July 11, 2018 Q & A

Pastoral Search Committee Composition


Who should participate on a pastoral search committees? Does the teaching in Titus 1:5 to appoint elders and the the Book of Church Order provide the basis that only men (as elders and committee appointees) should participate on Pastoral Search Committees?


I would have to say that there is a lot of variation in the OPC about the members of pulpit search committees, always guided by Form of Government 22.1–3:

1. A minister or licentiate may be called to ministerial service by a congregation; he may also be called by a presbytery or the general assembly, either directly or through their agencies, for work not related to any one particular congregation. Only ministers and licentiates may be called.
2. All calls shall be presented to the person called only by consent of presbytery. No minister shall be transferred to other service without his consent.
3. When a congregation desires to call a pastor it shall ordinarily choose a special committee from its own membership to assist it in selecting him. If the committee is not identical with the session, invitations to preach to the congregation shall be issued only with the approval of the session. No person shall be called by the congregation without the prior approval of the session, except that any ten members entitled to vote or one-fifth of all those entitled to vote, which ever be the larger number, may present a nomination to the congregation, such nomination having been previously submitted to the special committee for its consideration.

You can see that there are no strictures on who may serve on such a special committee. In some churches, the ordained officers of the church alone serve as the search committee. In other situations the session will appoint a variety of members of the congregation (including women) to serve. In this situation, the committee helps the session by reading through ministerial information forms, listening to sermons, and giving the session recommendations.

However—and this is a big “however”—the decision always, in all cases, rests with the session. The elders are the ones who make the final decision of which candidate is allowed to preach and be placed before the congregation for a vote, it is never left up to some committee to bypass the sessional leadership. The additional Presbyterian safeguard, of course, is that a man has to be approved by the presbytery, which consists only of ordained elders—teaching and ruling.

Even when the session itself is the pulpit search committee, they will usually elicit input from the congregation through a survey, member visitation, etc., because no session wants to be put into the dangerous situation of putting forward a man that the congregation will reject, thus undermining the session’s leadership. 

I hope this is helpful.



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