- Convening of Synod
- Synod shall convene on the second Tuesday of June each year (unless otherwise designated by the preceding synod.)
- When a classis desires an early synod, it shall apply to the convening church, whose consistory in turn shall seek the approval of the other classis.
(Cf. Article 50 of the Church Order.)
- Each synod shall appoint a convening consistory, whose duty it shall be to announce the next succeeding synod to the churches in a synodically designated publication at least one month before the date of meeting. It shall also provide all facilities needed for the synodical meetings, make arrangements for the lodging of delegates, etc. Expenses thus incurred shall be paid by the synodical treasurer.
- On the Monday evening preceding the opening of synod a prayer service, in the charge of the convening consistory, shall be held in the city in which synod is to meet. The members of synod are expected to attend this service in a body.
- The sessions of synod shall extend from 8:30 a . m . to 12:00 noon and from 1:00 p . m . to 5:00 p . m ., unless otherwise determined by the synod.
(Cf. Acts of Synod, 2002, Art. 51.)
- Constitution of Synod
- To this synod five ministers and five elders out of each classis shall be delegated.
(Cf. Acts of Synod, 1992, Art. 50.)
- The president or vice-president of the previous synod shall officiate as president pro-tem at the opening of synod. (In case neither is available, the pastor of the calling church shall do so.) At the appointed time and place he shall call the delegates to order; he opens with prayer and the reading of Scripture, and presides over the acceptance of the credentials and the election of officers.
- The officers of synod shall be elected from among the ministerial delegates in the following order: president, vice-president, first clerk, and second clerk. The stated clerk shall serve as secretary protem until the first clerk and second clerk have been elected.
- After the elected officers have taken their place, the president shall read the prescribed “Public Declaration of Agreement with the Forms of Unity,” to which every member of synod shall rise to give heed and respond by expressing assent. The Declaration is to be presented to each delegate who assumes his seat at a later time, and he shall be asked to voice his approval thereof.
- At the opening session of synod the following procedure shall then be followed:
- The president shall appoint a committee for advisory committees of four members, two ministers and two elders. The duties of this committee shall be:
- To propose the necessary number and constituency of the advisory committees, and to apportion the synodical material.
- To propose the constituency of a committee of advice whose sole duty shall be to advise synod on all financial matters.
(Cf. Acts of Synod, 1950, Art. 19.)
- Synod then adjourns until a specified time to enable this committee to meet. Meeting again at the specified time, synod will consider the report of the committee for advisory committees, and then adjourn until a specified time to enable these advisory committees to prepare their reports.
- Each advisory committee shall see to it that its report is neatly copied and distributed to all the delegates when synod reconvenes.
- Synod shall treat the advisory reports in order.
- Duties of the Officers of Synod
Besides the duties mentioned elsewhere in these rules, the officers of synod shall have the following duties:
- He shall call the meeting to order at the proper time and shall see that each session is properly opened and closed.
- He shall enforce the rules of order, must rule at once on any point of order presented, and shall see to it that business is transacted in the proper order and expedited as much as possible.
- He shall place before the synod every motion properly made, may make suggestions as to the proper formulation of motions, and shall clearly state every motion before a vote is taken.
- Being a duly chosen delegate to synod, he retains all the rights and privileges of a delegate. As such he has:
- The right to take part in the deliberation of synod. In case, however, he wishes to express himself on a pending question, he shall relinquish the chair to the vice-president and not resume it until the question has been disposed of. This does not apply when the president speaks to elucidate a motion, to present matters of fact, or to inform synod regarding points of order.
- The right to vote on any question before the gathering. He invariably votes when the vote is taken by ballot, in case of a tie, or in cases where a voice vote is so close that a raising of hands is called for.
- He shall function in the absence of the president, whether the absence be temporary or permanent.
- When not occupying the chair, he shall assist the president in enforcing the rules of debate.
(Cf. Art. VII, Rules of Synod.)
- First clerk and second clerk
- The first clerk shall conduct roll call at the opening of each session.
- The first clerk shall keep an exact record of the proceedings of synod. This record shall contain:
- Opening and closing of sessions and roll call; all motions, whether carried or defeated; and all points of order and appeals to the floor that synod determines should be recorded.
- All reports by committees, duly marked as supplements, with the supplement numbers appended to the pertinent motions.
- All committee appointments, whether by the chair or by vote of the synod.
