First Presbyterian Church of Hokendauqua

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October 2013

Explaining Two Mysteries of “Presby-Speak”
Pastor Points for October

Some of you have asked what an Elder is, and what he/she does. Over the years, there have been a great many changes in the PC(USA) Constitution’s second volume, The Book of Order. You may not realize that, when many of us older folks were growing up, only men could be Presbyterian Elders, and those men stayed in office for the rest of their lives, just like most of our U.S. Supreme Court justices. Also, only men could be pastors. Women were first ordained as PC(USA) pastors, beginning in 1953 with the First Presbyterian Church of Allentown’s own Reverend Margaret Towner, here in Lehigh Presbytery. The rules have been changed, so that younger people, busy people, and women may serve as our leaders—thanks be to God!

Here’s an explanation of two terms in the 2012-2013 Book of Order: RULING ELDER: Elected by the congregation and ordained to ministry, a ruling elder serves as a voting member of the congregation’s decision-making council, the Session. They are called Elders, not because of age, but because they are considered competent and wise enough to make good decisions. Once ordained, a ruling Elder is always an Elder, continuing as a spiritual leader of the congregation, even when not actively serving on the Session—which, in our church, has a term limit of three years, renewable (by choice) for another three-year term. A ruling Elder must take a year out of office after six consecutive years, according to our by-laws.
TEACHING ELDER: Formerly called Ministers of the Word and Sacrament, and still called “pastors,” teaching Elders are called to teach the faith of the church, interpret and administer the sacraments, provide for pastoral care and mission, and participate in governance of the congregation and Lehigh Presbytery. Before ordination, pastoral candidates attend seminary for a minimum of three years, on a full-time basis, and go through an intensive selection process. Biblical Greek, Hebrew, chaplaincy training and local preaching experience are required of candidates for teaching Elder.

Whether ordained or not, all church members are ministers in the Presbyterian Church, USA. If the Nominating Committee of our church calls you to run for the office of ruling Elder or Deacon this fall, please prayerfully consider serving in a leadership position for the next three years. If you are elected, and you agree to take office in 2014, many more mysteries of the PC(USA) will be revealed to you!
Pastor Joyce

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