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Article 17 Guidance

Article 17 is the Church Order’s prescribed mechanism for ending a pastor’s call to a specific church without ending the pastor’s call to ordained ministry. And while there are many reasons why a church or pastor might request an Article 17 (leaving to study for a PhD, moving to accommodate a spouse’s professional calling, stepping back to care for an aging parent), the fact is that most Article 17 separations arise due to tension or conflict in the relationship between the pastor and the church.

The Article 17 process, as laid out in the Church Order, is designed to facilitate the end of a pastor’s call to a church, but to do so only after the pastor, church and classis have made a sincere effort to understand and address the dynamics that contributed to this present challenge. Because these dynamics can sometimes be relationally delicate, it is critical to engage the Article 17 process well, with clear direction and with compassion for all involved.

Each step on these pages includes information to walk a pastor, a council, and a classis through the process of discerning, averting, or facilitating a pastor’s release from call.

Read An Introduction to Article 17 »

Read the Full Text of Church Order Article 17 »

Read the 1998 Synodical Guidelines »

Council

  1. Seek assistance from the classical church visitors and regional pastor when signs of conflict begin.

  2. Be willing to work with a designated person(s) (e.g., Pastor Church Resources staff, classical regional pastor, mediation specialists) toward reconciliation. This would involve both the time and cost of such intervention. 

  3. Along with the pastor, determine the reasons for the conflict and/or separation. 

    • This step requires accountability from both council and pastor. 
    • It is also important to determine whether suspension is a more appropriate response to the problems which have arisen than separation/severance is. 

Pastor

  1. Promptly inform the regional pastor and church visitors when signs of conflict arise, and maintain regular communication. 

  2. Conduct him- or herself so as not to disrupt further the peace and unity of the congregation. 

  3. Identify a personal advocate who can assist him/her in the process. 

  4. Be amenable to career counseling and/or personal counseling.

Classis

  1. Church visitors should be available to assist or may take initiative if necessary when there is an indication of conflict or other relationship difficulty. They may be involved in reconciliation or mediation, or they may recommend that there be others who can assist the pastor and congregation in this process, e.g., a committee from the classis or outside resources such as representatives of Pastor Church Resources or mediation specialists. 

  2. Concurrent with the work of the church visitors, the regional pastor should be called to provide emotional support and guidance for the pastor. The regional pastor, often one of the first persons aware of tensions, can serve as a gatekeeper and adviser for the pastor in the process of mediation. 

  3. Church visitors should continue to provide support and guidance for the council and congregation. They may assist the council in communication with the congregation.

PCR Advice

  1. Slow down. Conflict is an unpleasant experience that we like to get behind us quickly. However, slowing down and having challenging conversations can transform conflict into a process of reconciliation and sanctification. PCR has resources to help churches and pastors reconcile. It’s best to engage these resources early.
  2. Maintain fair process. It’s tempting to improvise when tension, anxiety, and discomfort increase. However, we’ve found that “sticking to the script” is the most reliable way to keep this process equitable for all involved.
  3. Include Church Visitors early. Inviting a covenant partner into the conflict early will help you identify, as much as possible, the reasons behind the conflict and possible ways forward. To find your Church Visitors, go to www.crcna.org/classis and select your classis.
  4. Now is a good time for the pastor to identify a personal advocate. The advocate’s role is to provide relational, spiritual, and emotional support for the pastor through the entire separation process. For that reason, the pastor should choose someone whom he/she trusts. At the same time, wisdom ought to guide the pastor to choose an advocate who is relatively neutral with respect to the conflict between pastor and church. (The personal advocate is not the same person/role as the liaison who serves classis, council, and pastor to advocate for good process)

Council

  1.  Inform the congregation of decisions which are being made about the relationship to the pastor. This should be done in a timely manner, and members should be apprised of the process (cf. Church Order Art. 37). 

  2. If a decision is made to release the pastor from active ministerial service in his or her congregation, the council should attempt to enter into a termination agreement with the pastor. This agreement should address at least the following issues: 

    1. Clear specification of the effective date on which the relationship between church and pastor is to be dissolved and the pastor's employment is to be terminated. This date should be defined as the date on which the pastor is relieved of the duties and benefits of his or her position, except as expressly provided under the termination agreement. 

    2. Specifics regarding the length of time for salary and benefits continuation and the nature of any transition assistance. Some salary and benefits continuation may be necessary to make the termination agreement legally enforceable. 

