Deputies of Regional Synod
Each regional synod shall appoint deputies who are to assist the classes in all cases provided for in the Church Order and, upon the request of the classes, in cases of special difficulties.
These deputies shall keep proper record of their actions and submit a written report to regional synod, and, if so required, they shall give account of their actions.
They shall not be discharged from their task before and until regional synod itself discharges them.
Previous articles of the Church Order mentioned “deputies of regional synod.” Now we are going to see who they are and what their task is.
For all practical purposes it is much more convenient for a church federation to have a central board that can make all sorts of decisions when this is required. The Reformed “system” of church government has been called the most impractical one in existence. This would be so if one holds that church life finds its essence in what the totality of the churches in a certain country does, pronounces, declares, or proclaims. Given these circumstances it would be necessary to have a central and permanent body which can meet at any given time and make decisions as required.
But the Reformed Churches have no need of a permanent board or committee which can meet at any moment and give leadership. In the Reformed Churches the decisions are made and the course is determined at the local level, in and by the autonomous local churches. It does not hurt or bother them that there is no general or regional board to which they can turn in time of need, neither does it inconvenience them.
Yet there are instances when the help of the federation is needed. Instead of convening a broader assembly for a specific case, something unnecessary and impractical as well, the churches have agreed that in various cases they shall be represented by deputies, brothers who have been appointed to act on behalf of the federation where this is required by the Church Order as also when a classis may feel the need to consult them in specific difficulties.
These brothers do not form a permanent committee which acts as a sort of “synodical committee” such as the churches sometimes knew in the past, and such as others outside the churches still have, but these brothers are appointed for a set period to a well-defined task.
For this reason it has been stipulated that “each regional synod shall appoint deputies.” That it is said “each regional synod” shows that the mandate
of the brothers is valid only till the next regional synod, for the next regional synod (“each regional synod”) will appoint others in their place. And even if the same persons are appointed by the next regional synod, this does not make any basic difference. In principle, they are new deputies as their mandate expired when the regional synod discharged them of their duties.
Why do such deputies have to be appointed? Because the churches have agreed that the federation shall be involved in specific instances. There is the peremptory examination of candidates, Art. 5. Deputies of regional synod are to attend these examinations and advise classis about the candidate’s acceptability or non-acceptability into the ministry. By way of this cooperation a brother receives the right also in the other churches of the federation to proclaim God’s Word and to administer the sacraments. Without this involvement the brother would have these rights only within the classis where he was examined.
The same deputies are also to advise in the admission of persons who only recently have come to the profession of the Reformed religion, Art. 7, as well as with the dismissal of a minister, Art. 11, approval of their taking on another vocation, Art. 12; retirement of ministers, Art. 13; and the deposition of ministers, Art. 71.
In all these instances they represent the wider federation, as the federation is directly affected by the actions which are described in these articles.
Although the brothers do not form a “committee to solve difficulties,” they may be called in in case there are difficulties. It is in line with what the above-mentioned articles deal with that the intent is not such difficulties that are of a general nature, but those that have or may have consequences for the federation of churches. The regional-synodical deputies are not the equivalent of what church visitors are at the classical level.
Being servants, these deputies will have to report on their activities to regional synod. After a year their mandate has come to an end, and they are to show how they fulfilled it. They are to submit a written report to regional synod. If regional synod upon receiving and reading this report deems it necessary to ask of deputies that they clarify and/or defend their actions, they are to appear and give account, if it cannot be done in any other way. Owing to the rather short duration of a regional synod it is almost unavoidable that in such a case the deputies will have to appear in person.
As for the number of deputies, usually at least two are appointed from each classis with alternates. Appointees from the same classis where, for instance, a peremptory examination takes place cannot be said to represent the wider federation, even though they were appointed by regional synod.