Presbyterian church government: lecture by Dr. C.J. Kirk

To God the glory - Chinese text


Victoria's Chinese Presbyterian Church in Canada


A lecture delivered by Dr. Cecil J. Kirk in The Chinese Presbyterian Church Victoria, British Columbia on Saturday, January 26, 2002

Acts 14. 23:  And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting, they committed them to the Lord in whom they believed.

Several denominations emerged from the Reformation of the 16th century. They had the same basic Christian beliefs but they differed in the form of their church government: some churches continued to be ruled by bishops, for example the Anglican Church; others felt that there was no Biblical warrant for the office of bishop as it had developed over the years. They stated that in the N.T. the words "bishop" and "elder" were used interchangeably and that there was no difference between the two offices. The Presbyterian Church belonged to this latter group. But why are we called a "Presbyterian" church?  "Presbyterian" comes from the Greek word "Presbuteros" which means "elder" - so the Presbyterian Church is one which is governed by elders. Gradually over the years there came to be two kinds of elders,

· the teaching elders who taught the congregation and expounded the Word of God; and
· the ruling elders who were responsible for the spiritual life of the congregation. There is no difference in standing between the two.
Both are ordained to their office and in many ways the functions overlap.

Who may become an elder?  The eldership is a spiritual function just as is the ministry and, as the Book of Forms, the legal document regulating ecclesiastical procedure within the Presbyterian Church in Canada, states, the qualifications for the office are those laid down in "the express word of God and namely the Canons written by the Apostle Paul". An elder must be a professing Christian who is also a member of the congregation in which he or she is elected and must be "an example to the believers in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity" (1 Timothy 4. 12) (Book of Forms 106; 106.1).  The relationship between the ruling elder and the teaching elder (or minister as he is more often called) should always be one of love and loyalty. One church has a sign in its Session room that reads "Remember to pray for our pastor; he is the only person in the church who has no pastor". It is the task of the elder to interpret the minister to the congregation. The elder is a friend of the minister. The elder should advise him, meet with him privately and counsel and encourage him. Any elder who feels that the minister is not preaching the gospel or is not proceeding correctly should meet with him and speaking the truth in love" try to reach an understanding. And when the elder hears complaints he should evaluate their worth and pass them on if he thinks it wise and necessary.

To continue go to Part 2 of Dr. Kirk's lecture on Presbyterian Church Government

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Rev. Lam translating for Rev. Dr. Kirk at lecture on Presbyterian creeds and  confessions

Please note:  this page contains only the beginning excerpt from Dr. Kirks lecture on "Presbyterian Government" part of an introductory 1/2 day workshop given to members of the Victoria Chinese Presbyterian Church on January 26, 2001.