Original Research - Special Collection: Theological perspectives on the Presbyterial church governance system

Die begrippe ‘gemeen akkoord’ en ‘buite kerkverband plaas’ in kerkregtelike perspektief

Jacobus M. Vorster
In die Skriflig/In Luce Verbi | Vol 58, No 1 | a3076 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ids.v58i1.3076 | © 2024 Jacobus M. Vorster | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 12 March 2024 | Published: 28 May 2024

About the author(s)

Jacobus M. Vorster, Unit for Reformational Theology and the Development of the SA Society, Faculty of Theology, North-West University, Potchefstroom, South Africa

Abstract

The concepts ‘mutual concensus’ and ‘exclusion from the church community’ in Church Polity: Ecclesiastical decisions about the calling and ordination of women in the offices in local congregations became a burning issue in Reformed Churches world-wide and even resulted in divisions and schisms. This is currently also the case in the community of the Reformed Churches in South Africa (RCA) (Gereformeerde Kerke in Suid-Afrika [GKSA]). The 2009 General Synod of the RCA resolved that women may not be ordained in the offices of ministers and elders. Subsequent Synods re-affirmed this decisions by a mere majority of votes according to Article 31 of the Church Order of the RCA. Despite these resolutions of various Synods, some local churches proceeded with the ordination of women in the applicable offices. Two of these local churches were subsequently excluded from the community of Reformed Churches within the RCA, by two classes with the argument that they disregarded the ‘common concent’ underlying the official synodical decisions. This study focuses on the question: what is ‘common consent’ within the context of Reformed Church polity and does this polity enable major assemblies to exclude local churches form the church community merely by way of a motion, just because they cannot reach concensus about a synodical resolution? The central-theoretical argument of the study is that the concepts ‘mutual consent’, as well as ‘exclusion from the church community’, should be revisited, because the current ‘application of these ideas in the RCA results in irresponsible collective church discipline, leads to schism in the church community, the binding of consciences and the violation of the rights of called church officials’.

Contribution: This article proposes a responsible code of conduct in the RCA regarding the matter of local congregations that cannot, as a matter of conscience and after many petitions of protest, adhere to the synodical decisions about the prohibiting of the ordination of women in local churches. ‘Mutual consent’ cannot be understood in an absolute sense and ‘exclusion of the church community’ is a hierarchical action that runs against the core principles of Presbyterial church polity. A more responsible code is of the utmost importance.


Keywords

Common accord; exclusion from the church community; woman in church office; bond of conscience; collective discipline; freedom of conscience; presbyterian church polity

Sustainable Development Goal

Goal 4: Quality education

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