    3. A clear specification of the date on which the pastor will conduct his or her last service and the date on which the pastor and family shall vacate the parsonage, if applicable.

    4. Provision for liquidated damages in the full amount of the salary continuation and the cost of benefits in the event that the minister breaches the provisions of the agreement, including the provision for member non-solicitation, confidentiality, and non-disparagement or in the event of any of the following: 

      1. The minister acts in violation of his or her ordination vows. 

      2. The minister renounces any continuing ecclesiastical governance of the CRCNA over the minister. 

      3. The minister is convicted of any significant criminal conduct. 

      4. Provision that any dispute under the agreement, or otherwise in connection with the minister's release and termination of employment, must be reconciled by the classis, or synod on appeal, as ecclesiastical issues. Provision that recognizes that civil court shall have no jurisdiction over any dispute, except to the limited extent necessary to enforce the judgment of the classis or synod by entry of a monetary judgment and/or injunctive relief. Civil courts shall have no jurisdiction over the merits of the judgment of the classis or synod, which would create a governmental entanglement in violation of constitutional protections for freedom of religion. 

PCR Advice - Council

  1. Our Church Order accounts for separation under several unique conditions. Determine, with assistance from Church Visitors and Pastor Church Resources, which article of the Church Order appropriately describes your situation.

    1. Article 14 - Released to another denomination or non-ministerial vocation (in this case a pastor is no longer ordained in the CRC)

    2. Article 17 - Released for weighty reasons (in this case a pastor retains ordination, but has no call)

    3. Articles 82-84 - Suspended or deposed from office on the grounds of special discipline.

  2. Inform the Stated Clerk of your classis which separation Article you will be pursuing and request that it be included in the agenda of the next scheduled meeting of classis, or a special meeting of classis, as determined by classis leadership and your council.

  3. Define the relationship of the pastor to the church during this process. Will he/she continue normal ministerial duties? Will he/she be expected/permitted at the church building?

  4. Now is the time to prepare recommendations for classis. These should include: the weighty reasons for the separation, the termination agreement with detailed financial support, and any suggestions for church or pastor oversight following the separation.

    1. This process ordinarily involves council and pastor.

    2. Including the pastor’s personal advocate is advisable.

Pastor

  1. In consideration for continuing compensation and benefits, the pastor should agree to release the CRC, the applicable classis, the church, and each of their respective trustees, delegates, directors, employees, and agents from any and all claims, damages, liabilities, losses, and expenses which the pastor (or anyone claiming on behalf of the pastor) may attempt to claim in connection with the pastor's release and termination of employment, whether those claims are known or unknown, liquidated or un-liquidated, contingent or not contingent. 

  2. The pastor should agree that he or she will not, directly or indirectly, engage in any activities designed to recruit members who have held membership in the church from which the pastor has been released. 

  3. The pastor should commit to maintaining the confidentiality of the agreement and any proceedings of the council, classis, or synod in connection with the release. Moreover, the pastor should commit to a non-disparagement provision which requires the pastor not to make disparaging comments regarding the CRC, the classis, the congregation, or the council. 

  4. Help formulate and sign a termination agreement with the council if there is a separation.

Classis

  1.  Assist the council in determining whether a separation is appropriate. If it is appropriate, give guidance as to whether there should be a release or a suspension. 

  2. If necessary, call a special meeting of classis to process the separation. 

  3. Assign an individual(s) (not the regional pastor) to provide liaison between the pastor, the congregation, and the classis in the process of the separation. Such a person(s) should be acceptable to all parties involved. 

  4. Approve a termination agreement between pastor and council and record in the records of classis specific reasons for the termination. 

Note: Copies of this agreement should be given to the pastor, the council, the classis, and the Pastor Church Resources office.

PCR Advice - Classis

  1. Determine if recommendation can be processed at the next regularly scheduled classis meeting or if a special meeting should be arranged. If a special meeting is necessary then determine and publicize the date.

  2. Arrange for synodical deputies to attend the classis meeting.

  3. The liaison acts as process advocate on behalf of the council, pastor and classis. The liaison is not the same as the pastor’s personal advocate and shouldn’t be due to the conflict of interests. Rather, the liaison ought to be one known to be familiar with Church Order, fair in adjudication, and agreed upon by all parties.

