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For a further understanding of the Church Order you we may refer you to:
Note: Articles in italic print are in force until classes have been formed.
ARTICLE 1 - Purpose and Division
For the maintenance of good order in the church of Christ it is
necessary to have:
I offices and supervision of doctrine;
III worship, sacraments and ceremonies, and
ARTICLE 2 - The offices
The offices are those of the minister of the Word, of the elder, and of the deacon.
ARTICLE 3 - The calling to office
A. All office-bearers
No one shall take any office upon himself without having been lawfully called thereto. The calling to office shall take place by the consistory with the deacons, with the cooperation of the congregation, after prayer, and in accordance with the local regulations adopted for that purpose. Prior to the ordination or installation the names of the appointed brothers shall be public ly announced to the congregation for its approval on at least two consecutive Sundays. If no lawful objection is brought forward the ordination or installation shall take place with the use of the adopted Form.
B. Elders and deacons
The consistory with the deacons shall give the congregation
the opportunity to draw the attention of the consistory to
brothers deemed suitable for the respective offices. The consistory
with the deacons shall present to the congregation at the most
twice as many candidates as there are vacancies to be filled. From this
number the congregation shall choose as many office-bearers
as are needed. Those elected shall be appointed by the
consistory with the deacons.
If necessary the consistory with the deacons may present to the congregation the same number of candidates as there are vacancies.
Before a vacant church extends a call the advice of the counsel lor shall be sought. The approval of classis shall be required for a repeated call to the same minister for the same vacancy.
ARTICLE 4 - Bound to a church
No one shall serve in the ministry unless he is bound to a certain church.
ARTICLE 5 - Eligibility for the ministry
Only those shall be called to the office of minister of the Word
(1) have been declared eligible for call by the churches; or
(2) are already serving in that capacity in one of the churches; or
(3) have been declared eligible or are serving in one of the churches with which The Free Reformed Churches of Australia maintain a sister relationship. The churches shall observe the general ecclesiastical ordinances for the eligibility of those ministers who have served in these sister-churches.
B. Declared eligible
Only those shall be declared eligible for call within the churches who
(1) have passed a preparatory examination by the classis in which they live, which examination shall not take place unless those presenting themselves for it submit the necessary documents to prove that they are members in good standing of one of the churches and have successfully completed a course of study as required by the churches; or
(2) have satisfied the requirements of Article 8; or
(3) have satisfied the requirements of Article 9.
ARTICLE 6 - Ordination and installation of ministers of the Word
A. Regarding those who have not served in the ministry before, the following shall be observed:
1. They shall be ordained only after classis has approved the call.
Classis shall approve the call
a. upon satisfactory testimony concerning the soundness of
doctrine and conduct of the candidate, attested by the consistory of the
church to which he belongs; and
b. following a peremptory examination of the candidate with satisfactory results. This classis examination shall take place with the cooperation and concurring advice of deputies of synod.
2. For the ordination they shall also show to the consistory good testimonials concerning their doctrine and conduct from the church(es) to which they have belonged since their preparatory examination.
B. Regarding those who are serving in the ministry the following shall be observed:
They shall be installed after classis has approved the call.
1. For this approval as well as for the installation the minister shall show good testimonials concerning his doctrine and conduct, together with a declaration from the consistory with the deacons and from classis that he has been honourably discharged from his service in that church and classis, or from the church only in case he remains within the same classis.2. For the approval of a call of those who are serving in one of the churches with which The Free Reformed Churches of Australia maintain a sister relationship a colloquium shall be required which will deal especially with the doctrine and polity of The Free Reformed Churches of Australia.
C. The approval of a call shall require written certification by the calling church that the required announcements were made and that the congregation has approved the call.
ARTICLE 7 - From one church to another
A minister once lawfully called shall not leave the church to which he is bound to take up the ministry elsewhere without the consent of his consistory with the deacons and the approval of classis. Likewise, no church shall receive him unless he has presented a proper certificate of release from the church and the classis where he served, or from the church only if he remains within the same classis.
