Governance and Doctrine of the Presbyterian Church

Unlike the Catholic Church where the leading authority belongs to the bishop, the Presbyterian Church has a different system of governance where the role that equals that of a bishop belongs to the Elders. The notable thing about this, the factor that really differentiates between the two sides is the fact that while there is only one figure of the bishop in the Catholic Church, there is a whole group of Elders who may even be noted as the “church board” when suited. However, the usual terminology used for the group is either classis or presbytery. This structure is implemented right down to the local Presbyterian churches. These elders are responsible for the running of each individual church and when talking about a whole group of presbyteries, the term used to identify them is synod. All synods and presbyteries join together to form what is called a general assembly which is usually found at the national level. The person responsible for the way the churches are conducted is an ordained member of its governance and is known as “minister of the word and sacrament” or simply a “teaching elder”.

Governance History Explained

Church LawIt was only in the beginning of the Presbyterian Church that an Elder was considered to be of the same rank as a bishop and the distinction between the two came when the norm for multiple elders was brought in. St. Gerome clearly pointed about the flaw in singularity of the leadership in “In Epistle Titus” that such a position caused a corruption of mind by the devil which resulted in development of factions. That is why the whole concept of joint council for governance was introduced. The first ever implementation of the system was conducted by John Calvin himself in the year 1541 in Geneva church.

What is Congregationalism?

This is a particular part of the Presbyterian Church governance as unlike other churches, individual congregations of a church are not independent from the higher authorities and are bound to answer to the higher power which may be the group of synods and general assemblies. One of the biggest roles of these ministries is to ensure that the conduct of the Presbyterian Church meets its standards even at the lowest level and no church congregation goes unaccounted for. The result therefore is an effective system of governance that helps keep the whole practice and its ideologies intact when put into practice.

What is a Synod?

The role of a synod comes in when a particular branch of the church becomes too large to be handled by a single body. At that moment, the presbyteries are divided into multiple presbyteries that come under a single synod. As far as the United Church of Canada is concerned, these synods are referred to as either General Council or conferences. The difference between the governance of a synod from a presbytery is that its commissioner acts through their own judgment instead of being instructed by the presbyteries. There is also a position of a clerk and moderator for a synod and the members don’t meet that often either. There are some exceptions too though like the Presbyterian Church of America and the Orthodox Presbyterian Church which have no intermediate governing body and are directly under the general assembly.

What is a General Assembly?

This is the highest ranking court in all of Presbyterian system of governance. The members of this come from all presbyteries and they are called commissioners. In order to conduct its business, the general assembly elects its own moderator who is in charge of the meetings that may be held during a given time period. The usual length of moderation lasts a year and the meetings also happen at the same interval. If however, there are to be special circumstances, some of the power of the general assembly which is actually quite wide ranged may be removed. An example of this is the practicing of the Barrier Act by the Church of Scotland through which, all the major changes in the church’s governance are to be made only after consulting the local level presbyteries.

Final Word

The firm belief of the Presbyterian governance in a multi-member ruling system is believed to be extracted directly from the way it is described in the New Testament and that the earliest churches were also governed in the same manner. The concept of episcopacy is believed to be only a form of contingency that was applied in rare cases where there was a need for such an implementation.


Recent News on Israel and Palestine

The Presbyterian Church has been very active in the bringing of peace in the areas affected by the conflict between the Palestinians and the Israelis. Several denominations have been working for a very long time, both individually and in congregation with several other relief and aid organizations. The work is being done one a multitude of levels on both sides and there has been a constant effort to bring down the level and frequency of the fights as much as possible. The efforts include both going right into ground zero and seeing the situation first hand and at the same time facing the media to promote the efforts for peace and stability in the region. The efforts that were made and the presence on the media that the Presbyterian Church has had regarding the conflict have been reviewed here in detail.

Being at Ground Zero

The Presbyterian Church has had a lot of focus on being an active part of resolving the issue between Israel and Palestine and one of the biggest entities that have been playing a huge role is the Israel/Palestine Mission Network. The entity is a part of the Presbyterian Church USA and is actively playing its role in the resolution of the conflict. Their efforts involve providing real time support to the affected civilians and at the same time, studying the situation while being on the ground to better understand the conflict and resolve the problem. A lot of different press releases have also been coming from them regarding the clear stance of the Presbyterian Church on the issue.

Al-Aqsa Conflict

One of the most recent developments in the worsening of the situation of the conflict between Israel and Palestine is the recent increase in tension by Israel through giving a call to demolish the Al-Aqsa Mosque. The fact that such a thing could bring a huge escalation in an already worsening situation is realized by everyone who is either trying to resolve the issue or is working for relief on ground zero. The Presbyterian Church, being an active part of the resolution of the conflict has clearly said like its partners that the Israeli authorities are bound to respect the right of Muslims to worship in the Al-Aqsa Mosque.

