Streamlining the Ecclesiastical process

Just a little bit of self aggrandizement. In the last two weeks my future daughter in law was ordained into the United Church of Christ. And my son was approved for ordination in the Evangelical Lutheran Church. While the UCC and ELCA have altar pulpit fellowship because they preach the gospel and administer the sacraments, the ELCA and Anglican communion have Concordant through the apostolic secession--I don't mean to get into the weeds here.

Anyway, here is the rub: while my son has been approved for ordination, he has to wait till February to get assigned by the Lutheran Council of Bishops, unless he can convince a bishop to make a special assignment. (We want him and we want him now). In our body the bishops make assignments only twice a year--September and February. But this will mean he will be without a call for at least three or four months.

What I am finding is while these processes were formalized at the time of the formation of the ELCA some 30 years ago, they have become cumbersome and outmoded. I happen to think there should be a seamless process where there should be little lag time between approval for ordination and assignment. Many candidates no longer fit the timeline established 30 years ago. End of gripe for me.

But this does raise a question I want to ask this august body: If you had the power to do it, what Ecclesiastical process would you like to see changed, and what would that change be like?
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Comments

  • ZappaZappa Ecclesiantics Host
    What I'm not clear about in the processes you mention is whether there has been ministry training before this selection or whether that is a sort of "on the job" later. Call me an old fart but there are some aspects of formation that I think need a great deal of hastening slowly. I had three years training after selection, and two - it should have been four - years curacy/apprenticeship after that.

    But that's not what you've asked, so basically I'm just nudging a potentially fine thread.
  • I would like it if the Church of Scotland formalised a Q&A with the congregation for sole nominees. It would let people get things off their chests and air the nonsense rumours that circulate below the surface before people decide to vote against the nominee and lose a great candidate.
  • Amen. I know you speak from experience, and while in most places to be sole nominee almost certainly means to be elected (by most of the congregation) some of the nay-sayers who carry their gripes into the new ministry would have less of an audience if we did that. Maybe we should put it to the General Assembly? It's my turn to go this May.... Seriously.
  • Baptist TrainfanBaptist Trainfan Shipmate
    edited October 17
    As someone who comes from a congregationalist tradition, I find it quite surprising that ministers in some others can be called to churches without having met and been questioned by the whole congregation. That's "de rigeur" in Baptist churches, although there is usually a more formal interview with the church leaders' team as well. In our present church the church Q&A included about 15 minutes being publicly quizzed by a children's panel, which was a great idea!

    I'm a little concerned though about "the nay-sayers who carry their gripes into the new ministry". Surely their complaints should have been addressed before the church has got to this stage? If not, three two can happen. One is simply that the church is over-cautious and tries to appoint "the same minister we had last time" (unless s/he was a total disaster), this stymying innovation and change. The second is that the candidate finds themself being asked questions which, unknown to them, are loaded: in my case these have had to do with both baptism and same-sex marriage. If subsequently appointed, the new minister soon finds themself having to "fire-fight" unanticipated problems which might have influenced their decision to come had they known about them.

    No process is perfect, and I've been pretty fortunate over the years. The main complaint seems to be the slowness of every model.
  • Gramps49Gramps49 Shipmate
    edited October 18
    Zappa wrote: »
    What I'm not clear about in the processes you mention is whether there has been ministry training before this selection or whether that is a sort of "on the job" later. Call me an old fart but there are some aspects of formation that I think need a great deal of hastening slowly. I had three years training after selection, and two - it should have been four - years curacy/apprenticeship after that.

    But that's not what you've asked, so basically I'm just nudging a potentially fine thread.

    My son received a bachelor of religious studies. He served one year as a missionary in Palestine (working under the auspices of the Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Lands--whose bishop happens to be the president of the Lutheran World Federation). He served as camp counselor at three camps. He got his Masters of Divinity after three years of study at an accredited seminary and he served one year as an intern at a coffee house ministry. The questions the candidacy committee had was about his debt load. There was no question about his theology. The debt load was because of student loans.

