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PREPARING FOR PRESBYTERS’ ELECTIONS – Who Qualifies to Stand as Presbyter?

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Presented by Rev. Daniel Lankai Lawson

In the book of Exodus 18:13-26, we are told of a story in which Moses sat as a judge of Israel. As Jethro, his father-in-law looked on, he called Moses and gave him an advice that it is not good to do it alone because he will wear himself out and the people as well. So, he told Moses to select capable men with certain particular qualification and characteristics that should be evident in the people to be selected.

Exodus 18:13-26
The next day Moses took his seat to serve as judge for the people, and they stood around him from morning till evening. When his father-in-law saw all that Moses was doing for the people, he said, “What is this you are doing for the people? Why do you alone sit as judge, while all these people stand around you from morning till evening?” Moses answered him, “Because the people come to me to seek God’s will. Whenever they have a dispute, it is brought to me, and I decide between the parties and inform them of God’s decrees and laws.” Moses’ father-in-law replied, “What you are doing is not good. You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out. The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone. Listen now to me and I will give you some advice, and may God be with you. You must be the people’s representative before God and bring their disputes to him. Teach them the decrees and laws, and show them the way to live and the duties they are to perform. But select capable men from all the people–men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain–and appoint them as officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. Have them serve as judges for the people at all times, but have them bring every difficult case to you; the simple cases they can decide themselves. That will make your load lighter, because they will share it with you…

Similarly, in the book of Acts 1, Peter also gave qualifications when he spoke concerning the person to be elected in place of Judas Iscariot. Acts 6 is yet another story of criteria to selecting persons for various occupations and positions.

This brings to the fore that those who are to be selected as leaders in the Kingdom of God should have certain characteristics. So, in the Constitution of the Presbyterian Church of Ghana, there is provision for electing leaders.

ARTICLE 11 of PCG Constitution

THE PRESBYTER
In accordance with the model of the Apostolic Practice and the Reformed Tradition, the Congregation shall elect Presbyters to represent it and to be joined with the Agents in the governance and discipline of the Church.

(SESSION vrs IMC)

ARTICLE 11 of PCG Constitution

Four Presbyters shall be elected for each Congregation with fifty members. Other Presbyters up to twenty-five men and women shall be elected according to the size of the Congregation.

The Session shall determine the number required and the date for the election of new Presbyters.

QUALIFICATIONS

  • We must guard against choosing people on the basis of wealth, relation, tribe, looks etc.
  • It is not a group representation.
  • Presbytership is not by inheritance.
  • It is not by old age even though there is a minimum age limit.
  • It is not by turns.
  • We must be careful of those who lobby and bribe their way. It is a call from God to serve in that capacity.
  • We must not disappoint God!

QUALIFICATION ARTICLES 11 CLAUSE 3

  • Be an experienced member in good standing within the Church
  • Conform to the first schedule to this constitution
  • Not be less than twenty-five (25) years of age
  • Must have his marriage properly contracted and blessed.

MEMBERSHIP ARTICLE 3 OF THE CONSTITUTION

  • Clause 2: A church member is anyone that is duly registered as a member in a particular congregation
  • This registration is evidenced by
  • Having his or her name in the roll book or membership data of the congregation
  • Possess a membership card
  • Attendance to the Lord’s Supper
  • Payment of tithe for at least once a month
  • Payment of other financial contributions

MEMBERSHIP ARTICLE 3 OF THE CONSTITUTION

  • Clause 7: Non-Communicant members shall not serve in any leadership position or hold any office in the Church
  • Order 27: A member in good standing refers to an active, registered member who has a church membership card and who is a communicant (whose communion attendance is evidence in the church membership card), and a regular tithe payer, who is not under any disciplinary sanction.