Jerusalem and Israeli control

The status of Jerusalem is currently not resolved and it is recognized as so by the State Department of the USA as well. Even under such circumstances, the Presbyterian Church has made a very clear statement that the encroachment of land being done by the Israeli authorities in Jerusalem is against the law and should be stopped. Since the point of the entrenchment is to gain access to the holy land completely, the Israeli authorities want to take away the rights of the Muslims in the area to worship freely at the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock and that is itself in conflict with the international law.

Supporting freedom of worship

The Presbyterian Church completely respects the right of Muslim in the Jerusalem area to go and worship at the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock. The Freedom of Worship is a part of international law too and the Presbyterian Church USA, being a denomination based in the United States is working hard to make sure the U.S law for foreign aid is implemented fully. After all, Israel is one of the biggest recipients of US aid in the whole world.

Unbiased Opposition of Violence

The Presbyterian Church strongly believes that it is extremely necessary to bring about a change in the situation by ending the violence from all sides. It doesn’t matter if one is Palestinian or Israeli or from any other side, inflicting violence on either side is completely wrong. It is only through the complete removal of this violence that the first step can be taken towards liberation for both sides. Special efforts have been made by the Presbyterian Church to influence Israel into complying with this approach and the Presbyterian Mission Agency has also released a complete guide on boycotting the products that are being made from the Israeli settlements. The Israel/Palestine Mission Network is also urging the members and general public to submit applications in order to exert pressure on the United States government to protect the human rights of the Palestinians against Israeli aggression.

All in all, the Presbyterian Church is one of the most active groups working toward the resolution of the conflict between Palestine and Israel and it is working in every manner to effectively eradicate the problem from the region, no matter what it takes.

Presbyterian Views

The Presbyterian Church is highly focused on making sure that it is able to guide the people on every issue in their lifestyle and help them overcome even the most sensitive issues without falling into any confusion. To do that, they have specialized think tanks that work on finding answers to the biggest problems of today using guidance from the Holy Bible. Another thing that sets them apart from other typical religious factions of Christianity is that they always find the answers to the questions using a blend of religious knowledge and scriptures and logical sense at the same time. Some of the most commonly discussed views and the stand of the Presbyterian Church on them has been discussed here.

Marriage Equality

This is a topic that has been under scrutiny and constant debate for a very long time and a lot of very sensitive and serious clashes were also seen among the different groups of believers. While the stance on this issue among the rest of Churches may vary, the Presbyterian Church has clearly established that it believes in the equality that everyone deserves in regards with marriage. There is nothing wrong with same-sex marriages and the church clearly endorses all those who decide to take the unconventional road.


Considering the conditions around the world and the fact that there are practically dozens of active war zones in every corner of the world, it is quite a sensitive matter. However, according the Presbyterian Church, the line has to be drawn for what is right and what is wrong and determine where it is necessary to fight. The beliefs of John Calvin himself are held tightly here who believed in a “just” war where it was absolutely necessary to fight against the bad people in the world who threaten to destroy the peace. Still, war should be the last option and taken only after all other peaceful routes have been exhausted.

Immigrants Rights

The Presbyterian Church is quite active in regards with the rights of the immigrants and a number of churches in the recent times have also provided shelter to the immigrants having problems with the authorities on their status. The Presbyterian Church USA also released a detailed reaction on the latest passing of the bill that was bound to cause a lot of problems in the southern borders. There is however a small air of relief on the fact that there is a passage left to achieve citizenship, even though it is quite narrow.

Economic Crisis

The Presbyterian Church is one of the most active bodies working to help people in the economic crisis and the general approach to resolve the issue includes a resolution that focuses on making sure that the responsibility is taken equally by everyone, no human rights are violated, public order is maintained fully and the economic imbalance is countered properly and in all fairness to those who have suffered.

Bringing about Peace

The Presbyterian Church is extremely concerned about the peace situation in the hot warzones around the world. One of the biggest examples of this is the direct involvement of Presbyterian Church USA in the resolution of the Palestine conflict and urging both sides to do their part in bringing back the peace in the region.


In the recently released reports, the CIA was said to have been using torture methods on the prisoners that they were holding and the Presbyterian Church took a very hard line on the issue. The church spoke clearly that the use of torture techniques was not right whatsoever, especially considering the fact that the same government that condemned its use in foreign countries was doing it at the same time. The church believes that torture is a purely evil activity and it is in complete violation of the human rights and every human being’s dignity.

The Media

The role of media is perhaps the most important of all global and social issues at hand and the stance that the Presbyterian Church has about it is quite clear and undisputable. The church firmly believes that it is the responsibility of the media to spread the news that is just and truthful and in no way violates the rights of any human being or nation. The stance is believed to be the most logically apt and is also what everyone’s stance on the issue should be because there is no denying the fact that these are the things that really matter here the most.