Regarding ruling elders: faith and work

September 15, 2016


At the 222nd General Assembly (2016) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), ruling elders gathered for a luncheon and panel discussion. As a part of that time, panelists were asked how, as a ruling elder, their faith is impacted by their work and ministry. One of the panelists, Therese Howell, participated in the discussion on that day and writes her response here.

Calling to service as a ruling elder is both an honor and a responsibility. An honor that an officer nominating committee sees gifts and skills in a person, and those skills and gifts reflect and support the responsibility of service to ordered ministry in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). While it may seem obvious, faith is a necessary gift and skill for service in ordered ministry!

"Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." (Hebrews 11.1 NRSV)

As a ruling elder, I have served as clerk of session, assistant stated clerk, and am now privileged to serve as stated clerk for the Presbytery of Middle Tennessee. I have moderated session meetings, taught officer training, participated in the ordinations and installations of both teaching and ruling elders, participated in commissioning services, taught meeting management and parliamentary procedure, as well as read hundreds of session minutes! I train administrative commissions and investigating committees, and have worked as a volunteer at all levels of the church. Through this service, I have met ruling elders, teaching elders, and church members—people who have strengthened my faith, tested my faith, and many who I am blessed to count as friends and colleagues in my journey of faith.

As stated clerk for the Presbyterians in Middle Tennessee, my faith goes to work with me every day. On any given day, I talk to people who are looking for resources, people who are concerned or anxious about an issue, or people who are angry about something. Sometimes these discussions are about the church or the Church—something that did or didn’t happen at session or presbytery or General Assembly. Sometimes the discussion concerns process or parliamentary procedure. But, regardless of the specifics, all of the discussions require a grounding in faith (and sometimes patience!). All of us have one thing in common—Jesus Christ is our Lord and Savior.

There are times when it is difficult to remember our common calling, to remember that we are sisters and brothers in Christ. During the more difficult times I remind myself that God is in charge, and we are not, and I give thanks for that. I believe my work helps my faith grow stronger, sometimes during the more difficult times. I am privileged to serve with colleagues and friends here in the presbytery and across the country who challenge and support me as I seek to serve God. I give thanks to God for the opportunity to live out my faith every day, and am honored to work and serve with my sisters and brothers in Christ, as we journey together to live into our calling to love and serve God.

How is your faith impacted by your work and ministry?

Therese Howell is a ruling elder currently serving as the stated clerk of the Presbytery of Middle Tennessee. She is a member of the Tennessee and National Associations of Parliamentarians, and a member of First Presbyterian Church, Franklin. She and her husband live in Franklin, Tennessee, with their Labrador Retriever, Bella.

For more about the information provided here, please contact Martha Miller at and browse the Ruling Elders website.

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  1. I was baptized in a Presbyterian church. Never trained in the church. Now I am 67 years old and have been I other [churches] for the past 25 years. How is it in large denominations, the written word is disregarded when it comes to offices in the church. 1Timothy chp. 3 outlines the office of a bishop.

    by Homer harris

    January 11, 2017

  2. thanks to almighty God for the call in me as a Deacon .Im also a trained pastor waiting God to open a church to minister.

    by simonnyansera

    October 25, 2016

  3. I thank God i did not know the,call.Im now a church elected Deacon

    by Simon

    October 25, 2016

  4. All of us are called and gifted by God. Called that in the sense that God has given each of us a task to do in His Kingdom. Gifted that in the sense that God has given us the gifts to do the task or tasks. As ruling elders, we are shepherds and servants. We care and pray for the flock we serve. Many of us feel unworthy of this honor.

    by robert h wright jr

    September 30, 2016

  5. God doesn't call the qualified, he qualifies the called. We are made in His image and all have talents that He chose specifically for us. And we're scripturally obligated to use those talents!

    by Kelly Olson

    September 21, 2016

  6. Like most Presbyterians, I was shocked when the Church Officer Nomination Committee asked me twice as a church officer--Once as a Deacon and once as an Elder. I felt that I had nothing to offer to my church. But God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and my church family thought otherwise. Serving others in the name of Jesus made a big impact on my life. In 2008, I was called by my presbytery to serve as a commissioner to the General Assembly. What a powerful experience this was.

    by robert wright

    September 15, 2016

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