So what’s involved in Presbyterian church government?
The Presbyterian form of Church government is based on the biblical teaching of government by elders. The word ‘presbyterian’ comes from the Greek word which means overseer. There are four levels of government, or courts, within the Presbyterian Church:
1. The Session
This is made up of the minister and elders chosen by the congregation. The word session simply means to sit, that is, to sit and talk about the needs of the congregation. The elders are to encourage and oversee the spiritual life and growth of the members of the congregation under their care. For this reason the election of elders and the selection of a minister is always a serious matter. St John’s’ Session is currently made up of one Minister, one elected elder and two appointed assessor elders (by the Presbytery). The Session meets locally every two months or so, or as needed.
2. The Presbytery
A presbytery encompasses a district which includes a number of Presbyterian congregations. The minister and one elder from each of these congregations form the members of presbytery. This court of the church has responsibility for the welfare of the congregations within its district. In our case, St John’s belongs to and is part of the Presbytery of North Western Victoria. The Presbytery meets within various parts of the region every two months.
3. The General Assembly (GA)
This includes the minister and one elder from each congregation in the state. It deals with various matters on a state-wide basis. Because we are here in Victoria, we belong to and are part of the Presbyterian Church of Victoria. The General Assembly meets twice a year, once for its main meeting for four days of business in October and then again in May as a commission of that October Assembly to deal with matters referred to it by that Assembly.
4. The General Assembly of Australia (GAA)
Representatives from the state Assemblies and from all the Presbyteries in the nation attend the GAA. It deals with certain matters which the General Assemblies have assigned to it to assist the national witness and effectiveness of the Presbyterian denomination. As a part of the Presbyterian Church of Victoria, we therefore belong to and are part of the Presbyterian Church of Australia. The GAA usually meets in Sydney every three years to discuss business over a four or five day period.