Synod 2010: Church Order Revised, Not Rewritten

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A substantial update of the Christian Reformed Church’s Church Order—the rules that govern denominational life—gained Synod 2010’s approval. But a proposal to completely rewrite the Church Order did not.

The revisions brought to Synod 2010 were primarily intended to update or remove outdated language, bring articles in line with each other, or make clarifications.

One significant change involved Article 54, which states that in worship services “the minister of the Word shall officially explain and apply Holy Scripture” and that “at one of the services each Lord’s Day, the minister shall ordinarily preach the Word as summarized in the Heidelberg Catechism, following its sequence.”

The new Article 54 states that “proclamation of the Word shall be central to the worship of the church and shall be guided by the creeds and confessions of the church, especially by the Heidelberg Catechism.”

The task force said, and synod agreed, that the revision better reflects previous synodical decisions and encourages the use of all the creeds and confessions to shape the preaching ministry of the church.

However, synod also decided to retain the second half of the article, adjusting it slightly to include all the confessions, not just the Heidelberg Catechism, and deleting the phrase "following its sequence." Article 54b now reads: "At one of the services each Lord's Day, the minister shall ordinarily preach the Word as summarized in the creeds and confessions of the church, especially the Heidelberg Catechism."

Classis Lake Erie had requested that the Church Order be completely rewritten in light of current CRC practice and today’s ministry context.

Rev. George Vander Weit, an elder from that classis, said a comprehensive, not piecemeal, rewriting of the Church Order is needed. It needs to be a modern and more hospitable document, he said—one that reflects diversity in church and culture.

“We have a Church Order that was developed in the 1600s in Europe for Anglo people,” Vander Weit said.

However, Rev. Rudy Ouwehand, Classis Niagara, said a total update would take another six or seven years, cost between $60,000 and $70,000, and produce a document that would still be subject to changes every year.

Synod 2010 decided against the rewrite.

Synod also approved a new introduction intended to explain the purpose, importance, and function of the Church Order in an engaging way. It ends with this exhortation: “May God bless you as you serve in Christ’s church in a fitting and orderly way!”

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