Part 2: Why the Interview with the Consistory?
Editor’s note: Since it is coming to that time of the year when young people across our federation stand and make profession of faith before the church, I thought it would be good to look at this topic using an article first written by the Rev. Bilkes (Sr.) for the Youth Messenger. It will appear here divided into several parts and organized for easier reading, with some minor edits.
The first part dealt with, “confession of faith” or “confession of truth”? Part 2 now looks at the process. Before public profession of faith is made in our churches, an “interview” with the consistory take place.
Question: Why is there both a private (before the consistory) and a public ceremony?
Meeting with the consistory
The reason why the applicants are interviewed by the consistory before the public confession of faith is related to the Reformation’s insistence that the Lord’s Supper table be “fenced” (which means, the elders of the church guards who may or may not attend communion, based on the warnings given in 1 Cor. 11). In the Roman Catholic Church, this was not done. 1 Peter 5:2 charges the elders to give oversight to the flock. This would certainly include overseeing the admission to the Lord’s Table. When Paul was first converted, Ananias met with Paul (Acts 9:12) and later Paul went to see Peter and James (Galatians 1:18-19).
As to why there is both a private (before the consistory) and a public ceremony, it may be interesting to know that in the early days of the Reformation part of the actual questioning took place before the whole congregation. In view of the fact that persons with timid and nervous dispositions dreaded the public questioning, the 1574 Synod of Dordrecht introduced our present practice. The actual examination takes place before the consistory, and the public confession of faith takes place before the congregation.
Personal and Congregational
We may never lose sight of the very personal side of the matter. We may not either lose sight of the congregational aspect. The church has to keep careful watch that she does not separate these two. It is important to keep that always in biblical and confessional balance. There is the act of faith, which God gives, and there is the content of faith, which God has revealed. Those two belong together. They are to go together. The Apostle’s Creed joins both: “I believe …” When we say this, if it is right, we can only do so before God’s face. This is very serious. No one can hide himself. That’s why often, as soon as it becomes that personal, there also follows, ‘Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief” (Mark 9:24). The personal and the congregational, the subjective and the objective inseparably join together.
Editor’s note: So if you’re nervous about meeting before the consistory, imagine the interview happening before the entire church!! And, did you realize that making profession of faith is so closely connected to attending the Lord’s Supper? It’s the reason the tradition started!