Article 24 — Subscription to the Confession by ministers and teaching staff
A minister of the Word and all teaching staff at the theological seminary shall subscribe to the Three Forms of Unity of The Free Reformed Churches of Australia by signing the Form(s) adopted for that purpose. Anyone refusing to subscribe in that manner shall not be ordained or installed in office. Anyone who, being in office, refuses to do so shall because of that very fact be immediately suspended from office by the consistory, and classis shall not receive him. If he obstinately persists in his refusal he shall be deposed from office.
All those who are either directly or indirectly involved in the preaching of God’s Word, ministers, professors and other lecturers at the Theological Seminary, must subscribe to the Three Forms of Unity. Even candidates for the ministry, immediately after having passed their peremptory examination, must do this.
The churches must be absolutely sure that all fully agree with the Scriptural doctrine expressed in our confessional standards.
There are a number of different Forms, drawn up for the various offices.
If a minister refuses to sign, the consistory shall immediately suspend him, and the classis (entry to which is obtained by subscription to the doctrine of the churches) shall not receive him.
The minister concerned, then, receives the opportunity to explain his feelings. However, if he still persists in his refusal to subscribe as yet, he shall be deposed from his office.
The Subscription Form for ministers even includes a clause stating that, if a consistory, classis or synod, for good reasons, requires a further exposition of one’s feelings, for the preservation of the unity and purity of doctrine, the minister must be willing to give it. These ‘good reasons’ are, of course, based on specific statements made by the minister concerned.
This is another regulation and practice intended to ensure that the churches continue to conform with the Word of God, and remain faithful churches of the Lord Jesus Christ. Because the first mark of the true church is, according to Article 29 of the Belgic Confession of Faith:
It practises the pure preaching of the gospel.
Many church groups, after having originally adopted a Scriptural confession, have, in the course of time, weakened their stand by requiring subscription to a Form which leaves the door open to all sorts of feelings that deviate from the official creeds and confessions. This is sometimes defended with the help of a range of theories concerning the value of a confession. One of the most recent theories is that the confession expresses the religious feelings of the church at the time it was written, but that these feelings were subject to evolution, so that in our modern times no one can be bound to the literal text of the official doctrinal standards.
Up today the LORD, in His mercy, has kept us free from this kind of deviation!