ARTICLE 8 - Exceptional gifts
Persons who have not pursued the regular course of theological study shall not be admitted to the ministry unless there is convincing evidence of their exceptional gifts of godliness, humility, modesty, good intellect, and discretion, as well as the gift of public speech. When any such person presents himself for the ministry, classis shall (with synodís prior approval) examine him, and upon a favourable outcome allow him, as candidate, to speak an edifying word in the churches of the classis for a set period of time. Thereafter the classis shall further deal with him as it shall deem edifying, observing the ecclesiastical regulations adopted for this purpose.
ARTICLE 9 - Admission of ministers who have recently joined the church
A minister of the Word who has recently joined one of the churches and originates from a church with which the churches do not maintain a sister relationship shall only be admitted to the ministry with great caution. He shall not be declared eligible for call within the churches unless he has been well tested for a reasonable period of time and carefully examined by the classis in whose area he lives. This classis examination shall be conducted with the cooperation of the deputies of synod.
ARTICLE 10 - Officiating in another church
No one shall preach the Word or administer the sacraments in another church without the permission of the consistory of that church.
ARTICLE 11 - Proper support
The consistory, with the deacons, on behalf of the congregation which it represents in this matter, shall provide for the proper support of its minister(s).
ARTICLE 12 - Call to an extraordinary task
If a minister accepts a call or an appointment to an extraordinary task the nature of the relationship between him and the church to which he is bound must be arranged with the consent of the classis. Some ministers may be appointed for the training of students for the ministry, others may be called for mission work.
ARTICLE 13 - Retirement of ministers
If a minister of the Word, by reason of age, sickness or otherwise, is rendered incapable of performing the duties of his office he shall retain the honour and title of minister of the Word. He shall also retain his official bond with the church which he served last, and this church shall provide honourably for his support. The same obligation exists towards a ministerís widow and orphans.
ARTICLE 14 - Dismissal
The consistory with the deacons shall not dismiss a minister from his bond with the congregation without approval of classis and the concurring advice of the deputies of synod.
ARTICLE 15 - Bound for life
A minister of the Word, once lawfully called, is bound to the service of the church for life and therefore not allowed to enter upon another vocation unless it be for exceptional and substantial reasons. The decision of his consistory to relieve him of his office in order to enter upon another vocation shall receive the approval of classis, with the concurring advice of deputies of synod.
ARTICLE 16 - Task of ministers
The task of ministers is to faithfully lead in prayer, preach the Word and administer the sacraments. They shall watch over their fellow office-bearers and over the congregation. Together with the elders they shall exercise church discipline and see to it that everything is done decently and in good order.
ARTICLE 17 - Training for the ministry
The churches shall support or, if possible, maintain an institution for the training for the ministry. The task of the professors of theology is to expound the Holy Scriptures and to defend the sound doctrine against heresies and errors, so that the churches may be provided with ministers of the Word who are able to fulfil the duties of their office as these have been described above. The churches together are obliged to provide properly for the professors of theology and for their widows and orphans.
ARTICLE 18 - Students of theology
The churches shall strive to ensure that there are students of theology, extending financial aid where necessary.
ARTICLE 19 - Task of missionaries
When ministers of the Word are sent out as missionaries, they shall in the specific region assigned to them proclaim the Word of God, administer the sacraments to those who have come to the profession of their faith, teaching them to observe all that Christ has commanded His church, and ordain elders and deacons when this appears feasible, according to the rules given in the Word of God.
ARTICLE 20 - Task of elders
The elders shall together with the ministers of the Word govern the congregation with pastoral care and discipline. For the upbuilding of the congregation they shall make homevisits as often as is profitable but at least once a year. They shall watch that their fellow office-bearers are faithful in carrying out their duties and ensure that in the congregation everything is done decently and in good order.
ARTICLE 21 - Task of deacons
The deacons shall perform the ministry of mercy. They shall acquaint themselves with difficulties; visit, help and encourage where there is need; and urge church members to render assistance where necessary. They shall collect and manage the gifts of the congregation, and after mutual consultation distribute them where there is need. The deacons shall give account of their policies and management to the consistory.