    As to the question of whether congregations get the chance to interview candidates before issuing a call, in the ELCA they do. The candidacy committee only determines the candidate has met the requirements for ministry, but the congregations still have the right to interview them before issuing a call.
  • PuzzlerPuzzler Shipmate
    Whilst in the good old C of E there is no official role for the congregation in the selection of a new minister( this role is entrusted to two parish representatives), In our Diocese at least, it is customary for a certain number of lay people ( representing different groups ) to be invited to meet the candidates. We had three focus groups, the idea being that the candidates could ask them questions, rather than the other way round, so that they could get a feel for the parish before the interview. It seemed to work.
    As for things I would change: the main gripe is the slowness of any official process. In particular I would highlight not being able to start the preparatory work in the parish before the long task of appointing a new priest. Eg working on the parish profile, having official meetings with the Archdeacon, and having to work to their timescale. Yet at one point in our lengthy process, I saw in the Church Times, in the same edition, both the announcement of a resignation and the advert for his successor in another Diocese, so it can be done.
  • PuzzlerPuzzler Shipmate
    I would also make it possible for Methodist ministers to officiate at Holy Communion in Anglican churches NOW.
  • LeoLeo Shipmate
    Puzzler wrote: »
    I would also make it possible for Methodist ministers to officiate at Holy Communion in Anglican churches NOW.

    once they're ordained!
  • I understood that it was the standard CofE policy (or maybe it was just the diocese I grew up in) to stretch out each interregnum to at least 9 months to save on stipends.
  • AlbertusAlbertus Shipmate
    In the CofE, appointment of Bishops. Basically drop all the involvement of elected diocesan representatives and ponderous committees that have developed in the past 50 years and go back to the earlier C20 system of, essentially, the Prime Minister consulting the Archbishop, the patronage secretary perhaps taking a few soundings, and the PM recommending a name to the Queen. Much quicker than today's drawn-out process, on the whole produced perfectly good (and some great) bishops, and not nearly so vulnerable to the jockeying of political groups within the Church. Similarly, perhaps, for incumbents: lots more trust in patrons to make good appointments, and perhaps more support for them to do so.

    I realise that both these suggestions have not the slightest chance of ever happening now and that they will be regarded by many as deplorably reactionary, but I genuinely believe that they would do the Church good. Going back to the older way of appointing Bishops, in particular, would be a step towards reasserting the CofE as a national Church which is the property and concern of all English people and not just of the rather small politically active proportion of the rather small proportion of the people who are regular worshippers.
  • Surely you could better achieve that by democratically electing Bishops? By all means have an advisory committee to come up with a list of candidates, and/or allow a certain number parishioners within the diocese to nominate candidates, but assuming all candidates are minimally qualified (i.e. Anglican priests in good standing) then why shouldn't the diocese choose its Bishop in the way a parish chooses its churchwardens? You might go for an electoral college of clergy and laity to limit the potential to hijack the process for non-churchgoers but surely more transparency is better than less? Besides, when Corbyn is PM he's hardly going to want to be picking Bishops and even if he did would you be happy with the Bishops he picked?
  • AlbertusAlbertus Shipmate
    Well, we do have an electoral college here in Wales, which works quite well. But I think that apart form the question of making appointments more quickly, the key to our different understandings of the question lies in your reference to 'the potential to hijack the process for non-churchgoers'. I think that over the past 50 years it's the churchgoers who have hijacked the CofE from the rest of the population, who the Church is there to serve, under God of course.
  • AlbertusAlbertus Shipmate
    edited October 20
    The Royal Supremacy, exercised in the case of appointments through the Prime Minister, and the now probably IMO too far attenuated legislative role of Parliament, are/were concrete expressions of the national nature and responsibilities of the CofE. As for Corbyn: well, you take the rough with the smooth so long as the Archbishop is consulted and soundings are taken- and since the offence of praemunire was abolished the Cathedral chapter, which formally elects the nominee, could as a last resort refuse to elect without fear of all their possessions being forfeit.
  • EnochEnoch Shipmate
    Albertus wrote: »
    Well, we do have an electoral college here in Wales, which works quite well. But I think that apart form the question of making appointments more quickly, the key to our different understandings of the question lies in your reference to 'the potential to hijack the process for non-churchgoers'. I think that over the past 50 years it's the churchgoers who have hijacked the CofE from the rest of the population, who the Church is there to serve, under God of course.
    Sorry @Albertus, I really disagree with you there. That sounds like the perception of the church and its role that goes with one of the dodgier later kings of Israel or Judah, Ahab, say.

