Article 22 — Equality of respective duties
In the local congregation equality shall be maintained among the ministers, among the elders, and among the deacons, regarding their respective duties, and in other matters, as much as possible.
This article also is of a confessional character. Our Belgic Confession says in Article 31:
Ministers of the Word, in whatever place they are, have equal power and authority, for they are all servants of Jesus Christ, the only universal Bishop and the only Head of the Church.
This is confessed in opposition to the hierarchy in ‘episcopal churches’ such as the Church of Rome, the Church of England, and the Lutheran churches.
It is based on Matthew 18: 1-4 and parallel texts, on the answer of the Saviour given to the disciples’ question “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” He said:
Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
This is why the Reformed churches have no bishops, or superintendents, etcetera.
There must be equality:
1. in the execution of the office. When there are two or more ministers, the one should not be given the task of preaching, the other that of visiting the church members, and so on. Even the position of chairman of the consistory shall be shared, e.g. on a monthly basis.
2. in all other respects, e.g. regarding the honorarium – although special circumstances have to be taken into consideration, for example the number of a minister’s children.
The consistory shall ensure that the workload is equally divided among its ministers.
Should this create any problems the classis can provide some help – although it is not known to me whether this has even been needed.
An even better way of avoiding problems of this kind is to split up a congregation when it has become too large to be served by one minister.
Mutatis mutandis the same rule applies to elders and deacons.
All this is, in a sense, repeated in Article 80 of our Church Order.