Learn about our organizational structure, Session, Presbytery, Synod, and General Assembly.
Each congregation is governed by a Session which is made up of elders elected by the congregation, plus all the installed pastors on the staff, including pastors, co-pastors, and associate pastors. Session is responsible for all decisions regarding the program and policies of the congregation, except for the two powers reserved for the congregation: the election of officers, including the pastoral staff, and the buying, selling, and/or mortgaging of church property.
Session is composed of elders elected for specific terms of service as well as the installed pastor(s) and associate pastor(s). It is presided over by the moderator or pastor. It elects its own clerk, who is called “Clerk of the Session.” The Clerk of the Session must be an elder, but not necessarily one serving currently on the Session. The Clerk has many duties regarding the records of the church, and also serves as secretary of meetings of the congregation.
The Presbytery is the governing body that has jurisdiction over the sessions of all Presbyterian Church, (U.S.A.) pcusa.org congregations within its bounds and all its minister members. It is composed of “all the churches and ministers of the Word and Sacrament within a certain district. When the Presbytery meets, its members include:
- all ministers of the Word and Sacrament who are members of the Presbytery,
- all elders commissioned by their sessions to attend that meeting,
- any elder elected moderator of the Presbytery for the duration of his or her term.
Twenty-six specific responsibilities of the Presbytery fall into three general categories: those relating to congregations, those relating to ministers of the Word and Sacrament, and those relating to Synod and the General Assembly.
The Synod is the governing body that has oversight of the life and mission of the Presbyterian Church, (U.S.A.) within a specific geographic region that includes at least three presbyteries. It must meet at least once every two years. It can establish a council to take care of things that arise between meetings.
The General Assembly is the most inclusive governing body in the Presbyterian Church, (U.S.A.). It is made up of equal numbers of ministers and elders elected by the presbyteries, and it also has a number of Advisory Delegates such as Youth Advisory Delegates, Theological Seminary Advisory Delegates, Ecumenical Advisory Delegates, and Missionary Advisory Delegates who have voice but not vote on the floor of the Assembly. This body meets every 2 years.
The General Assembly is responsible for mission to the whole world. It also maintains relationships with our partner denominations throughout the world and coordinates our work with them.