  • AlbertusAlbertus Shipmate
    Oh sure, I don't expect many people on here to agree with me. But there you go.
  • I've just been reading Linda Woodhead and Andrew Brown's book "That Was The Church That Was". I know it's easy to criticise, but it would certainly say that the CofE hierarchy has focused on its internecine battles and, in so doing, has divorced itself both from the nation and its rank-and-file members. (Of course I, as a Baptist, have issues with the whole notion of a State Church; but that's not what's being discussed here)
  • Albertus wrote: »
    The Royal Supremacy, exercised in the case of appointments through the Prime Minister, and the now probably IMO too far attenuated legislative role of Parliament, are/were concrete expressions of the national nature and responsibilities of the CofE. As for Corbyn: well, you take the rough with the smooth so long as the Archbishop is consulted and soundings are taken- and since the offence of praemunire was abolished the Cathedral chapter, which formally elects the nominee, could as a last resort refuse to elect without fear of all their possessions being forfeit.

    In a different ecclesiastical context, I was reflecting recently that the Church of Scotland lost its radical edge, which it had in spades during the nineteenth century, when it stopped thinking about how to lead society and to concentrate on mending Presbyterian divisions. A passion for trying new ideas had led to many splits, not just the Disruption, but also to many steps forward in care of the poor etc. Most of the strands of the divided church came together again, but maybe, is is my radical thesis, it was then the the seeds of stagnation were sown.
  • As someone who comes from a congregationalist tradition, I find it quite surprising that ministers in some others can be called to churches without having met and been questioned by the whole congregation. That's "de rigeur" in Baptist churches, although there is usually a more formal interview with the church leaders' team as well. In our present church the church Q&A included about 15 minutes being publicly quizzed by a children's panel, which was a great idea!
    In my tribe (the PC(USA)), whether the “congregational interview” happens depends on geography. In the years between the 1861, when the church split because of the Civil War, and Reunion in 1983 (yes, 122 years), different patterns took place. In the “Northern” church, a chance for the candidate(s) to meet the congregation and a “trial sermon,” with a congregational meeting afterwards, became common. By contrast, this arrangement was not allowed in the “Southern” church. So now, each presbytery determines its process in this regard. Most southern presbyteries still do not allow congregational interviews. Not sure how common they are elsewhere.

    Here, the congregation elects a search (“nominating”) committee; it is a committee of the congregation, not of Session. That committee can only provide general updates to the congregation; other than that, strict confidentiality is required. When the committee wants to hear a minister preach in person, presbytery arranges a “neutral pulpit” for the purpose. Once the committee has extended a call and the call has been accepted, and once the presbytery’s committee or commission on ministry has examined the candidate and approved the call, then and only then can a congregational meeting be called. At that meeting, the committee informs the congregation who the nominee is and provides information on him or her, answers questions from the congregation, and then a vote is taken.

    Obviously, with this system, a lot depends on the congregation electing people it trusts to the committee. And committees are strongly encouraged not to bring a name to the congregation unless it does so unanimously.

    As for the question raised in the OP, I would rethink the practice among American Presbyterians for rotating terms for elders on Session—usually a 3–year term, with the possibility of a second 3–year term immediately following, and then a break from serving on Session.