ARTICLE 22 - Equality of respective duties
In the local congregation equality shall be maintained among the ministers, among the elders, and among the deacons, regarding their respective duties, and in other matters, as much as possible.
ARTICLE 23 - Term of office
The elders and deacons shall serve two or more years according to local regulations, and a proportionate number shall retire each year. The places of the retiring office-bearers shall be taken by others unless the consistory with the deacons judges that the circumstances and the well-being of the church render it advisable to call them into office again. In that case the rule of Article 3 shall be observed.
ARTICLE 24 -Subscription to the Confession by ministers and teaching staff
All ministers of the Word and all teaching staff at the theological seminary shall subscribe to the Three Forms of Unity of The Free Reformed Churches of Australia by signing the Form(s) adopted for that purpose. Anyone refusing to subscribe in that manner shall not be ordained or installed in office. Anyone who, being in office, refuses to do so shall because of that very fact be immediately suspended from office by the consistory, and classis shall not receive him. If he obstinately persists in his refusal he shall be deposed from office.
ARTICLE 25 - Subscription to the Confession by elders and deacons
Elders and deacons shall also subscribe to these Three Forms of Unity by signing the Form adopted for that purpose. Anyone being in office who refuses to do so shall because of that very fact be immediately suspended from office by the consistory. If he obstinately persists in his refusal he shall be deposed from office.
ARTICLE 26 - False doctrine
To ward off false doctrines and errors the ministers and elders shall use the means of instruction, of refutation, of warning and of admonition, in the ministry of the Word as well as in Christian teaching and family visiting.
ARTICLE 27 - Office-bearers and the government
The office-bearers shall impress upon the congregation its obligation to be obedient and show respect to the government, because God has instituted it. They must set a good example in this regard and by means of proper communication invoke the government to protect the ministry of the church.
ARTICLE 28 - The ecclesiastical assemblies
Three kinds of ecclesiastical assemblies shall be maintained: the consistory, the classis, and the synod.
ARTICLE 29 - Proceedings
The proceedings of all assemblies shall begin and end with prayer.
ARTICLE 30 - Authority of the assemblies
These assemblies shall only deal with ecclesiastical matters and n an ecclesiastical manner. A major assembly shall deal only with matters which could not be finished in the minor assembly or which belong to its churches in common. A new matter may be put on its agenda only when the minor assembly has dealt with it.
ARTICLE 31 - Appeals
If anyone complains that he has been wronged by the decision of a minor assembly he shall have the right of appeal to the major assembly; and whatever may be agreed upon by a majority vote shall be considered settled and binding, unless it is proved to be in conflict with the Word of God or with the Church Order.
ARTICLE 32 - Credentials and voting
Delegates to a major assembly shall bring with them their credentials, signed by the minor assembly. They shall have a vote in all matters except those in which either they themselves or their churches are directly involved
ARTICLE 33 - Proposals
Matters once decided upon may not be proposed again unless they are substantiated by new grounds.
ARTICLE 34 Chairman and clerk
In all assemblies there shall be a chairman and a clerk. The chairmanís task is to present and explain clearly the matters to be dealt with and ensure that every one observes due order in speaking; he shall deny the floor to those who argue about minor things or who let themselves be carried away and cannot control their emotions, and discipline those who refuse to listen. His task shall cease when the assembly ends. The clerk shall keep an accurate record of all things worthy of being recorded.
ARTICLE 35 - Jurisdiction
The classis has the same jurisdiction over the consistory as the synod has over the classis.
ARTICLE 36 - Consistory
In all churches there shall be a consistory composed of the minister(s) of the Word and the elders. It shall meet regularly and be chaired by the minister. If a church is served by more than one minister they shall chair in turn. The consistory shall also meet regularly with the deacons to deal with those matters as described for that purpose by the Church Order, and further with all things which the consistory considers necessary for general management, including the material affairs of the church.
