A major contributor to Reformed theology was John Calvin, who converted from Roman Catholicism after training for the priesthood and in the law. In exile in Geneva, Switzerland, Calvin developed the Presbyterian pattern of church government. The Presbyterian Church is governed by councils composed of elders (in Greek, presbuteros) elected by the people.
There are four councils:
- The Session is each local church’s governing body. It consists of bot ruling and teaching elders.
- The Presbytery consists of teaching elders (pastors) and ruling elders from each church within the bounds of a determined district. Presbyteries help to organize new congregations, nurture the connectional nature of local churches, and are charged with ordaining, receiving, dismissing, and installing teaching elders. First Presbyterian is a member of the Presbytery of Prospect Hills.
- The Synod is a collection of presbyteries gathered to work with the denomination’s institutions: colleges, seminaries, children’s home, retirement homes, etc. First Presbyterian is a member of the Synod of Lake and Prairies.
- The General Assembly is a council of the whole church. It consists of ruling and teaching elders elected by presbyteries. The General Assembly gathers at least biennially.
All four councils are charged to provide that the Word of God may be truly preached and heard, that the Sacraments may be rightly administered and received, and to nurture the covenant community of God’s faithful people.
At First Presbyterian Church, Sioux City our Session is made up of elders elected to service by the congregation at a congregational meeting normally held in October. All have a vote in matters of church government. The pastor serves as moderator of the Session, the main responsibility of which is to govern the congregation and guide its witness to the sovereign activity of God in the world, so that the congregation remains a community of faith, hope, love and witness.
For more information about the Session at the First Presbyterian Church, Sioux City, Iowa, contact our Session Clerk, Gerald Messersmith or Rev. Dr. Thomas Murray.