  4. Set a deadline for the pastor and council to submit their materials for distribution to classis delegates.

    1. Note for Church Visitors and Regional Pastors - your observations regarding the separation, weighty reasons, process, and need for oversight for church and pastor give classis helpful perspective. Please prepare them and submit them by the same deadline given to the church and pastor.

Council

  1. Present to the classis the specific reasons for the separation. This involves the dynamics and behaviors of both the pastor and the council/congregation. Since the termination commences with the official decision by classis, this may necessitate a special meeting of classis to process the separation.

  2. Provide a compensation package (cf. Church Order Arts. 16-b and 17-b) which includes the following:

    1. Cash salary–a minimum of thirteen (13) weeks from the official decision of classis is required. Following the three months, further remuneration may be decided upon by a committee made up of some members of the local council and some members of classis. Any recommendation must be approved by the full classis.

    2. Parsonage occupancy or housing allowance.

    3. Provision for continuation of medical- and dental-insurance benefits.

    4. Provision for continuation of Ministers' Pension benefits.

    5. The church served at the time of separation is responsible for the severance compensation.

Note: Synod 2010 adopted an amendment to the above regulation. “This package may not apply in every circumstance of separation such as when a pastor leaves for purely personal reasons” (Acts of Synod 2010, p. 916).

Pastor

  1. Present to the classis the specific reasons for the separation. This involves the dynamics and behaviors of both the pastor and the council/congregation. Since the termination commences with the official decision by classis, this may necessitate a special meeting of classis to process the separation.

PCR Advice - Pastor

  1. Decide whether to transfer membership and credentials to a nearby council within classis, and to which council. If transfer is desired then request classis approval. If the minister is placed under oversight, transfer of credentials must remain within the classis. If there is no oversight process, the minister may request transfer to a church and council in another classis.

Classis

  1. Encourage the pastor and/or the congregation to seek continued help in learning from this situation and facing their responsibilities. (This will often require specific recommendations and continued involvement.)

  2. Recommend specific follow-up for the congregation, such as a specialized interim pastor to help with healing and future planning.

PCR Advice - Classis

  1. The chair of classis, in consultation with the stated clerk and other classis leaders, may decide to hold all deliberations within executive session. Make that decision prior to the meeting.

  2. Include the Church Visitor’s and Regional Pastor’s reports, if applicable.

  3. If oversight is recommended for the pastor, identify who will evaluate the pastor in consultation with the oversight committee.

    1. It is helpful at this point to identify a goal for when the oversight committee’s work will be completed. Naming a specific, but tentative, date for oversight and the following two year eligibility for call window ensures clear expectations for the process.

    2. Completing the goals established in the oversight committee’s recommendations is more important than meeting the tentative deadline set by classis.

    3. The financial commitments detailed in the termination agreement begin after classis approves the separation.

  4. The two year period of eligibility for a new call begins once classis either:

    1. Approves separation, but does not require oversight, or
    2. Declares a pastor eligible to receive a call following the satisfactory completion of the oversight committees recommendations.
  5. Should classis not approve the separation via Art 17:

    1. Obtain concurrence of synodical deputies
    2. Establish alternate methods for addressing the concerns which led to the separation request.

Council

  1. Provide a compensation package (cf. Church Order Arts. 16-b and 17-b) which includes the following: 

    1. Cash salary–a minimum of thirteen (13) weeks from the official decision of classis is required. Following the three months, further remuneration may be decided upon by a committee made up of some members of the local council and some members of classis. Any recommendation must be approved by the full classis.

    2. Parsonage occupancy or housing allowance. 

    3. Provision for continuation of medical-and dental-insurance benefits. 

    4. Provision for continuation of Ministers' Pension benefits. 

    5. The church served at the time of separation is responsible for the severance compensation. 

Note: Synod 2010 adopted an amendment to the above regulation. “This package may not apply in every circumstance of separation such as when a pastor leaves for purely personal reasons.” (Acts of Synod 2010, p. 916). 

  1. Engage the services of an interim pastor who has been trained to guide the congregation in processing the reasons for the conflict, interpersonal healing, and planning future vision and mission for the congregation. This is particularly appropriate when there has been extended conflict which led to separation of the pastor and congregation, a series of forced separations from the same congregation, or the last pastorate was a lengthy one. It may also be advisable that the church delay calling another pastor until there has been an interim process.

Pastor

Update the Pastor Profile if relocation becomes necessary. 