ARTICLE 37 - Consistory and the deacons
Where the number of elders and deacons is small the deacons may be added to the consistory by local arrangement. This shall invariably be done where there are less than three elders and less than three deacons. In these circumstances matters pertaining to supervision and discipline shall be handled with the advice of the deacons and matters pertaining to the office of deacons with the advice of the elders.
ARTICLE 38 - Constitution of a consistory
If a consistory is to be constituted for the first time or anew, the advice of classis shall be sought.
ARTICLE 39 - Places without a consistory
Places where as yet no consistory can be constituted shall be assigned by classis to the care of a neighbouring consistory.
ARTICLE 40 - Meetings of deacons
The deacons shall meet regularly to deal with the matters pertaining to their office. Their meetings shall begin and end with prayer.
ARTICLE 41 - Classis
Neighbouring churches shall come together in a classis by delegating a minister and an elder, or if a church has no minister, two elders. Classes shall be held at least once every three months. The ministers shall be chairman in rotation, or one shall be chosen to be chairman; however the same minister shall not be chairman twice in succession. The chairman shall ask whether the ministry of the office-bearers is being continued, whether the decisions of the major assemblies are being honoured and whether there is any matter in which the consistories need the judgment and help of classis for the proper government of their church. Every classis shall determine where and when the churches shall meet again. The last classis before synod shall choose delegates to that synod.
ARTICLE 42 - Ministers who are not delegated to a classis
If two or more ministers are serving the same church, those who have not been delegated shall have the right to attend classis in an advisory capacity.
ARTICLE 43 - Counsellors
Each vacant church shall request classis to appoint as counsellor the minister it desires as such, to the end that he may assist the consistory in maintaining good order and especially may lend his aid in the matter of the calling of a minister; he shall also sign the letter of call.
ARTICLE 44 - Church visitors
Each year classis shall authorise at least two of the more experienced and able ministers to visit the churches in that year. If necessary the classis may authorise a capable elder to carry out this task together with a minister. It shall be the task of these visitors to inquire whether all things are regulated and done in full harmony with the Word of God, whether the office-bearers fulfil the duties of their office faithfully as they have promised, and whether the Church Order is being observed and maintained in every respect, in order that they may in good time fraternally admonish those who are found negligent in any thing, and that by their good counsel and advice all things may be directed towards the edification and preservation of Christís church. They shall submit written reports of their visits to classis
ARTICLE 45 - Synod
The synod shall be held once every three years. Each classis shall delegate two ministers and two elders to synod. At the close of synod the time and place for the next synod shall be determined and a church shall be appointed to convene it. A synod shall be convened before the appointed time if according to the judgment of at least two classes this appears necessary. Its time and place shall be decided by the church appointed as convening church for the next regular synod, subject to the approval of its classis .
ARTICLE 46 - Relationship with other churches
The relationship with other churches shall be regulated by synod. With churches of Reformed confession sister relations shall be maintained as much as possible. On non-essential points of ecclesiastical practice other churches shall not be rejected.
ARTICLE 47 - Censure in classis and synod
At the close of the major assemblies censure shall be exercised over those who in the meeting have done something worthy of reproof.
ARTICLE 48 - Deputies of major assemblies
Each synod shall appoint deputies who are to assist the classes in all matters provided for in the Church Order. A classis may request these deputies to assist in cases of special difficulties. Each synod shall also appoint deputies to carry out its own decisions. Different deputies shall be appointed as much as possible for separate matters. All deputies shall keep proper record of their work and submit a written report.
ARTICLE 49 - Archives
The assemblies shall ensure that proper care is taken of the archives.
ARTICLE 50 - Mission
The churches shall endeavour to fulfil their missionary task. In doing so they shall observe the provisions of this Church Order. When churches cooperate in mission work they shall as much as possible observe the division into classes.
ARTICLE 51 - Administration of sacraments
The sacraments shall be administered only in a church service by a minister of the Word with the use of the adopted Forms, and under the supervision of the elders.
ARTICLE 52 - Baptism of infants
The consistory shall ensure that the covenant of God is sealed by baptism to the children of believers as soon as feasible.
