As a congregation of the Presbyterian Church (USA), Gregory is organized like most other churches of our denomination. We believe that all Christians are called to use their God-given gifts in the life of the church and community. Some, with gifts for leadership, are called to the professional vocation of pastors or “teaching elders.” Others are called to the lay leadership position of “ruling elder.” In the Presbyterian Church, at every level, both kinds of elders are considered equal in terms of leadership and making decisions.
Both are also ordained to their office and make public vows concerning their faith, their beliefs, and their commitment to God and to the church. In the Presbyterian church, an elder once ordained is always an elder unless he or she becomes a member of another denomination.
At Gregory, nine elders constitute our leadership group called the “Session.” This body is responsible for virtually all ministry at the church including worship, education, mission, maintenance of buildings and its budget. While the pastor moderates the meetings of the session, his or her role is designed to be more of a spiritual one as suggested by the title “teaching elder.”
Ruling elders serve for a term of three years, with one third of the ruling elders rotating off the Session each year. Ruling elders chair the various committees of the church, serve communion and represent the church at Presbytery meetings. New elders are elected in the fall of each year, undergo training and are installed and/or ordained the first Sunday of the new year.
The committees at Gregory are Christian Education, Congregational Care, Facilities & Stewardship, Mission, Outreach, Personnel and Worship.
As a Presbyterian Church, we are also guided by the “Constitution” of the PC(USA) which is formed of the “Book of Order” and the “Book of Confessions.” The first volume describes basic beliefs of Presbyterians, the way in which churches and higher church councils are organized, Presbyterian worship and ways in which the church can respond to correct errors or discipline its members or leaders when a wrong has been committed.
The “Book of Confessions” comprises eleven creeds of the church dating from the 5th century C.E. to the “Brief Confession of Faith” written in 1983. These documents represent the heartfelt responses of faithful Christians to crises of faith in the church at different points in history. While they are not regarded with the same level of authority as the Bible, they are considered valid foundations for our belief and both pastors and ruling elders vow to be guided by them.
Higher councils of the Presbyterian Church (USA) include the Presbytery, the Synod and the General Assembly. The Presbytery ordains pastors and coordinates mission among its churches. The Synod now has only a slight role in the affairs of the church (the national church is examining its mission at this time) and the General Assembly meets every two years to consider issues important to all Presbyterians at a national level. Each year the General Assembly considers proposed changes to the “Book of Order.”
The offices of the Presbytery of the James and the Synod of the Mid-Atlantic are located in Richmond. The office of the General Assembly makes its home in Louisville, Ky.