URC polity and non-ordained "teachers"

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DaveJes1979

Puritan Board Freshman
Hi, all.

For the URC folks out there - I seem to remember from my CRC days that there was an office that non-ordained men could hold that would allow them to serve various academic teaching functions such as teaching at Calvin Seminary, as a sort of official theologian or doctor of the church. They, of course, did not administer the Sacraments, although I seem to recall that they would sometimes speak from the pulpit (somewhat analogous to licensed exhorters). They did, however, have to undergo the same doctrinal examination as a pastor and likewise held accountable. Does anyone know what I'm talking about? And does the URC have a similar "office" (loosely defined)?

I ask because I've kicked around the idea of getting an M.A. in theology, and perhaps someday a terminal degree. But I just don't know to what service I could put it given the URC church order. URCs, from what I know, won't even let the lay elders so much as teach a Bible study (unlike, say, PCAs, where ruling elders sometimes speak from the pulpit).:um: I'm not sure I want to press forward and invest the time, money, and effort in getting more education if the only edifying outlet for it is going to be our church's parking lot ministry :scholar:
 

R. Scott Clark

Puritan Board Senior
Hi David,

I don't know that all URC's forbid elders to teach adult Bible studies as a matter of principle. It's a matter of the official ministry of the Word in the service that is at stake.

The URC CO recognizes three offices, deacon, elder, minister. As an unordained man you could do what any unordained man could do. As an elder you could certainly teach the church. Ordinarily the CO requires an MDiv for the pastoral ministry.

We don't have the office of "doctor." There's no reason why you couldn't earn an MA and a PhD and serve the church in a part-time capacity as an a ruling elder, however, as you teach in a college somewhere.

Certainly we always need more trained laity and elders. Many times I've heard pastors say that they wish their elders were better taught in theology. Our elders ought to be teaching catechism and adult studies and an MA would be quite useful in that regard. As Bible literacy rates/levels continue to decline among the laity the need for trained elders becomes greater in order to reverse that trend in our churches. We usually have at least one or two students at any given time who hope/plan to serve as elders/ruling elders.

It seems to me that elders are ordained, but there is confusion and that is due to an ambiguity in the CO. Art 6 has elders participating in the ordination of ministers. If they are themselves unordained, then this would be highly irregular. Art 12 says that elders hold an office. One must be ordained to that office. Art. 13 says they
shall be ordained or installed
to office. So, I can see why some speak of installation, but that act cannot be hermetically sealed from ordination.

The CO says about the office of elder:

The duties belonging to the office of elder consist of continuing in prayer and ruling the church of Christ according to the principles taught in Scripture, in order that purity of doctrine and holiness of life may be practiced. They shall see to it that their fellow-elders, the minister(s) and the deacons faithfully discharge their offices. They are to maintain the purity of the Word and Sacraments, assist in catechizing the youth, promote God-centered schooling, visit the members of the congregation according to their needs, engage in family visiting, exercise discipline in the congregation, actively promote the work of evangelism and missions, and insure that everything is done decently and in good order.

This list isn't exhaustive. An elder with an MA (or without) or a PhD could certainly fulfill these functions and other functions.

rsc


Hi, all.

For the URC folks out there - I seem to remember from my CRC days that there was an office that non-ordained men could hold that would allow them to serve various academic teaching functions such as teaching at Calvin Seminary, as a sort of official theologian or doctor of the church. They, of course, did not administer the Sacraments, although I seem to recall that they would sometimes speak from the pulpit (somewhat analogous to licensed exhorters). They did, however, have to undergo the same doctrinal examination as a pastor and likewise held accountable. Does anyone know what I'm talking about? And does the URC have a similar "office" (loosely defined)?

I ask because I've kicked around the idea of getting an M.A. in theology, and perhaps someday a terminal degree. But I just don't know to what service I could put it given the URC church order. URCs, from what I know, won't even let the lay elders so much as teach a Bible study (unlike, say, PCAs, where ruling elders sometimes speak from the pulpit).:um: I'm not sure I want to press forward and invest the time, money, and effort in getting more education if the only edifying outlet for it is going to be our church's parking lot ministry :scholar:
 

dannyhyde

Puritan Board Sophomore
David,

It seems this is a question you need to take up with your consistory, and not in a public forum. Also, you ought to read the Church Order for yourself, as a member of a URCNA congregation. You can find it online at urcna.org. This is a standard part of the membership class/catechumenate over here.

As to your comment/question about non-ordained men teaching, as Dr. Clark says, it's a matter of the ministry of the Word. If the ministry is one of the Word, and a man has been called and ordained to that office by Christ and his Church, why would be abdicate to another, however well-intentioned, who has not been trained for that office?

That being said, if you desire to serve the church as an elder (layman), but also have a desire to learn more and evedn assist in catechizing, as the CO says, you ought to approach your consistory and express your desire to serve and to be trained in theology at a seminary.
 
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