Baptist Presbyteries and Presbyters

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Baptist Presbyteries and Presbyters

Postby Haruo » Tue Nov 13, 2018 12:05 am

Delving into the question of the spread and the meaning of the terms "presbyter" and "presbytery" when employed by Baptist churches or writers referring to Baptist entities. Who uses these terms? What do they mean by them? The beginnings of answers are in the thread about the ordained slave.
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Re: Baptist Presbyteries and Presbyters

Postby William Thornton » Tue Nov 13, 2018 5:05 am

We've reintroduced the term "elder" in the SBC. I never heard of elders in SBC churches 40 years ago. Now almost all new churches have some kimd of elder system. No more pastor and deacons. Now lead or senior pastor, elders, and deacons. I've never heard the elder group referred to as a presbytery, mainly to stave off criticism that we're becoming Presbyterian churches, I suppose l
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Re: Baptist Presbyteries and Presbyters

Postby Dave Roberts » Tue Nov 13, 2018 7:31 am

I have seen where ordination councils were referred to as "the presbytery that recommends the ordination of _________."
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Re: Baptist Presbyteries and Presbyters

Postby Tim Bonney » Tue Nov 13, 2018 5:21 pm

Its odd in that it kind of leaves Baptist historical usage to adopt Presbyterian usage. I don't see much scriptural evidence for equating Deacons with Elders, or replacing one with another. Presbuteros in the New Testament seems to me to refer to clergy and not laity.

But hey, if some Baptists want to become Presbyterians, makes me no never mind. But if they are going to do it, they should do it right. In the Presbyterian Church they have a Board of Elders and also Deacons, those don't fill the same role. But when Baptists do it they seem to conflate the two.
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Re: Baptist Presbyteries and Presbyters

Postby Haruo » Tue Nov 13, 2018 6:29 pm

William Thornton wrote:We've reintroduced the term "elder" in the SBC. I never heard of elders in SBC churches 40 years ago. Now almost all new churches have some kimd of elder system. No more pastor and deacons. Now lead or senior pastor, elders, and deacons. I've never heard the elder group referred to as a presbytery, mainly to stave off criticism that we're becoming Presbyterian churches, I suppose l

So now if it's "lead/senior pastor", elders, and deacons, is a Minister of Music an elder? A Youth Minister or Hospice Minister?
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Re: Baptist Presbyteries and Presbyters

Postby Rvaughn » Tue Nov 13, 2018 7:32 pm

In my church tradition a presbyter or the presbytery has nothing to do with Presbyterians or Presbyterian practice. A presbyter is an elder. Either mean the same thing, a preacher who is ordained. If speaking of one ordained minister, the choice would seldom be presbyter, but almost exclusively elder. If speaking of a group of elders who form a council for the purpose of ordaining another preacher or constituting a new church they are commonly referred to as a presbytery, but sometimes an eldership. It is interesting to me to find this usage unusual to you all.

On the other hand, the elders among the Reformed Baptists (including those in the SBC that William mentions) are usually "ruling" elders who participate in the running the affairs of the church.


* "my church tradition" -- we're just country missionary Baptists who may have hung on to some things more urban Baptists have dropped.
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Re: Baptist Presbyteries and Presbyters

Postby Tim Bonney » Tue Nov 13, 2018 7:37 pm

Haruo wrote:So now if it's "lead/senior pastor", elders, and deacons, is a Minister of Music an elder? A Youth Minister or Hospice Minister?


Good questions. And are the lay elders ordained like clergy and deacons often are? Quite a polity jumble.
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Re: Baptist Presbyteries and Presbyters

Postby Tim Bonney » Tue Nov 13, 2018 7:40 pm

Rvaughn wrote:In my church tradition a presbyter or the presbytery has nothing to do with Presbyterians or Presbyterian practice. A presbyter is an elder.


Methodists don't have presbyteries, we are episcopal in governance. But, your definition of Elder as ordained clergy fits our definition as well. Adding to the polity confusion soup, Deacons in the UMC are also clergy, not laity, who have a different set of duties and expectants than Elders.
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Re: Baptist Presbyteries and Presbyters

Postby Rvaughn » Tue Nov 13, 2018 9:42 pm

Our presbyteries don't govern either. We are governed congregationally, and ultimately even the ordination is at the will of the local church. But the church authorizes the presbytery to act as a counsel to examine and lay hands on the ordinand, subject to the approval of the church. (At least the way we do it; the presbytery does their examination of the candidate, recommends to the church to ordain, or not, and then the church votes for the presbytery to go ahead with the ordination, or not.)

