I recently got together with a priest friend who serves in a local Catholic parish. We shared a little about current ministry challenges when he suddenly looked at me and said, “Wait. If you guys don’t have a bishop, who’s in charge?”
Not an uncommon question to ask, especially if you’ve been accustomed to a church system where the buck stops with a particular person, the official decision maker.
I responded to my friend as I have to many others who’ve asked me the same question. “The presbytery is in charge.”
You see where this is going, I’m sure.
You are the presbytery. We are the presbytery. Women and men, young and old, ruling elders and teaching elders (ministers of word and sacrament) coming together to serve together on committees, commissions, and task forces. And then quarterly gathering as a larger body at presbytery meetings to discuss and make decisions. As presbytery. The ones in charge.
This doesn’t happen organically or by happenstance. It requires pastors (teaching elders) to take time away from their already busy ministries to serve at the presbytery level. It also requires ruling elders from all our churches to prayerfully consider how they can serve the presbytery as well. I say requires, because serving “the higher council” (not just your church’s session but the presbytery committees, commissions, and task forces) is part of the ordination vows we all make.
“Will you share in government and discipline, serving in councils of the church, and in your ministry will you try to the show the love and justice of Jesus Christ?”
Our polity also directs ruling elders in this fashion.
G-3.0202 in the Book of Order states: “Sessions have a particular responsibility to participate in the life of the whole church through participation in other councils….(b) serve on committees or commissions, bearing in mind principles of inclusiveness and fair representation in the decision making of the church.”
If you are a congregational pastor reading this, we ask you to consider elders in your community who might be called to serve the presbytery.
If you are a ruling elder reading this, we need you.
How might you more fully live into your ordination promises to serve the councils of the church? Where within our presbytery leadership might you find your gifts needed?
I welcome and celebrate the opportunity to BE the presbytery with you all!
In grace and hope,
Rev. Eliana Maxim
Associate Executive Presbyter
p.s. Want to know about opportunities to serve at the Presbytery level?