Deputies to the Reformed Theological College
Last Synod appointed the undersigned again to continue this work, along with the Rev. Dirk van
Garderen as alternate. We appreciate the continuing confidence Synod places in us and trust we have not
let you down. Our mandate this inter-synodical period was to continue our normal duties per the current
Contract (OB Handbook, 6-13). We were also to give "further attention to" that part of our 2002 report
regarding the selection of prospective students for the ministry. The other important continuing matter
was that decided in Art.42.1a;
The RCNZ give notice of the dissolution of the contract between our churches and the ACTE, to take
effect at the next synod, and instruct the deputies to draw up an agreement, in consultation with the
ACTE/RTC, that allows for a working relationship between the RCNZ and the RTC. This agreement
should be presented to the sessions one year before the next synod to allow for responses.
In conjunction with this, the Synod also decided (Art.42.1e) to;
inform the Board of the RTC that future denominational funding of the RTC will be reviewed at the
decided to broaden the responsibilities of the deputies to supervise the training of all approved
students for the ministry wherever they are studying and that the deputies interview each student
annually where this is geographically practical (Acts 78.1).
The above-mentioned broadening of our Mandate notwithstanding, the weight of the work is still with
the RTC. The College is well ensconced in its new premises and beginning to utilize them in the broader
way that was the hope of many when the move to the new property was first mooted. We note especially
the annual preaching conferences that have been held twice now, which a number of our own ministers
have attended, and by all reports have been well appreciated and very profitable.
B. Relations with the CRCA Deputies
At present these are the Revs Crosbie de Kretser, Bill Bosker, John de Boer, Albert Esselbrugge and Mrs
Sonja Esselbrugge. We have very good relations with them and work well together with them. We record
again our appreciation for the observations of the Revs John de Boer and Murray Capill, the ministers of
the two Geelong CRCAs. In consultation with the CRCA deputies we also act as the Vicariate
Committee. The likelihood is that, as a denomination, we will have a heavy load with vicariates in the
next few years, as follows;
2005 - Robert van Wichen is now well into his vicariate jointly supervised by the Rev.
Michael Flinn and the Bishopdale Session
2006 - Andrew Nugteren
2006 - Michael Willemse
2007 - Neil van der Wel
2007 - David Waldron
2008 - Andre Holtslag.
None of these vicariates will be cheap. All these men are married with from two to seven children (at
present). We have sought to keep the Church Extension Committee informed of the prospective vicariate
situation as soon as we can estimate it to aid them in their financial planning.
4-156 Synod 2005
There have been no changes in faculty personnel since last Synod which continues as: Profs. Henk de
Waard (principal), Alastair McEwen (vice), Stephen Voorwinde, Bill Berends, and Rev. Murray Capill.
The Rev Murray Capill is progressively taking on further subjects in the Practical Theology Dept and is
well appreciated by the general College community. We record with thankfulness very good personal
relations with these brothers (even if not always in agreement). We continue to attend lectures when we
visit and on most visits will review some completed students' work which further helps us in evaluating
our students and what the faculty requires of them.
The Australian College of Theology BTh/BMin continues to be the benchmark requirement for our
students and a definite requirement for younger men. We have been flexible with respect to more mature
students. With men with an LLB and ten years lawyering behind him, another with both an Arts and
Science degree and years running his own business, another with twenty years in the trades/business
world and at least a couple of terms as elder behind him, some of the subjects of the BMin become a little
superfluous. In such cases the BTh, teaching the academic disciplines, along with homiletics, is non-
negotiable; the rest we tailor-make in consultation with the faculty.
In the past inter-synodical period, we have had attending the RTC four students for the ministry: Michael
Willemse (Bucklands Beach); Robert van Wichen and David Waldron (Palmerston North); Craig van
Echten (Foxton – just started this year, 2005); along with Judith van Trigt (Avondale) doing a BTh. As
well, Andrew Nugteren still lives in Geelong and is continuing his MA in Apologetics with Bahnsen
Theological Seminary. Neil van der Wel, also domiciled in Geelong and who completed his BTh/BD
some years ago, is now working on his MTh with Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary.
