Guidelines Regarding Ecclesiastical Office and Ordination

The following statements were adopted by the CRC 1973 Synod as Guidelines for Understanding the Nature of Ecclesiastical Office and Ordination of Synod, 1973, pp. 62–64):


1. The general term for “office” in the Creek New Testament is DIAKONIA, meaning “service” or “ministry.” In this basic sense ecclesiastical office is one and indivisible, for it embraces the total ministry of the church, a ministry that is rooted in Christ.

2. This comprehensive ministry (office) is universal, committed to all members of the church, and the task of ministry is shared by all. The ministry of the church is Christ’s ministry. and as Christ’s ministry it functions with the power and authority of Christ the Lord. This ministry of the church is shared by all who are in Christ.


1. It is not inconsistent with this universal officesharing and is in keeping with apostolic practice, that some individuals, in whom the church has discerned the required gifts, be appointed to special tasks. The Scriptures report a setting apart to particular ministries or services. Both in the Old and New Testaments God calls certain people for particular tasks.

The CRC Synod of 1973 adopted a number of Significant decisions with respect to Ecclesiastical Office and Ordination. Also involved in this matter is the precise status of the “layworker in evangelism.” Rev. Harry C. Arnold, pastor of the First CRC of Lansing, Illinois, has been asked to comment on these 1973 decisions.

To assist the reader in having the background of Rev. Arnold’s article clearly in mind, Synod’s decisions are hereby given as a preface to what he has written.

2. From the beginning these particular ministries were functional in character, arising under the guidance of the Spirit in the interests of good order and efficiency in the church, to enable the church to carry out Christ’s work in the world most effectively.

3. The particular ministries are characterized by service, rather than by status, dominance or privilege. These ministries function with Christ’s power and authority, a power and authority rooted in obedience to his Word and expressed in loving service. In turn, those who are served are to respond with obedience and respect.

4. The particular ministries are to be distinguished in function, not in essence, from the comprehensive ministry shared by all believers, and distinctions among the particular ministries themselves also are functional. Since all members are commissioned to serve, there is only a difference in the kinds of service of deacons, elders, ministers, and all other members.


1. The tasks of the preaching of the Word and of the administration of the sacraments have been given by Christ to the church. Although in the Scriptures these tasks are not explicitly limited to special office-holders, historically they have been assigned to and carried out by those whom the church has appointed on Christ’s authority.

2. There is no valid biblical or doctrinal reason why a person whom the church has appointed to bring the Word may not also be appointed to administer the sacraments.


1. “Ordination” should be understood as the appointment or setting apart of certain members of the church for particular ministries that are strategic for the accomplishment of the church’s total ministry. In this sense of appointment or setting apart, ordination has biblical precedent, and is valuable for the good order and well-being of the church.

2. The ceremony of the laying on of hands is not a sacrament but a symbolic act by which the church may publicly confirm its call and appointment to particular ministries. As such it is useful but not essential.

3. To invite only ministers, and not elders also, to participate in the laying on of hands is a departure from biblical example. Furthermore, there is no biblical warrant for limiting the laying on of hands to the occasion of setting apart for the particular ministry of the Word and the sacraments.

4. Because the Scriptures do not present a definitive, exhaustive description of the particular ministries of the church, and because these particular ministries as described in Scripture are functional in character, the Bible leaves room for the church to adapt or modify its particular ministries in order to carry out effectively its service to Christ and for Christ in all circumstances.

It was decided also to appoint a new committee to study the implications of the above GUIDELINES, especially as they relate to “layworkers in evangelism,” and to report to the Synod of 1974.

Note should be taken also to the following decision of the 1973 Synod with respect to the GUIDELINES adopted:

“These guidelines do not redefine the basic types of service currently assigned to deacons. elders, and ministers; nor do the guidelines now authorize anyone other than ministers to administer the sacraments along with the preaching of the Word. In keeping with our church polity, such changes may be introduced only by way of revision of the Church Order as decided by Synod.”