    I understand the reasons why we moved to this from the former pattern of lifetime service on Session. It encourages diversity and “new blood” on Session, and as a result in Synod and General Assembly. But I think we lost something when the change was made—the sense of being an elder as a permanent ministry, even though one is still only ordained once. (All of this could be said of deacons as well.) We still teach and talk about ordination as an elder or deacon being for life, but practice doesn’t always keep up with teaching.

    I wouldn’t go back to the old way, but I would try to find a way to better blend the two approaches, exploring more ways for elders not serving on Session to continue in appropriate forms of ministry.

  • Canadian electoral synods have a tendency to elect people with whom they would be most comfortable socially, so I am not certain if that is better than regal or prime-ministerial nomination in terms of results. I still have a fondness for the procedure of electing the Coptic Pope, which is to put ballots with the names of the eligible monks and bishops in a container and (after the usual lengthy church prayers), have a small child pick one out.
  • Gee DGee D Shipmate
    Albertus wrote: »
    Well, we do have an electoral college here in Wales, which works quite well. But I think that apart form the question of making appointments more quickly, the key to our different understandings of the question lies in your reference to 'the potential to hijack the process for non-churchgoers'. I think that over the past 50 years it's the churchgoers who have hijacked the CofE from the rest of the population, who the Church is there to serve, under God of course.

    The C of E is the only part of the Communion where bishops are not elected (and I don't mean the congé d'élire fake election).

    Last election here went awry, at least for some. The Church League, the dominant voice in Synod, wanted Canon Rick Smith to put up a very good showing, perhaps good enough to have been elected then. The first round of the process in Sydney is to decide which candidates get considered more deeply at the second round. Glenn Davies, the regional bishop for Northern Sydney, comfortably made it through. Despite 3 counts and recounts, Smith did not. The organisers of his campaign got it badly wrong and they really need to take lessons from the Labor Right.
  • Surely you could better achieve that by democratically electing Bishops? /quote]

    Doesn't that lead simply to those who are discontented with the result taking the line of either "He's not my Bishop - I didn't vote for him!" or "You have voted in a candidate who was not God's choice" or both. The "not God's choice" line sounds better, to those who are not familiar with this sort of objection, because it sounds as if it might be a genuine doctrinal objection, and it can be used against any candidate appointed by any system.
  • You could ask the many provinces that do elect their bishops.
  • EnochEnoch Shipmate
    The CofE doesn't have a good record when it comes to electoral systems. The mechanism for electing lay members of the General Synod is indefensible. It negates any claim any of them may try to make that they are representative of anyone part from themselves personally.
  • The problem with holding an election in the C of E is creating an electorate that is representative of the remit of the C of E.
  • Leo wrote: »
    Puzzler wrote: »
    I would also make it possible for Methodist ministers to officiate at Holy Communion in Anglican churches NOW.

    once they're ordained!

    If you're a Christian, you're ordained. No problem then.
  • Albertus wrote: »
    In the CofE, appointment of Bishops. Basically drop all the involvement of elected diocesan representatives and ponderous committees that have developed in the past 50 years and go back to the earlier C20 system of, essentially, the Prime Minister consulting the Archbishop, the patronage secretary perhaps taking a few soundings, and the PM recommending a name to the Queen. Much quicker than today's drawn-out process, on the whole produced perfectly good (and some great) bishops, and not nearly so vulnerable to the jockeying of political groups within the Church. Similarly, perhaps, for incumbents: lots more trust in patrons to make good appointments, and perhaps more support for them to do so.

    I realise that both these suggestions have not the slightest chance of ever happening now and that they will be regarded by many as deplorably reactionary, but I genuinely believe that they would do the Church good. Going back to the older way of appointing Bishops, in particular, would be a step towards reasserting the CofE as a national Church which is the property and concern of all English people and not just of the rather small politically active proportion of the rather small proportion of the people who are regular worshippers.

