Presbyterians are a group of Christians whose church is founded on the concept of democratic rule under the Word of God. In the New Testament presbuteros means “elder” and refers to the New Testament custom of choosing church leaders from among the wisest members of the church. The distinctive feature of our form of government is no one person is in charge, and both clergy and lay people share equally in the governing ministry. Furthermore, there are always “checks and balances” so that while at times our government system is unwieldy, it has historically managed to keep from straying too far
The way the Presbyterian church works is very similar to the way our local, state, and federal governments functioned. In fact, the framers of our United States government and constitution were heavily influenced by Presbyterians.
- The local congregation elects from among their members elders to govern through the church board which is called the Session. The Session consists at St. Andrew of nine elders elected by the congregation and our two pastors. The local congregation also contracts for it’s own pastoral leadership, under the supervision of the presbytery.
- We are members of the Presbytery of the Redwoods. Presbyteries consist of churches located in a geographical region. The Presbytery of the Redwoods includes all the Presbyterian churches from the Golden Gate, up the 101 corridor to the California/Oregon border. The Presbytery consists of all ordained clergy serving in the particular geographical region and an equal number of lay elders elected by their local congregation to serve as representatives. One helpful way to think of the Presbytery’s work is to think of the entire presbytery acting as the “bishop” of the local churches.
- Several presbyteries are gathered into Synods. Synods today provide much of the temporal support needed by local congregations and presbyteries. For example, our insurance is provided through a group policy through the Synod of the Pacific.
- General Assembly best corresponds to congress with an elected moderator who serves as the executive of the denomination. Our General Assembly meets every two years and concerns itself with the overall administration of the denomination and amendments to our constitution. It then recommends back to the presbyteries changes which a majority of the presbyteries have to ratify in order for the constitution to the amended.
What Presbyterians believe is summarized in the creeds and confessions which guide our church:
- The Apostle’s Creed
- The Nicene Creed
- The Scots Confession of 1560
- The Heidelberg Confession
- The Second Helvetic Confession
- The Westminster Confession
- The Larger Catechism
- The Shorter Catechism
- The Barmen Declaration
- The Confession of 1967
- The Short Statement of Faith
However, there is freedom within our denomination for each local congregation to develop it’s own theological “personality”. There is no set of beliefs to which all Presbyterians must subscribe, so there is theological diversity from congregation to congregation. The joke is that while some congregations might be labeled “conservative” and others “liberal” we all
do things “decently and in order.”
St. Andrew is neither “conservative” nor “liberal” — we are seeking to become a biblically functioning church family through God’s guidance and direction from the Holy Spirit and the Bible. Our goal is to glorify Jesus Christ in all that we do and say.