What ought to be the result when the sin is confessed and when there is genuine repentance? Can an office-bearer continue in office and can the suspension be lifted? Or does deposition have to follow in each and every case?
If deposition must follow in each case, we cannot see why a suspension must precede it first. The consistory with the deacons must be convinced of the necessity of the suspension if it proceeds to that step. The brothers must also entertain the possibility that the brother is again allowed to function as an office-bearer. Suspension makes sense only when the possibility exists that it is lifted and the brother continues in office.
Let us think here of the provision of Art. 26, subscription to the Subscription Form. If an office-bearer refuses to sign it, he shall immediately be suspended because of that refusal. Only when he obstinately persists in his refusal shall he be deposed. In other words, if he changes his mind and does sign, the suspension will be lifted.
This is not to say that lifting of the suspension is desirable in each and every case. It would be possible and desirable only if it is ascertained that the brother can work fruitfully, and that the cause of the Lord is served by his continuing as an office-bearer. The following questions should, therefore, be examined:
What was the character of the sin? Was it so serious that a fruitful service must be considered impossible, not only in the present congregation but also in any other congregation? This applies then to the ministers of the Word. We take it that the sin has been confessed, that there is true and genuine repentance, and that there is no falling back into the same sin. Would it in this case be entirely impossible that the suspension is lifted after three or more months and that the brother resumes his work?
An answer to the latter question can be given only locally and in a very concrete situation. However, to say a priori that it is an impossibility would be saying too much. Confession of sin and true repentance do not necessarily mean that the suspension is lifted and that the brother can continue in office. Suspension, on the other hand, does not necessarily mean either
 that deposition must follow, as stated above. In the case of suspension it appears that restoration to office is the goal and expectation; otherwise deposition forthwith would have been the proper course of action.
Another possibility should be mentioned as well. It could be that the consistory with the deacons comes to the conclusion that the suspension of their minister is to be lifted, but that the brothers are equally convinced that he would no longer be able to work fruitfully in the same congregation. Although matters have been solved, yet the whole past history or the sin committed is such that it would take a long, long time before trust has been restored and a fruitful cooperation will again be possible. What is to be done in such a situation?
Here we envision a different course of action. Since the consistory with the deacons are convinced that there is not sufficient reason either to extend the suspension or to proceed to the deposition, the only course open is to lift the suspension and to return all the privileges of his office to their minister. At the same time, however, or preferably before that moment, the consistory with the deacons should put the matter before the sister churches at a clas-sis and ask classis and the deputies of regional synod whether they could agree to the release of the minister according to Art. 11, once he has been restored to office. He may then not be able to work fruitfully in this particular congregation, this does not mean that he would not be able to do it in another congregation.
Care should be taken that release according to Art. 11 is not chosen as a way out of disciplinary action. It may never be substituted for censure and suspension because of sin. We are referring to such cases only where the suspension is to be lifted, but where serious doubt exists about the possibility of further fruitful cooperation, where, in fact this is considered impossible for a long time to come; in that case the brother could be released and declared eligible for call. The provision of Art. 11 would then apply.Concerning elders or deacons we must say that the procedure is less complicated. Their calling was fora specific time only, and if the suspension is lifted, there is usually little time left to serve. Later on it can be judged whether they should be made a candidate for office again. A consistory might wait several years before doing this, so that the memory of the sin and of the suspension has faded to a large extent and the possibility of a fruitful term of office has increased proportionally.