How We're Organized

The Reformed Church in America has a presbyterial, or representative, form of government that is biblically based.

Each congregation is governed by a body called a consistory. The consistory is made up of elders and deacons, elected by the congregation, and the congregation's installed minister(s).

Elders maintain order, exercise Christian discipline, and assist in pastoral care. They are responsible for the spiritual life of the congregation. They receive individuals into the membership of a church and plan and participate in the observance of the sacraments.

Deacons lead in ministries of mercy, justice, service, and outreach. They care for the needs of people within the congregation, in the surrounding community, and around the world.

Ministers serve as pastors and teachers of the congregation. They are called by God to preach the Word of God, administer the sacraments, and care for the members of the congregation, building up and equipping the church for its ministry in the world.

A consistory is in turn governed by its classis. A classis gathers minister and elder representatives from a group of congregations, usually according to their geographical proximity. Each classis supervises the congregations and ministers within its bounds. It exercises judicial power over the decisions of individual consistories; receives new congregations into the denomination; ordains, installs, and dismisses ministers; and oversees students of theology.

The regional synod is the next assembly in the RCA. There are eight regional synods in the United States and Canada. Each oversees the interests and concerns of the classes within its geographical area and creates programs to further the work of the gospel and the denomination in its region.

The General Synod is the highest assembly and governing body in the RCA. Its membership is made up of minister and elder representatives from each classis and regional synod. In its annual meeting, the General Synod sets the direction and tone for denominational ministry. It has authority in all matters relating to denominational program and policy. It also has general responsibility over all lower assemblies (regional synods, classes, and consistories).