Article 41 — Classis
Neighbouring churches shall come together in a classis by delegating a minister and an elder, or if a church has no minister, two elders. Classis shall convene at least once every six months in person. The ministers shall be chairman in rotation, or one shall be chosen to be chairman; however the same minister shall not be chairman twice in succession. The chairman shall ask whether the ministry of the office-bearers is being continued, whether the decisions of the major assemblies are being honoured and whether there is any matter in which the consistories need the judgment and help of classis for the proper government of their church. Every classis shall determine where and when the churches shall meet again. The last classis before synod shall choose delegates to that synod.
This article deals with the following subjects respectively:
1. of what a classical meeting consists;
2. the frequency of these meetings;
3. who will preside over them;
4. some permanent agenda items;
5. appointing of delegates to the synods.
A classical meeting;’ is not a meeting of ‘the classis’, but of the churches of the classical region. ‘The classis’ as a permanent body does not exist, the consistory being the only permanent ecclesiastical body.
This is why every classical meeting must finalize its own agenda, including the adoption of its Acts or minutes.
The churches attend the classical meetings by way of their delegates: a minister and an elder, who are obliged to hand over their credentials.
Vacant churches may delegate two elders. Small consistories may delegate a deacon if two elders are not available.
The frequency is: at least once every six months.
Sometimes a classical meeting has to be continued at a later date, for example when a time-consuming exam makes it impossible to finalize the ‘normal business’, or when an appeal requires the appointment of a special committee to report to the next session.
At the end of every classis the date and venue of the next meeting of the classical churches shall be determined.
However, it may happen that the appointed ‘convening church’ is requested to call the churches together at an earlier time for the handling of an urgent matter. It is advisable that classes have a rule concerning such cases in their ‘Classical Regulations’
The ministers shall preside in turn, but the meeting may also choose a chairman – which happens in exceptional cases only, e.g. when the minister to preside, personally or his church, is involved in a matter to be dealt with at the very meeting, e.g. an appeal or suchlike.
To prevent domination by one of the ministers it is ruled that the same minister shall not be chosen twice in succession.
The Church Order does not cover every possible case. So that, if there is only one minister in a classical region, he must preside all the classical meetings as long as the other churches are vacant. If all of the classical
churches are vacant one of the elders-delegates must preside.
Apart from other items on the agenda, which are determined by a number of articles in our Church Order, there are some permanent items on the agenda. These are usually summarized as: “question time according to Article 41 CO”. Nevertheless, these agenda-items are still of the greatest significance. They clearly show that life within the bond of churches can be a great blessing, since the churches have supervision over each other, and in that way are being kept alive as faithful churches of the Lord Jesus Christ.
This ‘question time’ is a threefold one:
a. first there is the question whether the ministry of the offices is continued;
b. then whether each of the churches honours the decisions of the major assemblies according to the Church Order;
c. whether they need any help or the judgment of the classis in any matter – which, e.g., can be that of church discipline.
This point does not need any further explanation.