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Ordering Our Life Together

The Presbyterian Church (USA) is governed by councils composed of presbyters (elders) elected by the people (F-3.0202). These councils are called the session, the presbytery, the synod, and the General Assembly. All councils of the church are united by the nature of the church and share with one another responsibilities, rights, and powers as provided in this Constitution. (G-3.0101)

The Church’s ministry is a gift from Jesus Christ to the whole Church.  Christ alone rules, calls, teaches, and uses the Church as he wills, exercising his authority by the ministry of women and men for the establishment and extension of God’s new creation.  Christ’s ministry is the foundation and standard for all ministry, the pattern of the one who came “not to be served but to serve” (Matt. 20:28).  The basic form of ministry is the ministry of the whole people of God, from whose midst some are called to ordered ministries, to fulfill particular functions.  Members and those in ordered ministries serve together under the mandate of Christ. (G-2.0101)

The Church’s ordered ministries described in the New Testament and maintained by this church are deacons and presbyters (ministers of Word and Sacrament and elders, a.k.a. teaching and ruling elders).  Ordered ministries are gifts to the church to order its life so that the ministry of the whole people of God may flourish.  The existence of these ordered ministries in no way diminishes the importance of the commitment of all members to the total ministry of the church.


The session has responsibility for governing the congregation and guiding its witness to the sovereign activity of God in the world, so that the congregation is and becomes a community of faith, hope, love, and witness.  As it leads and guides the witness of the congregation, the session shall keep before it the marks of the Church (F-1.0302), the notes by which Presbyterian and Reformed congregations have identified themselves throughout history (F-1.0303) and the six Great Ends of the Church (F-1.0304).

In light of this charge, the session has responsibility and power to:

1. provide that the Word of God may be truly preached and heard.

This responsibility shall include providing a place where the congregation may regularly gather for worship, education, and spiritual nurture; providing for regular preaching of the Word by a minister or other person prepared and approved for the work; planning and leading regular efforts to reach into the community and the world with the message of salvation and the invitation to enter into committed discipleship; planning and leading ministries of social healing and reconciliation in the community in accordance with the prophetic witness of Jesus Christ; and initiating and responding to ecumenical efforts that bear witness to the love and grace of God.

2. provide that the Sacraments may be rightly administered and received.

This responsibility shall include authorizing the celebration of the Lord’s Supper at least quarterly and the administration of Baptism as appropriate, in accordance with the principles of the Directory for Worship; and exercising pastoral care among the congregation; in order that the Sacraments may be received as a means of grace, and the congregation may live in the unity represented in the Sacraments.

3. nurture the covenant community of disciples of Christ.

This responsibility shall include receiving and dismissing members; reviewing the roll of active members at least annually and counseling with those who have neglected the responsibilities of membership; providing programs of nurture, education, and fellowship; training, examining, ordaining, and installing those elected by the congregation as elders and deacons; encouraging the graces of generosity and faithful stewardship of personal and financial resources; directing the ministry of deacons, trustees, and all organizations of the congregation; employing the administrative staff of the congregation; leading the congregation in participating in the mission of the whole church; warning and bearing witness against error in doctrine and immorality in practice within the congregation and community; and serving in judicial matters in accordance with the Rules of Discipline. (G-3.0201)

As the session carries out these responsibilities, it organizes itself and the boards to serve effectively, creatively and with imagination.  It does this so that the congregation becomes more faithful participants in the mission of Christ.  It gives full expression to the rich diversity of the church’s membership and provides for full participation and access to representation in decision-making and employment practices.

F-1.0302          The Marks of the Church

With all Christians of the Church catholic, we affirm that the Church is “one, holy, catholic, and apostolic.”

F-1.0303          The Notes of the Reformed Church

Where Christ is, there is the true Church.  Since the earliest days of the Reformation, Reformed Christians have marked the presence of the true Church wherever:  the Word of God is truly preached and heard, the Sacraments are rightly administered, and ecclesiastical discipline is uprightly ministered.

In our own time, we affirm that, in the power of the Spirit, the Church is faithful to the mission of Christ as it:

  • Proclaims and hears the Word of God, responding to the promise of God’s new creation in Christ, and inviting all people to participate in that new creation;
  • Administers and receives the Sacraments, welcoming those who are being engrafted into Christ, bearing witness to Christ’s saving death and resurrection, anticipating the heavenly banquet that is to come, and committing itself in the present to solidarity with the marginalized and the hungry; and
  • Nurtures a covenant community of disciples of Christ, living in the strength of God’s promise and giving itself in service to God’s mission.


F-1.0304  The Great Ends of the Church

The great ends of the Church are:

  • the proclamation of the gospel for the salvation of humankind;
  • the shelter, nurture, and spiritual fellowship of the children of God;
  • the maintenance of divine worship;
  • the preservation of the truth;
  • the promotion of social righteousness; and
  • the exhibition of the Kingdom of Heaven to the world.





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