The Church Order states: “These who are delegated to the assemblies . . . shall have a vote in all matters, except such as particularly concerns their persons or churches.” 

The necessity of this exception to the rule arises from the fact that also in the church, as she still is in the midst of the present evil world, there is much imperfection and sin. If it were true that every member of the church or that every member to the assemblies was perfect and could always consider every matter that is brought up with perfect objectivity so that the pure interests of Christ’s cause, which is the cause of Truth and Right, were always sought, there would be no, need for this “exception clause.” However, this is not the case. When matters of a personal nature or matters that concern one’s local congregation are the object of decision, sinful bias and prejudice often enters in. In the interest of justice it is better that those directly involved abstain from voting on these matters. 

Furthermore, if this rule were not maintained, many inequities could conceivably exist. For example, suppose that a member has a protest against his consistory. He voices certain charges of wrong doing and failing to convince the consistory of these, he appeals the matter to the Classis. If the above rule were not maintained, the consistory involved in this case would have two votes to cast while the protesting member has none. This could conceivably alter the entire outcome of the case and, therefore, it is only proper that in all such instances, the individuals or churches concerned are forbidden the right to vote and the decision in the matter is properly left to those who can decide the matter with impartial objectivity. 

Sometimes the question is raised as to whether or not a certain church is sufficiently involved in a given matter to deprive its delegates of the voting right. When this is the case the assembly should be called upon to decide and to the desire of the majority the delegates in question should submit. 

It will be of interest and importance to our readers to know that this particular point is stressed in an overture that appears on the agendum of the coming Synod requesting a change in the present Synodical-Classical set-up of our churches. The overture comes through Classis East from the Southeast Protestant Reformed Church and pleads a thorough Synodical investigation and study by all the consistories of a two-fold possible change: (1) Either revert to a one Classis denomination and meet as combined consistories as we did in the early history of our churches or, (2) Change the Classical boundaries of our churches so that we have three instead of the present two Classes. The overture rests upon one focal point. That point isthat a Synod cannot mete out justice under the two-Classes set-up since in all cases where one of the Classes is involved, that Classis must either sit in judgment upon its own case or the matter must be decided by one-half of the Synod which amounts to the other Classis. 

We quote the argument of the overture: 

We are of the opinion that a change in our ecclesiastical set-up would be advisable. The history of the past few years has proved to us that it is quite impossible for a two-classes church organization to mete out proper justice. First, in the event of a division between the two classes such as we experienced during the recent controversy there is no proper way out of the difficulty. There is no third classis to cast the deciding vote. Secondly, those protesting against or appealing from a decision of a classical gathering have no way of obtaining fair and proper treatment of a given case. No justice is based on a set-up wherein the defendant in the case is also the judge. In reality, the same applies to any matter brought to the attention of Synod by either one of our classes. A classis decides to recommend a certain matter to Synod. When this same matter is treated at Synod the classis recommending the matter in the first place has fifty percent of the votes. Under the present set-up there never is a majority of impartial delegates. We do not feel that this is desirable.” 

We feel that the Southeast Church has a strong point in its argument. Since this matter has been brought to light, we also see where the two classes set-up unavoidably leads to a violation of the church order rule which we are discussing. “These who are delegated to the assemblies . . . shall have a vote in all matters except such as particularly concern their persons or churches” means, in the first place; that no consistorial delegate may vote at the classis in a matter that particularly concerns the church he represents but it must also mean, in the second place, that no Classical delegate to Synod may vote at the Synod in matters that particularly concern the Classis which he represents. Under the present set-up the observance of this rule leads to practical difficulties as the overture has plainly indicated. The result is that either the rule is abolished with resulting injustices or that the function of the Synod is greatly impaired.

The overture of the Southeast Church, therefore, should be given serious study and attention. How thoroughly Classis East looked into the matter we do not know but they did not feel that the request of the overture to ask the Synod to appoint a committee for study and the findings of this committee referred to the consistories for study should be followed. They apparently felt that action could and should be taken immediately for they advise Synod as follows: 

A motion is made and supported to adopt the overture of the Southeast Protestant Reformed Church with respect to the proposed system of three classes, and to so overture Synod of 1958, with the following proposals: 

1. As to the division of Classis (A suggested division is cited). 

2. Also to overture Synod to reduce the number of delegates to three ministers and three elders per Classis.” 

With this decision of Classis we agree although there is in our opinion a certain amount of investigative work that should be done before this should be adopted. We do not agree that this should require a special study committee but feel that this could be done by Synod itself. No doubt such a move will make for a stronger Synod but it will also weaken the various classes and whether this is advisable is debatable. Synod will have to confront itself with this question and whatever is done, it will be interesting to follow for the outcome will affect every one of our churches.

Appended to Article 33 of our church order is also the following decision: 

“The major assemblies shall also have a stated clerk, who however shall not hold the position of a permanent secretary, and who shall not hold the position of permanent secretary, and who shall not be a member of the assembly’s officers, but that of a deputy to serve the classis or synod with services which would otherwise constitute the task of such a functionary.

Concerning this decision we would note the following: 

1. This means that the stated clerk of an ecclesiastical assembly, by virtue of his office of stated clerk, has no voting right, either advisory or real, at the meeting since he is not a delegated member of the body but an appointed or elected officer. 

2. This does not mean that the stated clerk cannot be delegated and thus serve in a double capacity, that of a delegated member of the assembly and that of the stated clerk. This is frequently the case. 

3. That as to the duties or labors expected of the stated clerk, we believe that the committee appointed by the last Synod to draft a set of “Rules For Synodical Procedure” has presented a complete circumscription of those duties in its report. Section IV, 4, of the report reads as follows: 

4. The Stated Clerk: 

a. The Synod shall elect a Stated Clerk, elected for a term of three years, from among the ministers and shall designate his salary. Synod shall also elect an alternate for a term of three years, who shall function in case it becomes impossible for the Stated Clerk to function.

b. His duties, besides those designated elsewhere in these rules, shall be:

1. To prepare and publish the Agenda.

2. To prepare and publish the Acts. 

3. To notify special committees appointed by Synod of their appointment and their mandate. This shall be done within two months after Synod adjourns.

4. To remind Synod’s Committees that their reports are due.

5. To inform Synod concerning any committees that have been neglected in reporting.

6. To receive and acknowledge all correspondence addressed to Synod, but not to assume any prerogatives of Synod in regard to such correspondence.

7. To carry out all correspondence specifically charged to him by Synod.

8. To maintain the archives of Synod.

9. To be present at all synodical meetings in order to furnish Synod, upon request, with any needed information from the archives.

10. To report to Synod annually in writing.

11. To furnish a list of committee vacancies to be filled.“

From this description it is evident that the office of Stated Clerk is not identical with the office of the Clerk of the assembly. The latter is mentioned in Article 34, concerning which we will write later, D.V. The rule quoted states expressly: “The Stated Clerk shall not hold the position of permanent secretary, and shall not be a member of the assembly’s officers.” As the above also indicates, he is the servant of Synod who is to perform various tasks for the Synod during the interim between Synodical meetings. And, of course, the same is true of the Classical Stated Clerks. 

We wonder why this decision is incorporated in connection with Article 33 which deals with the matter of “Credentials.” The answer probably lies in that this decision shows that the Stated Clerk has no credential and, therefore, no delegated authority to participate in the activities of the assembly.