- All documents treated by the synod and any part of debate or address which the synod by a majority vote decides to insert in the minutes.
- The second clerk is not a vice-clerk, but the synod shall have at all times two clerks. The duty of the second clerk is to keep a parallel record of all the decisions of synod, so that in case of difference of opinion between the first clerk and the members of synod, synod may have greater certainty.
- At the close of each day’s sessions, the first clerk, with the cooperation of the second clerk, shall read the script minutes for synod’s approval and/or correction.
- Advisory Members of Synod
- The professors of the theological school shall be accorded a seat at synod, and shall have advisory vote in all matters.
- The missionary(ies) shall have advisory vote in matters concerning directly his (their) labors. Whether, however, any missionary shall leave his field of labor to attend synod is not within the scope of this rule.
- Reporters of delegations and committees, even though not delegated to synod, shall be advisory members of the committee of pre-advice treating the matters they report on, and also advisory members of the synod while their reports are being treated by the synod.
- The stated clerk shall be present to furnish information from the archives upon request, and the synodical treasurer shall make himself available for consultation by the committee of pre-advice on finances and by synod when financial matters are discussed.
- Synodical Functionaries
- Stated Clerk
- The synod shall elect a stated clerk, elected for a term of three years, from among the ministers, elders, or ex-elders and shall designate his salary.
(Cf. Acts of Synod, 1994, Art. 57.)
- His duties, besides those designated elsewhere in these rules, shall be:
- To prepare and publish the Agenda.
(Cf. Article VI, Rules of Synod.)
- To prepare and publish the Acts.
(Cf. Article XII, Rules of Synod.)
- To inform those individuals, consistories, classes, committees, and organizations addressed or affected by a synodical decision of that decision. This shall be done within one month after synod adjourns.
- To remind synod’s committees that their reports are due.
- To inform synod concerning any committee that has been negligent in reporting.
- To receive and acknowledge all correspondence addressed to synod without entering into its contents.
- To carry out all correspondence specifically charged to him by synod.
- To maintain the archives of synod.
- To be present at all synodical meetings in order to furnish synod, upon request, with any needed information from the archives.
- To report to the synod annually in writing.
- To furnish a list of committee vacancies to be filled.
- To transcribe the minutes of the synod in a separate book, which shall serve as the permanent record.
- To keep a record of the decisions of synod affecting the material in the Church Order Book, for the immediate information of all affected parties, and for periodic updating of the pages of the Church Order Book.
- To update the cumulative index of the Acts of Synod annually.
- To gather and compile the statistics for the annual Yearbook.
(Cf. Acts of Synod, 1968, Art. 186, Suppl. XXIV; Acts of Synod, 1977, Art. 79; Acts of Synod, 1995, Art. 60; Acts of Synod, 1996, Art. 69; Acts of Synod, 2002, Art. 51; Acts of Synod, 2006, Art. 56.)
- Assistant Stated Clerk: Synod shall elect an assistant stated clerk for a term of three years, who shall function in case it becomes impossible for the stated clerk to function.
- The synod shall elect a synodical treasurer for a term of three years, and shall designate his salary. This treasurer shall be a member of our churches. The treasurer shall be duly bonded.
- His duties shall be:
- To administer the finances of the denomination according to synodical mandate.
- To pay synodical and classical expenses as authorized.
- To submit by May 1 to the stated clerk an annual financial statement (reviewed by public accountants), which the stated clerk can distribute to the synodical delegates.
- To notify synod of any consistories who are delinquent in paying their assessments.
- To serve as advisory member of the committee of pre-advice on finances, and as advisory member of synod when financial matters are treated.
- To consult the synodical Finance Committee concerning any question or problem arising in the interim between synodical gatherings in regard to the execution of his mandate.
- Accounts Receivable
- Correspond annually with each church, requesting membership information and computing annual assessments.
- Maintain records monthly for church assessments payments.
- Accounts payable
- In conjunction with synodical committees, determine cash requirements and issue checks on a bimonthly basis.
- Issue Form 1099’s to individuals and the United States government after the end of the calendar year.
- General ledger
- To issue income statements monthly to each synodical committee.
- To submit quarterly financial statements (balance sheet and detailed income statement) for review by the Board of Trustees within thirty days from each quarter’s end.
- To provide complete financial statements (balance sheet and income statements, both detailed and combined) for the public accountants at the end of each fiscal year.
