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Introduction to the Book of Order. Cliff Creel, Stated Clerk Presbytery of Northern New England. PCUSA Constitution. Part I: Book of Confessions Part II: Book of Order. Book of Confessions. A confession is a statement of faith.

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introduction to the book of order

Introductionto theBook of Order

Cliff Creel, Stated Clerk

Presbytery of Northern New England

pcusa constitution
PCUSA Constitution
  • Part I: Book of Confessions
  • Part II: Book of Order
book of confessions
Book of Confessions
  • A confession is a statement of faith.
  • 11 Documents written over the centuries help to define and expand our faith.
  • Most confessions were written during a time of stress on the church.
the confessions
The Confessions
  • Nicene Creed
  • Apostles’ Creed
  • Scots Confession
  • Heidelberg Catechism
  • Second Helvetic Confession
  • Westminster Confession of Faith
    • Shorter Catechism
    • Larger Catechism
  • Theological Declaration of Barmen
  • Confession of 1967
  • Brief Statement of Faith
book of order
Book of Order
  • Provides the rules for governing the church in four sections:
    • F: The Foundations of Presbyterian Polity
    • G: Form of Government
    • W: Directory for Worship
    • D: Rules of Discipline


How we govern ourselves as a church.

pcusa hierarchy
Church Government (Councils)

General Assembly (1)

Synod (16)

Presbytery (172)

Session (about 10,000)

Civil Government





PCUSA Hierarchy




general assembly ga
General Assembly (GA)
  • Highest council of PCUSA.
  • Only council that can amend the Constitution.
  • Provides staff to operate the denomination, nationally and internationally.
  • Provides national and international mission.
  • Highest Appellate Court
  • Provides resources to Synods, Presbyteries and Churches.
  • Headquartered in Louisville, KY
  • Provides appellate court for Presbytery PJC decisions.
  • Reviews Presbytery operations.
  • Provides resources to Presbyteries.
  • Performs mission activities.
  • Presbytery Partnership Groups
  • Synod of the Northeast headquartered in Syracuse, NY
  • Support & oversight of ministers.
  • Support & oversight of churches.
  • Support & oversight of candidates.
  • Performs regional mission activities.
  • Emerging Ministries.
  • Administration & Finance.
  • Exercises discipline when necessary.
  • Appellate court for sessions.
  • Session makes most decisions for the church.
  • Session is composed of Ruling Elders in active service.
  • Deacons and Trustees (if used) are under oversight of Session.
  • Session is moderated by a teaching elder, usually the pastor(s) of the church.
  • Session may appoint committees, commissions and task groups to assist it as needed.
ordered ministry
Ordered Ministry
  • Ordered ministries are
    • Deacons
    • Presbyters
      • Teaching Elders (ministers)
      • Ruling Elders
  • The call to order ministry is an act of God, evidenced by movement of the Holy Spirit in the individual conscience, approval of a community of God’s people and the concurring judgment of a council of the church. (G-2.0103)
ruling elder
Ruling Elder
  • Officer and leader of the church.
  • “Ruling” connotes “Measuring” the spiritual health of the congregation.
  • Responsible for the spiritual health of church members.
  • Responsible for the “business” of the church.
  • Ordained for life, but serve on session for a limited time.
representative government
Representative Government
  • The Church is governed by representatives called commissioners.
    • In a church, the “commissioners” are the Ruling Elders on Session and the installed pastors.
    • For higher bodies (Presbytery, Synod, GA) the commissioners are made up of an equal number of Teaching and Ruling Elders.
  • Commissioners vote their conscience, guided by the Holy Spirit.
  • Each governing body elects officers to ensure the proper functioning of the body.
  • Officers of a church are
    • Installed Pastors
    • Elders serving on Session
    • Deacons serving on the Board of Deacons.
  • Higher level (e.g. Presbytery) officers are
    • Moderator
    • Stated Clerk
    • additional officers the governing body may create (e.g. Vice Moderator & Treasurer).
session moderator
Session Moderator
  • Normally, the pastor, but if without pastor:
    • COM will appoint a moderator (normally a Teaching Elder member of Presbytery)
  • Provides connectionalism with Presbytery.
  • Presides over meetings of Session & Congregation.
  • Session cannot meet without a moderator.
  • Installed pastors are voting members of Session.
    • However, pastors can never vote in a congregational meeting.
church governing roles
Church Governing Roles
  • Session
    • Makes nearly all decisions and leads the congregation.
    • Ruling Elders in active service.
  • Congregation
    • Very limited role (e.g. choice of installed pastor, elect elders & deacons, buy / sell / mortgage property).
  • Pastor
    • Discretion over content of worship.
    • Moderates Session.
    • Member of Presbytery.
elected by session
Elected by Session
  • Clerk of Session
  • Treasurer
  • Others as defined by Session, e.g.
    • Committees
    • Pledge Administrator
    • Archivist
congregation s role
Congregation’s Role
  • The congregation is only allowed to do a few things (G-1.0503) which include.
    • Electing ruling elders, deacons and trustees.
    • Calling installed pastors.
    • Matters relating to an existing pastoral relationship.
    • Buy, mortgage or sell real property.
    • Request presbytery to grant an exemption as permitted in the Constitution (G-2.0404).
  • A congregation may also conduct corporate business required by civil law (e.g. bylaws).
session responsibilities g 3 02 very brief summary
Session Responsibilities G-3.02(Very Brief Summary)
  • Word of God is truly preached and heard.
  • Provide for education and spiritual nurture.
  • Regular efforts to reach out with the message of salvation.
  • Lead ministries of social healing and reconciliation in community.
  • Initiate and respond to ecumenical efforts.
  • Provide for celebration of the Lord’s Supper at least quarterly.
  • Provide for administration of Baptism as appropriate.
  • Exercise pastoral care among the congregation.
  • Lead the church in mission outreach.