MEMBERSHIP (MARRIAGE)

  • Third Schedule 13(d); the marriage laws of the country shall be binding on its citizens. Members of the church entering into marriage are urged to seek the blessing of God. For elections/appointment to an office/position in the church requiring conformance to the First Schedule to this constitution, such blessing shall be a necessary condition
  • Manual of Order 5(6)(c); Must, if married have his or her marriage blessed or willing to do so prior to him or her being commissioned as a presbyter or in the latest, not more than one year after his or her commissioning as presbyter

QUALIFICATIONS

FIRST SCHEDULE (1 TIMOTHY 3:2-7)

  • Must be above reproach, blameless (2 Timothy 3:14)
  • The husband/wife of one wife/ husband.
  • Must be temperate. Sober minded, emotionally calm, avoiding behaviour that goes beyond what is normal
  • Respectable
  • Hospitable/Approachable
  • Able to teach
  • Not violent but gentle. Not soon angry. Those in leadership cannot have a volatile temperament; they must be patient and have a good disposition and not easily agitated or provoked.
  • Not quarrelsome but peaceful
  • Not a lover of money. Not greedy for money. (The office of the Presbyter is not a paid office.)
  • He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect; they must be believers and not have a reputation of being wild.
  • He must not be a recent convert. Not a novice (1 Timothy 3:6). They are to be spiritually mature and not a newcomer in the faith.
  • Must have good knowledge of Scripture and must be prayerful.
  • He must have a good reputation with outsiders.

QUALIFICATIONS
OTHER CHRISTIAN LEADERSHIP QUALITIES (TITUS 1:6,7,8)

  • Not self-willed (Titus 1:7).
    • They should not be self-centered.
    • A church cannot have people in leadership who are concerned only about themselves.
    • The important thing about church leaders is that they be genuinely concerned for the people they are shepherding and the cause of the gospel.
  • Not a striker, brawler (Titus 1:7).
    • This literally means “not a fighter.”
    • A church does not need someone in leadership who solves problems with his fists. Not violent.

QUALIFICATIONS Cont’d

  • Must agree to be bound by the Constitution and manual of order of the Presbyterian Church of Ghana.
  • Must have Christian leadership qualities (Servant/Shepherd leadership)
  • Must be capable men/women who are God fearing, can be trusted and who cannot be bribed. (Exodus 18:21)
  • Must have confessed Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour (born-again), baptized (confirmed).
  • They must be full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom (Acts 1:21-26; 6:1-7) 
  • Lover of what is good (Titus 1:8).
  • They should have good desires and motives and do things with sincerity of heart.
  • Just, upright (Titus 1:8).
  • Church leaders are to be fair and equitable, and not prejudiced against any.
  • Holy (Titus 1:8). They are to be consecrated and sanctified in their lives and committed to the service of the Lord in the church.
  • Must accept the faith and order of the church including doctrines and traditions
  • Infant baptism
  • Modes of baptism?
  • Communion regulations
  • Lord’s Day (Sunday)
  • The centrality of the Word of God (Sola scriptura)
  • The church as being relational (Courts of the church)
  • A seating Presbyter who has not held office for more than a term of four years.
  • A person may be re-elected after the expiration of a period of four years from the end of his or her second consecutive term.
  • Must have time to attend Session meetings regularly and put expertise at the disposal of the church.
  • Must be regular at Church services and other church programmes
  • A lodge member (occultist) cannot be a Presbyter
  • The Presbyter must be FAT – Faithful, Available and Teachable.

NOTE

  • There is nothing concerning ratio of men to women. Women are however encouraged to be reasonably represented. Some Sessions therefore decide on some acceptable ratio.
  • There is nothing concerning ethnic representation. No ethnic group must be disadvantaged.
  • Nothing barring couples, family members from becoming Presbyters.
  • The fact that somebody has served one term does not mean he must automatically go a second term. Such a person must be properly evaluated on his performance. If he excels, then he may be nominated for a second chance.
  • All categories of people with different abilities are required in Session to complement each other. (1 Corinthians 12:12-31)

CONCLUSION

ACTS 1:24, 25a
Then they prayed, “Lord, you know the thoughts of everyone, so show us which of these two you have chosen to serve as an apostle.”

As you prepare to elect new Presbyters to join with the Agents to lead this great church, may you be led by the Holy Spirit who knows the hearts of everyone, those He has called, prepared, equipped and anointed for this noble office to serve as Presbyters in this church for the next four years.

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