Article 7 — From one church to another
A minister once lawfully called shall not leave the church to which he is bound to take up the ministry elsewhere without the consent of his consistory with the deacons and the approval of classis. Likewise, no church shall receive him unless he has presented a proper certificate of release from the church and the classis where he has served, or from the church only if he remains within the same classis.
This article, concerning the calling of a minister to another congregation, contains five different elements:
1. how the call will be extended to him;
2. which particular rule for special cases shall be obeyed;
3. how vacant congregations have to act;
4. which bodies have to approve the call;
5. how the ordination has to take place.
The way in which a call is extended to a minister serving another congregation is the same as the one described in Article 5.
There are certain rules concerning the eligibility of ministers serving in sister-churches outside the bond of our churches.
An ‘unwritten’ rule is that no minister shall be called unless he has served his present congregation for a number of years, usually three as a minimum.
However, the Synod Kelmscott 1983 adopted the following rule:
that the classes be directed to admit such ministers only after submitting them to a colloquium doctum,
the last word.in our opinion being incorrect seeing the ecclesiastical character of this colloquium.
There is also a rule for the repeated calling of the same minister during the same vacancy. This shall – according to a decision made by the same synod – not occur
without prior advice of classis.
The reason for a repeated call is usually the fact that since the first call was decided a change in the circumstances has developed, either on the side of
the minister or on that of the calling congregation.
Another similarity to Article 5 is that in case of a vacant congregation the advice of the counsellor must be obtained.
A double set of approvals is also required, one from the side of the congregation he has served and one from the classis to which his ‘old’ congregation belongs, and that of the calling congregation and the ‘new’ classis.
The two bodies first mentioned are expected to provide the minister with good testimonies regarding his doctrine and conduct, the classis issuing a ‘certificate of release’.
These ecclesiastical testimonies must be received by the consistory of the receiving church and its classis.
We would like to add that, according to a decision made by a Dutch synod, that of Dordrecht 1893, the required advice of the classis which the minister is leaving must include its being satisfied that the calling church is in a position to provide adequate financial support for the minister, in accordance with holy Scripture. It would be wise for our churches to follow this rule.
The same can be said regarding a rule made by the Synod Arnhem 1902, that in ‘the letter of call’ the financial support in case of retirement – superannuation – is to be included.