I'm all for examinations. I think that elder candidates in the local church should be examined on whether they fit the criteria established for them in 1 Timothy and Titus. I think candidates for the pastorate should be intensely examined on their theology, piety, skills for ministry, and biblical knowledge in addition to the qualifications for elder in 1 Timothy and Titus. And, if the office must exist, I think that candidates for General Synod Professor of Theology should be the most vigorously examined. These men and women are responsible for training the pastors for our denomination, they speak with palpable gravitas at General Synod, they serve on commissions and frequently as delegates to the synod.
I hate coronations. It makes me feel physically queasy when I realize that
someone's installation to a significant office of authority within Christ's church is a
done deal before it should be. When we as the church abdicate our
responsibility to examine potential office bearers we do ourselves and the
glory of Christ no favors.
Unfortunately, we had a coronation at this past General Synod. Rev. Dr.
Allan Janssen was nominated by the board of trustees of New Brunswick
Theological Seminary and was elected by a (voice) vote of the General Synod.
There was, however, no examination whatsoever. In fact it was apparent from the
beginning that his election was a done deal. It was so obvious that in the
workbook given to each delegate at the beginning of
the week the following phrase was placed in the schedule "3:45:
Colleges, Seminaries and MFCA, installation of GS professor Janssen." His
installation was planned and scheduled before the synod had even had a chance to elect him
The issue in all of this is that according to the BCO the synod could have
rejected Dr. Janssen even though the workbook had his installation scheduled
and the President of the synod spoke openly of his installation before he was
elected. Should they have turned him away? I don't know, and that's the problem. Maybe Dr.
Janssen is a great Christian man with a brilliant mind and will serve the
church well, or perhaps not. How was the average delegate to know? The BCO
says, "A General Synod professor shall be elected by the General Synod by
a majority vote of the members present." Technically we fulfilled the
letter of the law, but it's clear to me that the spirit of the law was
violated. Apparently Dr. Janssen thinks so as well. Writing in his own
commentary on RCA church order he writes concerning the election of GS
professors, "Finally, the church assures itself of broad support by
requiring the election by a majority vote of the synod. The nomination of a
candidate should not presume on election." (Constitutional Theology,
Ironically, if ever there was a presumed election it was this one. My hope
is that Dr. Janssen was screaming on the inside, that he insisted on a more
genuine process but was turned down. I hope he was as uncomfortable with the process as I was. My disappointment is that it seems that in the modern church
we've lost our stomach for serious examination and we have settled for pomp and