Presbyterianism, whose bodies are also called Reformed Churches, share a common origin in the 16th-century Swiss Reformation and the teachings of John Calvin, and today is one of the largest Christian denominations in Protestantism.

What is Presbyterianism?

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  • What is Presbyterianism?

    What are your thoughts about Presbyterian forms of Government? How does it differ from a Single Elder or Single Pastor as presented by Baptist circles?

    Google defines Presbyterianism as: A form of Protestant Church government in which the church is administered locally by the minister with a group of elected elders of equal rank, and regionally and nationally by representative courts of ministers and elders.

    And the PCA: "Presbyterian" refers to our form of church government. Each congregation is under the oversight of those elected as elders, who are also part of the higher courts known as presbyteries and Synod.

    God bless,
    William

  • #2
    You might be overstating the role of the single elder in Baptist Churches. Baptist churches often have a number of elders and deacons, as well has having to answer to a denominational government to keep the brand, and as well as answering the congregation. There are differences. Baptist churches tend to be independently owned and operated, with few rules from the denomination to follow. Yes, the senior pastor is likely to have more power.

    Those small denominations that call themselves non-denominational often have a powerful pastor/pope/cult leader. Yes, I'm showing annoyance at the non-denominational concept, because of the power given to a single pastor.
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    • #3
      Right, thanks for pointing that out Cornelius. In a Baptist or congregational form of Government the congregation elects the pastor and also elects the deacons. The amount of authority the pastor has varies greatly from church to church, and will generally increase the longer a pastor remains in the church. The authority of the deacon board is often thought to be merely an advisory authority. In the way this system ordinarily functions, especially in smaller churches, many decisions must be brought before the congregation as a whole.

      It seems to be quite unwise to ignore a clear NT pattern which existed throughout all the churches for which we have evidence at the time the NT was written. When the NT shows us that no church was seen to have a single elder ("in every church," Acts 14:23; "in every town," Titus 1:5; "let him call for the elders," James 5:14; "I exhort the elders among you," 1 Peter 5:1), then it seems unpersuasive to say the smaller churches would have only had one elder. Even when Paul had just founded churches on his first missionary journey, there were elders appointed "in every church" (Acts 14:23). And "every town" on the island of Crete was to have elders, no matter how large or small the church was.

      Having said that, I was wondering what went wrong with the PCUSA? It seems to be true that a doctrinally sound denomination with a Presbyterian system of government can keep a local church from going astray in its doctrine, in actuality very frequently the opposite has been true: the national leadership of the PCUSA Presbyterian denomination has adopted false doctrine and has put great pressure on local churches to conform to it.

      The effective power in church government seems, in practice, to be too removed from the final control of the laypeople in the church. The power of the church resides primarily in the governing body of the local church, the more general the assembly, the more remote it is from the people. Thus the system is very hard to turn around when it begins to go wrong since the laypersons who are not elders have no vote in the session or the presbytery or the general assembly, and the governing structure of the church is more removed from them than in other church government structures.

      But what is a Presbyterian system of Government?

      In the Presbyterian system, each local church elects elders to a session. The Pastor of the church will be one of the elders in the session, equal in authority to the other elders. This session has governing authority over the local church. However, the members of the session (elders) are also members of a presbytery, which has authority over several churches in a region. This presbytery consists of some or all of the elders in the local churches over which it has authority. Moreover, some of the members of the presbytery are members of the "general" assembly which usually will have authority over all the Presbyterian churches in a nation or region.

      The arguments in favor of a Presbyterian system are:
      1. That those who have wisdom and gifts for eldership should be called on to use their wisdom to govern more than just one local church, and
      2. A national (or even worldwide) government of the church shows the unity of the body of Christ. Moreover
      3. Such a system is able to prevent an individual congregation from falling into doctrinal error much more effectively than any voluntary association of churches

      Lemme ask, I have heard some suggest that American Government was structured after Presbyterianism. Your thoughts or sources on this would be appreciated!

      God bless,
      William

      References: Wayne Grudem's Systematic Theology
      Presbyterian Church of America
      Orthodox Presbyterian Church
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      • #4
        As cultural Christianity began to decline after WWII, people started bringing less than biblical values into the church. PCUSA was more susceptible to this because their members tended to be more educated than, say Baptists, that is, they were more indoctrinated with secular values of the day. The power of the PCUSA government also helped liberals push the denomination away from God. As PCUSA became more liberal, conservatives started leaving the denomination, giving liberals yet more control, and this snowballed until PCUSA arrived at its apostate condition today, with the last conservatives plotting their escape.

        Some conservatives fled to relatively conservative Presbyterian denominations. But, most of them went to young denominations (and so-called non-denominational churches). In the process, conservatives became separated from their Reformed roots, and they became defenseless against what you might call lazy interpretation. Now, conservative doctrine is being created by popular opinion of lay people who know very little about what they're doing, and are often led around by corrupt ministers trying to tickle their ears. Meanwhile, liberals look at that anti-intellectualism and feel smug in their "enlightened and re-reformed" doctrine.

        The general public now sees only a choice between lazy, anti-intellectual doctrine vs. liberal, unbelieving doctrine, with the sound doctrines of good reformed churches being unknown by the general public, even though this doctrine was overwhelming held by American churches up until WWII
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