None of our presbyteries are any kind of standing organization. They are called together for the specific task to which they give counsel.
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Re: Baptist Presbyteries and Presbyters

Postby Haruo » Wed Nov 14, 2018 8:34 pm

Rvaughn wrote:If speaking of a group of elders who form a council for the purpose of ordaining another preacher or constituting a new church they are commonly referred to as a presbytery, but sometimes an eldership. It is interesting to me to find this usage unusual to you all.

On the other hand, the elders among the Reformed Baptists (including those in the SBC that William mentions) are usually "ruling" elders who participate in the running the affairs of the church.


* "my church tradition" -- we're just country missionary Baptists who may have hung on to some things more urban Baptists have dropped.

It's interesting to me to find this usage normal for you, Robert! {{smile}} The few times I've heard of such a thing up here, including the FBC Lynden case which is the one that stuck in my mind, I think the term used was "Elders[ ' ?] Board" or "Board of Elders". We do have churches that refer to their Diaconate, others that call it a Deacon[s'] Board, and then those like us at Fremont who call it "the Church Council" and the Deacons "Committee Chairs". Generally the ones that call it a Diaconate seem to put more into the ordination thereof, while we "Council" folks emphasize their election (by the congregation, though usually unopposed).
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Re: Baptist Presbyteries and Presbyters

Postby Rvaughn » Thu Nov 15, 2018 9:22 am

Haruo wrote:The few times I've heard of such a thing up here, including the FBC Lynden case which is the one that stuck in my mind...
What happened there? I'm not familiar with it, but found online that in 2018 the First Baptist Church of Lynden voted to withdraw from their membership in the ABCUSA and changed the name of the church to Lynden Community Church.
Haruo wrote:...I think the term used was "Elders[ ' ?] Board" or "Board of Elders".
I'm not aware of any churches here who both consider elders as ordained ministers and speak in terms of an Elders' Board or Board of Elders. I have heard it used among those who have another office of elders separate from pastors and deacons.
Haruo wrote:We do have churches that refer to their Diaconate, others that call it a Deacon[s'] Board, and then those like us at Fremont who call it "the Church Council" and the Deacons "Committee Chairs". Generally the ones that call it a Diaconate seem to put more into the ordination thereof, while we "Council" folks emphasize their election (by the congregation, though usually unopposed).
We also don't use the terms Diaconate or Deacons' Board, just say "the deacons." I am familiar with Southern Baptists in the area who have/call theirs Deacons' Board or Board of Deacons. They usually wield more authority than in our churches. I remember filling in one Wednesday night at an SBC church years ago. It was also their business meeting. They first had a meeting of the board of deacons. Afterward one of deacons read the minutes of their meeting. When they came to something they recommended, one deacon made a motion to do it, another seconded it, and then the congregation voted on it. I don't know how widespread such usage is among Baptists, Southern or otherwise, but it was the only time I had seen anything like that.

By the way, our deacons are first "elected" -- set aside for the purpose, by the church -- then after an evaluation period ordained by the laying on of hands of a presbytery. Since deacons are also ordained by the laying on of hands, our presbyteries usually (at least can) contain deacons as well as elders (ordained preachers). I know in some other areas of the South the presbyteries (ordaining council) is limited to ordained ministers only.

We elect/ordain deacons for life, though if they transfer membership, the other church is not bound to recognize them or use them as deacons in their church. Of course, I suppose this is technically true of preachers as well.
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Re: Baptist Presbyteries and Presbyters

Postby Haruo » Thu Nov 15, 2018 12:17 pm

Rvaughn wrote:
Haruo wrote:The few times I've heard of such a thing up here, including the FBC Lynden case which is the one that stuck in my mind...
What happened there? I'm not familiar with it, but found online that in 2018 the First Baptist Church of Lynden voted to withdraw from their membership in the ABCUSA and changed the name of the church to Lynden Community Church.

