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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