Oene, W.W.J. van (1990) Art. 33

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Article 33

Proposals

 

Matters once decided upon may not be proposed again unless they are substantiated by new grounds.

What we find in this article is the remnant of an earlier provision that the instructions for the major assemblies should not be written before the Acts of previous major assemblies had been read regarding this point. This was stipulated in order to prevent matters which were dealt with in the past from being raised (time and) again. The background of that provision was that, unlike in our days, the Acts of major assemblies were not printed and made available to the churches on a large scale. At the broader assembly the clerk dictated them and the delegates copied them for their own churches. Then they were read at the consistory meetings.

Everyone can see how easily a matter could be raised again although it was already dealt with at a previous major assembly. No one was able to consult a series of booklets containing the Acts in his own home. For this reason it was provided that, before writing the instructions as to what was to be dealt with at a major assembly, a consistory should first read the Acts of the previous major assemblies on the point in question. In this manner it was prevented that a matter was raised again through ignorance or because a consistory was not aware that it had been previously dealt with.

It could happen that a consistory was convinced that a certain decision should be changed. In such a case this consistory was allowed to include it in its instruction. Even so, caution should be exercised. A consistory should ponder the question whether the matter is of such importance that the time of the churches must be spent in discussing the point again and whether any harm will result if things are left alone. It is admissible to strive for perfection, but we are to bear in mind what someone correctly remarked, that church life is not a machine which one can stop to take out or change a part, and then set it into motion again as if nothing ever happened. All desire and striving for having everything one's own way is of course totally out of the question. A compromise among brothers and churches in non-essential points is more in accordance with true Christian love and compassion than keeping everything in motion and turmoil to get one’s way or by continued nagging of the brothers until they give in.

We no longer write instructions in order to compose the agenda of broader assemblies. Nowadays consistories send their overtures to the convening church to have them included in the provisional agenda.

Also with this manner of bringing matters to the major assemblies the consistories are to scan the Acts of previous assemblies to see whether a particular point was not already dealt with in the past. If such is the case, the brothers must have very good grounds for raising the matter again. These

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good grounds are not: serious objections, profound misgivings, or uneasiness with the conclusions reached or the considerations on which these conclusions rest. It will be near-impossible always to reach conclusions unanimously, and in most cases there will be brothers or even whole consistories that disagree with specific decisions.

Only in case they have new grounds for their proposal to change a particular decision will a consistory be permitted again to raise a matter which was decided upon before. Sometimes such a proposal to change a previous decision is submitted as an “appeal.” From what is stated in Article 31 it is clear that this is a misnomer.

Only when a consistory was wronged by the relevant decision can it correctly present its submission as an appeal, and it has to submit this to the major assembly, not one similar to the assembly that took the decision. When it is merely a proposal to change a previous decision, it should be called by its proper name: a proposal to change. Let’s keep things simple.