Classis

Inform the regional pastor, congregation, and classis of his/her presence in the new region if the pastor moves to another region.

Council

  1. If a classis decides a congregation that has been separated from its minister needs a time of evaluation and assistance before extending another call, it shall specify at the time of separation what is required before the congregation calls another minister.

    1. The classis shall appoint an oversight committee composed of the council’s classical counselor and at least two other persons to plan and monitor the evaluation process.

    2. In conjunction with the church council, the committee shall secure interim pastoral leadership, preferably a specialized interim pastor, and set goals. (Pastor Church Resources is able to assist with securing pastoral leadership.)

    3. The committee shall present a progress report at each regularly scheduled classis meeting.

    4. Based upon the recommendation of its oversight committee, the classis shall make the final decision concerning the congregation’s readiness to extend a call.

  1. (After classis declares a minister eligible for call) The council that holds the minister’s credentials shall publicize the minister’s availability.

(Acts of Synod 2003, pp. 623-24)

Note: Councils and classes should take note of the regulations regarding “release from ministerial service” adopted by Synod 1998 (see Acts of Synod 1998, pp. 392-96) and as amended by Synod 2010 (see Acts of Synod 2010, pp. 915-16).

Pastor

The minister shall participate in the evaluation and assistance process as follows:

  1. The minister shall consent to the release of a detailed report, with recommendations, from the evaluator(s) to the oversight committee.

  2. In addition to the evaluation stipulated above, the minister shall engage in any personal counseling required by classis with a therapist mutually agreed upon by the minister and the oversight committee.

  3. With the approval of classis, a minister who has been released from service in a congregation may transfer his/her membership and ministerial credentials to a neighboring council within the classis during the evaluation process. If classis declares the minister eligible for call, the council that holds the minister’s credentials shall publicize the minister’s availability.

  4. With the approval of classis, a minister who has been released from service in a congregation may transfer his/her membership and ministerial credentials to a council in another classis after the classis in which the separation occurred declares the minister eligible for call.

Classis

Supplement, Article 17-a

Provisions regulating release from ministerial service in a congregation. 

  1. If a classis decides a released minister needs evaluation and assistance before accepting another call, it shall specify at the time of release what is required before the minister is declared eligible for call. 

    1. The classis shall appoint an oversight committee of no fewer than three persons to plan and monitor an evaluation of readiness for the ministry that focuses on professional competence and personal/ emotional status. An evaluator or evaluators mutually agreed upon by the classis and the oversight committee shall conduct the evaluation. (Pastor Church Resources is able to recommend appropriate evaluators.) Classis shall determine who is responsible for any costs of evaluation or stipulated personal counseling. 

      1. The committee, composed of both laity and clergy, may include one council member of the congregation involved in the separation. 

      2. The committee, in consultation with the interim committee of classis, shall develop specific expectations for the minister and shall monitor progress toward established goals. The issues addressed shall be determined by concerns raised by the council and the classis in collaboration with the minister. 

      3. The committee shall present a progress report at each regularly scheduled classis meeting. 

      4. After it has received the report of the evaluator(s), the committee shall make a recommendation to classis regarding the minister’s eligibility for call. 

    2. The minister shall participate in the evaluation and assistance process as follows:

      1. The minister shall consent to the release of a detailed report, with recommendations, from the evaluator(s) to the oversight committee. 

      2. In addition to the evaluation stipulated above, the minister shall engage in any personal counseling required by classis with a therapist mutually agreed upon by the minister and the oversight committee. 
    3. Based upon the recommendation of its oversight committee, the classis shall make the final decision concerning the minister’s readiness to be declared eligible for call. 

    4. If the classis does not declare the minister eligible for call, it shall, with the concurrence of the synodical deputies, release the minister from office. 

    5. With the approval of classis, a minister who has been released from service in a congregation may transfer his/her membership and ministerial credentials to a neighboring council within the classis during the evaluation process. If classis declares the minister eligible for call, the council that holds the minister’s credentials shall publicize the minister’s availability. 

    6. With the approval of classis, a minister who has been released from service in a congregation may transfer his/her membership and ministerial credentials to a council in another classis after the classis in which the separation occurred declares the minister eligible for call. The council that holds the minister’s credentials shall publicize the minister’s availability. 

  1. If a classis decides a congregation that has been separated from its minister needs a time of evaluation and assistance before extending another call, it shall specify at the time of separation what is required before the congregation calls another minister. 

