You will not find the word “laity” in any part of the Constitution of the Presbyterian Church USA. It’s not in there. As well, the word “lay” as in “lay leader” is only included to explain that we don’t use that word.
Please stop calling yourself “just a lay person” (or any kind of lay person) if you have ever been ordained in the PCUSA. Stop it.
This is not about proper word use. It’s about sound theology.
We Presbyterians ordain teaching elders (aka ministers of the Word and Sacrament), ruling elders (aka those who govern on boards called Sessions) and deacons (aka those who tend to those in need.) Let me repeat this: we are ordained. This means that – by virtue of our ordination – not one of us is any longer a lay person. We are not “laity.” We are not “laywomen” or “laymen.”
The word “laity” was first used in the 15th Century which makes sense in terms of how the clergy were elevated regarding power and authority. The church that the New Testament describes sets people aside for leadership, but “the priesthood of all believers” makes it clear that everyone who follows Jesus is called to serve in Christ’s name. Everyone.
Theologically speaking, as long as we consider the leader with the seminary degree to be The Real Minister, we will be an ineffective church.
To consider church members to be “lay” members assumes and accepts that those without seminary degrees are ill-equipped to serve. The truth however is that God has called all of us to serve. Some – ruling and teaching elders and deacons – are called to be leaders. Others are called to lead in everything from music to administration to education to hospitality.
If you are dorky enough to read this blog, you are probably not a lay leader. I’m looking at you, ordained ruling elders and deacons.
This post is dedicated to CJB.