Interesting, I hadn't heard that Lynden "left the fold". I wonder if they simply left ABCUSA or if they left the Baptist bit altogether (not that I think they would then go in for sprinkling infants). If they are still Baptist, I wonder if they joined another denomination of us (like Reformed Baptists or GARBC or something) or if they are simply unaligned independent Baptists now. ("Community Church" tells you absolutely nothing. There are Community Churches in Evergreen, and others that are Mennonite, and others that are dually aligned UCC/UMC or UCC/PCUSA or something...

Anyway, my awareness of Lynden and their Elders dates from probably the late 1990s, when ABCNW was in the process of deciding what to do with itself in the face of the Gay Issue. There was some sort of Area- or Region-wide meeting that took place at Fremont where the featured speaker was the pastor at Lynden, and the topic had something to do with polity. I really don't recall the details, except that he was (and apparently his church concurred in being) adamant about the importance of having an ordained Board of Elders to make sure the pastor towed/toed the line. My impression was that their role was to adjudicate questions of faith and practice, and to ensure that the pastor didn't run off on a tangent. Maybe the Presbyterians "Session" did some of this sort of oversight and ruling, I'm not sure if "Session" was just Elders or if it included Deacons. My uncle Roger was an Elder at Rose Hill Presbyterian when I was in high school, and I think later my brother Graham served in that capacity at Westminster Pres. in Portland OR.
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Re: Baptist Presbyteries and Presbyters

Postby KeithE » Fri Nov 16, 2018 10:43 am

Or could it be, the NT comments on elders, overseers, deacons, etc. was never intended to be normative for all time?

Different times suggest different organizations and any church should be free to try whatever they want.

About Lynden WA, they apparently have 7 Christian Reformed churches - pretty dominant is a small town. It was that way in 1970 when I was going to UW and 8 Lyndenites lived with me a in Christian Mens House.
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Re: Baptist Presbyteries and Presbyters

Postby Tim Bonney » Fri Nov 16, 2018 11:47 am

KeithE wrote:Or could it be, the NT comments on elders, overseers, deacons, etc. was never intended to be normative for all time?

Different times suggest different organizations and any church should be free to try whatever they want.


I can agree with that up to a point. While the NT actually suggests several possible polities, some ways of being church aren't particularly helpful and, I'd argue, some are downright unbiblical.

So I'd be willing to say that there is a lot of flexibility but the "anything goes" approach has led a lot of community churches and independent churches to be run either by an all powerful pastor, or by an all powerful old guard of laypeople both of which lead to abuses of power. It has led the Roman Catholic to to claim (at least historically) that it is the one true church with the Pope as THE head of Christianity.

It has also allowed churches to decide that some people get to be in charge simply because they are male, or white, or celibate, or wealthy or whatever.
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Re: Baptist Presbyteries and Presbyters

Postby Haruo » Fri Nov 16, 2018 4:59 pm

Tim Bonney wrote:It has also allowed churches to decide that some people get to be in charge simply because they are male, or white, or celibate, or wealthy or whatever.

Male, white, and wealthy ought to do it; no need to insist on celibacy unless we're planning on offering the job to gays, heaven forbid. Whaddaya think we are, Catlicks? (TIC)
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Re: Baptist Presbyteries and Presbyters

Postby Haruo » Fri Nov 16, 2018 5:04 pm

Tim Bonney wrote:[…] the "anything goes" approach … has led the Roman Catholic to to claim (at least historically) that it is the one true church with the Pope as THE head of Christianity.

I don't think that was "anything goes"; if anything, it was prooftextism run amok. Politically motivated determination to focus on a literal interpretation of Matthew 16:18 (Rheims: "And I say to thee: That thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. ")
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Re: Baptist Presbyteries and Presbyters