- To account for and maintain Special Fund balances.
- To prepare, with the assistant synodical treasurer and the stated clerk, a forecast for the current year for the annual meeting of synod.
- To prepare a proposed budget for synod based on the recommendations of synodical committees appearing in the synodical agenda.
- To maintain cash receipts records, making deposits on a weekly basis.
- To transfer funds as necessary, to maximize interest income.
- To reconcile all bank accounts each month.
- To correspond when necessary with the churches, ministers, and other related individuals and organizations, pertaining to financial matters.
- To meet with the synodical Finance Committee when required.
(Cf. Acts of Synod, 1988, Art. 47, Suppl. XIV; Acts of Synod, 1997, Art. 69; Acts of Synod, 2007, Art. 58.)
- Assistant Treasurer
- Synod shall elect an assistant synodical treasurer, who shall assist in the preparation of financial data for synod, and shall assume all the duties of treasurer in case it becomes impossible for the treasurer to function.
- The duties of the assistant synodical treasurer shall be:
- To provide a preliminary year-end review of the cash receipts/disbursements journals and the bank/broker statements, in order to identify any obvious misclassifications and/or to make any necessary adjustments in the financial data before they are turned over to our accountants.
- To assist in the year-end financial review and preparation of financial reports.
- To prepare, with the synodical treasurer and the stated clerk, a forecast for the current year for the annual meeting of synod.
(Cf. Acts of Synod, 2002, Art. 56.)
- VI. Matters Legally Before the Synod
- The Agenda
- The synodical agenda shall be published and mailed to all consistories not later than the fifth day of May.
- It shall include as much as possible all matters for synod, including material forwarded by the classes, reports of committees, appeals (in harmony with Article VI, A, 5), and correspondence.
(Cf. Acts of Synod, 1972, Art. 148.)
- All material for the Agenda must be sent to the stated clerk on or before April 15, and the stated clerk shall not include in the Agenda material that does not comply with this rule.
(Cf. Acts of Synod, 2007, Art. 62.)
- The stated clerk shall ordinarily publish all material intended for the Agenda. He shall, however, have the right to exercise his discretion on matters which are clearly not ecclesiastical (Article 30 of the Church Order), but shall nevertheless list them in the Agenda and send them to synod for final adjudication. He shall not assume synod's prerogative to decide whether material is legal or illegal.
(Cf. Acts of Synod, 1972, Art. 143.)
- Protests and appeals which deal with discipline cases, excluding those dealing with public deviation in doctrine, shall not be included in the Agenda, but shall be sent to the primi and secundi delegates to synod at the time the Agenda is mailed. Such protests and appeals shall be listed in the Agenda.
(Cf. Acts of Synod, 1972, Art. 144.)
- The fundamental rules of Articles 30, 31, and 46 of the Church Order shall be decisive in all judgments concerning the legality of matters before synod, and shall in no wise be considered abrogated by any rule hereinafter stated.
- No proposals of importance shall be presented to synod that have not appeared on the Agenda, so that consistories and classes may have opportunity for previous deliberation. All matters appearing in the Agenda must be dealt with by synod before its adjournment.
- The following matters shall be considered by synod:
- All overtures forwarded by the classes.
- All overtures rejected by the classes, but which are forwarded by their authors without classical approval.
- All appeals from classical decisions by individuals and consistories, provided the rule concerning the Agenda and the rule under Article 31 of the Church Order have been followed.
- All protests against decisions of synod.
- All reports by synodically appointed committees, including supplemental reports which could not be published in the Agenda.
- Correspondence received from individuals or bodies outside our denomination or from bodies within our denomination other than ecclesiastical assemblies.
- All material from our sister churches.
- Decision as to the legality of any matter treated by synod shall be taken by majority vote.
- VII. Rules for Parliamentary Procedure
- A main motion
A main motion is one that presents a certain subject to synod for its consideration or action.
- A main motion is acceptable under the following conditions:
- If the mover has been recognized by the chair and his motion has been seconded.
- The chair may request that any motion be presented in writing.
- A main motion is not acceptable under the following conditions:
- If another motion is before synod.
- If it conflicts with any decision already made by synod.
- If it is verbally or substantially the same as a motion already rejected by synod or if it interferes with the freedom of action of synod in a matter that was previously introduced but of which no disposal was made.
