Ordination to the ministry of teaching elder, ruling elder, or deacon is a unique order of ministry. The Book of Order of The Presbyterian Church USA, Part 2 G-2.0102
Repeat after me – if you are an elder, deacon, or educator in the PCUSA:
I am not a layperson.
At almost every meeting I attend, someone says something like:
- “I’m just a layperson.”
- “I’m only a layperson.”
- “We are just laypeople.”
- “You mean us? The laity?”
And then, there’s the ever popular:
- “I am not a minister. I’m only an elder/deacon.”
What Bible are we reading? For us Presbyterians, what polity are we reading? The words “laity,” “lay”, and “layperson” cannot be found anywhere in our church constitution, if Word Search is to be trusted.
If we are ordained to serve a particular order of ministry (teaching elder, ruling elder, or deacon) we are 1) ministers and 2) not lay people.
We have long called organists, pianists, and choir directors “Ministers of Music” so why is it so hard to call our elders and deacons ministers? My hunches:
- Most ruling elders and deacons don’t feel equipped to call themselves ministers. They are Biblically illiterate, theologically untrained, and not quite sure how to pray with people much less offer pastoral care.
- Many pastors enjoy being “the minister” as if there is only one and a seminary degree is required.
- The world calls the pastor/priest/vicar “the minister.” The world is wrong.
Our congregations are full of called leaders who 1) must be equipped to pray with people, visit them in hospitals, offer hospitality, serve the Lord’s Supper, assist in baptisms, preach, teach, and lead the people of God. If your officers are not doing this, they are not fulfilling their call.
Someone said, yesterday, as we were discussing all this in a meeting, “Then this means our whole culture needs to change.”
Yes, it does.
PS You can purchase a stole like the one posted here. Yes, you get to wear one too.