The government of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church closely resembles the government structure of the United States. The CP church has a General Assembly that is made up of ministers and delegates from each Presbytery of the denomination. Together they elect a Moderator and stated clerk. Below the General Assembly are the different Synods that are made up of delegates from the Presbyteries within the geographic boundaries of the Synod. The Synod handles the judicatory decisions of the Presbyteries. Then there is the Presbyteries that is made up of minister and elder delegates from each of the churches in the Presbytery boundaries. Each individual church’s leadership is made up of a session (elected elders) and a minister who moderates the church session.
“The form of church government is the structure through which the activities of government are carried out. The purpose of church government is to aid the church in performing it mission…Although no detailed form of church government is laid down in scripture, the connectional nature of the church is clearly affirmed. The Presbyterian form embodies the connectional nature of the church in a manner compatible with scripture…” (Cumberland Presbyterian Constitution, p.22)
In the immediate church, “elders” are elected by the congregation and become the representatives of the people. They share in the government and leadership of the church. Their election places them on the “session” of the church. Even though the election is what makes them legal according to the constitution, it is their acceptance to the Lord’s call on their lives and their ordination that places them as a spiritual leader in the Lord’s church. Persons who fill the office of elder may be male or female, young or old.
In their leading of the congregation that the Lord has called them to serve, the elders’ responsibilities include:
- Attend to persons who have not confessed Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior
- Attend to persons who are spiritually weak
- Attend to persons who need to be instructed in the faith
- Visit the people in their homes to pray with them
- Pray for/with the sick
- Pray for/with those that mourn
- Pray for/with those in need
- Encourage people by word and example to share in worship, study, witness and service of the Lord’s church through faithful stewardship of their time, talents, and money
- Receive and nurture new members
- Encourage all people to use the gift(s) of the Holy Spirit
- Inform the Pastor of any concerns that need his or her attention.
- Engage in study and preparation as are appropriate to the office
- Resolve questions of doctrine and discipline
- Establish oversight of the administrative and financial workings of the church
- Pray with and for the church