SECTION 3. Offices
ARTICLE 15. The Offices of the Reformed Church.
1. The Offices are:
I. The Office of Minister of the Word.
- Students for the Ministry.
- Ministers of the Word.
- Teachers of Theology.
II. The Office of Elder.
III. The Office of Deacon.
2. The officers of the Reformed Church are to be male members who have the Biblical qualifications for office.
I. The Office of the Minister of the Word
1. Students for the Ministry
ARTICLE 16. A student for the ministry is a member of a congregation of the Reformed Church in the United States who, believing himself called to become a minister of Christ, enters upon a course of study to prepare himself for that office.
ARTICLE 17. A student for the ministry shall request that he be taken under the care of the Classis to which the congregation of which he is a member belongs. When he presents the request to be received, the Classis shall inquire as to his fitness and, if he is found satisfactory, shall take him under its care and exercise supervision over his studies and deportment. He shall pursue his course of study in a theological institution recommended by the Reformed Church in the United States, unless Classis permits him to study elsewhere. This permission can be given only if it does not conflict with any previous obligation he may have assumed.
ARTICLE 18. At each annual meeting of his Classis a student for the ministry shall submit a written report of the progress he has made in his studies, and also his official reports from the institution in which he is studying. He shall not exercise ministerial functions, but may occasionally preach after his first year in the Seminary.
A student for the ministry shall not be eligible to the pastoral office, nor shall a congregation or charge nominate or elect a student for the ministry to become its pastor until the latter half of the senior year of this theological course, when a charge may tender and a student accept a call which, however, shall not be confirmed by a Classis, nor become effective, until after his licensure.
ARTICLE 19. A licentiate is a member of the Reformed Church who, having completed a prescribed course of theological studies and having passed a satisfactory examination by a Classis, has been authorized to preach the Gospel and to accept a call from a pastoral charge or a missionary field.
ARTICLE 20. An applicant for licensure shall present a written application to his Classis, together with his certificate from the Theological Seminary or Institution in which he studied. He shall submit to an examination, which shall be open to all the members of Classis and shall embrace at least the main subjects taught in the Theological Seminaries approved by the Reformed Church in the United States. Particular attention shall be paid to his piety, the purity of his intentions in seeking the ministry, his orthodoxy, and his ability to preach the Gospel. The report of such examination shall not enter into particulars, but simply state the result as satisfactory or unsatisfactory.
The candidate is to show that he is not a weak and ignorant man. Therefore, he is to be examined by the Classis in English Bible, theology, ecclesiastical history, hermeneutics, the original languages of the Scriptures, historical philosophy, apologetics, all matters relevant to our standards and his personal ability to serve the Church as a pastor. The examination in theology must be on the floor of Classis and may not be a closed meeting but rather an open meeting of the Classis. He is also required to preach a sermon before Classis, present theological papers and present a written sermon.
ARTICLE 21. For good reasons licensure may be granted to applicants who have not completed the course of study prescribed for the Theological Seminaries, but in all such cases a two-thirds vote of the Classis shall be required to authorize the licensure.
ARTICLE 22. After the examination of the applicant has been declared satisfactory and the report of the examiners has been adopted, he shall read aloud before Classis the following formula and subscribe the same in a book kept for that purpose:
“I hereby testify that I honestly and truly accept the doctrine of the Heidelberg Catechism, the Belgic Confession of Faith, and the Canons of Dort as in accordance with the teaching of the Holy Scriptures, and promise faithfully to preach and defend the same. I also declare and promise that I will carefully observe all the ordinances in accordance with the Word of God which now are, or may hereafter be enacted by the authorities of the Church, and that I will cheerfully submit to all the admonitions and decisions of these authorities so long as I remain in connection with the Reformed Church in the United States.
“In testimony whereof I hereunto subscribe my name and the date.”
Having thus attested his adherence to the doctrines and discipline of the Reformed Church in the United States, he shall be furnished with a certificate of licensure, bearing the seal of Classis and the signatures of the President and Stated Clerk; and his name shall be placed on the clerical roll.