ARTICLE 53 - Baptismal promise and education
The consistory shall make sure that the parents honour their vows to
instruct their children, to the utmost of their power, in the doctrine
of the Scriptures as summarised in the confessions, and to
have them instructed in the same by the instruction provided by the
In accordance with the same vow, the consistory shall see to it that the parents, to the best of their ability, and with the cooperation of the communion of saints, give their children education (as stipulated by the civil government) which is based on Scripture and Confession.
ARTICLE 54 - Public profession of faith
Those who desire to publicly profess their faith shall be examined by the consistory on their motivation and knowledge of the doctrine of Godís Word. The public profession shall take place in a church service, with the use of the adopted Form.
ARTICLE 55 - Baptism of adults
Adults who have not been baptised shall be grafted into the Christian church by holy baptism upon their public profession of faith.
ARTICLE 56 - Lordís Supper
The Lordís Supper shall be celebrated at least once every three months.
ARTICLE 57 - Admission to the Lordís Supper
The consistory shall admit to the Lordís Supper only those who have made public profession of the Reformed faith and lead a godly life. Members of sister churches shall be admitted on the basis of a good attestation concerning their doctrine and conduct.
ARTICLE 58 - Church records
The consistory shall maintain Church records in which the names of the members and the dates of their birth, baptism, public profession of faith, marriage, and departure or death are properly recorded.
ARTICLE 59 - Attestations for communicant members
Communicant members who move to another congregation shall be given, following appropriate announcements to the congregation, an attestation regarding their doctrine and conduct, signed on behalf of the consistory by two authorised office-bearers. This attestation shall also record their children who have not yet made public profession of faith. The consistory of the congregation concerned shall be notified in due time.
ARTICLE 60 - Attestations for non-communicant members
An attestation for a non-communicant member shall be sent directly to the consistory of the church concerned with the request to take the member under its supervision and discipline.
ARTICLE 61 Support after departure
When members depart to another congregation where they will be cared for in institutions, aged persons homes or nursing homes, they shall in respect of deacon support remain under the care of the church they are leaving. If this is not possible support will be arranged by consultation between the consistories and deacons concerned.
ARTICLE 62 - Church services
The consistory shall call the congregation together for church services twice on the Lordís Day.
ARTICLE 63 - Catechism preaching
The consistory shall ensure that as a rule once every Sunday the doctrine of Godís Word as summarised in the Heidelberg Catechism is proclaimed, preferably in the afternoon service.
ARTICLE 64 - Psalms and hymns
In the church services only the psalms and hymns approved by synod shall be sung.
ARTICLE 65 - Ecclesiastical feast days
On Christmas Day, Good Friday, Easter Sunday, Ascension Day and at Pentecost the consistory shall call the congregation together for church services. The sacred events which the congregation commemorates in particular on these days shall therein be proclaimed.
ARTICLE 66 - Days of prayer
In times of war, general calamities and other great afflictions the presence of which is felt throughout the churches a day of prayer may be proclaimed by the church appointed for that purpose by synod.
ARTICLE 67 - Marriage
The consistory shall ensure that the members of the congregation marry only in the Lord, and that the ministers - as authorised by the consistory - solemnise only such marriages as are in accordance with the Word of God. The solemnisation of a marriage shall take place in a private ceremony, with the use of the adopted Form.
ARTICLE 68 - Funerals
Church services shall not be conducted for funerals.
ARTICLE 69 - Aim of discipline
Church discipline shall be exercised in accordance with the Word of God and to His honour. Its aim is to reconcile the sinner with God and the neighbour, and to remove the offence from the church of Christ.
ARTICLE 70 - Mutual responsibility
If anyone departs from the pure doctrine or is delinquent in conduct and this is a secret matter which does not give rise to public offence, the rule which Christ clearly prescribes in Matthew 18 shall be observed.
ARTICLE 71 - Consistory involvement
The consistory shall not deal with any report of sin unless it has first ascertained that both private admonitions and admonitions in the presence of one or two witnesses have remained fruitless, or the sin committed is of a public character.
