What is the Consistory?

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 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.

What’s an Elder?

Far from being just a placeholder in the congregation’s structure, an elder has specific ministry responsibilities that help provide for and protect the church.

The office of the elder is one of servanthood, representing Christ through the action of the Holy Spirit. In the local church, elders are chosen members who show spiritual discernment, lead exemplary lives, have charitable spirits, and embody wisdom grounded in God’s Word.

Elders, together with the installed minister/s serving under a call, have supervision of the church entrusted to them. They are set apart for a ministry of watchful and responsible care for all matters relating to the welfare and good order of the church. They are to study God’s Word, oversee the household of faith, encourage spiritual growth, maintain loving discipline, and provide for the proclamation of the gospel and the celebration of the sacraments.
–adapted from the Book of Church Order, Part I, Article 1, Section 8

For a pdf of “The Ministry of an Elder” click here.

What’s a Deacon?

Six Areas of Deaconal Concern

Are deacons called to do more than pass the plate and count money on Sunday morning?

To answer that question, Reformed Church deacons gather at First Church in Albany, New York–where deacons began their work on this continent 350 years ago.

They begin by looking at historical records and the Book of Church Order, which tell of deacons serving in ministries of mercy, service, and outreach. Next they review six areas of diaconal concern that help focus ministry for today’s deacons:

  • Special Individual and Family Concerns
  • Stewardship Education and Congregational Giving
  • Mission Involvement
  • Volunteer Service
  • Reformed Church World Service and Hunger Advocacy
  • Caring for Creation and Simple Living

The deacons go on to tell what they do in ministry throughout North America and the world in these areas of concern. Their stories tell how, as servant leaders, deacons are called to many exciting and rewarding tasks.

For a pdf of “The Ministry of a Deacon” click here.

For videos discussing each area of deaconal concern in detail click here.

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