- A main motion, as soon as passed, becomes a decision of synod. (Note: Motions to receive for information are not necessary. The material of the Agenda, of synodically appointed committees, and of correspondence addressed to synod is received for information by virtue of the very fact that it is heard and it need only be filed in the record. This, however, does not preclude the necessity of deciding whether such material is legally before synod.)
- A motion to amend
A motion to amend is a proposal to change a main motion in language or in meaning before final action is taken on that motion.
- A motion to amend may propose the following: to strike out, to insert into, or to substitute for certain words, phrases, sentences, or paragraphs, but all such motions must be specific and presented before the vote on the main question is taken.
- A motion to amend must be pertinent to the main motion; that is, no new matter may be introduced to synod under the guise of an amendment. In case the president is unable to determine whether or not a proposed amendment is pertinent, he shall ask the judgment of synod, which shall decide by a majority vote.
- A motion to amend an amendment is permissible and is called a secondary motion.
- All motions may be amended except the following:
- to adjourn
- to amend an amendment
- to lay on the table, to take from the table
- to reconsider, to rescind
- to take up a question out of its regular order
- appeals to the floor from the decision of the chair
- calls for the order of the day, requests or questions of any kind
- points of order
(Note: So-called substitute motions are not recognized under these rules.)
- Motions to defer action
Circumstances may arise which render immediate action on certain matters unwise. Therefore, means must be at synod’s disposal to defer action. These are:
- A motion to postpone action to a definite time
- This motion is debatable and may be amended.
- If a motion to postpone definitely has been passed, no other motion similar in word or in thought to the postponed motion may appear before synod.
- The matter postponed may be taken up before the specified time by a majority vote of synod.
- If a motion to amend has been postponed definitely, the main motion to which the postponed amendment is related is likewise deferred.
- Any number of matters may be postponed to the same time. When that time arrives, the matters deferred are taken up in the order of their postponement.
- When the hour to which such matters have been deferred arrives, and synod is at that time busy with an undecided question, synod need not be disturbed or interrupted in its work by the consideration of postponed matters if these can wait until the question then before synod has been disposed of.
- A motion to postpone indefinitely. Motions to postpone action indefinitely shall not be entertained.
- A motion to lay on the table
- This motion should be made only when more urgent business presents itself than is before synod.
- This motion is undebatable, may not be amended, and requires only a majority for passing.
- A matter that has been tabled may be called from the table by any member of synod, subject to the consent of the majority. All tabled matters must be taken from the table before synod adjourns.
- A matter called from the table may not be re-tabled unless material progress has been made in debate on that matter.
- Objection to the consideration of a question. When a member rises to make such objection, the president shall ask him to state his objection. The president, having heard his objection, either sustains or overrules it and states his reason for so doing. If the objector is not satisfied with the ruling of the chair, he may appeal to synod. When he does so, the objection becomes debatable and requires a majority to be sustained.
- Privileged motions
Privileged motions are so designated because they have precedence over all other motions.
- A motion to adjourn. This motion cannot be made unless all matters legally before the synod have been acted upon.
- A motion to recess. A recess is any pause synod may choose to take during the course of its business. (As soon as it is properly constituted, synod shall decide as to the time, the duration, and the frequency of recesses.) However, circumstances may arise which render recesses desirable on other than the specified occasions. Then a motion to recess has its place. The following rules apply:
- A motion to recess takes precedence over all motions excepting a motion to adjourn.
- A motion to recess is debatable and amendable only insofar as the time and duration of the recesses are concerned.
- Calls for the order of the day
When any member of synod believes that the regular business of synod is being obstructed or interrupted by irrelevant or unimportant material, he has the right to rise and call for the order of the day. This means that he desires synod to return to the regular course of business. The following rules apply:
- A call for the order of the day may be made without recognition and while another member is speaking.
- Such a call is undebatable, needs no seconding, and must be put to a vote.
- It has precedence over every motion excepting a motion to adjourn or to recess.
- Points of order
It is the duty of the president to apply the rules of order and to prevent infractions. Should a member believe that the rules have been misinterpreted or misapplied, he may rise, stating that he wishes to make a point of order. Asked by the chair to state the point, he does so and the president renders his decision at once on the point in question. The following rules apply:
- A point of order may be raised at any time and must be recognized by the president.
- It needs no seconding and is undebatable.
