B. If the majority of the consistory becomes worthy of discipline, no consistory remains to call a neighboring consistory and with that neighboring consistory to exercise discipline upon those that have made themselves worthy of it.
One can then expect no action from such a consistory and also the congregation cannot take ecclesiastical action because she lacks ecclesiastical power.
Also a neighboring church cannot by herself interfere in the internal affairs of another local church. This is explicitly forbidden in Article 84, D.K.O.
Naturally only the Classis, under which such an unfaithful consistory resorts, as the nearest broader ecclesiastical gathering, can administer the necessary discipline. If not all of the consistory members go along in the evil way, those remaining can make the case pending with the Classis or if all the consistory members go along, the members of the congregation, by virtue of the office of believers, can do this. In case also the members do not do this, the Classis itself is called to instigate action.
By the Classis this case must finally be treated. For those who make themselves unworthy of the office must be deposed from the office and only through the office can one be put out of the office; barring a few rare exceptions.
C. Where it is alleged that a Classis may not depose a consistory because this interferes with the rights of the local church and that this is the point of concern here, these objections must be kept in view:
1. The saying that the congregation as such must proceed to act whenever a consistory as a whole becomes worthy of discipline proceeds from the supposition that the office of believers is institutional in character and that it functions institutionally as soon as under normal circumstances a consistory is negligent in the execution of its office.
2. This view is rooted principally in the thought that the ecclesiastical power of Christ is deposited in the congregation as such and is transferred by the congregation to the officebearers. However against this arise objections of a serious nature:
a) If indeed Christ has transferred His official power to the congregation, then it follows from this that the congregation itself, principally speaking, without officebearers can and may exercise this power. For then she chooses officebearers who exercise her power. Fact is, however, that the ecclesiastical power the officebearers exercise is given by Christ directly to the officebearers and not through the medium of the congregation. The congregation indeed calls the officebearers, namely, through an election under the supervision of the office but from this it follows in the very least that the congregation loans the ecclesiastical power on those called.
b) And in the event the officebearers would receive their ecclesiastical power from the congregation, then it would also follow from this that she would be responsibly indebted to the congregation. The Holy Scriptures, however, will know nothing of it that the officebearers in this sense are to be ministers (servants) of the congregation.
c) Besides, the fact that consistory members are installed in their office by an officebearer, that is, placed in their office. (D.K.O. Arts. 4, 22, 24) indicates that this power does not come from the congregation. Or does the congregation first give this power to the one who installs and he then to the installed consistory member? How much more acceptable is the presentation that Christ through His ecclesiastical organ (the minister of the Word) lays His power on the elected officebearer in the way of installation in the office, that is, makes him his bearer of power (machtsorgaan).
d) Finally, the whole presentation of the proceeding, holding the ecclesiastical power in the congregation as such, lies wholly in the line of the popular doctrine of the people’s sovereignty. This doctrine is in conflict with:
1. The Divine rule here on earth as this again in its turn is grounded in the sovereignty of the Almighty. God and also Christ as God can indeed administer their power by means of men but cannot deposit or transfer their power to men who then possess it without having to function as a medium. The way of ecclesiastical congregational sovereignty is dangerous and it is an imperative necessity to protest against this spirit of the times.
2. The revelation of Scripture according to which Christ received His power from the Father, which He directed upon the apostles, which apostles in turn clothed the officebearers in the local churches with power.
3. Those who answer our question negatively mean that the only just method to treat a consistory that becomes rebellious in the last instance is that the congregation simply withdraws from such a consistory and that the classis in conformity therewith must simply break off the fellowship with such an unworthy consistory.
(a) This procedure appears to be simple but proceeds from the principles that are unacceptable and further, from our Church Order, Art. 72, serious objections arise against it.
(1) The idea of the resigning of obedience and breaking off of ecclesiastical fellowship rests on the supposition that if the service of the office is no more acknowledged, the office itself ceases to exist in the sphere it once served because it no longer wishes to acknowledge its further functioning. This position, however, cannot be maintained.
(2) The correct view on this point is that men must be clothed with the office through the office (what is commonly called installation) and even so also where it appears that men become unworthy of the office, must be deposed from the office through the office. It is difficult to see why men through an official, that is, action according to Church Order, must be placed in the office (and that is proper is evident from D.K.O. Arts. 4, 22, 24) and with unworthiness to serve any longer must not likewise through an official, that is, an action according to Church Order, be deposed from the office. (Art. 79, D.K.O. also mentions this principle.) If it already speaks for itself that anyone’s office ceases when it is simply no longer acknowledged by the people, it would even more speak for itself that anyone would hold the office as soon as it is acknowledged by the people (without installation). Yet of this our Church Order knows nothing and it is first then also a logically unwarrantable position.
