Suspension of the minister “in own responsibility” by the consistory

By: C.A. Teunis


Church history and the General Synod 1964-1965
In the sixties of the last century, Rev. A. van der Ziel, minister at Groningen-Zuid, wanted to unite the Reformed Church (lib.) with the synodical Reformed Church. This was an unfaithful church which later merged into the PKN, the Protestant Church.
He propagated that in words and deeds, against the will of his consistory. That was unfaithfulness of this minister. Despite admonition he continued this practise. The consistory therefore wanted to suspend him. They therefore called in the help, in accordance with Art. 79 of the Church Order (Art. 71 CO, Book of Praise 1984), of the consistory of the neighbouring church of Groningen-Noord. This consistory refused to cooperate with the suspension of Rev. van der Ziel. In order to protect the flock, the consistory proceeded with the suspension of its minister “in own responsibility”. A church struggle arose from this.
Ultimately this matter was tabled at the General Synod for consideration. This was the synod of 1964-1965.
The suspension in “own responsibility” by the consistory was to preserve the congregation, but was in contradiction to the letter of Art. 71 CO.

The question was: Was this suspension for the preservation of the congregation unlawful?


Acts, General Synod 1964-1965
The Acts gives an account of the consideration of this matter.
Some important points from the Acts:

  • The General Synod was of the opinion that the consistory of Groningen-Zuid, because of the situation that had arisen, was entitled, by way of derogation of Art. 71, to exercise its “own responsibility” towards the great Shepherd of the sheep, by implementing the act of suspension, with at the same time appealing to the first regional synod.
  • The General Synod considered that it was legally valid that “the consistory of Groningen-Zuid had sufficient Scriptural grounds to proceed to suspend Rev. van der Ziel during its appeal at the regional synod”.
  • The General Synod was of the opinion that the consistory, in the procedure, was not always completely correct, in the ecclesiastical situation as it was at the time.


The ruling of the General Synod

The General Synod ruled that the suspension of Rev. A. van der Ziel was not unlawful.

Conclusion: The protection of the flock, in faithfulness to God’s Word, is the purpose of the Church Order. That purpose should always come first.