The Proposed Revised Church Order of the Christian Reformed Church

Upon first reading of the proposed revision of our Church Order its clarity of style and language in comparison with the older document are at once apparent. These improvements are carried pretty well throughout, with a few notable exceptions. Where sentence structure has been kept simple, the content and meaning are easily understood.

Attempts at too literal translation from the Dutch and rigid adherence to “words” rather than “meaning” has in some instances left the old Church Order obscure. Synodical decisions concerning interpretation of various articles have not always been too helpful. Involved, long sentences and archaic expressions have been largely avoided in the proposed revision.


Article 2 of the revision eliminates “the office of the professor of theology”—properJy so, in my opinion. The old Article (18) has been replaced by the new Article (22). The former reads: “The office of tile professors of theology is to expound the Holy Scriptures and to vindicate sound doctrine against heresies and errors.” The revised Article (22) states: “The task of the ministers of tile Word who are appointed as professors of theology is to train the seminary students for the ministry of the Word; expound the Word of God; and vindicate sound doctrine against heresies and errors.”

The addition of the first phrase in the revised Article (22) is certainly an improvement. Long before the appearance of the proposed revised Church Order the language of the old Article (18) raised the question why expounding the Holy Scriptures and vindicating sound doctrine against heresies and errors should be made the entire “office” of theological professors, and further why this work should be limited to these men.

As noted, the old Article (18) speaks of expounding “the Holy Scriptures.” The revised Article (22) uses the phrase: “the Word of God.” Is a distinction intended? If so, the older form is preferable, or perhaps under present-day conditions: “the infallible inscripturated Word” might have been substituted. The weaker wording of the revision could be dangerous.

Article 21 of the old Church Order, which describes as one of the duties of consistories that they “shall see to it that there are good Christian schools where the parents have their children instructed according to the demands of the covenant” has been omitted. If this was an intentional act, the Revision Committee has served the Church badly. The revised Article (74), a pale, unworthy substitute for the old Article (21), could as well have been left out. It reads as follows: “The consistory shall diligently encourage members of the congregation to establish and maintain good Christian schools, and shall urge parents to have their children instructed in these schools according to the demands of the covenant.” The duty enjoined in the old Church Order of “seeing to it” is watered down to “diligently encouraging the members of the congregation.” The initiative is no longer with the consistory, so far as Christian schools are concerned. If at any time some church members should mention the need of building and maintaining a Christian school, the consistory may reply: “That’s a good idea.” But if no action is undertaken by “members of the congregation,” consistory need not start any. Is it being old-fashioned to expect the officers to lead the troops into battle, rather than “encourage” them from behind-the-lines safety?

Article 27 of the revision describes the task of the deacons in the following words:

“a. The task of the deacons is to exercise the ministry of Christian mercy toward those who are in material or social need, first of all toward those of the household 0f faith, but also toward the needy in general. In executing this task they shall diligently collect, administer, and distribute monies and other gifts, and shall serve the distressed with counsel and assistance.

“b. They shall enable the needy under their care to make use of Christian institutions of mercy.

“c. They shall cooler and cooperate with diaconates 0f neighboring churches when this is desirable for the proper performance of their task.

“d. They may also seek mutual understandings with other agencies in their community which are caring for the needy, so that the gifts may be distributed properly.”

We believe this new article is a decided improvement upon the old Article (26). It is more specific and up to date. especially because it provides for cooperative effort by the diaconates and for consultation with other benevolent agencies.

The omission of Article 83 of the old Church Order, which provided that deacons should give traveling money to the poor who move to other localities, is also noted with gratification. The need for such a provision apparently no longer exists.

In brief, the style and readability of the proposed revised Church Order arc greatly superior to those of the old. There are improvements in the way of conciseness of diction and simplicity of statement. But in my opinion we cannot afford to trade the old for the new as long as the serious imperfections introduced in the proposed revision are not removed.