- The term consistory designates certain ruling bodies in various churches. In the Reformed tradition the consistory is the authority in the local church, generally made up of all of the teaching ELDERs (ministers) and the ruling elders (lay leaders). It governs the congregation, implements the policies of the sYNoD and/or assembly of which it is a part, and provides for discipline of church members where necessary. In Geneva in the 16th century, John Calvin oversaw the formation of the consistory, whose members were assigned the duty of visiting households and checking upon the conduct of the citizenry.The Geneva consistory met weekly to examine people accused of misbehavior. If the charges proved of substance, it had a range of options including referring the person for counseling or, in more severe matters, to the civil courts. In 1555, excommunication was added to its powers. As much as Calvin's theology, the consistory gave Geneva in particular and the Reformed church its unique lifestyle.In the Lutheran Church, the consistory is a district, regional, or national organization that either serves the congregations in its geographical area (in churches with a congregational polity), or governs them (in more centrally organized Lutheran churches). The consistory had great powers when it operated within a state church under the authority of the government.In Anglican churches, the consistory is the diocesan court, usually presided over by the bishop's chancellor or commissary. It deals with a variety of issues at the diocesan level, and its decisions may be appealed to higher courts in the national church.Further reading:■ Robert McCune Kingdon, "Calvin and the Family: The Work of the Consistory in Geneva," in Richard Craig Gamble, ed., Calvin's Work in Geneva (New York: Garland, 1992), 93-106■ Raymond A. Mentzer, Sin and the Calvinists: Morals Control and the Consistory in the Reformed Tradition (Kirksville, Mo.: Sixteenth Century Journal, 1994).
Encyclopedia of Protestantism. Gordon Melton. 2005.