What is a faithful consistory?

A common misconception is that a congregation is built like a pyramid, with the minister at the top, the consistory next, and the congregation as a broad but somehow less-than-equal base. This is certainly not how the church order of the Reformed Church was conceived some five centuries ago. In light of Reformed church order, the structure of an RCA congregation is better represented as a circle with the consistory, including the pastor, inside. The whole circle stands together under the wisdom and guidance of the Word of God. The same Word measures each and all of us.

Reformed thought teaches that the whole ministry of Christ is found only when the whole congregation, including the elders, deacons, and ministers, is called to serve. The three offices-- elder, deacon, and minister--complement each other and together are described as making up the pastorate of a local congregation. It has been customary to call the minister "pastor," and that is appropriate. But the pastorate, the ministry of leadership, is only complete when all three offices work together, when they are mutually supportive and mutually accountable.

The Reformed Church in America dates back to 1628. That is when the first Reformed pastor, Dominie Michaelius, arrived in what is now New York City. His arrival did not in and of itself establish the church; rather, it meant that the elders and deacons who awaited him could form the first consistory and that the first communion service could be celebrated. The arrival of the minister completed the consistory, which was then able to lead the fledgling congregation.