Presbyterians Today

FEB-MAR 2018

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Pr e s by te r i a n s To d ay | FEBRUARY/MARCH 2018 45 DON'T expect your ruling elders to "lord it over you." It says that right there in the Book of Order. "Ruling elders are so named not because they 'lord it over' the congregation (Matt. 20:25), but because they are chosen by the congregation" (G-2.0301). The eighth ordination question asks: "Will you pray for and seek to serve [not lead] the people with energy, intelligence, imagination, and love?" (W-4.0404). There is no mention of "authority" or "power." DO expect your ruling elders to seek unity. Though Presbyterians divvy up the work of ministry among ministers, ruling elders, deacons and church members, we believe it is all one ministry "because in Christ the Church is one" (F-1.0302). Similarly, "to be thus joined with one another is to become priests for one another, praying for the world and for one another and sharing the various gifts God has given to each Christian for the benefit of the whole community." DON'T expect your ruling elders to seek unifor- mity. "The unity of believers in Christ is reflected in the rich diversity of the Church's membership" (F-1.0403). Presbyterians believe that all are united through baptism. Therefore, "the … election of ruling elders … shall express the rich diversity of the congregation's membership and shall guarantee participation and inclusiveness" (G-2.0401). Paying attention to these do's and don'ts might help you become a better church member, the ruling elders become better session members and all of you become better friends, as members of "the priesthood of all believers." The Rev. Jerry Van Marter is interim director of communications for the Office of the General Assembly and stated clerk for Mid- Kentucky Presbytery. T raditionally, the new year means a new class of ruling elders and, by now, most PC(USA) congrega- tions have elected and installed their new class of ruling elders to serve on the session. Most of the elders your congregation has elected are probably friends of yours and you are confident in their leadership skills. Your congregation's nominating com- mittee has nominated them and you have dutifully voted for them in a congregational meeting. But what, exactly, have you elected them for? Here are three things you should expect — and three you should NOT expect — of your ruling elders. DO expect your ruling elders to be spiritual leaders. Ruling elders are chosen by the congregation "to discern and measure its fidelity to the Word of God and to strengthen and nurture its faith and life" (Book of Order, G-2.0301). Together with the pastor(s) they are "responsible for a quality of life and relationships that commends the gospel to all persons and that communi- cates its joy and justice" (G-2.0504). DON'T expect your ruling elders to be "politi- cal leaders." The first four ordination questions in the Book of Order (W-4.0404) — posed to ministers as well as deacons and ruling elders — emphasize the sources of authority for Presbyterians: the Lordship of Jesus Christ, the unique and authoritative witness to Jesus found in the Scriptures and the essential tenets of the Reformed faith as found in the Book of Confessions. Ruling elders lead by informed faith, not by popular trends or political winds. DO expect your ruling elders to be faith-filled — just like you. Particularly in small and medium- sized churches, ruling elders are friends and have served beside you on countless committees and other groups. You know them and understand them to be "persons of wisdom and maturity of faith, having demon- strated skills in leadership and being compassionate in spirit" (G-2.0301). But so are you! Presbyterians believe that priesthood is a vocation of every church member. "Members and those in ordered ministries [ministers, ruling elders and deacons] serve together under the mandate of Christ" (G-2.0101). Ruling elders and expectations A refresher from the Book of Order Jerry Van Marter | CHURCH MATTERS

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