The mutual interconnection of the church through its councils is a sign of the unity of the church. Congregations of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), while possessing all the gifts necessary to be the church, are nonetheless not sufficient in themselves to be the church. Rather, they are called to share with others both within and beyond the congregation the task of bearing witness to the Lordship of Jesus Christ in the world. This call to bear witness is the work of all believers. The particular responsibility of the councils of the church is to nurture, guide, and govern those who witness as part of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), to the end that such witness strengthens the whole church and gives glory to God.
(Book of Order G-3.0101)
Sticky situations or conflicts in a congregational setting are not unusual. It’s actually part of being community and gathering a diverse group of people. But there are occasions when a challenging situation arises that requires more than a session or pastor can provide.
In recent days several churches experiencing circumstances that benefit from outside guidance and more objective analysis than the congregation’s leadership can provide have contacted our office.
It might be an allegation of inappropriate conduct or significant personnel issues. The important thing to remember is that we are a connectional system and our polity provides for a higher council (such as the presbytery) to work with a lower council (the church’s session) to resolve conflict.
The first step is contacting either one of your execs (Scott Lumsden or myself) or our stated clerk (Dean Strong). Besides providing another pair of eyes and ears to evaluate the situation, should matters need an investigative process or formal review, you will have already laid the groundwork to move forward.
“Looping in the presbytery” isn’t an escalation or making things bigger than they should be; it’s just another way to make sure we’re all on the same page in a situation or serious conflict and stand together as we discern the best way forward.
Our work together is both celebrating the wonderful things God is doing in our congregations and the Christian witness of our churches as well as being present and accountable when challenges arise. In this season of Advent when we anticipate the fullness of God’s incarnation among us, may we remember that we have one another to lean on and lean into.
In grace and hope,
Rev. Eliana Maxim
Associate Executive Presbyter