    Better still, put the jobs out to advert and have a formal/informal interview process involving church, diocese and parish representatives.

  • Better still, put the jobs out to advert and have a formal/informal interview process involving church, diocese and parish representatives.

    This is more or less the approach which is taken in the US. When there is a vacancy in the local throne (I think they might phrase it differently), notices go out in the church press and websites and diocesan profiles --- sometimes very interesting documents-- and desired qualities laid out, nominations are sent in, a nominations committee presents a shortlist (and these days check out references most carefully indeed), and the nominees present their own profiles, sometimes answering a set of questions posed by the committee. They then go around to meet delegates in a series of regional meetings, and then the voting begins.

    This is almost exclusively a matter for the electors-- diocesan clergy and lay representatives in an electoral convention. There is no participation from the wider church. In TEC that comes from the consents by diocesan standing committees which must be obtained before the Presiding Bishop proceeds with consecration (or, if already consecrated bishop) the authority to install the winning candidate.

    This approach is beginning to be found in Canada, although our preference for not encouraging interlopers from other dioceses continues to be an important factor. As with all elections, electors tend to go for someone with whom they are socially comfortable, or a candidate with whose politics they agree, rather than the best or most qualified person for the job. I'm not sure how to get around this.

  • No, not voting please. Too open to external influence
  • No, not voting please. Too open to external influence

    Well, someone is always voting, even if it's only one person-- the Prime Minister or the Queen. External influence doesn't seem to be an issue here, although it was on a few occasions by Masons or the Orange Lodge until the 1950s but I am not sure if anyone cares about who the bishop might be.

    I have long been advocating choosing by lot but nobody takes me seriously.
  • No, not voting please. Too open to external influence

    The Episcopal Diocese of Arizona elected a Bishop this past Saturday. I haven't heard of any Russian hacking, but now you have me wondering...

    :paranoid:
  • AlbertusAlbertus Shipmate
    No Russian hacking at all. As this picture of the Electoral College shows. https://economist.com/sites/default/files/images/print-edition/20180203_EUP001_0.jpg
  • angloidangloid Shipmate
    No, not voting please. Too open to external influence

    It is strongly rumoured that a certain Prime Minister was instrumental in ensuring the appointment of +George Carey as ABC. She might have been a democratically elected politician but in the context of a church appointment it is blatant external influence. And that was in accordance with the current structures.
  • Baptist TrainfanBaptist Trainfan Shipmate
    edited October 24
    But surely, if you have Establishment, then the secular authorities must have at least a say in such matters, if not necessarily the final one. (And, as a quid quo pro, you also have the Lords Spiritual intervening in the upper chamber of the secular Parliament). Conversely, if you want the Church to run its own affairs, then cut its formal ties to the State.
  • Albertus wrote: »
    No Russian hacking at all. As this picture of the Electoral College shows. https://economist.com/sites/default/files/images/print-edition/20180203_EUP001_0.jpg

    I love it! ROTFLMAO!
    :lol:

  • Albertus wrote: »
    No Russian hacking at all. As this picture of the Electoral College shows. https://economist.com/sites/default/files/images/print-edition/20180203_EUP001_0.jpg
    Aha! A cunning disguise!

  • Albertus wrote: »
    No Russian hacking at all. As this picture of the Electoral College shows. https://economist.com/sites/default/files/images/print-edition/20180203_EUP001_0.jpg
    Aha! A cunning disguise!

    I did not attend our Diocesan Convention, where are Bishop-to-be was elected, but I'm sure this bunch would have blended right in.
    :wink:

  • angloidangloid Shipmate
    But surely, if you have Establishment, then the secular authorities must have at least a say in such matters, if not necessarily the final one. (And, as a quid quo pro, you also have the Lords Spiritual intervening in the upper chamber of the secular Parliament). Conversely, if you want the Church to run its own affairs, then cut its formal ties to the State.

