Presbyterian Church Government
God the Father has put all things, in heaven and on earth, under the Lordship of Jesus Christ and has made Christ the head of the Church, which is his body. The Church joyfully receives its very life and mission from Christ as a gift. Jesus is the Church’s foundation and hope. Christ alone rules, calls, teaches, and uses the Church as he wills.
It is the Triune God who calls particular women and men to servant leadership within the Church. These men and women, prompted by the Holy Spirit, are confirmed by a council of the Church, and elected by local expression of Christ’s body to which they have been called to serve. The Presbyterian Church recognizes three ordained offices as set forth in Scripture:
- Deacons lead ministries of care and compassion. Deacons are people of extraordinary sensitivity and conscience, concerned with such things as feeding the hungry, working for justice and peace and comforting the sick and lonely.
- Ruling Elders are called by God, elected by local congregations, and have final responsibility for managing the business of the church and its spiritual life.
- Teaching Elders (pastors or ministers of Word and Sacraments) are committed to teaching the faith and equipping the local church for work of ministry. Teaching elders are charged with the faithful and regular preaching of the Word and administration of the Sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.
The Presbyterian Church is governed by councils composed of elders (in Greek, presbuteros) elected by the people. There are four councils:
- The Session is each local church’s governing body. It consists of both ruling and teaching elders.
- The Presbytery consists of teaching elders (pastors) and ruling elders from each church within the bounds of a determined district. Presbyteries help to organize new congregations, nurture the connectional nature of local churches, and are charged with ordaining, receiving, dismissing, and installing teaching elders.
- The Synod is a collection of presbyteries gathered to work with the denomination’s institutions: colleges, seminaries, children’s homes, retirement homes, etc.
- The General Assembly is a council of the whole church. It consists of ruling and teaching elders elected by presbyteries. The General Assembly gathers at least biennially.
All four councils are charged to provide that the Word of God may be truly preached and heard, that the Sacraments may be rightly administered and received, and to nurture the covenant community of disciples.
For more information about church leadership, download the PC(USA) Book of Order.