Andrew has and Neil intends to request a vicariate in NZ. Further to this, André Holtslag of Silverstream
began at Mid-America Reformed Seminary in June 2004 to train for the ministry there.
As a general comment, we can be very thankful for the students we have at the present time. Jesus told us
to "beware when all men speak well of you," but all do of these men (and Judith also). The Rev. George
Ball, interim moderator of the PCEA of Geelong, specifically asked the writer to inform our churches
that they in the PCEA are particularly impressed with the calibre of our ministerial students and very
thankful for the contribution many of them make to their churches, especially with pulpit supply in
Geelong and other vacant congregations.
As respects fulfilling our mandate re André Holtslag, we have written to the MARS faculty (Prof. Cornel
Venema, principal) requesting them to give us (and Silverstream) a written report annually covering all
the aspects we normally discuss with the faculty in Geelong. We have received a first report from Prof.
Venema giving a similar evaluation of the life and work of André Holtslag. We have written similarly to
the Session of the Lynwood URC in which André and his family worship. We will also at some stage
request to see some of André's completed and marked work. We trust this is acceptable to the Synod.
F. Memorandum of Association
As directed by our last Synod, we have discussed this matter intensively over the past two years and in
May last year submitted a Draft inviting comment from the Sessions. The nub of our difficulty in this
matter, as a denomination, lies in our Synod's expressed concerns about the integrity of our respective
subscription to the confessional Standards in the light of two professors having a different understanding
of WCF 1.1 & 6 from that of our Churches. The mind of the last Synod was that we as office-bearers of
the RCNZ cannot subscribe to the Confessions in the same words as the Faculty of the RTC, yet mean
different things by them. How do we, therefore, continue to use and support the College with integrity?
In May 2004, we presented to the Sessions a Draft Memorandum with two suggested funding
possibilities, viz., a) that the RCNZ would support one member of the Faculty who could subscribe fully
Synod 2005 4-157
to all four Confessions per the RCNZ's understanding; or b) that funding would be based on a per-student
We thank the Sessions for their responses. Eight preferred option a), three option b). Seven wished to
retain the status quo; if they had to choose between a) and b), two of these latter volunteered that they
would prefer a). We have to recognise that the status quo under the present contract is not tenable, as we
have said in Synod; it compromises our own confessional subscription.
We have deliberated about this at length in the light of these responses and considered other points of
view and come to the conclusion that both options a) and b) have a number of inherent weaknesses,
which leads us to propose a different method of funding. We note the following regarding each of these
a). Funding a faculty member. While all discussions between ourselves and the Faculty over the past ten
years have been conducted in an excellent spirit and with mutual respect, the fact remains that there is
incomplete trust on the part of the RCNZ vis a vis the RTC; there is therefore concern on the part of the
RTC brothers as to what such an arrangement might result in. They and others have expressed the
following concerns which we believe have weight;
lines of accountability/loyalty will be unclear or may conflict; or may appear to do so; there appear to
be conflicting opinions as to such an appointee’s status – is he really another member of the faculty
or is he really an RCNZ minister on secondment? Will he therefore be subject to conflicting
difficulties could be experienced or felt over who actually runs the College – the Board or, to some
extent, the RCNZ;
the level of funding. It was never the intention of the deputies that the funding under option a) would
be at a lower level than under the old contract. However, that may still not be the total cost of one
professor (certainly not when indirect costs are taken into account).
b). Funding per student, as per Overture 7 to the 2002 Synod.
This option met with little favourable response. It would obviously result in highly variable funding.
c). Funding under a modified contract/memorandum.
Because of the inherent difficulties associated with the above two options it seems to us that the only
other way of continuing to use and support the RTC at any consistently substantial level with integrity is
to weaken the nature of our tie to the RTC; that we no longer, for all the regard we have for the College,
see it as subscribing to the Confessions in complete unity with ourselves. We have, therefore, tried to
provide for a somewhat looser binding between ourselves and the College, yet at the same time, provide
for a meaningful relationship in which the RCNZ are genuine partners in the work of the College and by
which, hopefully, we can unitedly continue to support it. The general effect of reworking the old contract
into this Memorandum (see Appendix 1) is i) not to hold each other to the same
understanding/interpretation of every clause of our confessions (Please note carefully Article 1;
Agreement.); and, ii) to remove the disciplinary clauses and 'teeth.' What would happen in the future
would be that if the deputies could not come to a satisfactory conclusion with any matters of concern
they may have, they would not, by virtue of our contractual arrangement, have the power to instigate
disciplinary action. They would simply go as far as they can per moral suasion and report to Synod for
Synod's consideration and decision.