- In case the maker of the point of order is not satisfied with the decision of the chair, he may appeal to the floor. When this is done, the point of order becomes debatable and a simple majority is sufficient to sustain or to overthrow the president’s decision.
- Call for a division of the question
At the demand of any member of synod a motion consisting of several parts must be divided into component parts and each part must be voted on separately.
- Motions to bring matters once decided again before synod
After synod has decided a certain matter, it may not be annoyed by the same matter being brought up again unless someone voting in favor of the question when it was decided has undergone a change of mind. For such to bring matters once decided again before synod, three motions are available:
- To reconsider
The intent of this motion is to propose a new debate and a new vote on the question once passed.
- A motion to reconsider must be made the same day on which the motion in question was passed (or the next day synod is in session).
- It is unacceptable if action has begun in accordance with the motion in question.
- The following decisions may not be reconsidered:
- to adjourn or to have recess
- to lay on the table any decision once reconsidered
- to make or to close nominations
- to reconsider
- to suspend rules
- to take from the table
- to take up a question out of its proper order
- A motion to reconsider may be definitely postponed or tabled but may not be amended, postponed indefinitely, or referred to committee.
- A motion to reconsider is debatable only insofar as the reasons for reconsideration are concerned and requires only a majority vote to be passed.
- To rescind
The purpose of a motion to rescind is to annul and to reverse a decision.
- A motion to rescind shall require only a majority vote to prevail.
- See also Article 46 of the Church Order.
- A motion to rescind is debatable, not only so far as the reasons for rescinding are concerned, but also as to the merits of the original question.
- To renew a motion once defeated
This may be made only if there are brought to the attention of synod new facts which were not at the disposal of synod when the motion was defeated. Such a motion may be brought by any member of the synod.
All requests not governed by these rules may be granted by the president, subject to the approval of synod.
- To obtain the floor for debate, a member addresses the president, waits to speak until the president mentions his name. If not thus recognized, he may address the president again.
- When a member is speaking, no other member may seek to draw the president’s attention for the purpose of being recognized.
- If a member obtains the floor, he shall address his remarks only to the president, and never to any member of synod.
- A speaker may be interrupted only by a call to order by the president, a call for the order of the day, and by a point of order.
- A speaker may not wander from the subject under debate, nor may he call in question any member’s motives or character.
- No member shall be permitted to speak more than three times on the same question without the leave of synod unless he is the mover, proposer, or introducer of the matter pending, in which case he shall be permitted to reply, but not until every member who chooses to speak and is recognized by the chair shall have spoken.
- No member shall speak longer than ten minutes unless synod, by a majority vote, permits him to extend his remarks.
- No speaker shall be permitted to speak a second time on the same question until all other members of synod desiring to speak and who have not spoken before have been given an opportunity to do so.
- The president, when he believes that a measure has been sufficiently debated, shall have the right to propose cessation of debate. Should a majority of synod sustain this proposal, debate shall end at once, and the main motion and the pending amendments shall be voted on.
- 10. Any member, when he deems a matter to have been sufficiently debated, may move to close the debate and call for the question. This motion is undebatable and requires a majority. It is not acceptable when a motion to table, to commit, to recommit, or to postpone definitely is before synod.
The various methods of voting are:
- By yeas and nays. This is the ordinary method of voting. The president judges by the volume of voices whether the affirmative or the negative opinion has prevailed. Those who are silent are held to acquiesce in the result of the vote.
- By rising or raising the right hand. Whenever the chair is unable to determine from the yeas and nays which opinion has prevailed, or if the president’s judgment is questioned by any member of synod, the president shall call for rising or raising of hands.
- By roll-call. Names and votes to be recorded in the minutes. This method is to be employed only when so decided by a majority vote.
- By ballot. Synod must vote by ballot whenever persons are concerned. In other cases, synod may vote by ballot if the majority so decides.
These rules may be suspended, amended, revised, or abrogated by a majority vote of synod.
(Adopted by Synods, 1957 and 1958; revisions, Synod 2002, Art. 51.)
- Standing Committees
The synod shall appoint the following standing committees for the administration of synodical business:
- These committees are:
- Board of Trustees — Constituency: Stated clerk, synodical treasurer, and 2 members of the standing Finance Committee shall automatically be trustees. 1 minister and 1 elder from the Michigan area, for a term of 1 year. The terms for the stated clerk, the synodical treasurer, and the members of the Finance Committee shall be concurrent with their terms of office or their terms as committee members.
