Accountability in action
Presbyterian. Perhaps the most misspelled and least understood of denominational names. I’ve mentioned this before, but if you were to choose a recognizable, intuitive, trendy name for a church, “Presbyterian” would likely not make the short list.
Although we may not LEAD with “Presbyterian,” your “Session” (the board of elders—another inscrutable word!) has chosen to retain this as part of our name: Chapel Hill Presbyterian Church. Why? Because it celebrates one of our unique convictions as a denomination: that God calls and ordains both clergy AND lay leaders in the works of his Church.
“Presbuteros” means “elder.” We are a church that is led by elders. Not an individual pastor. Not a congregational meeting. Not a bishop or pope. We believe that the gathered body of elders, prayerfully discerning the mind of Christ, provides the greatest likelihood of hearing and obeying the call of God—and the greatest protection against the whims of unfettered individual power.
We value being an “elder-run” church. We value the accountability that this provides. But that accountability relationship extends beyond the local Session. We have another tier of leadership: the regional gathering of church leaders from Washington, Oregon, Alaska and parts of Idaho and northern California. This gathering is called, not very creatively, the “presbytery.” Because we aren’t comfortable with the idea of bishops, instead we practice a governance of shared leadership in which all pastors and ruling elders from the presbytery churches come together to do the work of the church.
Presbytery is a time of worship, fellowship, prayer, mutual encouragement, training. Sometimes we deal with difficult disciplinary issues. Sometimes we examine and ordain new pastors. Always, it is a family reunion of our EPC brothers and sisters from across the region, a great reminder that are part of something greater than ourselves.
This week, Chapel Hill hosted the gathering of our presbytery, the Presbytery of the Pacific Northwest. You may not have been aware…you may not even care. But it was another example of how your church is committed to relationships of mutual accountability. In fact, this is an example of accountability in action. It is part of our DNA.
Earlier this year, I said in one of my sermons that I care about this accountability. I care that I have a group of pastors who understand me as no one else can—a group of fellow presbyters who support us—pray for us—encourage us. I care that we are a part of something larger than ourselves. That we are accountable to more than ourselves. You don’t need that so much when things are going well. But when things blow up…as they do…that’s when you are grateful for a denomination. We need and value the accountability and support our denomination provides.