There would be a consequence of such an arrangement. The Synod would need to deliberate very
carefully whether it ought to impose quota for the support of an institution that is, in the eyes of our own
Synodical decisions, compromised confessionally on the points in question. As we pointed out in our
letter in May, 2004, our concern was to continue to "support the College unitedly and not requiring any
session thus to support it in compromise." We therefore propose a recommended quota.
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G. Evaluation of Prospective Candidates for the Ministry
In carrying out our responsibility to oversee and evaluate ministerial students during their training we
believe that too much of this evaluation is done too late in the piece. By the time a student comes to his
4th or 5th year of study much is at stake. There are the expectations of the student himself and his wife and
children; the anticipation of their families and the home church; the hopes of the denomination in looking
forward to another minister; not to mention many years of study, monetary expense and the years lost
preparing for another calling. Yet it is at this late point that we, as deputies, must make a
recommendation for a vicariate, based on the feedback of faculty, the student’s performance and our own
assessment of his suitability for the ministry. When the home church, the faculty and the deputies all
concur such a recommendation is delightfully straightforward. With other students it is not so clear.
Usually we have erred on the side of grace, seeking to give a man the opportunity of pursuing a vicariate
under the supervision of an able minister. But there have been situations when a man has completed his
vicariate and the presbytery examining him has refused him entry into the ministry. There have also been
situations where a man has passed his Presbytery exams but has not received a call. Both of these are
heart-rending situations for all involved as they follow half a dozen years of study, relocation and
expectancy. No system will ever prevent such situations. However, it seems to us that we might avoid
some of these situations if we can do more rigorous and effective evaluation before a student begins his
formal training for the ministry.
In response to earlier expressions of our concern about this matter Synod 1998 urged sessions “to make a
careful evaluation of the men they send to the RTC to train for the ministry in order to send them with a
clear recommendation as their intention and suitability” (Art. 70.3). Having done some thinking and
reading on this matter, we submit the considerations in Appendix 2 to assist sessions in making “a careful
evaluation”, especially because our Church Order and Synodical Regulations say little about this (See the
Office-Bearers' Handbook, p.3-4f. and Church Order Arts 10-12). We trust this will be useful to the
churches. We also believe it would be useful to have a wider involvement and evaluation of prospective
candidates for the ministry. We make a recommendation along these lines.
1. In regard to the RCNZ's continuing relationship with the RTC:
a) the appended Memorandum of Association be adopted by the Churches as the basis on which the
RCNZ support and utilize the RTC in the training of its ministers (along with its other courses for
other members); such support to be by way of a recommended quota.
Note: that this quota is recommended is intended to allow churches to decline the quota on the
sole ground that it sincerely believes such payment violates its conscience (WCF.20.2). Synod
may like to consider whether it may make for transparency and goodwill whether such
'conscientious objection' should be notified to the SIC and that such Churches' RTC quota be
directed instead to the Vicariate Fund. In such manner, all are still equitably contributing to
b) the recommended quota for the inter-synodical period be set at $63,000 pa.
2. Synod appoint two deputies charged with supervising all our ministerial students. To perform this
task, the deputies shall visit the RTC annually to:
a) meet with RCNZ students;
b) discuss curriculum and student progress with the RTC faculty;
c) meet with the CRCA deputies to discuss any matters relating to the training of ministerial
students; and vicariate placements.
3. The two deputies are also to carry out the same assessment of other RCNZ students for the ministry
in other institutions as far as possible and will be responsible for arranging vicariates for them also.