    Of course, couldn't agree more.
  • Gramps49Gramps49 Shipmate
    To the point of the PCUSA Session rotating its elders every three years, I would personally think that can be self defeating. For one, it takes at least a year to get acquainted with the congregation and for the congregation to trust the elder. I also found it takes up to five years to really build an effective ministry. Then too, when an elder is term limited, all a congregation has to do is wait the elder out. What if a congregation becomes unhealthy? A short term minister does not have the time to address the underlying problem IMHO.

  • I think you're misunderstanding the role of (ruling) elders in Presbyterian polity. Elders will usually be longstanding members of the congregation, a little like vestry or PCC members in Anglican traditions. The minister, or "teaching elder", usually comes from outside and would have the issues you describe, which is why they're not usually term-limited. The Church of Scotland, incidentally, has the opposite issue with elders - how do you gently persuade someone who is ordained and appointed for life to step back from that role and allow someone else to take on their duties when they have lost the physical or mental capacity to discharge them?
  • Yes, @Gramps49. As @Arethosemyfeet says, you seem to be confusing elders (sometimes called “ruling elders) with ministers (sometimes called “teaching elders”). The latter is what would be called “pastors” in Lutheran-speak; in Presbyterian-speak, a pastor is minister called to lead the congregation.

    The pastor is the moderator of Session, but the members of Session are elders elected from the members of the congregation. The polity of Presbyterian and Reformed churches differs from the polities of other churches in that, even at the congregation level, those who serve on the governing council—like a parish or congregational council, vestry, etc.—are ordained. Except for a handful of decisions left to congregations, all governance in Presbyterian churches at every level—Session, presbytery, synod or General Assembly—is exercised solely by ordained persons, ministers and elders.
  • Baptist TrainfanBaptist Trainfan Shipmate
    edited October 27
    As a Baptist ministering in a joint Baptist/URC congregation, I found the concept of "non-serving [lay] elders" to be a somewhat strange one. Although my tradition does have ministers who are ordained and nationally accredited "for life", our Deacons are elected in each church for a fixed term and cease to be such when their term of office finishes.
  • Gramps49Gramps49 Shipmate
    I think you're misunderstanding the role of (ruling) elders in Presbyterian polity. Elders will usually be longstanding members of the congregation, a little like vestry or PCC members in Anglican traditions. The minister, or "teaching elder", usually comes from outside and would have the issues you describe, which is why they're not usually term-limited. The Church of Scotland, incidentally, has the opposite issue with elders - how do you gently persuade someone who is ordained and appointed for life to step back from that role and allow someone else to take on their duties when they have lost the physical or mental capacity to discharge them?

    I was reacting to this quote from Nick
    As for the question raised in the OP, I would rethink the practice among American Presbyterians for rotating terms for elders on Session—usually a 3–year term, with the possibility of a second 3–year term immediately following, and then a break from serving on Session.

    I understand the reasons why we moved to this from the former pattern of lifetime service on Session. It encourages diversity and “new blood” on Session, and as a result in Synod and General Assembly. But I think we lost something when the change was made—the sense of being an elder as a permanent ministry, even though one is still only ordained once. (All of this could be said of deacons as well.) We still teach and talk about ordination as an elder or deacon being for life, but practice doesn’t always keep up with teaching

    I am quite familiar of the difference between ruling elders and teaching elders. Nick used the term elder in his post and I understood he was referring to a teaching elder. I simply went with his understanding of the term.

  • Let me speak as someone who has had rotational appointments. In my case review was every five years. I was ordained for life. Only I never managed a five years term. I think in total I have about seven but they were three different periods.

    I did a three-year stint and then collapsed through depression and had to take a sabbatical which lasted at least two years. I then did a further three years stint but not voted for, because I was returning from sabbatical. I should have insisted on re-election after two but I would have only had a year and then have had to resign to do the practical work for my PhD. I finally was re-elected again to the eldership (having insisted that they had to) and spent eighteen months before I withdrew because I was at risk of another bout of depression if I kept all my responsibilities I was carrying.

