Remember your high school civics class? Remember “representative democracy”? Remember “decision-making by ordered groups, not individuals”? Remember “checks and balances”? If so, then what you are remembering is in the Presbyterian system of government (aka “polity”). And there is a reason why the U.S. and Presbyterian systems of government are so much the same – a lot of the founders of our U.S. constitutional system happened to be Presbyterians! The Presbyterian Church is a product of the Reformation and is, therefore, a Protestant church.
In the Presbyterian system, there are no bishops, archbishops, or other permanent positions of authority. Instead, Presbyterians place authority in ordered groups, believing as we do that the Spirit works not only through individuals, but also through groups of individuals and that doing so places a check on any one individual exercising too much power. We have a connectional system of representative government in which the congregation elects and ordains from its members Elders (who serve on the Session, the local governing body that sets policy and plans for the ministry of the local church) and Deacons (who serve on the Diaconate, a body that reports to the Session and carries out ministries of care-giving, fellowship, communication, and evangelism). Presbyterian ministers are also members of the Session and the Pastor serves as the Moderator of the Session. Ministers in the Presbyterian Church are not members of the local church they serve and instead are members of the Presbytery – the regional governing body. Along with ministers, the presbyteries are made up of Elders elected from each congregation to serve as commissioners to meetings of the Presbytery. Our Presbytery is the National Capital Presbytery and it consists of a little over 100 churches that are located in the greater Washington D.C. Metro area (Maryland, the District of Columbia, and Virginia). Our Presbytery gathers for alternatively evening or daytime meetings every other month.
The Synod is a larger regional governing body made up of presbyteries from across a larger geographical area, often including several states. Our Synod, for instance, is the Synod of the Mid-Atlantic, and it consists of presbyteries and their congregations in the states of Delaware, West Virginia, Maryland, Virginia, the District of Columbia, and North Carolina. The Synod of the Mid-Atlantic meets every other year with representative Elders and Ministers from each presbytery. The national governing body of the Presbyterian Church is the General Assembly, which meets every other year and consists of representative Elders and Ministers elected from each of the presbyteries.
While the overall Presbyterian system can sometimes, like your high school civics class, sound a bit cumbersome and antiquated, it, nonetheless, is really a system that strives to ensure openness and accountability before God and the world, while remaining open to the guidance of the Lord through the Holy Spirit. Presbyterians believe Jesus Christ is the Head of the church and when we are faithful in our polity, our work in the church is all to the glory of Christ Jesus. If you want to make an impact on the Presbyterian Church through its polity, the way is there for you to make your voice heard through your vote, your involvement, and through your prayers.
NATIONAL CAPITAL PRESBYTERY
Trinity belongs to the National Capital Presbytery. A Presbytery is the local governing body of the Presbyterian Church (USA), consisting of presbyters (that is, elders and ministers) of local congregations. National Capital Presbytery (NCP) is made up of 108 Churches and about 36,000 members. NCP serves Washington, DC, Northern Virginia, and part of Maryland.
PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH (USA)
More than two million people call the Presbyterian Church (USA) their spiritual home. Worshipping in 10,000 Presbyterian congregations throughout the United States, they engage the communities in which they live and serve with God’s love.
Following Jesus, Presbyterians are engaged in the world and in seeking thoughtful solutions to the challenges of our time.
Presbyterians affirm that God comes to us with grace and love in the person of Jesus Christ, who lived, died, and rose for us so that we might have eternal and abundant life in him. As Christ’s disciples, called to minister in his name, we seek to continue his mission of teaching the truth, feeding the hungry, healing the broken, and welcoming strangers. God sends the Holy Spirit to dwell within us, giving us the energy, intelligence, imagination, and love to be Christ’s faithful disciples in the world.
Meadowkirk is a Presbyterian Camp and Retreat Center located just 40 minutes from Trinity. Meadowkirk offers a dynamic approach to nourishing the soul, blending time-honored techniques with innovative methods of breaking down barriers that separate people from each other and from God.
Annually, Meadowkirk hosts nearly 100 different retreat and conferences designed to refresh the mind, inspire the soul and unleash human potential. Nearly 10,000 people a year benefit from directed retreats, religious education programs and faith-based conferences that range in duration from a single day to a week. Participants grow in holiness by enriching their physical, emotional, and spiritual health in one of the most beautiful settings in the region. Many are transformed by the experience, gaining strength to overcome addiction and become the loving people God intended them to be.
Meadowkirk is a serene retreat facility situated on 358 acres, and is comprised of a Historic Manor House, circa 1901, a newly constructed Inn, 3 cottages and several outbuildings. Located in famed Middleburg, Virginia, Meadowkirk offers the beautiful scenery of Virginia’s horse country, and is convenient to Washington, D.C., and Dulles International Airport.
Contact Meadowkirk for additional information and reservations.