Blog Post by
Rev. Dr. Craig M. Howard
Presbytery of Giddings-Lovejoy
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