    1. The classis shall appoint an oversight committee composed of the council’s classical counselor and at least two other persons to plan and monitor the evaluation process. 

    2. In conjunction with the church council, the committee shall secure interim pastoral leadership, preferably a specialized interim pastor, and set goals. (Pastor Church Resources is able to assist with securing pastoral leadership.)

    3. The committee shall present a progress report at each regularly scheduled classis meeting. 

    4. Based upon the recommendation of its oversight committee, the classis shall make the final decision concerning the congregation’s readiness to extend a call.

(Acts of Synod 2003, pp. 623-24)

Note: Councils and classes should take note of the regulations regarding “release from ministerial service” adopted by Synod 1998 (see Acts of Synod 1998, pp. 392-96) and as amended by Synod 2010 (see Acts of Synod 2010, pp. 915-16).

PCR Advice

  1. The two year period of eligibility for a new call begins once classis declares a pastor eligible for call.

    1. If oversight is recommended for the pastor, identify who will evaluate the pastor in consultation with the oversight committee.

      • It is helpful at this point to identify a goal for when the oversight committee’s work will be completed. Naming a specific, but tentative, date for oversight and the following two year eligibility for call window ensures clear expectations for the process.
      • Completing the goals established in the oversight committee’s recommendations is more important than meeting the tentative deadline set by classis.
    2. NOTE: Eligibility remains in place for two years. At the end of two years the pastor must request classis approval for a one year extension. Such requests must be made annually. If an extension is not requested or granted by classis, the minister will be released from office by classis, with synodical deputies concurrence

Short Answer

What is Severance For?

Each classis needs to determine what is reasonable and acceptable in any situation. We think it’s most helpful to think of severance as a means of 1). Creating space for healing and discernment, 2). Providing temporary income 3). Fulfilling legal employment requirements. We think it’s less helpful to think of severance as a means of 1). Meting out justice or 2). Honoring time served.

Long Answer

Determining Severance: Guidance for Classis

When a pastor and church separate according to Church Order Article 17, the classis is asked to approve a compensation (severance) package. Church Order mandates a minimum of 13 weeks of salary and benefits. Henry DeMoor, in his Church Order Commentary, concedes that this question is a matter of “common law” that each classis needs to weigh according to what they determine is “reasonable and acceptable” in any given situation. We offer the following additional guidance for churches and classes considering appropriate severance, indicating some ways of thinking about severance that are less helpful and some that are more helpful.

Less Helpful Ways of Thinking about Severance

  1. Severance as a Means of Meting Out Justice
    Some may intuitively think of severance as a means of meting out justice. The assumption might be that the threat of a larger or smaller severance can be an incentive for churches and pastors to work out their differences. Thus, churches who act with integrity, compassion and due diligence toward their pastor may expect to pay less severance than churches who act with malice or disregard for the well-being of their pastor. Similarly, pastors who leave solely on their own initiative, contrary to the desires and actions of the council, expect less or no severance.

    Using severance in this way, though intuitively appealing, may not be especially helpful. After all, it’s quite hard to sit in judgment upon an entire tenure of ministry, let alone translate that judgment into a dollar figure. The complex network of relationships and decisions that led to this separation moment can be unclear even to those most directly impacted. Furthermore, while treating severance as a mechanism for justice may incentivise due diligence, it could also incentivise pastors or churches to unhelpfully catalogue one another’s shortcomings to present as evidence against the other party to classis.

    Generally speaking, diligent church visitors and well-conceived oversight committees are much more nuanced and skillful instruments than a severance package to address bad behavior in ways that might actually lead to repentance, change and restoration.
  2. Severance Honors Time Invested
    In his commentary on the Church Order, Henry DeMoor notes that a common “rule of thumb” for an Article 17 severance package is that pastors receive one month of continued salary and benefits for each year served in that congregation. Though this formula has the virtue of simplicity and honoring significant investment of time, it is a rather blunt instrument as a guide.

    We observe that a pastor who has stayed at a church for a long time may actually be in a more secure financial situation than a pastor who has only arrived recently. If a mortgage has been paid off and paychecks have been steady for many years, the long-tenured pastor may actually be more able to weather the financial disruption of an Article 17 than the pastor who just received a call after years of expensive education, who recently moved their family and who is now upside-down on the mortgage of their recently-purchased home.  

