When the Pastor Visited My Father and Uncle to Make Funeral Arrangements, He Outlined Costs the Family Should Expect. These Included Paying Him for Performing the Service. Doesn’t His Regular Salary Cover This?

My grandfather passed away recently. He had been a member of his church for 30 years. When the pastor visited my father and uncle to make funeral arrangements, he outlined costs the family should expect. These included paying him for performing the service. Doesn’t his regular salary cover this? Is this “double dipping” allowed within the Christian Reformed Church?

Your question totally baffles me. I had no idea such a practice existed anywhere within our denomination. I have struggled for some time to come up with possible motives that would allow me to provide a reasonable rationale for it. Slim pickings there.

A minister of the Word is to feed the flock, not feed on it. He or she is called to “preach the Word, administer the sacraments, conduct public worship services, catechize the youth, and train members for Christian service” (Church Order, Article 12a). Other duties include exercising pastoral care and shepherding the congregation, a subset of which is the solemnization of marriages and the provision of funerals and memorial services (CO, 69–70). For all this and more, the local church is expected to “provide for the proper support of its minister(s)” (CO, 15). So yes, the pastor’s salary covers this.

Early Reformed liturgical forms for ordination warned against the sin of simony, the selling of sacred things for material gain. The word simony is based on Luke’s account of Simon the sorcerer in Acts 8. In the ninth and 10th centuries, the practice was rampant in the Catholic church. Priests, for example, would provide absolution for pay. I do recall warnings against it in my seminary education in the late 1960s. Perhaps that has fallen by the wayside precisely because simony has largely disappeared from the scene.

Couples who came to me for the solemnization of marriage or families that asked me to lead a funeral or memorial service were routinely told that a monetary gift should only be given to volunteers—an organist, for example—and not to a minister or anyone else already being paid for the service provided.

About the Author

Henry De Moor is professor emeritus of church polity at Calvin Seminary, Grand Rapids, Mich. He’s the author of Christian Reformed Church Order Commentary

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