Article 17 — Training for the ministry
The churches shall support or, if possible, maintain an institution for the training for the ministry. The task of the professors of theology is to expound the Holy Scriptures and to defend the sound doctrine against heresies and errors, so that the churches may be provided with ministers of the Word who are able to fulfil the duties of their office as they have been described above. The churches together are obliged to provide for the professors of theology and for their widows and orphans.
Here our Church Order differs from that of our sister-churches in Canada and The Netherlands. Our churches had to add the words “support, or, if possible”, since they are not strong enough to maintain their own seminary.
Notwithstanding this, the task of the professors of theology is described.
The positive side is: They have to expound the holy Scriptures. The negative aspect is: They have to defend the Scriptural doctrine against heresies and errors.
This distinction has been derived from John Calvin. It clearly shows that the foundation, and even the fountain, of theology is: holy Scripture.
For us today theology is a science that has as its field of inquiry God’s revelation, as it:
1. is contained in holy Scripture (the bibliological section).
2. gives shape to the church (the ecclesiological section).
3. is confessed in the dogma (the dogmatological section).
4. is proclaimed by the ecclesiastical office (the diaconological section).
The professors are ministers who have been set apart for the training of students in the Ministry of the Word. Therefore they remain bound to the last church in which they have served, and keep their ‘radical’ as ministers.
This article suggests that the training for the Ministry of the Word ends as soon as one has passed the final exam at the seminary. However, such an institution should open the possibility for ministers to continue their theological studies until the degree of ‘doctor of theology’ is obtained.
In tandem with Article 11 this article stipulates that these professors receive financial support, as should also their widows and orphans in case of their demise. However, this support has then become the duty of the bond of churches, as they were the ones responsible for the professorial appointment.