Our Reformed Church
In each individual congregation, the three offices of minister of Word and sacrament, elder, and deacon are brought together in consistory. As the liturgy claims, by gathering the three offices, "the consistory continues the full ministry of Christ in our day." This gathering of officers is the governing body of the local congregation and is chosen periodically from the membership of the congregation. It has charge of all the spiritual and temporal affairs of the church. The minister is always the president of the consistory. Normally it meets as one body to plan and guide the various matters relating to the welfare of the congregation, since it is often very difficult to separate many matters which arise into temporal or spiritual categories.
Consistory is, however, divided into two orders. One order is that of the elders, sometimes called on the continent of Europe the "presbytery." Elders are not ministers, but, to quote from a very old Reformed document, they are the "hands and eyes" of the minister in each congregation. Their duty is to assist the ministers in the guidance of the spiritual life of the congregation. Thus for such matters as the admission of new members or the administering of spiritual discipline, the elders meet as a separate body with the minister. At all other times, they meet with the whole body of consistory.
The other order in Consistory is that of the deacons. The special charge of the deacons was originally the care of the benevolences of the church, both in the parish and beyond its bounds. Today they fulfill their responsibilities through serving the poor, sharing mercy, and working for justice.