Statement of Faith
With this in mind when this constitution refers to the Christ Church Statement of Faith it is referring to the book of confessions which consists of: the Apostles’ Creed, the Nicene Creed, The Definition of Chalcedon, The Athanasian Creed, the 39 Articles of Religion, The Belgic Confession, The Heidelberg Catechism, the Canons of Dordt, and the Westminster Confession of Faith. These confessions are to be used as specified in the Book of Confessions.
Our membership vows are:
“Do you acknowledge yourself to be a sinner in need of salvation by Christ, and do you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, receiving and resting upon Him alone as He is offered in the gospel?”
“Have you been baptized in accordance with His Word?”
“Do you swear in the name of God, in humble reliance upon the grace of the Holy Spirit, to live in a way that becomes followers of Christ?”
“Do you swear in the name of God to support the ministry of this church in its worship and work, submitting to its government and discipline, while pursuing its purity and peace?”
When the vows are presented to the head of a household, he will also be asked if he speaks on behalf of his household. When these vows are taken, the congregation will respond with “Amen” when they are asked:
“As a congregation of Christ, do you receive [this Christian/these Christians] into the covenant fellowship of this local church together with you, renewing your membership vows as you do so?”
Individuals may be received into non-voting membership. In special cases, individuals may come under our pastoral care without coming into full membership.
Release or Transfer of Membership
When the circumstances surrounding the member’s failure to join a faithful Christian church are problematic, the elders have the option of applying erasure with censure. If the circumstances do not rise to the level of suspension or excommunication, or if they do not permit it, the elders have the option, at their discretion, of dismissing the person with a letter of admonition or rebuke, according to circumstance. This erasure with censure requires a two/thirds vote of the elders. If this threshold is not reached, then the dismissal will be a simple erasure.
Election of Parish Elders
Once approved, the nominee will work through a short course of training on eldership under the oversight of the current session. His name will then be placed on a ballot for the electors in each parish at a specified parish Heads’ of Households meeting. Each ballot will provide the option of voting yes, no, or abstain. Electors will include only heads of households from the parish in which the nominee is being considered for elder.
If the candidate receives a two thirds majority support of the parish, the elders will ordain him for a two year term through the laying on of hands and prayer. If any elector votes no and includes a reason for the no vote on the ballot, the elders must carefully weigh the scriptural merit of the objection before ordaining the elder elect.
At the end of a two year term, if he desires to continue serving the congregation, the parish elder must be reaffirmed by a two thirds majority vote of the entire congregation. If elected, the elders will extend his ordination for an additional five year term. If any elector votes no and includes a reason for the no vote on the ballot, the elders must carefully weigh the scriptural merit of the objection before ordaining the elder elect.
After the subsequent five year term, if the elder wishes to continue his service, another church wide election will occur. If in this election, the candidate receives a three quarters majority of the congregational votes cast, the elders will extend his ordination for life. If any elector votes no and includes a reason for the no vote on the ballot, the elders must carefully weigh the scriptural merit of the objection and meet as necessary with the electors who cast the no votes. If these conditions are met, the elders will extend the parish elder’s ordination to a life-term through laying on of hands and prayer. If events warrant it, during an elder’s term of office, the session may grant a leave of absence for a length of time specified at the time of the leave. If the leave of absence coincides with an elder election to renew or extend his term of service, his election may be postponed until the leave of absence is concluded.
Election of Teaching Elders
Once approved, the candidate for teaching elder will work through a short course of training on eldership under the oversight of the ministers (if he has not already taken the course). His name will then be placed on a ballot sent to all electors.
Each ballot will provide the option of voting yes, no, or abstain. The candidate
will need to receive a three quarters majority of the congregational votes cast to be ordained to the office of teaching elder. If any elector votes no and includes a reason for the no vote on the ballot, the elders must carefully weigh the scriptural merit of the objection and meet as necessary with the electors who cast the no votes. If these conditions are met, the elders will ordain the elder elect through the laying on of hands and prayer.
Once ordained, the teaching elder will serve for life.
Election of Ministering Elders
In addition to the qualifications for teaching elder, ministering elders must meet
the biblical criteria for shepherd (2 Samuel 12:1ff., Ps. 23, John 10:11-16, etc.). Therefore the nominee must also preach before the congregation (in the case of a candidate for senior pastor) and submit to a public interview before the heads of households. Following this process, the elders by unanimous vote may approve the nominee as a candidate to be placed on a ballot.
Each ballot will provide the option of voting yes, no, or abstain. The candidate will need to receive a three quarters majority of the congregational votes cast in order to approve the call. If any elector votes no and includes a reason for the no vote on the ballot, the elders must carefully weigh the scriptural merit of the objection and meet as necessary with the electors who cast the no votes. If the candidate is approved by election, the elders will extend a call to him to be pastor.
Election of Deacons
Once nominated, a candidate for deacon will be included by the deacons in their work in order to prove his fitness for office (1 Tim. 3:10).
When in their unanimous judgment, the candidate has demonstrated this, the deacons will make a recommendation to the elders to place his name on the ballot. If, in the unanimous judgment of the elders, the candidate receives the clear and obvious support of the church as represented, the elders will ordain him through laying on of hands and prayer (Acts 6:6).
When ordained, the elder or deacon will vow:
“As God is my witness, I solemnly vow that I will serve this church faithfully as a servant of Christ, and will maintain godly order in my life and my household as the Word of God requires.”
Once ordained, the deacon will serve for life, unless he resigns or is removed.
Duties of Elders
The elders are responsible to delegate responsibilities to the deacons, hire and fire church staff, define responsibilities for church staff, delegate responsibilities to the staff of subordinate ministries, and approve the annual budget. The elders also commission or license ministerial students, and oversee the course of their training for the eldership. Under the guidance and oversight of the elders, such men may perform all the various ministerial functions of elders, participation in the rule of the church excepted.