ARTICLE 23. A licentiate is permitted to preach the Word, but shall not administer the sacraments, pronounce the salutation, nor pronounce the benediction, neither shall he perform the rite of confirmation, participate in ordination, nor solemnize marriage. He is under the care and jurisdiction of his Classis, must attend its meetings and submit a written report of his labors, but he cannot vote in Classis nor can he represent it in a higher judicatory.
ARTICLE 24. A licentiate shall not be ordained before he is twenty-one years of age, and until he has received and accepted a call to a pastoral charge, or has been called to a mission or to be a Teacher of Theology in an authorized theological institution approved by the Reformed Church in the United States. A licentiate who has received and accepted a call from a pastoral charge shall be ordained either by the Classis within whose bounds the charge is located or by the Classis to which he belongs when accepting the call. A licentiate who has received and accepted a call to teach theology or to the presidency of an accredited educational institution approved by the Reformed Church, or to a chaplaincy in the army or navy of the United States of America, shall be ordained by the Classis to which he belongs when he accepts the call.
Before a licentiate is ordained to the Gospel ministry he shall undergo trials. Trials for ordination for a candidate who has been licensed by the Classis shall consist of the following: (1) the evaluation of written and oral testimonials as to the candidate’s satisfactory exercise of the gifts for the Gospel ministry; (2) an examination of any areas of weakness as evidenced in the candidate’s licensure examination; (3) an examination, as the Classis may require, in the Confession and Constitution of the Church and the presentation of written discourses. If one-third of those voting in the Classis are dissatisfied with the examination, the candidate shall not be ordained but be required to undergo another examination at a future meeting of the Classis. A satisfactory vote of the majority on the second examination shall be sufficient for ordination. The report of the committee examining the candidate may report weaknesses and require further study in the weak areas. His progress is to be reported in his parochial report.
ARTICLE 25. A licentiate shall not preach statedly for a vacant congregation or pastoral charge without the consent of Classis. He shall be a member of that Classis within whose bounds he resides, except as provided for in the case of ministers in Article 31 of this Constitution.
ARTICLE 26. Before licentiates from another denomination can be received into a Classis of the Reformed Church in the United States, they shall be examined in the same manner as students are examined for licensure and ordination according to Articles 20 and 24, and shall subscribe the formula prescribed for licentiates. A licentiate from another denomination shall not be a candidate for a pastoral charge until he has received approval from Classis or a committee appointed by Classis, nor shall he receive a call from a charge until said call shall have been approved by Classis.
3. Ministers of the Word
ARTICLE 27. A Minister of the Word is a member of the Church, called by Christ to the ministry of reconciliation, and ordained and consecrated by prayer and the laying on of hands to preach the Gospel, to exercise pastoral oversight, to dispense the holy sacraments, in conjunction with the elders to administer Christian discipline, and to give himself wholly to the service of Christ in His Church.
ARTICLE 28. A minister of the Reformed Church in the United States receiving a call from a charge and accepting the same shall present said call together with his acceptance of it to Classis for consideration; and if the call is confirmed, provision shall be made at once for his installation as pastor. A call, however, shall not be confirmed unless it provides for adequate support of the pastor, and unless the salary of the preceding pastor shall have been paid or satisfactory arrangements for its payment have been made; nor shall any Classis refuse to confirm a call unless there are strong reasons for withholding such confirmation. A minister having received a call from a charge shall not move into it, without first having obtained the consent of Classis. Every pastor shall reside within the bounds of his charge, unless Classis gives him permission to reside elsewhere.
ARTICLE 29. Every pastor or secretary of the Consistory shall keep a complete record of all baptisms, confirmations, communicants, receptions by certificate, renewals of profession, dismissions, erasures of names, suspensions, excommunications, marriages and deaths. The record shall be the property of the congregation.
