
the Reformed religion, besides being reputed to be of a godly walk,
without which those who come from other churches shall not be admitted.
shall administer the Lord's Supper in such a manner as it shall judge
most conducive to edification; provided, however, that the outward
ceremonies as prescribed in God's Word be not changed and all
superstition be avoided, and that at the conclusion of the sermon and
the usual prayers, the Form for the Administration of the Lord's Supper,
together with the prayer for that purpose, shall be read.
Supper shall be administered at least every two or three months.
administration of the Lord's Supper shall take place only there where
there is supervision of elders, according to the ecclesiastical order,
and in a public gathering of the congregation.
not ecclesiastical, but family affairs, and shall be conducted
In time of
war, pestilence, national calamities, and other great afflictions, the
pressure of which is felt throughout the churches, it is fitting that
the classes proclaim a day of prayer.
shall observe Sunday.
shall on Sunday explain briefly the sum of Christian doctrine
comprehended in the Heidelberg Catechism so that as much as
possible the explanation shall be annually completed, according to the
division of the catechism itself, for that purpose.
churches only the 150 Psalms of David shall be sung.
consistories shall see to it that those who marry marry in the Lord,
whether it be in a private ceremony or in an official worship service.
When the solemnization of marriage takes place in an official worship
service, the adopted form for that purpose shall be used.
Of Censure and Ecclesiastical Admonition
discipline is of a spiritual nature, and exempts no one from civil trial
or punishment by the authorities, so also besides civil punishment there
is need of ecclesiastical censures, to reconcile the sinner with the
church and his neighbour and to remove the offence out of the church of
In case any
one errs in doctrine or offends in conduct as long as the sin is of a
private character, not giving public offence, the rule clearly
prescribed by Christ in Matthew 18 shall be followed.
of which the sinner repents, after being admonished by one person in
private or in the presence of two or three witnesses, shall not be laid
before the consistory.
If any one,
having been admonished in love concerning a secret sin by two or three
persons, does not give heed, or otherwise has committed a public sin,
the matter shall be reported to the consistory.
reconciliation of all such sins as are of their nature of a public
character, or have become public because the admonition of the church
was despised, shall take place (upon sufficient evidence of repentance)
in such a manner as the consistory shall deem conducive to the
edification of each church. Whether in particular cases this shall take
place in public, shall, when there is a difference of opinion about it
in the consistory, be considered with the advice of two neighbouring
churches or of the classis.
obstinately reject the admonition of the consistory, and likewise those
who have committed a public or otherwise gross sin, shall be suspended
from the Lord's Supper. And if he, having been suspended, after repeated
admonitions, shows no signs of repentance, the consistory shall at last
proceed to the extreme remedy, namely, excommunication, agreeably to the
form adopted for that purpose according to the Word of God. But no one
shall be excommunicated except with advice of the classis.
suspension from the Lord's Table, and subsequent admonitions, and before
proceeding to excommunication, the obstinacy of the sinner shall be
publicly made known to the congregation, the offence explained, together
with the care bestowed upon him, in reproof, suspension from the Lord's
Supper, and repeated admonition, and the congregation shall be exhorted
to speak to him and to pray for him. There shall be three such
admonitions. In the first the name of the sinner shall not be mentioned
that he be somewhat spared. In the second, with the advice of the
classis, his name shall be mentioned. In the third the congregation
shall be informed that (unless he repent) he will be excluded from the
fellowship of the church, so that his excommunication, in case he
remains obstinate, may take place with the tacit approbation of the
church. The interval between the admonitions shall be left to the
discretion of the consistory.
anyone who has been excommunicated desires to become reconciled to the
church in the way of repentance, it shall be announced to the
congregation, either before the celebration of the Lord's Supper, or at
some other opportune time, in order that (in as far as no one can
mention anything against him to the contrary) he may with profession of
his conversion be publicly reinstated, according to the form for that
ministers of the divine Word, elders, or deacons, have committed any
public, gross sin, which is a disgrace to the church, or worthy of
punishment by the authorities, the elders and deacons shall immediately
by preceding sentence of the consistory thereof and of the nearest
church, be suspended or expelled from their office, but the ministers
shall only be suspended. Whether these shall be entirely deposed from
office, shall be subject to the judgment of the classis, with the advice
of the delegates of the synod mentioned in Article 11.
among the gross sins, which are worthy of being punished with suspension
or deposition from office, these are the principal ones: false doctrine
or heresy, public schism, public blasphemy, simony, faithless desertion
of office or intrusion upon that of another, perjury, adultery,
fornication, theft, acts of violence, habitual drunkenness, brawling,
filthy lucre; in short, all sins and gross offences, as render the
perpetrators infamous before the world, and which in any private member
of the church would be considered worthy of excommunication.
of the Word, elders, and deacons, shall before the celebration of the
Lord's Supper exercise Christian censure among themselves, and in a
friendly spirit admonish one another with regard to the discharge of
To those who
remove from the congregation, a letter or testimony concerning their
profession and conduct shall be given by the consistory, signed by two;
or in the case of letters, which are given under the seal of the church,
signed by one.
to the poor, removing for sufficient reasons, so much money for
travelling shall be given by the deacons, as they deem adequate. The
consistory and the deacons shall, however, see to it that they be not
too much inclined to relieve their churches of the poor, with whom they
would without necessity burden other churches.
shall in any way lord it over other churches, no minister over other
ministers, no elder or deacon over other elders or deacons.
whose usages differ from ours merely in non-essentials shall not be
articles, relating to the lawful order of the church, have been so
drafted and adopted by common consent, that they (if the profit of the
churches demand otherwise) may and ought to be altered, augmented or
diminished. However, no particular congregation or classis shall be at
liberty to do so, but they shall show all diligence in observing them,
until it be otherwise ordained by the general synod.