ARTICLE 72 - Repentance
When someone repents of a public sin or of a sin which had to be reported to the consistory, the latter shall not accept his confession of sin unless the member concerned has shown real amendment. The consistory shall determine whether the congregation shall be informed afterwards.
ARTICLE 73 - Discipline in respect of communicant members
A communicant member who obstinately rejects the admonition by the consistory or who has committed a public or some other serious sin shall be suspended from the Lordís Supper. If he continues to harden himself in sin, the consistory shall publicly announce this to the congregation so that the congregation may be engaged in prayer and admonition and the excommunication may not take place without its cooperation.
ARTICLE 74 - Announcements during the procedure
In the first public announcement the name of the sinner shall not be mentioned. In the second public announcement, which shall be made only after the advice of classis has been obtained, the name and address of the sinner shall be mentioned. In the third public announcement a date shall be set at which the excommunication of the sinner shall take place in accordance with the adopted Form. The time interval between the various announcements shall be determined by the consistory.
ARTICLE 75 - Re-admission
When someone who has been excommunicated repents and desires to be again received into the communion of the church, the congregation shall be informed of this desire in order to see whether there are any lawful objections. The time between the public announcement and the re-admission of the sinner shall be not less than one month. If no lawful objection is raised the re- admission shall take place, with the use of the adopted Form.
ARTICLE 76 - Suspension and deposition of office-bearers
If a minister, elder or deacon has committed a public or otherwise gross sin, or refuses to heed the admonitions by the consistory, he shall be suspended from office by the judgment of his own consistory and of the consistory of a neighbouring congregation. In the case of a minister this neighbouring congregation shall be appointed by the classis. If he hardens himself in the sin, or if the sin committed is of such a nature that he can not continue in office, an elder or a deacon shall be deposed by the judgment of the above-mentioned consistories. Classis, with the advice of the deputies of synod, shall judge whether a minister is to be deposed.
ARTICLE 77 - Serious and gross sins on the part of office-bearers
As serious and gross sins which are grounds for the suspension or deposition of office-bearers the following are to be mentioned particularly: False doctrine or heresy, public schisms, blasphemy, simony, faithless desertion of office or intrusion upon that of another, perjury, adultery, fornication, theft, acts of violence, habitual drunkenness, brawling, unjustly enriching oneself; and further all such sins and serious misdemeanours that rate as ground for excommunication with respect to other members of the church.
ARTICLE 78 - Christian censure
The ministers, elders, and deacons shall mutually exercise Christian censure and shall exhort and kindly admonish one another with regard to the execution of their office.
ARTICLE 79 - Discipline in respect of non-communicant members.
A baptised member shall be admonished by the consistory when he as an adult fails to make public profession of faith or where in other respects he is not loyal to the calling to new obedience in Godís covenant. If he obstinately rejects the admonition of the consistory and thereby clearly demonstrates that he is indifferent and averse to the covenant or is even hostile to the service of the Lord, the matter shall be made known to the congregation without mentioning the name of the sinner; and the congregation shall be urged to pray for him. If the member continues in sin and is unwilling to listen to the admonitions, then with the advice of the classis the consistory shall make a second public announcement, mentioning the name of the sinner and the term after which the excommunication shall take place. If he does not in the said term show any real repentance, the consistory shall in a church service exclude him from the communion of the church, using the adopted Form. If he, after this excommunication, comes to repentance and desires to rejoin the communion of the church, he shall be admitted by way of his public profession of faith after the consistory has made his repentance known to the congregation.
ARTICLE 80 - No lording over others
No church shall in any way lord it over other churches, no office-bearer over other office-bearers.
ARTICLE 81 - Observance and revision of the Church Order
These articles, which regard the lawful order of the church, have been adopted with common accord. If the interest of the churches demands such, they may and ought to be changed, augmented or diminished. However no consistory or classis shall be permitted to do so, but they shall endeavour diligently to observe the provisions of this Church Order as long as they have not been changed by synod.
For a further understanding of the Church Order you we may refer you to: