The purpose of this site is to provide the text of the church orders of the Free Reformed Churches of Australia and of the Canadian Reformed Churches, as well as the original (Dutch) text of the Church Order of Dort, on which these two church orders are based. Also a translation in English of this Church Order of Dort will be provided in due time. At the moment there is a link provided to an external site with a translation of the Church Order of Dort.
In addition, there are commentaries on articles of the church order, and over time more commentary will be added. Also links are provided under every article to existing commentaries in the English language.
We collect and publish articles about relevant topics related to church order articles. Important decisions of synods of these church federations or other important documents from church history will be added in due time.
This site is still a work in progress and will grow over time. We will add more articles and links to articles and commentaries on other websites.
The Free Reformed Churches of Australia
The Free Reformed Churches of Australia form a federation of 16 churches and one church plant. 14 in Western Australia, two in Tasmania and a church plant in Queensland.
The churches have together about 5,000 members. The church federation was established in the fifties after three churches were instituted (in Albany, Armadale, and Launceston) by Dutch immigrants.
The Canadian Reformed Churches
About the Canadian Reformed Churches we can read on the official website of the federation:
“We’re a federation of sixty-five churches, most of which are in Canada and a few in the United States. Our churches are rooted in the Great Reformation of the sixteenth century. Our aim is to exalt the Triune God by faithfully proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ. “
Church Order of Dort
The basis for the Church Order of the Free Reformed Churches of Australia as well as the Church Order of the Canadian Reformed Churches is the Church Order of Dort, adopted by the Synod of Dordrecht, the Netherlands, in 1619. This Church Order was translated, modernised and adapted to the situation in Australia. The Church Order contains many articles which are based on the Bible, other articles contain practical arrangements which are adapted to the specific situation in Australia.
The principles behind the Church Order emphasise that Christ is the Head of the Church and He calls office bearers in the local congregation, to lead and govern the local church. Hierarchy is rejected as being against the Bible. The Church Order states in article 80 that ‘No church shall in any way lord it over other churches, no office-bearer over other office-bearers.‘
This principle is also summarised in one of the confessions of the churches, the Belgic Confession, article 32:
We believe that, although it is useful and good for those who govern the church to establish a certain order to maintain the body of the church, they must at all times watch that they do not deviate from what Christ, our only Master, has commanded. Therefore we reject all human inventions and laws introduced into the worship of God which bind and compel the consciences in any way. We accept only what is proper to preserve and promote harmony and unity and to keep all in obedience to God. To that end, discipline and excommunication ought to be exercised in agreement with the Word of God.
This means that no church or broader assembly or organisation can tell a local church how to conduct their affairs. The office bearers in the local church have the task to make those decisions with the cooperation of the congregation. Also office bearers themselves only submit to God’s Word and cannot tell other office bearers or even other members of the congregation to do anything about which the Bible does not say anything.
However, where the Bible does speak, there the office bearers will be accountable to each other and to the congregation. If anyone in the congregation, whether office bearer or not, does not follow the instruction of God’s Word, then discipline must be exercised.
Local churches have agreed to work together with other local churches. This is a voluntary agreement, but at the same time this is done in obedience to God’s Word, where the churches are called to hold each other to account and care for each other. For that purpose, a Church Order is made, wich regulates how local churches shall work together and how they shall be accountable to each other. They have agreed to hold each other to certain standards, which are described in the Church Order. This is to protect the members of the congregation from abuse of power by office bearers. If members believe they have been wronged by the consistory, they can appeal to the church federation, first to a group of local churches which form a classis, and if that does not help, to the entire federation which comes together in a synod.