Article 32 — Credentials and voting
Delegates to a major assembly shall bring with them their credentials, signed by the minor assembly. They shall have a vote in all matters except those in which either they themselves or their churches are directly involved.
The text of this article no longer mentions “credentials and instructions”. The word ”instructions” and their tabling at a major assembly dates back to the days when there were no good mail connections, typewriters, computers, and photocopiers. The agenda of the major assemblies were determined partly by these instructions, and often this prevented the delegates of the other churches from preparing themselves.
This deletion from the text of Article 32 does not make it impossible for a consistory to draw up instructions for its delegates to the classis. However, it is a practice that must be limited to matters not requiring any preparation or study prior to the meeting – e.g. when the advice or consent of classis is required according to Articles 74, 76, and 79 of the Church Order, or when the classical churches are invited to send representatives to the ordination –
or farewell-service – of a minister.
A major assembly is a meeting of churches, not of individual persons. The minor assemblies are present by means of their delegates. These delegates do not attend the meeting as office-bearers, but as representatives of the assembly that sent them.
That they have been delegated must be verified by their credentials.
Therefore a letter of credence must be signed on behalf of the delegating consistory or classis.
It would be superfluous therein to refer to e.g. Article 31 of the Church Order, since these letters are signed by a Reformed consistory or a classis of Reformed churches!
A major assembly can only be declared constituted after the letters of credence have been investigated and it has become clear that all the churches or the classes are duly represented.
It is not desirable to mandate the delegates to vote in a certain way. The discussion at the major assembly may bring some aspects of a matter to the fore that could not be considered by the minor assembly. The delegates must be left free to form their own opinion and vote accordingly.
Their letter of credence is the basis on which delegates have the right to vote at a major assembly. However, this right to vote is a limited one: They shall abstain from voting on matters which concern themselves or their own churches.