Elder business will be conducted at the weekly meeting or at special meetings called for the purpose. The elders will rotate the responsibility of chairing meetings, and will appoint a secretary to record minutes. Individual elders are responsible for those duties delegated to them by the elders in session, as recorded in the minutes, with due regard to their gifts, abilities, and desires.
The session contains three distinct callings or offices. The first is called to a pastoral ministry of the Word, and called by us a pastor or ministering elder (Eph. 4:11–12; 1 Pet. 5:2–4; 1 Tim. 5:17). A second is called to a didactic ministry of the Word, called by us a teaching elder (1 Cor. 12:28; James 3:1). A third is called to government and rule according to the Word, called by us a parish elder (also known as lay or ruling elder), which function is shared by all elders (1 Tim. 5:17; 1 Thess. 5:12–13; Heb. 13:7, 17; Rom. 12:8; 1 Cor. 12:28). Each elder will have his calling and office acknowledged by the elders in session. In all meetings of the session of presbyters, each elder has one vote.
Elders whose assigned duties preclude them from providing for their families in the ordinary way will be compensated by the church (1 Tim. 5:17–18).
Duties of Deacons
The business of the deacons will be conducted at their regular meeting, or at special meetings called for that purpose. The deacons will appoint a moderator for their meetings. The deacons will give a general report of their work at each heads of household meeting, provide a quarterly financial report to the church, and an annual report to the elders with proposals for the coming year.
Individual deacons are responsible for those duties assigned to them by the deacons, as recorded in the minutes, with due regard to their gifts and desires.
Resignation of Elders or Deacons
Removal of Elders, Deacons, and Ministers
While Christ Church encourages her pastor(s) toward a long-term view of the ministry, in the providence of God, changes in a pastor’s call to a particular church arise for both righteous and sinful reasons. In cases involving moral failures requiring disciplinary proceedings, the disciplinary process for the removal of a pastor is the same as for other officers. For cases that do not involve moral failures or disciplinary proceedings (e.g., Acts 15:33-41, Romans 15:22-33, 1 Corinthians 16:5-12), the procedure for terminating the call of a pastor, thereby dismissing him from service at Christ Church, is as follows: If a pastor desires to terminate his call, he shall duly inform the session of his desire. In the case of an involuntary termination of his call, a pastor may be recommended for dismissal from service at Christ Church by a unanimous vote of the session (excluding said pastor). In such a case, the pastor may have recourse to the electors by calling for a vote to either sustain his call as pastor or not (with an option to abstain). If the electors sustain his call by a two-thirds majority vote, the other elders must afterwards either concede to his call or refer the matter to the Communion of Reformed Evangelical Churches for binding arbitration.
Formal church discipline is applied through the formal action and unanimous judgment of the elders. Except in cases of scandal requiring immediate action, the pattern of church discipline will generally include formal private admonishment by two or three (Matt. 18:16), formal public admonishment and suspension from the Supper (2 Thess. 3:14- 15), and a formal hearing which may result in excommunication (Matt. 18:17).
Any communicant member may be disciplined by the church. Un-baptized members of member households are subject to pastoral admonishment from the church, but not excommunication. Christians who attend church regularly, but are non-members, are subject to pastoral admonishment from the church, but not excommunication. If another church has disciplined one of its members, and that person subsequently comes to our church, the elders will decide whether to honor the discipline of the other church after due consultation with the person concerned and after all appropriate information is sought from the disciplining church.
The elders shall establish the specific procedures for all formal discipline on a case-by-case basis, as appropriate to the circumstances and individuals involved. However, at minimum these procedures should include a clear and timely warning of the individual that he is in the process of formal discipline, two or three visits or communications involving two or three witnesses, and clear records and/or minutes of the entire proceedings kept by the elders.
When the elders determine that a hearing is necessary, they will establish the specific procedures for each trial on a case-by-case basis, as appropriate to the circumstances and individuals involved. However, at minimum these procedures should include informing the accused in writing of the specific charges, the time, place, and date of the trial, and ample time for the accused to prepare a defense.
The heads of households meeting will be informed of the hearing at the first opportunity. At the hearing, one of the elders will present a solemn charge from the Scriptures on the responsibilities of those present, the evidence against the accused will be presented, and the accused will have time to make a reasonable defense, including the right to question any witnesses.
At a separate meeting of the elders, a vote will be taken on each of the charges. The elders will declare their verdict to the congregation on an appointed Lord’s day, following an appropriate exhortation. The accused will be given a written copy of the verdict. The elders will establish an official file containing all the records pertaining to the hearing, including all pertinent correspondence, transcripts, and minutes. If he requests it, the accused will be given one copy of this file at the expense of the church. Any appeals to presbytery will be conducted in accordance with the Constitution of the CREC.
Excommunication will end when in the unanimous opinion of the elders the one under discipline has repented. A confession of this repentance will be read to the congregation on the Lord’s Day, and the elders shall formally announce the end of the discipline and restoration of fellowship.
We confess that this constitution is a fallible work of fallible men and, if obedience to Scripture requires it, may be set aside without the process of amendment by the unanimous judgment of the elders. Under such circumstances, the heads of households will be informed, and the constitution amended at the first opportunity.
Adopted January 15, 1991
Revised December 6, 1991
Revised December 31, 1992
Revised June 1993
Revised May 5, 1994
Revised October 13, 1994
Revised August 3, 1995
Revised March 14, 1996
Revised July 24, 1997
Revised September 18, 1997
Revised May 27, 1999
Revised December 7, 2000
Extensively revised 2002
Revised October 13, 2005
Revised March 2014
Revised October 2014
Revised July 16, 2015