4. That in respect of prospective students for the ministry:
Synod 2005 4-159
a) Synod reaffirms the recommendation of Synod 1998 (Art 70.3) to urge sessions to make a careful
evaluation of the men they send to train for the ministry in order to send them with a clear
recommendation as to their intention and suitability;
b) Appendix 2 be adopted by the Churches as guidance in assessing men seeking the
recommendation/support of the Churches for training for the ministry;
c) the assessment of such men shall involve not only his own session but also his presbytery via a
small sub-committee consisting of a minister and elder from different churches appointed for that
purpose. Following their concurrence he then be recommended with the explicit endorsement of
his session and the presbytery committee, and the deputies be notified.
Rev. J. Rogers.
Rev. J. A. Haverland.
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Memorandum of Understanding
Dated this ____day of _____, 2005
Between THE ASSOCIATION OF THE REFORMED THEOLOGICAL COLLEGE, a duly
incorporated company having its registered office at Geelong, Australia (“the Association”).
And THE REFORMED CHURCHES OF NEW ZEALAND (THE RCNZ).
In this document:
"the Reformed Theological College" (abbreviated as "the RTC") means the theological college currently
operated by the Association at 125 Pigdons Road, Waurn Ponds, Geelong;
"the Board" refers to the Board of the Association;
"the Faculty" refers to the faculty of the RTC, and includes any lecturer, research fellow or other member
of the academic staff;
"the Deputies" refer to the RTC deputies appointed by the RCNZ;
"RCNZ student" means a student who is or was a member of the RCNZ who has been recognised as a
potential candidate for the ministry in the RCNZ, and is studying at the RTC;
"the Constitution" and "the Regulations" refers to the constitution and regulations of the Association
"the Scriptures" means the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments in their original languages;
"the Confessional Standards" refers to the system of doctrine set out in the Heidelberg Catechism, the
Belgic Confession, the Canons of the Synod of Dordt, and the Westminster Confession of Faith.
1. The RTC and the RCNZ have had a close relationship since 1954.
2. In or about June 1975, the RTC and the Synod of the Reformed Churches of New Zealand entered
into a contract for the purpose of regulating their relationship and particularly to provide for
oversight of RCNZ students.
3. This memorandum, which is made pursuant to clause 10 of the Constitution, completely supercedes
that contract and shall immediately take effect on its execution by both parties.
The connection between the RTC and the RCNZ is designed to provide oversight by the Churches of the
training of candidates for the ministry of the Word and Sacraments according to the Scriptures and the
Reformed Confessions. This ecclesiastical oversight shall be exercised through the deputies appointed by
Synod who shall embrace within their sphere of supervision:
a) that the instruction provided by the RTC is suitable for candidates for the ministry of the Word in
the RCNZ; and
b) supervise the doctrine, conduct and progress of RCNZ students being trained at the RTC for the
ministry of the Word.
1. Each member of the faculty must be a confessing member having full rights and privileges of one of
the Reformed Churches of NZ or of a denomination recognised as being of like doctrine and practice,
and who subscribes to the Three Forms of Unity and or the Westminster Confession of Faith.
Synod 2005 4-161
Appointment of Faculty members
2. While it is acknowledged that the appointment of faculty members is the prerogative of the RTC
Board, the Board will actively involve the Deputies in any appointment insofar as it is practical to do
so and the Regulations permit. Ordinarily this will mean that the Board will:
a. invite the Deputies to nominate one or more candidates to fill the vacancy that has arisen;
b. advise the Deputies of any other potential candidates (including those who have responded to any
advertisement or have been nominated or invited to apply for the vacancy); and,
c. brief the Deputies on any candidate whom the Board considers suitable for the vacancy and invite
the Deputies to meet with any such candidate.
3. The Deputies will keep any information given to them pursuant to the preceding clause confidential
until it becomes public knowledge.
New Zealand Directors of the Board
4. The Board will continue to include two directors who are resident in New Zealand. Where there are
less than two directors who are resident in New Zealand, the Board shall declare that the vacancy is
open only to candidates resident in New Zealand.
5. If any member of the Faculty becomes subject to any disciplinary action (either ecclesiastical or of the
Board), the Board shall immediately advise the Deputies.
