Second Reformed Church

Friday, May 23, 2014

"Who Decided That?"

Who Decided That?

There are three types of church government:  Episcopal, in which there is a top leader who makes decision – the Pope in the Roman Catholic Church is an example of this.  Congregational, in which everyone gets an equal vote.  And Presbyterian or Representative, which is the type of government we have in the Reformed Church in America – as well as the United States of America (no relation).  What that means is that the members of the congregation get to elect representatives in the form of deacons and elders to serve on the Consistory, which is the church’s ruling board, with the pastor.

The “active” or “serving” elders and deacons are part of the Consistory at any given time.  Anyone who has every served as an elder or a deacon is part of the “Great Consistory,” which may be called on for certain issues and occasions.

When decisions need to be made in the church (generally speaking) the Consistory makes every effort to know “the mind of the congregation” and take it into consideration, though it is not binding on the Consistory or its decisions.

There are certain areas which are the primary and normal purview of each of the offices represented in the Consistory:  the pastor is responsible to preach and teach the Whole Counsel of God and its relation to Christ and His Gospel.  The elders are responsible to oversee the preaching and teaching and discipline of the members of the church.  The deacons oversee the financial welfare of the church, the ministry to those in need, and the care of those who are sick.

We meet as the Consistory and as the board of elders and the board of deacons to discuss issues that need to be addressed.  If someone is in need, he or she should make that need known to a member of the Consistory or to someone in the church who can direct him or her to the appropriate member of the Consistory.

In the Presbyterian or Representative system, the pastor generally preaches and teaches as he sees fit and sees need or interest in amongst the members of the congregation.  The elders, in particular, are to watch over what is being taught and preached and bring concerns about such to the pastor.  The pastor does not, generally speaking, have the authority, as he would in an Episcopal system of government, to make unilateral decisions.  He works in conjunction with the elders and the deacons to make good decisions for the sake of the whole membership of the church.

If someone is interested in how a decision was made, usually, it is not a problem to have the Consistory explain how it came about.  The Consistory meetings are open to all – except when a closed meeting is called – though only the “active” serving members may vote.  The pastor has one vote, as does each elder and deacon serving on the Consistory.

Comprehensive details of the work of the Consistory can be found in our Book of Church Order which can be found at  If a print copy is requested, it will be made available.  Please keep the Consistory in your prayers as we seek to glorify God and bring you His Joy through the ministry of Second Reformed Church.

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