session responsibilities cont
Session Responsibilities (cont.)
  • Responsible for church membership rolls.
  • Counsel those who have neglected responsibility of membership.
  • Provide programs of fellowship.
  • Train, examine, approve, ordain & install those elected to office by the congregation.
  • Encourage the graces of generosity and faithful stewardship.
  • Establish an annual budget and manage finances.
  • Manage church property for furtherance of its mission.
  • Direct the ministry of deacons, trustees and other organizations of the congregation.


session responsibilities cont1
Session Responsibilities (cont.)
  • Manage the administrative staff of the church.
  • Send commissioners to Presbytery Meetings.
  • Nominate ruling elders to serve Presbytery, Synod and General Assembly.
  • Participate as required with higher councils.
  • Warn and bear witness against error in doctrine and immorality.
  • Serve in judicial matters in accordance with the Rules of Discipline.
worship session w 1 4004
Worship & Session (W-1.4004)
  • Session shall make provision for regular:
    • Preaching of the Word.
    • Celebration of the Sacraments.
    • Corporate Prayer.
    • Praise to God in song.
worship session w 1 40041
Worship & Session (W-1.4004)
  • Session is responsible for:
    • Date, time and place of worship.
    • Use of flowers, candles, banners, paraments.
    • Overall program of music and other arts.
    • Those who lead worship through music, drama, dance and art.
worship pastor w 1 4005
Worship & Pastor (W-1.4005)
  • Pastor alone is responsible for:
    • Selection of Scripture.
    • Preparation & preaching of the sermon.
    • Prayers offered on behalf and for use of the people.
    • Music to be sung.
    • Use of drama, dance and other art forms.
home communion w 3 3616e
Home Communion (W-3.3616e)
  • Two or more ruling elders or deacons may take communion to shut-ins provided:
    • Done following worship on same day (or as soon as practical) as a direct extension of the serving to the congregation.
    • Preserve the unity of Word and Sacrament by reading of Scripture and offering of prayers.
    • Those serving have received training in the theological and pastoral foundations of this ministry and in the liturgical resources.
decently and in order
1 Corinthians 14:40 (NRSV)

“but all things should be done decently and in order.”

Decently and in Order
study guide
Study Guide
  • Book of Order Sections for Special Attention:
    • F-1.02
    • F-1.0401
    • F-3.02
    • G-1.01 – 1.05
    • G-2.03 – 2.04
    • G-3.01 – 3.02
    • W-4.4003
  • Resources
    • Book of Order
    • Book of Confessions
    • Parliamentary Pamphlet