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Session members and moderator sitting around a table.
The session of the First Presbyterian Church of Effingham in March of 2019.

Presbyterian churches are representative democracies which govern themselves by representatives chosen from within each local congregation. The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) denomination consists of governing bodies which in turn include more bodies from lower to higher. These bodies are the local congregation's board or in our denominational jargon, its "session," the presbytery, the synod, and the general assembly.

Presbyterian governing body meetings are ordinarily run according to Robert's Rules of Order. These rules were first established in 1869 by Henry Martyn Robert who when asked to preside over a church meeting was embarrassed to find he had no idea of how to proceed. Robert's rules stress that:

The Constitution of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) which directs the actions of all of these bodies consists of the Book of Confessions and the Book of Order.

Our Session

A session governs the local congregation. It is made up of several elders with the pastor serving as moderator making sure that all voices are heard and that the meetings are run in a way that is fair to everyone. An elder is a male or female member of the congregation who has been chosen to lead the congregation in all of its activities from choosing a paint color for the church hallway to choosing a new pastor. Elders are the people who answer to God for running the local church. One of these elders is selected to be the clerk of session. The clerk has the job of keeping the minutes and recording all that the session does. A session determines how the congregation as a body will spend its resources and energy in doing the work of God in that location.

Committees of Session

Our members also meet in several committees which serve to discuss new ideas, build collaborative working teams, and do the work of our congregation. Some of our committees are:

Committees meet monthly, or as needed, to discuss new and old ideas and to present reports to the session. Congregation members are encouraged to join committees in their areas of interest.

The Presbytery of Southeastern Illinois

The Presbytery of Southeastern Illinois

A presbytery is comprised of every minister and at least one elder from each of the congregations in a given region. We are a part of the Presbytery of Southeastern Illinois.

A presbytery determines how several congregations as a body will use their resources and energy in doing the work of God in that area. The presbytery is led by a moderator who is elected from one of the elder or minister members of the presbytery. The moderator is assisted by the presbytery staff which is led by the Stated Clerk of the presbytery. Most presbyteries are organized by regions however a few presbyteries are organized by language/cultural groups.

There are 170 presbyteries in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

The Synod of Lincoln Trails

A synod is made up of representative members of several presbyteries. Our synod is the Synod of Lincoln Trails. It includes eight presbyteries and over 700 congregations in Indiana and Illinois. The presbyteries that constitute the Synod of Lincoln Trails are:

A synod determines how presbyteries as a body will use their resources and energy in doing the work of God in that region. In recent years they have specialized in providing educational opportunities to congregations and providing support persons as congregations reassess their ministries. There are sixteen synods.

synod Map
The Synods and Presbyteries of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
synod Map
The Synods and Presbyteries of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

The General Assembly

The General Assembly is made up of representatives from each presbytery according to the number of members in the presbytery. It is the most inclusive ruling body of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), or PCUSA. The PCUSA is currently the largest presbyterian denomination in the United States with more than 10,000 congregations and more than 1.7 million members.

The General Assembly provides guidance, at the request of lower governing bodies, in how we may organize ourselves, in how we may reconcile disputes, and how we should support one another in difficult times. The General Assembly currently meets once every other year. It is led by a moderator, an elder or a minister, man or woman, who is elected for a two-year term. The moderator, or co-moderators in case two persons are elected as a team, is or are assisted by the General Assembly staff.