April 01, 2012 Q & A

How long do ruling elders serve?


I understand that the OPC's position regarding ruling elders is that of "lifetime eldership," as opposed to "term eldership." If this is true, what is the formal status of a ruling elder who currently is not serving on a Session? Is he still considered an official ruling elder? Please clarify.


Thank you for your question.

The Form of Government of the OPC, Chapter XXV ("Electing, Ordaining, and Installing Ruling Elders and Deacons"), section 2 states (emphasis added):

2. Each congregation shall determine, by vote of communicant members in good and regular standing, to choose elders or deacons for either lifetime service or limited terms of service on the session or board of deacons. In a congregation that has determined to choose ruling elders or deacons for limited terms of service a full term shall be three years. When there are three or more ruling elders or three or more deacons the session or board of deacons shall consist of three classes, one of which shall be elected each year. A person may be elected for a full term or partial term. Ruling elders, once ordained, when they are not reelected to a term of service, shall not thereby be divested of the office, but may be commissioned to higher judicatories by the session or the presbytery, and may perform other functions of the office when so appointed by an appropriate judicatory. Similarly deacons, when not elected to a term of service in the congregation, may be commissioned by an appropriate judicatory to perform specific diaconal functions.

This section appears to answer your questions.

1) The official position of the OPC is to allow for both lifetime and term ruling eldership.

2) The material italicized toward the end of the section specifies the status and prerogatives of a ruling elder not actively serving on a session. Additionally, when a ruling elder relocates, for whatever legitimate reasons, from the congregation where he has been serving on the session to another congregation, he does not automatically become a member of the session of that congregation but, according to the provisions of the Form of Government, must be duly elected by the congregation to serve and be installed (not reordained) as a member of that session.

I hope these comments will be of some help.



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