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Topics of interest to Clerks of Session, Session Moderators and others who are interested in Presbyterian local-church governance.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Rebalancing Ruling-Elder Representation

With the valued assistance of Ruling Elder Bill Faust, I have completed the calculations for the required rebalancing of the numbers of ruling-elder commissioners to Presbytery, in order to achieve parity between teaching elders (ministers) and ruling elders.

The last time we did this, there were a small number of additional ruling-elder slots to allocate among the churches, but that is not the case this time around.  Two factors have influenced this.

First, there has been a modest decrease in the number of teaching elder members of Presbytery, due to a number of factors - the most significant being that many churches have been eliminating associate-pastor positions in recent years.

Second, with the Mission Council's encouragement,we have factored into the rebalancing calculation only the numbers of honorably retired ministers who live in New Jersey and are in reasonably good health.  Those who live out of state or who are experiencing health problems are of course still members of Presbytery and welcome to participate with voice and vote at any meeting, but it hardly seems accurate to ask churches to elect additional ruling-elder commissioners to offset their numbers if they are not likely to be in attendance.

Presbytery By-Laws call for certain ruling elders to be members of Presbytery.  These are elders "who are serving as officers of the Presbytery, as members of the Mission Council, the Administrative Division Steering Committee, the Ministries Division Steering Committee, or as members of the Presbytery’s Board of Trustees, for the duration of their term of office."  That means that, as we started to name additional ruling elder commissioners, we turned first to those serving on these named committees.

When we ran the numbers, we discovered that the number of additional ruling-elder slots we'll need in 2012 corresponds exactly with the numbers of ruling elders serving on those committees.  That means there are no additional ruling-elder slots to allocate among the churches.

Beginning with the January meeting of Presbytery, therefore, the number of ruling-elder commissioners from the churches will be based on each church's December 31, 2010 membership, as follows:

2001-3000 members (Toms River): 5 ruling elders
1001-1500 members (Red Bank): 3 ruling elders
500-1000 members: 2 ruling elders
All other churches: 1 ruling elder

We realize there will be some individual ruling elders who have had voice and vote in Presbytery for the past couple of years but will now be losing that privilege.  For those who are interested, there is a way to possibly get your voice and vote back: just tell the Nominating Committee you're interested in serving on one of the above-mentioned permanent committees.  If you are nominated and elected, you will be able to participate as before.

If you are already serving on one of those committees,  your Session should NOT elect you as a commissioner.  There's no need.  You already have full privileges of the floor at Presbytery meetings.  It's better for the Session to elect someone else - both to give another person a chance to participate, and to keep our teaching-elder/ruling-elder parity as close to 50-50 as possible.

We'll be sending out letters to Clerks of Session in the next few weeks, advising you of the exact number of commissioners your Session is entitled to elect - although you can probably figure it out for yourself in the meantime, by using the chart above.

Thanks for your understanding.  If you have any questions about this process, please feel free to get in touch with me.

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