6. If the Deputies come to have concerns with any member of the Faculty where they have grounds to
a. he has departed from the Scriptures or Confessional Standards;
b. the instruction given by him is substandard or could be improved; or,
c. the training for the ministry is being endangered;
ordinarily they will first speak privately with the member of the Faculty concerned and the principal,
without making their concerns public.
7. If the Deputies are still dissatisfied, they will bring their concerns to the attention of the Faculty and
8. Where the Deputies are still dissatisfied, they will bring the matter to the Synod to be dealt with as
Synod may decide.
Constitution and Regulations
9. The Board will advise the Deputies of any proposed changes to the Constitution or Regulations, and
give the Deputies the opportunity to make submissions concerning the proposed changes.
Supervision of RCNZ students
10. The Deputies shall advise the Principal of the names of all prospective RCNZ students.
11. The Faculty shall keep the Deputies fully apprised of the progress of all RCNZ students and, in
particular, shall promptly advise the Deputies of any concerns about the life or doctrine of any student
or their suitability for the ministry.
12. The Faculty and Deputies shall be jointly responsible to supervise the life and doctrine of RCNZ
students. However, this shall not limit in any way the right or responsibility of the Faculty or Board
to take appropriate disciplinary action against any RCNZ student. The Faculty or Board shall fully
inform the Deputies of the progress and outcome of any such disciplinary action.
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Role of Deputies
13. After each synod, the RCNZ shall advise the Association of the names of the Deputies, and of any
directives given by the Synod to the Deputies.
14. The Deputies are permitted to attend lectures, tutorials, examinations, graduation exercises and other
student activities at the RTC.
15. The Board or Faculty shall forward copies of the academic calendar and curriculum to the Deputies
prior to the commencement of each academic year.
16. The Faculty will give the Deputies reasonable access to information to enable them to access the
content and quality of the Faculty's teaching.
17. The Deputies may consult with the Board or Faculty regarding:
a) the supervision of the life and doctrine of RCNZ students;
b) the curriculum of the RTC; and,
c) any other matter pertaining to the training of candidates for the ministry.
18. The Deputies will provide the Association with copies of all reports prepared by them for
consideration by the RCNZ at a Synod or otherwise.
Standard of education
19. The Theological College is committed to providing theological training to a high standard. It is,
however, recognised that improvement is always possible. To that end, the Deputies may identify any
areas in which they believe that the standard of training provided by the RTC could be improved.
20. Where any Synod of the RCNZ or the Deputies determine that the standard of education provided by
the RTC is defective in any way, the Deputies shall advise the Board accordingly.
21. The Deputies will advise the Faculty of their expectations of RCNZ students, including the areas of
study they expect them to undertake, particular skills they wish to see developed, and the level of
understanding to be achieved. The Faculty shall take reasonable steps to accommodate those
expectations. It is, however, recognised that it may not be possible for the RTC to meet all of those
Provision of information
22. Where this memorandum requires the provision of information or documentation, all such information
or documentation shall be provided in a timely fashion.
23. The RCNZ will usually invite two members of the Faculty to attend its Synods as advisory members.
While they will have no right to vote, they shall have the same rights to speak as fraternal delegates.
24. Subject to the terms of the Constitution, each of the congregations within the RCNZ will continue to
be a congregational member of the Association.
25. The Association may communicate directly with any or all of the congregations within the RCNZ.
26. The Reformed Churches shall support the College financially by a recommended quota, to be set by
Synod 2005 4-163
Variation of Agreement
27. Any variation of this agreement must be recorded in writing and approved by the Board and the Synod
of the RCNZ.
Termination of Agreement
28. The parties shall seek with utmost good faith to resolve any dispute or disagreement that may arise.
29. This agreement may be terminated:
a) immediately where the other party is in material breach of this agreement which is irremediable or
has not been remedied within a reasonable time of it having been requested in writing to do so; or,
b) by one party giving written notice to the other party of no less than one year.