- Catechism Book Committee — Constituency: 3 ministers and 2 elders from the Chicago-area churches. Term: 3 years.
- Catechism Book Distribution Committee — Constituency: 3 lay members. Term: Permanent tenure, terminated only by resignation or synodical decision.
- Contact Committee — Constituency: 3 ministers, 2 professors, and 3 elders elected for 3-year terms.
- Domestic Mission Committee — Constituency: 5 ministers and 5 elders from Classis East. Term: 3 years.
- Emeritus Committee — Constituency: 3 members, elders only. Term: 3 years, overlapping tenure of office.
- Finance Committee
- Constituency: 2 members (ministers) from the vicinity of treasurer’s residence.
- Term: 1 year.
- The Finance Committee shall advise the synodical treasurer.
- The Finance Committee is empowered to act in adjustment of assessments or of subsidy in cases of proven need or emergency nature upon the request of the consistory involved, and provided the request had been approved by the appropriate classis or classical committee. The following limitations shall apply to all such emergency action:
- a) The Finance Committee shall not act to adjust assessments or subsidy on the ground of a reduction in number of families unless such reduction exceeds ten percent.
- b) No action by the Finance Committee shall be retroactive beyond one quarter (3 months).
- c) The Finance Committee shall not act in cases which clearly can be delayed until the meeting of synod. It shall be the duty of the consistory involved to show that a delay would work a severe hardship.
- d) All such actions of the Finance Committee shall be clearly understood to be subject to the approval of the next synod, so that if such approval is not granted, the financial responsibility rests upon the consistory involved.
- Foreign Mission Committee — Constituency: 3 ministers and 6 elders from Classis West. Term: 3 years, overlapping tenure.
- Student Aid Committee — Constituency: 5 members. Term: 3 years, overlapping tenure of office.
- 10. Theological School Committee — Constituency: 5 ministers and 5 elders. Term: 3 years.
- The brethren who are chosen to be members of these standing committees need not be elders at the time of their election.
(Cf. Acts of Synod, 1959, Art. 121, Suppl. XXX; Acts of Synod, 1962, Art. 72, Suppl. X; Acts of Synod, 1965, Arts. 259, 263, Suppl. XX; Acts of Synod, 1966, Arts. 45-47, Suppl. VII; Arts. 93-98, Suppl. X; Arts. 114, 122, Suppl. XIII; Arts. 147-149, Suppl. XVII; Acts of Synod, 1980, Art. 57, Suppl. VIII; Acts of Synod, 1982, Art. 33; Acts of Synod, 1987, Art. 25; Art. 44; Acts of Synod, 1988, Art. 11; Acts of Synod, 1995, Art. 30, Suppl. XII; Acts of Synod, 2002, Art. 40; Acts of Synod, 2004, Art. 53.)
- The reports of all committees, special and standing, shall be included in the Agenda, so that all churches may be duly informed.
- Standing committees may make supplemental reports of matters arising after the deadline for the Agenda. Such reports, however, shall be copied and distributed to all members of synod at the opening session, and the committee concerned shall be responsible for this.
- Fiscal Year
The fiscal year shall coincide with the calendar year, i.e., it shall run from January 1 through December 31.
The books of the synodical treasurer shall be reviewed annually by public accountants.
- Acts of Synod
- The Acts of Synod shall be published annually not later than October 1. Free copies shall be provided, through the consistories, to each family head in the Protestant Reformed Churches.
- The compilation of the Acts is the duty of the first clerk and second clerk of synod, in consultation with the other officers if their advice is needed.
- It is the duty of the stated clerk to prepare the Acts for publication, to arrange for printing, and to distribute them.
- Content of the published Acts of Synod:
- All of the proceedings and decisions of synod shall be recorded in the Minutes. An exception to this rule shall be the proceedings and decisions of closed sessions, when synod so decides. The reports of advisory committees (Information and Recommendations) shall be incorporated in the body of the Acts in their proper place.
- All material of the Agenda, including reports of standing and special committees; protests and appeals; correspondence; and reports of the stated clerk and synodical treasurer shall be included in a section of Supplements. Exceptions to this rule shall be all material declared not legally before synod, and all appeals and protests pertaining to private censure cases.
- The published Acts shall include also:
- The sermon delivered at the pre-synodical prayer service.