    I always carried a heavy load of responsibilities while in the eldership. In my first session, after just one year someone asked all the elders what their responsibilities were. Most listed one or two things. About four of the elders listed half a dozen or more, I was one of those four. Most of these I had brought with me from outside the eldership but were very clearly part of my role within the eldership. I should explain that the congregation would have liked me for an elder at least five years earlier but for a variety of reasons, I did not stand. Those reasons were correct as with hindsight I see I simply could not have fulfilled the pastoral role I was doing and be an elder because of the conflict within the eldership. However, the compromise was that I carried more responsibility than is normal for a non-elder.

    Elders often hit the floor running in a similar way to what I did. This is because they are not new to the congregation. A few congregations have a very different culture within elders than within the congregation (mine was one of these) but even then much can be expected of a relatively new elder especially if they are, to adopt Quaker terms, "weighty". This is because elders are not strangers but people of the congregation and often selected for their talents, expertise or responsibilities they carry. They therefore often have an allocated role within the eldership when they first join. When this happens an elder, as I did, can easily burn out in three years.

  • Gramps49 wrote: »
    I am quite familiar of the difference between ruling elders and teaching elders. Nick used the term elder in his post and I understood he was referring to a teaching elder. I simply went with his understanding of the term.
    No, I’m afraid you didn’t go with my understand of the term”elder”; you went with a misunderstanding of what I was saying. I’m not sure why you thought I was talking about ministers/teaching elders.

    In Presbyterian usage, at least in the States, “elder” used by itself always means “ruling elder,” and when one refers to an elder as a “member” of Session, one always means a ruling elder.

    The average person in the pew never speaks of teaching elders or ruling elders; they speak of ministers and elders.

  • Gramps49Gramps49 Shipmate
    My mistake, Nick. When you explain it that way, I can see some merit for a ruling elder to rotate out of the Session, to get more flesh blood in.




  • Gramps49 wrote: »
    My mistake, Nick. When you explain it that way, I can see some merit for a ruling elder to rotate out of the Session, to get more flesh blood in.
    Yes, there are definitely “pros” to the rotation method, and those “pros” probably outweigh the “cons.” But there are “cons,” as @Baptist Trainfan suggests, and I wish more thought would be given to how to mitigate them by finding ways for elders to continue to exercise their particular ministry while not serving on Session.

    There are some ways that is done now. At ordinations, all elders present are invited to participate in the laying on of hands. Although it is probably the norm to draw from elders serving on Session, any elder may present a candidate in the baptismal liturgy, serve Communion, or serve as Clerk of Session. And any elder may serve as a commissioner to presbytery, synod or General Assembly.

    There are some congregations that do more, such as by periodically bringing all elders together in something of a consultative council role on important issues. That’s the kind of thing I’d like to see more exploration of.

  • So your session clerk has to be an elder? Interesting. One of the eccentricities of the Church of Scotland is that the session clerk and treasurer need not even be members or adherents of the Kirk, let alone elders.
  • Interesting. Yes, here the clerk of Session must be an elder. The stated clerk of presbytery, synod or General Assembly must be an elder or a minister.

    The treasurer of the congregation does not have to be an elder. In practice, at least traditionally in these parts, the treasurer is a deacon.
  • And in the Church of Scotland, for the most part, a deacon is something else altogether, being a pastoral full-time trained for and paid position.

    (For the most part, because there is a tiny rump of an older way of doing things - to cut a very long history very short - where some churches had deacons courts while others had boards of management. Most now have either unitary constitution, which is just a Session with task groups including non-elders reporting to it, or a congregational board alongside the Session. The cong. Board is most like the PC(USA)'s deacons' court.).
  • P.S. The Session Clerk does not need to be an elder or member, but nearly always is both! Treasurers vary a little more.
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