Deacons and Elders Defined (Book of Order)


G-2.0201                 Deacon Defined

The ministry of deacon as set forth in Scripture" is one of compassion, witness, and service, sharing in the redeeming love of Jesus Christ for the poor, the hungry, the sick, the lost, the friendless, the oppressed, those burdened by unjust policies or structures, or anyone in distress', Persons of spiritual character, honest repute, exemplary lives, brother- ly and sisterly love, sincere compassion, and sound judgment should be chosen for this ministry.


1 Very early in the history of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America, even before the General Assembly was established, the plan of reunion of the Synod of New York and Philadelphia contained the fol- lowing sentences: 'That when any matter is determined by a majority vote, every member shall either actively concur with or passively submit to such determination; or ifhis conscience permit him to do neither, he shall, after sufficient liberty modestly to reason and remonstrate, peaceable withdraw from our communion without attempting to make any schism. Provided always that this shall be understood to extend only to such determina- tion as the body shall judge indispensable in doctrine or Presbyterian government.' (Hist. Dig. (P) p. 1310.) (Plan of Union of 1758, par. II.)


G-2.0202       Under Authority of the Session


Deacons may be individually commissioned or organized as a board of deacons. In either case, their ministry is under the supervision and authority of the session. Deacons may also be given special assignments in the congregation, such as caring for members in need, handling educational tasks, cultivating liberality in giving, collecting and disburs- ing monies to specific persons or causes, or overseeing the buildings and property of the congregation. Deacons shall assume other duties as may be delegated to them by the ses- sion, including assisting with the Lord's Supper. (W-3.3616). A congregation by a major- ity vote may choose not to utilize the ordered ministry of deacons. If the congregation has neither a board of deacons nor individually commissioned deacons, the function of this ordered ministry shall be the responsibility of the ruling elders and the session.




G-2.0301          Ruling Elder Defined >  


As there were in Old Testament times elders for the government of the people, so the New Testament church provided persons with particular gifts to share" in discernment of God's Spirit and governance of God's people. Accordingly, congregations should elect persons of wisdom and maturity of faith, having demonstrated skills in leadership and being compassionate in spirit. Ruling elders are so named not because they "lord it over" the congregation (Matt. 20:25), but because they are chosen by the congregation to dis- cern and measure its fidelity to the Word of God, and to strengthen and nurture its faith and life. Ruling elders, together with teaching elders, exercise leadership, government, spiritual discernment, and discipline" and have responsibilities for the life of a congrega- tion as well as the whole church, including ecumenical relationships. When elected by the congregation, they shall serve faithfully as members of the session. When elected as commissioners to higher councils, ruling elders participate and vote with the same au- thority as teaching elders, and they are eligible for any office.





G-2.0401                    Election of Ruling Elders and Deacons


Ruling elders and deacons are men and women elected by the congregation from among its members. The nomination and election of ruling elders and deacons shall ex- press the rich diversity of the congregation's membership and shall guarantee participa- tion and inclusiveness (F-1.0403). Ruling elders and deacons shall be nominated by a committee elected by the congregation, drawn from and representative of its membership. Congregations may provide by their own rule for a congregational nominating commit- tee, provided that the committee shall consist of at least three active members of the con- gregation, and shall include at least one ruling elder who is currently serving on the ses- sion. The pastor shall serve ex officio and without vote. When elections are held, full opportunity shall always be given to the congregation for nomination from the floor of the congregational meeting by any active member of the congregation. A majority of all the active members present and voting shall be required to elect.


G-2.0402           Preparation/or Ministry as a Ruling Elder or Deacon


When persons have been elected to the ordered ministry of ruling elder or deacon, the session shall provide a period of study and preparation, after which the session shall examine them as to their personal faith; knowledge of the doctrine, government, and dis- cipline contained in the Constitution of the church; and the duties of the ministry. The session shall also confer with them as to their willingness to undertake the ministry ap- propriate to the order. If the examination is approved, the session shall appoint a day for the service of ordination and installation.


G-2.0403          Service of Ordination and Installation


The service of ordination and installation shall focus upon Christ and the joy and re- sponsibility of serving him through the mission and ministry of the church, and shall in- clude a sermon appropriate to the occasion. The moderator of session or person autho- rized to preside shall state briefly the nature of the ministry of ruling elder and deacon. The act of ordination and installation takes place in the context of worship. The order for that service of worship in the Directory for Worship (W-4.4000) shall be followed.


G-2.0404         Terms of Service


Ruling elders and deacons shall be elected to serve terms of no more than three years on the session or board of deacons, and may be eligible for reelection according to con- gregational rule. However, no ruling elder or deacon shall be eligible to serve more than six consecutive years, and a ruling elder or deacon who has served six consecutive years shall be ineligible for election to the same board for at least one year. Election shall be to classes as nearly equal in number as possible, with the term of only one class ending each year. The presbytery may, upon written request and by majority vote, grant a congrega- tion a waiver of this limitation on terms.


Once ordained and while they are active members of any congregation of this deno- mination, ruling elders or deacons not in active service on a session or board of deacons continue to bear the responsibilities of the ministry to which they have been ordained, except as provided in G-2.0406, G-2.0407, or in accordance with the Rules of Discipline.


G-2.0405         Dissolution of Relationship


A ruling elder or deacon may resign from the session or board of deacons, with the session's consent. On ceasing to be an active member of a congregation, a ruling elder or deacon ceases to be a member of its session or board. When a ruling elder or deacon, because of change of residence or disability, is unable for a period of one year to perform the duties of the ministry to which he or she was installed, the active relationship shall be dissolved by the session unless there is good reason not to do so, which shall be recorded.


Book of Order 201112013