Why Do We Have Presbyteries?

As we continue our study on What is the Church?, it’s easy to say we enjoy our local church. Many are involved in various kinds of ministry in the church, knowing the reasons why our church exists, promoting its mission and vision. We recently considered how the local church is governed by a minister and ruling elders. That’s all very good. But what about what’s beyond the local church? You may not be as familiar with our broader connections.

All members of local Presbyterian congregations, along with ministers in the district, are part of the “regional church” of their denomination. The “presbytery” is the governing body of a regional church that consists of all the ministers and all the ruling elders of the congregations of that regional church. All Presbyterian denominations have presbyteries. The number of presbyteries depends upon their size and geographic boundaries. All of the presbyteries are then a part of the General Assembly of the denomination. The Orthodox Presbyterian Church, for example, has 17 presbyteries across North America, divided according to geographic region. Our congregation is a part of the Presbytery of the Southwest (Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Arkansas).

But why do we have presbyteries? Presbyteries are to serve in important ways as they govern regional churches. The OPC Book of Church Order, Form of Government, Chapter XIV,  The Regional Church and Its Presbytery helps us here. The following are a few highlights from Section 5 regarding the purpose and work of the presbytery. I encourage you to read the whole chapter for a more complete consideration.

  • The presbytery is to be concerned about the spiritual welfare of the churches under its care.
  • It has the responsibility for evangelism within the bounds of its region, especially in areas which are not within the sphere of service in any one congregation.
  • It seeks to foster fellowship in worship and nurture in the church as a whole within its region.
  • It organizes or receives congregations, as well as unites or dissolves congregations, at the request of the people and with the advice of the sessions involved.
  • It receives and issues all appeals, and other matters, that are brought before it from church sessions in a regular manner, subject to the provisions of the Book of Discipline; It resolves questions of doctrine or discipline seriously and reasonably proposed; It condemns erroneous opinions which injure the purity or peace of the church.
  • It takes under its care, examines, and licenses candidates for the holy ministry. It also ordains, installs, removes, and judges ministers.
  • It also has the responsibility of examining local church sessional records.

So, we can see that the presbytery is to do good work in supporting and promoting the peace, purity, and unity of the church in carrying out these duties and others. Know that your presbytery has standing committees, such as the Archivist (historian), Home Missions, Foreign Missions, Stewardship (manages presbytery finances), Diaconal (mercy ministry), Visitation (supports ministers and needy churches), Youth Camp, Candidates & Credentials (prepares and examines men for pastoral ministry, oversees ministerial credentials), Bills & Overtures (appeals, complaints, charges, etc.) Christian Education, and Fraternal Relations. Ministers and elders work year-round on these committees, doing the work of the church.

Please pray for our presbytery. We need your prayers. Please pray that God would richly bless all of the ministers and elders therein, their families, and the service we are a part of. Please pray that He would be at work in all our hearts to guide us, convict us, grow us, and protect us that we would be faithful shepherds in serving together for the furtherance of Christ’s kingdom and the tender care of His precious lambs.