4-164 Synod 2005
Considerations Sessions Should Take Into Account in Evaluating Prospective
Our Church Visitation questionnaire asks; “Are suitable young men in the congregation encouraged to
enter the ministry….” (Q. 40). This annual question reminds us as sessions of this need and our
responsibility. We need to look out for men with the qualities of character and the necessary gifts for the
ministry. Some may not present themselves (perhaps they are like Timothy who had "a spirit of timidity"
(2 Tim.1:6f), so we need to approach them. Are we active enough in challenging suitable men to consider
this call to the ministry of the Word?
Another will present himself as having a call. Sessions need to examine his motive, character and gifts.
Does the love of Christ constrain him? Does he desire to preach and teach others because he loves
Christ? Does he love Christ's Word and Christ's people? Is it his desire to see people grow in their faith?
Does he have a genuine concern for the lost? Does he have the intellectual gifts and capability that are
necessary for a lifetime of study in the Scriptures?
Sessions should evaluate a man using the qualifications for an elder listed in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1.
Christian leadership is primarily a matter of Christian character. Much harm has been done in the
Christian church by leaders who have failed in their character. We need to do all we can to screen men
before they embark on a long period of study for the ministry. Most of these character qualities are well-
known and familiar but some bear elaboration.
Temperate refers to his use of drink but also covers restraint of speech and an orderly and disciplined
lifestyle. There ought to be evidence of some sort of progress in the man's life, not having flitted from
one job to another, begun but not even settled into any particular career, changed courses of study
already and not finished one or put it to any use.
Prudent/ self-controlled in the use of his tongue, money and opportunities in life so far. Yes, we may
give allowance for some youthful mistakes, but Timothy was told to "let your progress be evident to all".
The candidate is not to be a new convert for, to keep ourselves free from responsibility for the sins of
others, we are not to be “hasty in the laying on of hands” (1 Tim.5:22). The AV translates this as "sober."
Does the man have, not a sombre, but a sober, sensible, thoughtful approach to life? Hebrews tells us we
are to "consider the outcome of (our leaders') way of life" (13:7); that requires that some life has been
lived before others so that some results of godly living have had time to become apparent.
Not self-willed/ overbearing in his manner and dealing with others. A minister, as any elder, will have
to be able to fight for the truth (1 Tim 1:18, 6:12), but not, or at least very rarely, on behalf of himself.
Furthermore, he must also be able to choose his issues; "my conscience," like love but in a different way,
may also cover a multitude of sins! This attribute may further be explained as humility, Augustine's first
three Christian virtues. Sessions must ask themselves, and others who know him; “is he teachable? Or
does he have his own agenda and, by hook or by crook, pursue it?” The opposite of this negative is its
positive. Does he have a shepherd's heart? Does he love the Lord's people? Is he a servant? Has he
showed that in his life so far? Titus says we must be "as God's steward" (1:7), one who exercises the
authority God has given him for the sake of God's household, not his own benefit, and hence for the sake
of God's people. Does he already live as one who knows himself not to be his own but bought with a
price, the blood of Jesus? The following words express this well; "If he really cares, then he will be able
always to bear all the follies and the foolishness which he will encounter; he will even be able
uncomplainingly to accept the slights and hurts he will receive. If he really cares, then all the work
involved both in the study and in pastoral duty will become a delight. And if he really bears his people on
Synod 2005 4-165
his heart, he will find that they bear him on theirs, and that they will forgive his failures and mistakes
and accept his inadequacies."
Patient/gentle: the man must be able to take a certain amount on the chin, not just without retaliation but
also perhaps without seeking redress under the rubric of Matthew 18. Rather, "A man's discretion makes
him slow to anger; and it is his glory to overlook a transgression" (Pr.19:11, cf. Eccl.7:21f; 10:4).
Loving what is good: is he a positive man or does he tend to the negative? We do have different
personalities, yet we are called to think about what is true, honourable, righteous, pure, lovely, reputable,
excellent, praiseworthy (Phil.4:4).
Hospitable: this is not an optional extra, not even for private Christians; it is mandatory (Ro.12:13). Nor
is it only to be shown to one's friends for it is not then hospitality (Hebs 13:2). Thus, obviously, the man's
wife comes under review also. A hospitable home is a great asset to a useful ministry.