(3) If men acknowledge that the office remains. even if its functioning is no more acknowledged in the sphere where it formerly was exercised, one comes to the strange position that one becomes wholly unworthy of his office, his official functions he sees no longer acknowledged by those who have chosen and installed him in office, but nevertheless he remains in this office and, therefore, takes it with him when breaking off the ecclesiastical fellowship.
(b) Also on this viewpoint men become inconsistent and unfaithful to the Church Order. Article 79 demands discipline and deposition of elders, deacons and ministers of the Word whenever they go astray and prescribes how this must be done. But now it is strange that when the majority of consistory members become worthy of deposition and Article 79 cannot be brought to apply, this majority must be disciplined and deposed not as an eventual minority but it can simply be ignored. Must the office be taken from a minoritythrough a deliberate and church orderly act but not even so from a majority?
4. Finally, we give yet an answer to the thought that our Church Order does not stipulate that a Classis has the competency to depose a consistory.
(a) Against this we note that it is an exceptional casewhenever a consistory in its majority or in all its members makes itself worthy of deposition. And the explicit letter of a Church Order can, in its very nature, not cover every conceivable and possible case but only the most common.
(b) Also it must not be forgotten that our Church Order is no set of rules worked out in every detail but a composition of general and guiding principles of ecclesiastical order that must be applied in concrete cases according to circumstances as soon, as such cases exist which, with so many words, are not indicated in the Church Order.
Your committee advises the Synod:
A. To receive the report of the committee (agendum pp. 125-162) for information and to thank the committee for the much work done, of which the report is witness.
B. To declare the following:
The Synod, having taken in study the report of the committee of pre-advice as well as the report of the committee appointed by the Synod of 1924, declares:
That, in agreement with the principles of Church Order (Kerkrechtelijk) that form the basis of our Church Order, a Classis has the competency to depose from office a consistory that makes itself unworthy.
This expression is based on the following considerations:
1. Christ is the King of His church. He administers that kingship, also in the disciplinarian sense, through officebearers. Also these officebearers, when apostatizing, stand under the disciplinary power of Christ. And thus whenever the majority of a consistory apostatize or become rebellious, Christ does not observe this passively and stand helpless over against it but demands that discipline be administered in His Name; in such a case suspension and if need be deposition.
2. Since the believers, in the quality (capacity) of believers, have no competency by the Church Order to administer ecclesiastical discipline and cannot call a neigh; boring consistory under Art. 79 D.K.O. into action when the majority of a consistory become worthy of discipline, there is the demand that the Classis under which such an apostate consistory resorts proceeds to act, if necessary, to the extent of deposition.
3. Article 30 D.K.O. points in that direction. The deposition of a consistory cannot be finished in a minor gathering. Therefore, then the ecclesiastical federation must take action and a Classis or Synod must take disciplinary action. These can do this because they possess consistorial power; they must do so for Christ’s sake.
4. Our Church Order, Arts. 4, 22, 24 deal with installation in office. This installation takes place through the office. And this installing in the office through the office brings with it the setting out of office through the office also whenever the majority of a consistory becomes unfaithful.
5. Article 31 D.K.O. holds firmly that the decisions of a broader gathering must be considered settled and binding. The “Unless . . . .” of this article cannot mean that one is not bound to so observe these decisions whenever he cannot see or acknowledge the Scripturalness of them. Such then would lead to unrestrained arbitrariness that would then yet be sanctioned by our Church Order. Articles 30 and 31 prescribe that the decisions of the foregoing matters that are brought to the broader gatherings shall be considered settled and binding and there shall be finished? These articles then give a Classis the right to depose an unfaithful Consistory.
6. Article 36 maintains the legal competency of the broader gatherings when it speaks of the “jurisdiction,” that is, authority (gezag, autoriteit) of these gatherings. Because they have received this authority from Christ and this authority, because it is consistorial, is also disciplinarian, so may and must Classes and Synods’ demand obedience and proceed to discipline rebellion.
7. On the ground of Article 79 of the Church Order it is established that unfaithful Consistory members should be deposed from their office. If the minority of the consistory must be deposed, the consistory itself can then do this with a neighboring consistory. If the majority of a consistory become unfaithful, discipline must be administered just as much. And since Article 79 then cannot be invoked but the principle, of that Article must be maintained, only a Classis or Synod can then take disciplinary action.
8. The formula of subscription, “under the penalty in case of refusal to be, by that very fact, suspended from our office” prescribes disciplinary action whenever one becomes rebellious. And if the Formula of Subscription is effective for every subscriber, then it holds that not alone for the minority of a consistory, being unfaithful, but also for the majority. An ecclesiastical discipline, carried to the end, over the majority of a consistory, is actually the deposition of such a consistory.
Our whole Church Order, therefore, proceeds from the principle that a Classis has the competency to depose a consistory that is unfaithful from its office.
Your Committee, D.R. Drukker