Article 76 — Suspension and deposition of office-bearers
If a minister, elder or deacon has committed a public or otherwise gross sin, or refuses to heed the admonitions by the consistory, he shall be suspended from office by the judgment of his own consistory and of the consistory of a neighbouring congregation. In the case of a minister this neighbouring congregation shall be appointed by the classis. If he hardens himself in the sin, or if the sin committed is of such a nature that he can not continue in office, an elder or a deacon shall be deposed by the judgment of the above-mentioned consistories. Classis, with the advice of the deputies of synod, shall judge whether a minister is to be deposed.
A special article has been included in the Church Order regarding discipline in relation to office-bearers.
1. in relation to ministers of the Word;
2. in relation to elders and deacons.
The difference in procedure is only the additional regulation regarding the ministers, of who the classis, with the advice of the deputies of synod, mentioned in Article 14, must judge whether they ought to be deposed.
The reason for this special regulation is that the ministers were also admitted to the Ministry of the Word in the presence of deputies of the synod. The bond of churches is involved in both cases.
However, in both cases – of ministers as well as elders and deacons – the judgment of the consistory and that of a neighbouring congregation, appointed by classis, is required. This, again, is a sort of ecclesiastical ‘safety valve’, which is offered by the bond of churches because in serious cases like these no mistakes must be made, no injustice done.
The sins worthy of suspension or deposition are further defined in Article 77. Article 76 only refers to the rejection of the admonitions of the church and to being engaged in a serious sin.
The former means that the admonitions concerning secret sins – plural! – have arrived at a sort of rounding off. The latter are not necessarily public sins only – compare the illustration of the term “serious sin” in Article 77.
The church of the Lord Jesus Christ is to be kept holy!