    Additionally, a church following this formula for a pastor who has served a long tenure may find they are so financially restricted by their severance payments that they are unable to move forward in ministry by hiring a Specialized Transitional Minister or calling another pastor.

More Helpful Ways of Thinking about Severance

  1. Severance Creates Space for Healing and Discernment
    Pastors are not merely employees of a church. They are also office bearers in a denomination. Not merely hired, they are called to their work and ordained, a process that required the affirmation of not just the church, but also synod and classis. The church, backed up by the classis (by means of ordination exams and a signed letter of call) and Synod (by means of candidacy and ordination exams) made weighty promises to the pastor in his or her ordination. All along the way, the pastor’s call was recognized as “a call from God affirmed by the church.” The entire denomination, then, has an interest in their pastors finding healing from the separation and having sufficient space to discern their next call.

    Space for Healing
    Article 17 separations can be significant sources of grief and, sometimes, trauma for pastors and, when applicable, their families. Severance provides financial security to allow the pastor some time and space to heal, an important part of blessing both the pastor and whatever churches they might serve in the future.

    Space for Discernment
    Pastors who separate from their church may suddenly find themselves without a paycheck, without their church community, and sometimes without a home. In such situations, pastors may be quite anxious to “just get a call, any call, to any church” without exercising sufficient discernment about whether they are ready to take a call or whether that calling church is truly the place to which God is calling them. Additionally, it may be that God is no longer calling the pastor to ordained ministry. In that case, too, time is required for the pastor to recognize God’s voice of release in the midst of possible anxiety and grief.
  2. Severance Provides Income for Financial Stability
    Given that the healing process and calling process both take a long time, we encourage pastors to think of their severance as income meant to sustain enough financial stability to allow the pastor time to discern their next call less anxiously. A severance package, by itself, may not sustain a pastor financially the entire time he or she is without a call.

    Some pastors have waited three, four or more years for their next call. Some never receive another call. 

    For reasons both personal and financial, pastors have found it helpful (and rewarding) to pursue non-ministerial work for a period of time while they also seek healing and discern God’s next call on their life.

    We encourage classis not to include provisions which reduce severance payments in the event the pastor finds semi-permanent non-ministerial work.
  3. Severance Fulfills Legal Requirements
    In some jurisdictions, pastors do not have access to government-backed unemployment insurance. A severance package, then, may act as a replacement or supplement for that insurance.

    In some jurisdictions, there are specific rules governing the minimum size of a severance.

    Your church and classis should consult a lawyer to ensure that your severance package complies with any applicable laws.

No Severance if Pastor Requested Separation?

Article 17 is the Church Order’s prescribed mechanism for ending a pastor’s call to a specific church without ending the pastor’s call to ordained ministry. This means that Article 17 is not just the provision for resolving what were formerly called “intolerable situations” but also the provision for those pastors leaving to study for a PhD, moving to accommodate a spouse’s professional calling or stepping back to care for an aging parent (just to name a few real-world examples).

If the pastor chooses to initiate a release for personal reasons, such as the desire to pursue further education or to accommodate the career of a spouse, should the pastor still receive severance?

In general, if a pastor requests an Article 17 for personal reasons, a full severance is less likely to be required (see Acts of Synod 2010, p. 916), but some severance may still be wise and gracious, as a means of providing a pastor space to discern and heal during a season of transition.

Looks Can Be Deceiving
Additionally, just because a pastor is the one formally requesting a 17, and just because the publicly-stated reasons for the request are personal, does not automatically mean no severance is warranted.

For example, a church might make life so miserable for their pastor, by the church’s action or inaction, that the pastor finally “gets the hint” and requests to leave. The publicly stated reason for the pastor’s request may be “to accommodate my spouse’s professional calling” but that publicly stated reason may be incomplete. The kind of space for healing and discernment that a severance makes possible would still be important for this pastor.

Likewise, a church may have begun pursuing a vision of ministry increasingly in conflict with the pastor’s vision. Rather than resist those changes, the pastor may decide it’s best to leave. Officially, the pastor’s reason to leave may be to pursue an advanced degree. But again, given the events leading up to the separation, the pastor and denomination will benefit if that pastor has space for some healing and discernment.

Classis is Essential

Since looks can be deceiving, we recommend that classis always follow all procedures prescribed in the Church Order for all Article 17 requests. The presenting issue is not always the real or most relevant issue. That’s why the role of church visitors is so important in every Article 17 case.