- The denominational Yearbook, including:
- The correspondence addresses of synodical functionaries and of the committees of synod and of classes.
- A record of committee members and their terms.
- An Extended Recess
- An extended recess shall be only for very weighty reasons.
- No synod shall recess to a time later than the end of the calendar year.
- In case of an extended recess, it shall be understood that the calling consistory remains responsible for providing all facilities needed for synodical meetings, arrangements for lodging of delegates, etc.
Explanation of the rules for Protests, Appeals, and Overtures
The Protestant Reformed Churches in America cherish the important Reformation principle that all believers share the anointing of Christ, according to which they are prophets, priests, and kings under Him (Heidelberg Catechism, L.D. 12). By virtue of their office — the office of believers — they have a right to speak in ecclesiastical matters. This includes the right of protest, the right of appeal, and the right to submit overtures. These are rights that members of the church have, not only with respect to ecclesiastical decisions that involve themselves personally, but also with respect to any issue touching the spiritual welfare of God’s people.
The Church Order of Dordt, particularly Article 31 and the “decision” appended to it, addresses this right and the proper procedure to be followed in exercising it. So also do our own “Rules of Synod” and the Rules of Order adopted by each of the classes. A concise explanation of the ecclesiastical rules involved is the burden of what follows.
- Definition of Terms
Protest, appeal, and overture, though not sharply distinguished in the Church Order, can be defined as follows:
- A protest is an objection brought directly to an assembly (consistory, classis, or synod) against a decision of that assembly.
- An appeal is an objection brought to a “major assembly” against a decision of a “minor assembly.” The order here is consistory to classis to synod — that is, one may appeal a decision of consistory to classis, and a decision of classis to synod.
- An overture is a request made to an assembly (consistory, classis, or synod) to initiate an action that is of importance to the church (if to consistory) or churches (if to classis or synod).
Overtures are intended to be the vehicle for initiating something new, i.e., something that has not before been part of the life of the church; or for requesting modification or elimination of an already existing practice, or alteration or nullification of a previous decision of an assembly.
- The C.O. speaks of “protest” only by implication. Article 30 requires that every effort be made to “finish” (i.e., settle) matters in the minor assemblies before they are brought to the major assemblies. One who objects to an action of his consistory, therefore, may not begin by bringing that objection to classis. He must protest to his consistory. Only after it becomes clear that the matter cannot be settled in that minor assembly may he appeal to a major assembly. Likewise, one who is aggrieved by a decision of a classis must take up that matter directly with classis [cf. Rules of Order of Classes, V, 2, c, 3)], and if his objection is against a synodical decision he must protest directly to synod (cf. Rules of Synod, VI, B, 3, d).
- One who wishes to protest an action of a “major gathering” (classis or synod) must do so at the “immediately following meeting of the body to which appeal is directed” (cf. decision under Art. 31). This decision has been understood to apply, and has been made to apply, both to appeals and to protests (cf. Acts 1971, Art. 148 and Acts 1992, Art. 43). The point, here, is that one who wishes to protest an action of synod, or an action of classis, ordinarily has one opportunity to do so, viz., at the immediately following meeting of the assembly to which his protest is directed.
- It is understood, of course, that protests (appeals and overtures, too) may be made only by members of the church. One who has been excommunicated from or has left the churches loses his right of protest in them (cf. Acts 1971, Art. 148). In addition, one has the right to protest and appeal only his own discipline case.
- The right of appeal is addressed in Article 31 of our Church Order. One who has protested a decision of his consistory, and has failed to convince that minor assembly, may appeal to the appropriate classis. In turn, if one is convinced that the decision rendered by the classis conflicts with the Word of God or with the Articles of the Church Order, he may appeal it to synod.
- If one decides to appeal a decision of classis to synod, he must do so to the immediately following meeting of that assembly (cf. decision pertaining to Art. 31).
“The immediately following meeting” should be understood to mean “the first possible synod” (cf. Acts 1971, Art. 148). Accordingly, an appeal against a decision of a May classis would not be expected to reach synod that same year, since the deadline for submission of material for the agenda of synod is April 15.
- The deadline for material in the synodical agenda is April 15 (Rules of Synod, VI, A, 3). This deadline has been strictly enforced with regard to appeals (cf. Acts 1983, Art. 11). Careful attention must also be given to the deadline for classical agendas, viz., 30 days prior to their convening (cf. Rules of Order for Classes, V, 1, b).