ARTICLE 30. A pastor desiring to resign his charge shall lay his resignation before the Consistory or Joint Consistory, which shall take action on it as soon as possible; but if the pastor or Consistory desires it, the resignation shall be laid before the congregation or congregations for action. The resignation, and the consequent action of the Consistory, or of the congregation or congregations, shall then as soon as possible be laid before the Classis for action. When in the opinion of three-fourths of the members of the Consistory of Joint Consistory the welfare of the charge requires it, the Consistory or Joint Consistory shall make a written request to the pastor for his resignation. If the pastor, or the Consistory or Joint Consistory, desires it, the request shall be laid before the congregation or congregations for action. If the majority of the congregation or congregations sustain the request, the matter shall then as soon as possible be referred to Classis for action. But if the request is not brought before the congregation or congregations, the matter shall be referred directly to the Classis. A pastor shall not leave his charge before his resignation has been approved and the pastoral relation has been dissolved by Classis.
ARTICLE 31. A minister shall not officiate in the charge of another minister without his consent; nor shall he serve a vacant congregation or charge as a regular supply without the consent of the Classis to which the congregation or charge belongs. He shall be a member of the Classis within whose bounds he resides, unless he shall have retired from the active duties of the ministry; or unless he is connected with an Institution of the Church, in which case he may be a member of any Classis connected with the Synod under whose care or by whose authority the Institution acts.
ARTICLE 32. A minister shall continue in the service of the Church. Direct denominational work shall be regarded as service to the Church. A minister of Classis shall not remain on the roll of Classis for more than three consecutive years without being engaged in the service of the Church. This article is not applicable to retired or disabled ministers.
ARTICLE 33. If a minister not otherwise chargeable with an offense renounces the jurisdiction of the Reformed Church in the United States by joining another denomination without being regularly dismissed to it, Classis shall record the fact and erase his name from the roll. If charges are pending against him, he may be tried on them. If the minister against whom the charges are pending shall have abandoned the ministry or declared himself independent, his name shall be erased, or he shall be deposed or excommunicated, as the case may require.
ARTICLE 34. A minister compelled by age or infirmity to retire from the active duties of the ministry shall retain his right to a seat and vote in his Classis and in the Synod, and to perform ministerial acts within the restrictions specified in Article 31 of this Constitution.
When any minister shall resign his charge by reason of age or incapacity for further labor, and the congregation shall be moved by affectionate regard for his person and gratitude for his ministry among them, to desire that he should continue to be associated with them in an honorary relation, they may, at a regularly called meeting, elect him as Pastor Emeritus, with or without salary, but with no pastoral authority or duty. This action shall be subject to the approval of Classis, and shall take effect upon the formal dissolution of the pastoral relation.
If the retiring minister lacks the means of self-support his Classis shall report his name to the Standing Committee on Ministerial Aid.
ARTICLE 35. A minister from another denomination, before he shall be admitted into the ministry of the Reformed Church in the United States, shall present a certificate of dismission, and shall be examined as to his orthodoxy and the purity of his intentions. If his application is approved, he shall upon signing the formula prescribed for licentiates, be admitted by a two-thirds vote of the Classis to which he has applied for reception. A minister from another denomination shall not be a candidate for a pastoral charge until he has received approval from Classis or a committee appointed by Classis, nor shall he receive a call from a charge until said call shall have been approved by Classis.
4. Teachers of Theology
ARTICLE 36. A Teacher of Theology is a Minister of the Word who has been elected and inaugurated as a professor in a Theological Seminary of the Church. He shall be chosen in such manner as may be determined by the Synod.
ARTICLE 37. A person shall not be elected a Teacher of Theology whose views are not in accord with the faith and doctrines of the Reformed Church in the United States and who does not approve of its mode of government, forms of worship and distinctive customs.
ARTICLE 38. Before a Teacher of Theology enters upon the duties of his office, he shall be inaugurated under the direction of the Synod. At his inauguration he shall solemnly affirm the following declaration in a public assembly:
“You , Professor-elect of the Theological Seminary of the Reformed Church in the United States, at , acknowledge sincerely before God and this assembly that the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, which are called canonical, are divinely inspired Scriptures and therefore credible and authoritative; that they contain all things which relate to the faith, the practice and the hope of the righteous, and are the only rule of faith and practice in the Church of God; that, consequently, traditions, as they are called, and mere conclusions of reason that are contrary to the clear testimony of these Scriptures cannot be received as rules of faith or of life. You acknowledge, further, that the doctrine contained in the Heidelberg Catechism, the Belgic Confession of Faith, and the Canons of Dort is in accordance with the teaching of the Holy Scriptures. You declare sincerely, that in the office you are about to assume you will make the divine authority of the Holy Scriptures the basis of all your instructions, and faithfully maintain and defend the same. You declare, finally, that according to the ability which God may grant you, you will so labor that, with the divine blessing, the students entrusted to your care may become enlightened, pious, faithful and zealous ministers of the Gospel, who shall be sound in the faith.” The Professor-elect shall answer, “I so declare and affirm.”