Postby Rvaughn » Tue Nov 20, 2018 9:28 am

Haruo wrote:Interesting, I hadn't heard that Lynden "left the fold". I wonder if they simply left ABCUSA or if they left the Baptist bit altogether (not that I think they would then go in for sprinkling infants). If they are still Baptist, I wonder if they joined another denomination of us (like Reformed Baptists or GARBC or something) or if they are simply unaligned independent Baptists now. ("Community Church" tells you absolutely nothing. There are Community Churches in Evergreen, and others that are Mennonite, and others that are dually aligned UCC/UMC or UCC/PCUSA or something...
I found that statement on their website, HERE. I didn't notice anything that indicates a current affiliation, but I didn't spend a lot of time on the site.
Haruo wrote:Anyway, my awareness of Lynden and their Elders dates from probably the late 1990s, when ABCNW was in the process of deciding what to do with itself in the face of the Gay Issue. There was some sort of Area- or Region-wide meeting that took place at Fremont where the featured speaker was the pastor at Lynden, and the topic had something to do with polity. I really don't recall the details, except that he was (and apparently his church concurred in being) adamant about the importance of having an ordained Board of Elders to make sure the pastor towed/toed the line. My impression was that their role was to adjudicate questions of faith and practice, and to ensure that the pastor didn't run off on a tangent. Maybe the Presbyterians "Session" did some of this sort of oversight and ruling, I'm not sure if "Session" was just Elders or if it included Deacons. My uncle Roger was an Elder at Rose Hill Presbyterian when I was in high school, and I think later my brother Graham served in that capacity at Westminster Pres. in Portland OR.
That sounds much like the ruling elders that I hear about among the Reformed Baptists.
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Re: Baptist Presbyteries and Presbyters

Postby Tim Bonney » Tue Nov 20, 2018 11:59 am

Haruo wrote:I don't think that was "anything goes"; if anything, it was prooftextism run amok. Politically motivated determination to focus on a literal interpretation of Matthew 16:18 (Rheims: "And I say to thee: That thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. ")


Actually Haruo, those who follow the "anything goes" approach largely justify doing so by proof texting. It gives them perceived Biblical backing.
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Re: Baptist Presbyteries and Presbyters

Postby Tim Bonney » Tue Nov 20, 2018 12:05 pm

Haruo wrote:Interesting, I hadn't heard that Lynden "left the fold". I wonder if they simply left ABCUSA or if they left the Baptist bit altogether (not that I think they would then go in for sprinkling infants). If they are still Baptist, I wonder if they joined another denomination of us (like Reformed Baptists or GARBC or something) or if they are simply unaligned independent Baptists now. ("Community Church" tells you absolutely nothing. There are Community Churches in Evergreen, and others that are Mennonite, and others that are dually aligned UCC/UMC or UCC/PCUSA or something...


Interestingly while the UMC allows for dually affiliated congregations, individuals can't be dually affiliated. So, for example, I know ABC pastors who also have dual standing in the UCC or the DOC. UM clergy cannot have dual standing. So, from the UMCs perspective I am a UMC pastor and only a UMC pastor. The ABC would be totally fine with me being dually affiliated from their end. And I believe the same is true for local church members. It doesn't quite apply the same way to lay people. But in part it does. You can be an affiliate member of a UM congregation and a member of a church in another denomination but not a full member in both.
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Re: Baptist Presbyteries and Presbyters

Postby Sandy » Tue Nov 20, 2018 12:41 pm

Rvaughn wrote: We also don't use the terms Diaconate or Deacons' Board, just say "the deacons." I am familiar with Southern Baptists in the area who have/call theirs Deacons' Board or Board of Deacons. They usually wield more authority than in our churches. I remember filling in one Wednesday night at an SBC church years ago. It was also their business meeting. They first had a meeting of the board of deacons. Afterward one of deacons read the minutes of their meeting. When they came to something they recommended, one deacon made a motion to do it, another seconded it, and then the congregation voted on it. I don't know how widespread such usage is among Baptists, Southern or otherwise, but it was the only time I had seen anything like that.


That's pretty standard for just about every SBC congregation where I've ever been a member. The "deacon board" or "diaconate" met monthly, and their minutes and report was part of the church business meeting. If they made a recommendation, the church voted on it. But as far as functioning as "elders," I wouldn't say that in most SBC churches that was the case. Even though churches called them a "board," I've never been in an SBC church where they had free latitude to make decisions without congregational approval. They certainly had weight and influence, depending on the church and how they were selected, but the pastor and pastoral staff were considered to be the "elders" selected by the congregation. Even they did not have the authority to make decisions without congregational approval.

KeithE wrote:Or could it be, the NT comments on elders, overseers, deacons, etc. was never intended to be normative for all time? Different times suggest different organizations and any church should be free to try whatever they want.


