Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Presbywhat?



With the recent name change from Trinity Presbyterian Church to Trinity Wellsprings Church, I thought it might be helpful to clarify that while we have a different name that we hope will both 1.) attract seekers of THE Wellspring, Jesus Christ, to our campus to learn and follow him more closely and 2.) remind us that we ambassadors for Christ filled with His Spirit and sent out into the places we live, work and play as wellsprings of God's grace, we are also still very much Presbyterian.

Of course everyone who comes to our Newcomer Seminar to learn about who we are as a faith community will directly and explicitly understand that we are Presbyterian and what that means, but I've written this brief blog post as a simple way of understanding what and why we are a part of a Presbyterian system of church government.

First, Presbyterian primarily is a word that is derived from the Greek word that translates Elder. So fundamentally Presbyterian churches are elder led churches. We have a group of 12 elders (nice number huh?) that are the spiritual shepherds of this church. Some of the prominent passages that talk about elders are Exodus 18, Numbers 11, 1 Timothy 3, and Titus 1. Of the 12 elders, 9 are "ruling elders" (or elders recognized from within the congregation) and 3 are "teaching elders" (commonly referred to as pastors). All elders, whether ruling or teaching, have the same authority and ability to speak and vote on issues with regards to leading this faith community. There is no one individual over the Church other than Jesus Christ because we believe He is the head of the Church and that He is with us! Pastor Benita recently gave a sermon about the type of leadership that elders are called to from a biblical perspective when Luke Barnes was ordained as a teaching elder (pastor). You can read it by clicking here, or listen to it by clicking here. The third ordained position within Presbyterian churches are deacons. Based on the offices of the Old Testament Church (Israel) and those same offices fulfilled in Christ, the three basic offices in the Presbyterian Church are ruling elders (King - primarily responsible for ruling), teaching elders (Prophet - primarily responsible for teaching the Word and performing the Sacraments) and deacons (Priest - primarily responsible for serving the heartfelt needs of the people).


Beyond the individual level, the regional and national leadership structures also follow this model of teaching and ruling elders. The regional leadership (called Presbytery) is made up of teaching and ruling elders from the churches in that region and the national leadership (called Synod) again is made up of ruling and teaching elders from churches across the nation. Our Presbyterian denomination is called ECO: A Covenant Order of Presbyterians.



Presbyterian churches for the most part all subscribe to a general system of theology called Reformed Theology. (We did a sermon series and a churchwide study back in January and February of 2012 called Re-Formed describing this. You can always go back and read former sermons or listen to them on our webpage.) While all Presbyterian denominations have this type of church government (elder led) I've been describing, there can be significant differences in what they believe as made manifest by over 30 different Presbyterian denominations in the United States alone.The essential beliefs or tenets of ECO are posted on their website and all elders (teaching and ruling) as well as deacons must affirm these beliefs to be in ordained leadership. Now to be clear, we have many attenders, covenant partners, and even people in key servant positions who are not fully committed to these Reformed beliefs and that's ok! These are not the essentials to being a Christian, they are the essentials to be in ordained leadership. Some Presbyterian denominations don't require people to commit to any specific statements of theology at all, but ECO, and our faith community, believe that what you believe and particularly core statements of our faith are crucially important.

I hope that in future blogs I can write more about these Essential Tenets and explore them together with any potential readers out there. There are of course many more historical, traditional, and cultural ways to identify as Presbyterian, but these are the main ones. If you have more questions about who we are as Presbyterians or want to learn more about our vision and values, join us for one of the Newcomer Seminars or schedule an appointment to speak with one of our teaching elders (pastors). We have been called to serve you!






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