ARTICLE 39. Teachers of Theology shall explain the Holy Scriptures and defend the pure doctrine of the Gospel against errors. In their instructions to the theological students it shall be their principal aim to make them well acquainted with the true sense of the Holy Scriptures, and prepare them to preach the Gospel with power and effect. In this service they are required to instruct the students in Exegetical, Historical, Systematic and Practical Theology.
ARTICLE 40. A Teacher of Theology shall continue in office during his life, unless he resigns or becomes disqualified for his duties by heterodoxy or immorality, or by physical or mental infirmities.
ARTICLE 41. If four ministers and four elders of the Church present to the Board of Visitors of any Theological Seminary a document asserting that, for cause or causes named in Article 40 of this Constitution, a Teacher of Theology is disqualified for his position, said Board shall institute a careful examination, and if the charge is well founded shall refer the matter for final disposition to the Synod. In all things except his position as Teacher of Theology he is amenable to the Classis to which he belongs.
ARTICLE 42. A Teacher of Theology who has been rendered incapable of further service by infirmities shall not be displaced without having such provision made for his support as his necessities my require and as the Synod may be able to make. After the age of seventy he shall be declared Professor Emeritus. A Teacher of Theology desiring to resign his office shall, at least six months before his resignation is to take effect, give notice in writing of his intention to the proper officers.
II. The Office of Elder
ARTICLE 43. An elder is a member of the Church chosen by a congregation and ordained to his office by prayer and the laying on of hands to assist and support the pastor in the spiritual affairs of the Church.
ARTICLE 44. Elders shall take heed to themselves that they be an example unto others, shall watch faithfully over the spiritual interests of the congregation, shall maintain order in the house of God, shall aid in visiting the sick and in family visitation, and shall contribute according to their ability to the edification and consolation of all members. They shall provide the elements for the Lord’s Supper and aid in their distribution, when requested by the pastor or by the Spiritual Council.
III. The Office of Deacon
ARTICLE 45. A deacon is a member of the Church chosen by the congregation and ordained to office by prayer and the laying on of hands to aid in securing the funds necessary for the support of the Church in its various activities, and to foster the principles of stewardship, thereby cultivating the spirit of liberality and cheerful giving. He is to attend to the temporal affairs of the congregation, except such as are specified in Article 12 of this Constitution, and to look after the poor and needy in properly dispensing the charity of the Church.
ARTICLE 46. Elders and deacons shall be elected by a majority of the votes cast at a congregational meeting. Their number in the congregation, the question of their re-election and their term of office shall be determined by the Constitution and By-laws of the congregation. If possible each congregation shall have at least two elders and two deacons. When elected for the first time they shall be publicly ordained to their office. After their ordination, they, with those who have been re-elected, shall be installed. Unless dismissed to another congregation they shall remain in office until their successors are inducted into office.
ARTICLE 47. Members called to the office of elder or deacon shall be of exemplary life and conduct (see Acts 6:1-6 and 1 Tim. 3:8-13), that the congregation may be edified. On this account light-minded, contentious, or otherwise improper persons shall not be chosen to these offices.
ARTICLE 48. Nominations for the offices of elder and deacon shall be made by the Consistory, which shall present the names of one or two persons for each officer to be elected. Public notice of the nominations shall be given from the pulpit at least one week before the election. On or before the meeting for the election one additional person for each officer to be elected may be nominated by the congregation. A person shall not be voted for unless regularly nominated. All nominees must be in full communion with the Church and earnestly devoted to the cause of Christ.