- An appellant must give “notification to the secretary of the body by whose decision he is aggrieved” (cf. decision pertaining to Art. 31). This includes more than a statement of intention. The concerned body must “receive an exact copy of the document going to the major gathering” (cf. Monsma and VanDellen, p. 203). Care should be taken by the appellant to provide this “exact copy” in a timely manner — i.e., far enough in advance of the April 15 deadline (if the appeal is to synod) to allow the classical clerk time to make reference to the appeal in his own report to synod, should he deem such reference necessary.
- Article 31 declares that whatever is decided by a major assembly by majority vote, relative to an appeal, must be considered settled and binding — “unless it be proved to conflict with the Word of God or with the articles of the Church Order.” The implication here is that one may indeed attempt to demonstrate to an ecclesiastical assembly that its decision conflicts with the Word of God or the Church Order, but during the process of protest and appeal he must submit to the decision by which he is aggrieved.
- The stipulation of Article 46, requiring the reading of previous pertinent synodical decisions, though perhaps intended especially for the making of overtures, applies also to matters of appeal (cf. Acts 1985, Art. 33).
- The Rules of Order of the classes (V, 2, c) require that overtures directed to a classis come through a consistory. And the Rules of Synod (VI, B, 3, a and b) require that overtures reach synod only after being first examined by a classis. The author of an overture need not gain the approval of the minor assemblies, but synod will not treat an overture that has not first been evaluated at the consistorial and classical levels (Arts. 38 and 44 of Acts 2003).
An overture that is approved by a consistory must be forwarded to classis by the consistory. And if classis approves the overture, the overture must be forwarded to synod by classis (cf. Rules of Synod, VI, B, 3, a). When an overture is rejected by the consistory or by the classis, and the one making the overture remains convinced that he must press this issue, it becomes his responsibility to forward it [with the decision(s) of the body(ies) that rejected it] to the next broader assembly (cf. Rules of Order of both classes and Rules of Synod VI, B, 3, b).
- Before a broader assembly decides a matter, consideration must be given to previous decisions that have a bearing on the matter at hand. The chief responsibility for observing this requirement (when it is applied to appeals and overtures) rests, not with the broader assembly, but with the appellant and with the author of the overture (cf., Art. 46 of the Church Order, and Acts of Synod 1985, Art. 33).
In summary, for a protest/appeal/overture to be declared “legally before classis or synod,” the following requirements apply:
- The deadline for material in the Agenda must be met:
- Synod: April 15 (Rules of Synod, VI, A, 3).
- Classes: 30 days before the convening of the assembly.
- The issue being addressed must be clearly an “ecclesiastical matter” (Church Order, Art. 30).
- There must be evidence that a matter being appealed to classis or synod “could not be finished” in minor assemblies (Church Order, Art. 30).
- Protest/appeal must be made to the next possible gathering of the ecclesiastical body addressed (Church Order, Art. 31).
- Timely notification must be given to the secretary of the body whose decision is being appealed (Church Order, Art. 31).
- Proper channels, when applicable, must be followed: consistory to classis to synod (Rules of Synod VI, B, 3, a, b).
- Previous classical and synodical decisions must be researched and referenced (Church Order, Art. 46).
- Recommended Form
- A protest should include:
- Verbatim decision (including grounds and references) to which one objects.
- A statement declaring precisely why the protestant believes the decision to be in error.
- Confessional and biblical grounds for the objection.
- An appeal should include:
- Copy of the protest, with supporting documentation.
- Copy of the assembly’s decision with regard to it.
- A brief explanation of the reason for appealing, and/or a brief summary of the case for synod’s benefit. The emphasis, here, is on brevity. Nothing new may be introduced. The already existing protest is the appellant’s case.”
- A request that the broader assembly judge between the two.
- An overture should include:
- A statement of the action requested, with grounds.
- Consideration of any and all previous decisions pertinent to the case.
Brevity is ordinarily in the best interests of the party protesting, appealing, or overturing.
Above all else, it should be clear on the very surface that the process must be characterized by humility and mutual respect and motivated by love of the church and honor of its King.
(Cf. Acts of Synod, 2003, Art. 74; Acts of Synod, 2004, Arts. 27, 29, Suppl. 17; Acts of Synod, 2010, Art. 78.)