The consistory shall maintain Church records in which the names of the members and the dates of their birth, baptism, public profession of faith, marriage, and departure or death are properly recorded.
Who is there who dearly loves the church of the Lord and confesses that he is and will remain a living member thereof that would not want to have his name written in the membership register? Having one’s name entered into the membership register is not an indifferent matter or just an administrative gesture but something of great importance, for the church is not a human organization but the Bride of Christ.
Consistories too are to realize the importance of an accurate membership list, as entering someone’s name into it is not merely an administrative measure but includes all the privileges of membership. It is an acknowledgement of the grace of God and of His faithfulness.
Church records may not have the importance for civil life they had some centuries ago, they are still important even beyond the boundaries of the church. In many instances a certificate of baptism will be accepted as proof of age or as a document used for identification. With reference to the previous article we mentioned the need to consult the church records if one wished to trace one’s roots into past centuries. When there was as yet no civil registration, church records provided the only proof of birth, baptism, and marriage.
These records do no longer serve a civil purpose as well, although the churches are obligated to enter the marriages into a register, supplied free of charge and subject to inspection on behalf of the provincial government.
Regardless whether there is also a civil benefit in keeping accurate records, it is an ecclesiastical imperative to do so. An early regional synod in the Netherlands urged faithfulness in this respect and gave, among other reasons, the following arguments. When the date of their baptism is properly recorded, the baptized persons, upon having become adults, may be the more assured of their baptism. The churches receive hereby the assurance that they do not admit unbaptized persons to the holy supper. A third motive was that those who neglect their baptism may be admonished on this ground that they were openly ingrafted into the church of Christ on such and such a date, and in this manner the admonition gained in force and depth.
When someone moves to another church, all these particulars should be included in the attestation for the records of new church. It should be avoided that an attestation only mentions that this person was baptized and made profession of faith. The dates of birth, baptism, and profession of faith must be mentioned. This is a record which should accompany the member for as long as he lives.