The Evangelical Friends congregation that I attended for a while before moving from Pennsylvania would agree with that statement. They believe that "setting apart" for ministry does not create a "clergy" vs "laity" status, but that those set apart are simply members of the local body with whom the church agrees with their calling. It is expected of all members to share in various responsibilities related to the operation and function of the church and they take turns doing it. I was always amazed that there was never a shortage of individuals to serve. There are individuals who function as "elders" in the sense that they have the responsibility for ministry functions in the church but at some point, the vast majority of church members become involved in those responsibilities.
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Re: Baptist Presbyteries and Presbyters

Postby Tim Bonney » Tue Nov 20, 2018 12:57 pm

Sandy wrote:
The Evangelical Friends congregation that I attended for a while before moving from Pennsylvania would agree with that statement. They believe that "setting apart" for ministry does not create a "clergy" vs "laity" status, but that those set apart are simply members of the local body with whom the church agrees with their calling. It is expected of all members to share in various responsibilities related to the operation and function of the church and they take turns doing it. I was always amazed that there was never a shortage of individuals to serve. There are individuals who function as "elders" in the sense that they have the responsibility for ministry functions in the church but at some point, the vast majority of church members become involved in those responsibilities.


The NT doesn't quite have a coherent description of church governance. That's, of course, why we have so many ways of doing it. But I find it hard to argue that you can get from the Bible that all church leaders are chosen within the local church and never is anyone chosen from outside the local church. Even congregationalists denominations have mechanisms outside the local church to credential clergy in part because you see Paul running around starting churches without getting elected by any local church to do it. You see the Church Council in Jerusalem making decisions for gentile Christians and the whole church in regards to food with blood in it.

Local churches do choose leaders but not exclusively. Bodies outside the local church choose leaders, but not exclusively.
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Re: Baptist Presbyteries and Presbyters

Postby Sandy » Tue Nov 20, 2018 2:26 pm

The Friends congregation would say that Paul was an apostle, and there is no apostolic office in existence any more. In some friends meetings, there may be a mechanism for indicating individuals who have accepted a call to serve as an elder or church leader, but in this particular one, there was not. There wasn't any transfer of membership from group to group, when you moved or started attending a different group, you were considered a member when you decided to join and give your testimony. In the time I attended, all of those involved in church leadership were from that local body. All volunteer, no paid staff except the custodian and the clerk, who was the secretary answering the phone during the week.
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Re: Baptist Presbyteries and Presbyters

Postby Tim Bonney » Tue Nov 20, 2018 4:52 pm

Sandy wrote:The Friends congregation would say that Paul was an apostle, and there is no apostolic office in existence any more.


That argument can certainly be made but I don't think it covers the Jerusalem Council. It doesn't appear every member of the council was an Apostle. Nor was every missionary that traveled an Apostle.

I really don't care to argue about which polity is best or most Biblical, because I think there are strengths in most of them.
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Re: Baptist Presbyteries and Presbyters

Postby Tim Bonney » Tue Nov 20, 2018 7:10 pm

By the way, I think all denominations have suffered from adopting business models over New Testament Church models. This means that pastors are thought of as employees and not church leaders in many congregations because they pay you a salary. (This happens some in any denomination.) And churches are thought of as non-profit businesses over ministries.

How far would the Apostle Paul gotten with the church of Corinth if he were an employee of the church? When he told them about all the things that were wrong with their worship, etc. they likely just would have fired him. (Not to mention he'd have never gotten past a pastoral search committee. ;-) )
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Re: Baptist Presbyteries and Presbyters

Postby Sandy » Fri Nov 23, 2018 11:45 pm

Tim Bonney wrote:By the way, I think all denominations have suffered from adopting business models over New Testament Church models. This means that pastors are thought of as employees and not church leaders in many congregations because they pay you a salary. (This happens some in any denomination.) And churches are thought of as non-profit businesses over ministries.

How far would the Apostle Paul gotten with the church of Corinth if he were an employee of the church? When he told them about all the things that were wrong with their worship, etc. they likely just would have fired him. (Not to mention he'd have never gotten past a pastoral search committee. ;-) )



I think that has, at least in part, contributed to the shortage of pastors and those interested in pursing a full-time vocational ministry. That and the fact that entertainment and celebrity are attracting people out of community-based local churches and into megachurches with "branding" appeal. Hence, the business model gets adopted.

The problem with that is that there aren't many people who are serving on church staffs with responsibility for discipleship ministry. There's a connection and level of accountability that gets lost somewhere between the mass teaching done on Sunday by the pastor and distributed through the church's media ministry and the small groups that are carrying out the church's discipleship ministry. The content is passed along electronically, but there is no individual staff minister who follows up with and ministers to the group leaders.
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