Able to manage his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity. If a
man is still single this should not preclude him from training for the ministry or from serving in it. Even
so, his own life must give evidence of order rather than disorder; if he is to manage the church he must be
able to manage himself and his own time.
Able to teach: Paul told Timothy to "pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching." If he believes
he has been called has he been laying a foundation of reading in the Bible? Has he already done some
study to show himself approved unto God, rightly dividing the word of truth? It is, after all, "to faithful
men" that Timothy was to entrust the things Paul had taught him "so they would be able to teach others
also" (2 Tim.2:2). He should be questioned closely as to what he believes the ministry is in its essence. It
is symptomatic of our times that it is too often called "ministry,” without the definite article. It is the
ministry, the ministry of the Word of God, in its preaching and pastoral aspects. As Allan M. Harman
Students in training for the ministry must sense that nothing can be more practical for ministry than
basic biblical skills. This is assuming that the role of the pastor has primary reference to
proclamation of the Word of God. His task is to testify to the gospel of God's grace and to declare
the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:24, 27). Acquiring other skills should not take precedence over
ones which enable expository ministry to be carried out. For anyone looking forward to extended
years in Christian ministry, skills in biblical exegesis must provide the very foundation for fulfilling
that ministry with increasing satisfaction and competence. (“The Place of Biblical Languages in the
Theological Curriculum”, Reformed Theological Review, p. 96f.)
Public reading, exhortation and teaching: he must have some signs of the “gifts of public address”
Perseverance: this also is a general Christian virtue but applies especially to a minister. These words
express this well; "… the ministry needs that very rare ability… to do routine work without ever
slackening, without ever losing enthusiasm, and without ever putting it off or pushing it through without
interest and without thrill. Unless a man has in him that consecration which 'makes drudgery divine' he
need hardly begin upon the ministry at all."
Some Suggestions for Preliminary Preparation & Testing
As mentioned above, some men will sense a call to the ministry of themselves. In some cases men are
eager to go to the College immediately. Yet Synod 1998 urged "Sessions to make a careful evaluation of
the men they send to the RTC to train for the ministry in order to send them with a clear recommendation
as to their intention and suitability." If there are no questions about his character and he has served as an
elder and has evident gifts then the session may have no hesitation about making such a recommendation.
In the case of younger men, however, we would suggest that any prospective BTh/BMin student with any
idea of the ministry in mind be kept back at least one year. This will give the session time to evaluate his
4-166 Synod 2005
character, assess his gifts, and give him some preparatory training. If he balks at this then that should
sound an alarm bell about his suitability. The church must train “faithful men” who are prepared to have
their faithfulness examined and tested (2 Tim 2:2).
Here are a few practical suggestions: have him teach catechism, lead youth club Bible studies, do some
supervised visiting, conduct reading services. Have the minister of the church supervise him as he
exegetes a few passages from his English Bible and puts the results together in a logical flow of thought,
bringing it to a conclusion. This allows the pastor to discern whether he can see the main point of the
passage and some application arising out of it. Does he have a grasp of English comprehension and
composition? This is a pre-requisite and if he doesn't have it he should be prepared to get it first. It is not
the Church's calling to give primary education.
We believe there is immense value in having young men pursue an undergraduate degree as preparation
for the ministry. This would provide them with knowledge and skills that would be very useful in this
calling. We are in hearty agreement with the sentiments expressed by Dr Sally Davey in the Appendix to
Report 2 (Investigation of Theological Education in NZ) presented to the 2002 Synod, viz., "Some
Thoughts on Undergraduate Education in the Humanities as Preparation for the Preaching Ministry." We
would recommend these comments to our brothers for their consideration.
Our experience as churches over the last couple of decades highlights the importance of testing men
before they take up their formal training. Once a man goes to theological college he will get caught up in
the momentum of the study, which is aimed at the preaching and pastoral ministry. Assumptions will
build up in his own mind and these will be fostered by the expectations of others. But none of that is a
call to the ministry. If it is necessary to raise cautions or even say "No", that is much more gracious (and
easier for all involved) at the beginning of the process than nearer or at the end.
Synod 2005 4-167