“The same Spirit who inspired the prophets and apostles ... calls women and men to all ministries of the Church” (The Book of Confessions, A Brief Statement of Faith,10.4, lines 58–59, 64).
I am a true “over-thinker.” That means I’ve thought so much about how I ended up a ruling elder in a teaching elder world that I doubted my qualifications due to a lack of earthly credentials. At times, I have lost sight of the fact that God called me! Others have affirmed it, regardless of how long my resume is or how many degrees I hold.
Soon after I began my new role with the synod, I was gathered with new colleagues, still overthinking and doubting my qualifications. A wise collaborator said, “Oh, stop it! You’re here now, so what are you going to do?” While I thought it incredibly rude at the time, I have since come to see it as a reminder of my call, and I am grateful.
At each council level above that of the session (presbytery, synod, and General Assembly), our constitution calls for numerical parity of ruling elders and teaching elders. That means that there are to be equal numbers of ruling elders and teaching elders at each level (Book of Order, G-3.0301; G-3.0401; G-3.0501). Ruling elders are equal partners in the work of the church.
In addition to the moderator of the church session, a teaching elder, the session members are ruling elders. The session is responsible for, among other things, the administration of the church and its mission. “Mission determines the forms and structures needed for the church to do its work. Administration is the process by which a council implements its decisions ... [demonstrating] the unity and interdependence of the church, in that councils share with one another responsibilities, rights, and powers” (Book of Order, G-3.0106). The session is charged with the management and direction of the church, we (ruling elders and teaching elders) are to enable one another in our ministries. Ruling elders are called upon more and more to lead, educate, establish, and oversee administration as needed to support the mission of the church. We are partners in ministry and mission.
Remembering the gifts of the Spirit found in First Corinthians, we all have different gifts—and in the PC(USA), ruling elders are called to use them in a broad way—not everyone is called to attend seminary or to serve as a mission co-worker, but everyone—EVERYONE—is called to use their gifts, to be a disciple of Jesus Christ regardless of their standing in the world.
It is time that we all understand the role of ruling elders as partners in Christ’s Church. You’re here now, what are YOU going to do?
Valerie (Knox) Young, is a ruling elder who has been serving with the Synod of the Sun for almost ten years, currently as co-leader for administration and stated clerk. She also serves as a Steering Committee member of East Broad Outreach Community (a new church development of Grace Presbytery) in Mansfield, Texas.