Ruling Elders Rule

Ruling Elder Installation Presbytery of Baltimore

Blog Post by
Rev. Dr. Craig M. Howard

Presbytery of Giddings-Lovejoy
Transitional Leader


I come from a family of bishops. My great-grandfather was a bishop of several Holiness churches along the east-Texas border with western Louisiana. My father became a bishop of the same Holiness organization. My brother became a bishop of Pentecostal churches in Michigan.

I wanted nothing to do with bishops. This is one reason I became Presbyterian!

Presbyterian polity believes in a shared governance. Congregations are led by pastors and sessions. As moderator of the session, the pastor has great influence, but the Book of Order is clear that ruling elders who serve on the session, are the leaders of the congregation as well. “The session shall have responsibility for governing the congregation . . . so that the congregation is and becomes a community of faith, hope, love, and witness (Book of Order G.3.0201).”

Ruling Elders occupy a unique place in the life of the church. Many of them serve the church while working a secular job: one foot in the world and one foot in the church. Ruling Elders understand theology at a pragmatic level. This means faith in action. Sessions can be a place where people bring skills and gifts that are enhanced by their work experience, and apply them to the challenges of the church.

If we are going to have vibrant congregations in our presbytery, we need strong, knowledgeable, and faithful ruling elders on our sessions. These are the dynamic leaders our mission statement is calling for.

Leadership training, small group ministry, and stewardship training are just some educational opportunities our ruling elders should be a part of, along with our pastors. Creativity and innovative input from ruling elders on session is what will keep a congregation pushing for excellence in ministry, while expanding the work of mission in the world.

As we prepare for 2018, ruling elder training in each congregation is a must. We have resources in the presbytery office, as well as materials on the denomination’s website. Let’s make sure 2018 is the year ruling elders rule!

Rev. Craig M. Howard

5 Responses to “Ruling Elders Rule”

  1. Eldon McKie on

    AMEN, Craig! As a pastor, I constantly marveled at and thanked God for the leadership of elders in congregations I served and ones I met on Presbytery committees! Praise the Lord for ruling elders.

  2. Barbara Willock on

    As a young ruling elder I was trained by a pastor who took his training and mine very seriously. Part of that training involved going with him to take communion to shut-ins. He taught me that one of the real strengths of Presbyterian polity is elders sharing of the responsibility of leadership in the church and that his ministry was incomplete without mine and vice versa. The Ruling Elder represents the congregation, both in shut-in communion and standing at the Table for communion as well as all the other areas of the church’s ministry. Thanks for the reminder.

    • Craig Howard on


      Your mentoring by your pastor has paid dividends for you and this presbytery! Thank you for being a fabulous Minister of Word and Sacrament who is still teaching and leading others.

  3. Deb Tracy on

    I thank God for the calling, equipping and training provided by our Presbytery. May we continue to encourage and build up the body and family of Christ that all of our parts might work together for God’s will here and now! May our witness be to Gods glory and power at work to bless, heal and proclaim His goodness and generosity! May we hear Christ’s command to trust and believe the good news and be alive with joy!! Our mission requires it and deserves our faithful responses come what may!!


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