Are Officebearers Held to a Stricter Standard of Belief?

Are there different standards of belief for officebearers and confessing members of the Christian Reformed Church?

No, there are not different standards of belief, but there are differences in responsibilities. Let me explain:

All confessing members of the Christian Reformed Church must hold to the beliefs contained in its confessions, and only confessing members are eligible to serve in office, so they must have indicated their belief in the doctrine of the church.  

When individuals make profession of faith, they are not only indicating their personal faith in Jesus Christ; they are also “making a commitment to the creeds and the confessions of the Christian Reformed Church” (Church Order Art. 59a). The ecumenical creeds are the Apostles’, Nicene, and Athanasian Creeds, and the Reformed confessions are the Belgic Confession, the Heidelberg Catechism, and the Canons of Dort. 

Synod said in 1975 that “these confessions are binding upon all the officebearers as is indicated by their subscription to these confessions in the Form of Subscription. These confessions are binding upon all confessing members of the church as is indicated by their public profession of faith.” 

For church leaders the bar is not higher for belief, but they do bear more responsibility to uphold those beliefs in their leadership roles in the congregation. Officebearers today are required to sign the Covenant for Officebearers (Church Order Art. 5, Supplement), which used to be called the Form of Subscription but was revised by synod in 2012. The Covenant says that officebearers “promise to be formed and governed by the confessions” and “will promote and defend their doctrines faithfully, conforming our preaching, teaching, writing, serving, and living to them.”  

So while all confessing members are required to believe the doctrine of the church as found in the confessions, officebearers are required to bear that out in their leadership. Likewise, when synods declare a viewpoint to be an official interpretation of the confessions, that decision applies to officebearers and confessing members alike. In the CRC we don’t have different standards of belief for members and leaders.

About the Author

Rev. Kathy Smith is senior associate director of the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, adjunct professor of church polity at Calvin Theological Seminary, and adjunct professor of congregational and ministry studies at Calvin University. She is a member of First CRC in Grand Rapids, Mich.