At Tenth Presbyterian Church we believe the Bible, the Word of God, must govern how we organize ourselves and carry out the work of the Church. Central to our understanding of the Church is our belief that the Lord Jesus Christ is the one and only Head of the Church (Ephesians 1:20-23; Colossians 1:18). No human being or human institution has supreme authority over the life of the Church.
Therefore we believe the Lord Jesus Christ, as the Head of the Church, has shown us in his Word foundational principles for how to govern local churches. Our desire is to align our practice as closely as we can with what the Bible teaches. In the Bible
- Officers are chosen by the people of God (Acts 6:3-6; 14:23). No one in the church has the authority to place over God’s people someone they themselves have not elected.
- The church recognizes two positions of leadership, or offices: elder and deacon (Philippians 1:1; 1 Timothy 3:1-13; Titus 1:5-9). The office of elder is primarily responsible to shepherd God’s people through teaching the Word of God, administering the sacraments, exercising pastoral care, and overseeing the affairs of the church (1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9). The office of deacon is primarily responsible to carry out works of service and mercy for the church (1 Timothy 3:8-13).
- The office of bishop and elder are interchangeable and therefore refer to the same office (Titus 1:5-7; 1 Peter 5:1-4; Acts 20:17-18, 28; Philippians 1:1).
- The church is governed by a plurality or group of elders (Acts 20:17, 28; Philippians 1:1; Acts 14:23). The power and authority given to the elders of the church is not given to one person, but rather, to a group.
- Ordination, the admission of a person to ecclesiastical office, is the act of a presbytery–that is, of a plurality of elders (1 Timothy 4:14; Acts 6:6). Therefore not just anyone can be an elder or a deacon. An elder or a deacon must be called by God, elected by the people, and ordained by the elders for their respective office.
- The church is governed by local (Philippians 1:1; Acts 20:17) and regional (Acts 15:2-6) assemblies of elders. We see examples of local congregations with elders and deacons (Philippians 1:1) in scripture. But we also see those elders from local congregations coming together to make decisions about the life and ministry of the church (Acts 15:2-6). Therefore, Tenth Presbyterian Church participates in three levels or “courts” of church government.
- At the local level, the Session or Board of Elders oversees the life and ministry of Tenth Church.
- At the regional level, the Presbytery–elders from sister congregations in our denomination–oversee the life and ministry of the church in our region, the Philadelphia Presbytery.
- At the national level, the General Assembly–elders from sister congregations and presbyteries from across the United States–oversee the life and ministry of the church for the entire denomination.