Article 30 — Authority of the assemblies
These assemblies shall only deal with ecclesiastical matters and in an ecclesiastical manner. A major assembly shall deal only with matters which could not be finished in the minor assembly or which belong to its churches in common. A new matter may be put on its agenda only when the minor assembly has dealt with it.
This article deals with the agenda respectively of:
1. all the assemblies;
2. the major assemblies.
Before and during the first stages of the Eighty Years War (1568-1648) occasionally the Dutch churches kept themselves occupied with all sorts of non-ecclesiastical matters: e.g. with questions like these: Are we allowed to defend ourselves against the persecuting papists by force or arms? Are we allowed to free those who have been imprisoned for the sake of their faith? Can we, as churches, support the uprising against Spain for example by collecting funds for hiring mercenaries or by passing on military secrets?
However, since the National Synod of Middelburg, 1581, the present rule has been adopted and maintained.
Neither should the churches occupy themselves with a range of matters of an economic, social, political, or scientific nature. They shall restrict themselves to ecclesiastical matters like doctrinal affairs, church discipline, the maintaining of good order in the churches, etcetera.
This shall be done ‘in an ecclesiastical manner’, which means: not by command, or by force, but by convincing, admonishing, and ruling according to God’s Word.
The agenda of the major assemblies is determined by two groups of subjects:
a. those matters which concern the regional churches, e.g. matters regarding training for the Ministry of the Word;
b. matters which could not be resolved in the minor assemblies, e.g. appeals.
The matters mentioned under a. shall be put on the major assembly’s agenda by the convening church.
Those mentioned under b. are casual.
Since Synod Kelmscott 1983 another sentence has been added, to clarify the way in which a certain matter can be placed on the agenda of a major assembly: only by way of preparation in the minor assembly (Synod Rockingham 2000, only changed its formulation).
This means in the first place that the delegates of a consistory or of a classis cannot put anything on the agenda of either classis or synod on their own initiative.
Even a local church cannot have a certain matter put on the agenda of a classis without the other classical churches having had the opportunity of studying it.
If a local church wants a certain matter to be put on the synod’s agenda, it must first of all be dealt with ‘in the ecclesiastical way’, by the classis. Via
the draft agenda, which the convening church of the synod sends to all the churches, these churches have the opportunity to study this material.
According to Article 31, appeals are excepted from this rule.