5

Note: This question is admittedly a bit technical, but I hope it serves to clarify differences in polity between two distinct but related Reformed traditions in the US.


In the brand of presbyterianism that I am most familiar with, the PCA, prospective pastors (teaching elders) must affirm the Westminster Standards. They are expected to express any "exceptions" they may have – that is, if they have views that are at odds with the Standards, they must communicate them.

These exceptions are evaluated by the presbytery before the prospective pastor is ordained, and the presbytery ordains the man only if his exceptions are deemed not to "strike at the vitals" of the system of belief.

Now, I'm wondering if there is a comparable procedure in the "modified presbyterianism" of the Christian Reformed Church in North America. Of course, one difference would be that the standards being affirmed there would be the Three Forms of Unity. But perhaps more significant is the body that evaluates candidate's theology – according to Wikipedia, it is the congregation, not a higher court, that ordains:

ministers are ordained and credentialed by a local congregation, not the regional classis or presbytery. (source)

My questions, then, are:

  • What is the role of individual congregations of the CRCNA in evaluating a prospective pastor's adherence to the Three Forms of Unity?
    • Do they lead the effort, work together with/below a higher court, or have no role?
  • Does any higher court in the denomination have the authority to prevent a candidate from being ordained by a congregation if it deems the candidate's views to be heretical?
2

According to the CRCNA Church Order 2015, nominations for office are presented by the council.

Article 4 a. In calling and electing to an office, the council shall ordinarily present to the congregation a nomination of at least twice the number to be elected. When the council submits a nomination which totals less than twice the number to be elected, it shall give reasons for doing so.

The council is "composed of the minister(s), the elders, and the deacons", Page 71.

The members of the congregation then vote on the nominees.

The classis (representatives from a group of churches within a particular region) also has to approve the ordination or appointment of ministers, as per Article 10.

Article 10

a. The ordination of a candidate for the ministry of the Word requires the approval of the classis of the calling church and of the synodical deputies. The classis, in the presence of the deputies, shall examine the candidate concerning the candidate’s doctrine and life in accordance with synodical regulations. The ordination shall be accompanied by the laying on of hands by the officiating minister.

b. The installation of a minister shall require the approval of the classis of the calling church or its interim committee, to which the minister shall have previously presented good ecclesiastical testimonials of doctrine and life which have been provided by the former council and classis.

It is not immediately obvious to me what is done in the event of a minister whose opinion on a doctrine changes from orthodoxy to heresy, after his ordination. If anyone knows, please comment and I will update my answer.

In general, I would recommend reading the CRCNA Church Order for more details on ordination and appointment of ministers. Note: I don't belong to the CRCNA, so I may have misunderstood the application or details of their church order myself. If any discrepancies are found, I will update my answer.

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