Our church - governance

    When Parkwood church was founded in 1964 the prevailing governance model for a Presbyterian church was the long-established one of having two bodies: a Kirk Session (or Session) consisting of ruling elders and moderated by the minister, to look after the spiritual side of things, and a Board of Managers consisting of lay persons, often non-elders, to look after the "secular" affairs of the congregation. The Book of Forms, the "rule book" of the Presbyterian Church in Canada, provides details on the functioning of these two bodies, in its chapters entitled "THE SESSION" and in the subsection of the chapter "THE CONGREGATION AND ITS MANAGEMENT" on the BOARD OF MANAGERS. Elders were elected and members of the Board of Managers were chosen at the annual meeting of the congregation. The most current Book of Forms can be downloaded from the national church website here.

    LAMP Report

    In 1969 the national church received a special report from its Committee on Life and Mission entitled "Into the 70's in life and mission" (commonly referred to as the LAMP Report, referring to Life And Mission Project), which recommended an alternate governance model:

      "In order that Sessions might better plan, supervise and execute the affairs of the congregation, a series of committees should be elected from the congregation, including committees of Policy and Planning, Nurture and Worship, Mission and Outreach, and a committee entitled Finance and Maintenance which would fulfil the terms of the Board of Managers as described in The Book of Forms, together with any other committees required by the local situation."
    This recommendation suggested that a congregation have four standing committees as shown in the diagram to the right.

    Other committees or temporary task groups could be formed and dissolved as the situation and work required. All committees and task groups would be related directly or indirectly to the Session, which would provide general supervision and retain final authority in all aspects of the congregation's life and mission. Committees would care for the detailed work and would report at regular intervals as determined by the Session. Anyone in the congregation could serve on a committee or task group. Rotation of committee membership would be desirable. A method would need to be devised for making suitable appointments to the committees either by the Session or at congregational meetings. While the original recommendation was that the committee chairpersons be elders, the General Assembly disagreed and gave congregations the freedom to name elders or others to these posts. In each congregation, a statement of responsibilities was to be worked out for each standing committee, with the following general guidelines as a starting point. The words are taken directly from the LAMP Report..


      Policy and Planning Committee

      • Responsible for general planning and evaluation of the congregation's life and work, helping to establish broad program objectives from year to year.

      • The committee could use such means as congregational meetings, local conferences or retreats, and opinion surveys to help formulate objectives, policies and general plans which would be referred to the Session and to other committees or task groups for consideration, development and implementation.

      • Some congregations find it useful to have a program council to deal with "policy and planning". This body is usually representative of the major groups in the congregation, and would operate in place of a policy and planning committee.

      Worship and Nurture Committee

      • Responsible for leadership in matters of worship, education and training, visitation and lay pastoral care of the congregation.

      • Many ministers and sessions are presently assisted in these functions by committees of Christian Education and of church music. Further involvement of lay persons is suggested here, in the development of worship in the congregation, and in providing more extensive pastoral care services through such means as visitation and counselling services. The possibility of developing pastoral care services through elder's districts should be explored. Suggestions about church worship elsewhere in this report should be considered.

      Mission and Outreach Committee

      • Responsible for leadership in evangelism, social action, special ministries in the community, participation in national and world mission, and personal witness in daily life.

      • This committee would lead the congregation in all aspects of its responsibility to the world around, by developing and implementing action programs.

      • Since a congregation is prepared for its mission in the world through its worship and nurture, the worship and nurture committee would be responsible for all education and training related to mission. Education in social issues and special training programs for evangelism, stewardship, eldership training, P.M., W.M.S., etc. would normally be administered through the worship and nurture committee.

      Finance and Maintenance Committee

      • Responsible for the functions of the Board of Managers as described in The Book of Forms.

      • For most congregations, no change is required in the basic terms of reference as presently laid down. The relationship suggested above between the Session and the four standing committees are consistent with the provisions in The Book of Forms.

      • Present Boards of Managers should be briefed so as to understand their duties as the Committee of Finance and Maintenance and their relationships to the Session and to the other three committees.


    Governance at Parkwood

    Parkwood adopted the recommendations of the LAMP Report at its annual congregational meeting January 30, 1972 and the four-committee structure as outlined above was adopted. Along the way as the need arose, other committees were formed, such as the Civil and Social Concerns Group which existed in the late 1990's and early 2000's and the Pastoral Care Team formed in 2003, initially reporting to the congregation under the Worship & Nurture Committee, and in 2004 as a committee of Session. In March 2005 when it became evident that certain committees were overworked the congregation approved a restructuring exercise which led to the division of the duties of two committees, Worship & Nurture and Mission & Outreach, into more manageable parts. In 2017 it became evident that that logic should be applied to Finance & Maintenance as well.

    • Worship and Nurture was split into
      • Worship Co-ordination
      • Christian Education
      • Fellowship
    • Mission and Outreach was split into
      • Mission
      • Outreach
    • Finance and Maintenance was split into
      • Finance
      • Facility Management

    At the same time as the two earler "splits", taking into consideration a trend towards informality in the broader church, Parkwood adopted the term "team" to replace "committee" and "team leader" to replace "chairperson" or "convenor". And more recently in 2011 a Personnel Team was added to assist teams which had staff responsibilities to address them and to be a sounding board for staff.

    From time to time special teams are formed to meet specific situations, such as Search or Vacancy Committees when a minister or other staff member leaves, or, as was the case with the building expansion that took place in 1995-1996 and the more recent building program, a Facility Planning Team (the latest created in February 2009). Such teams typically exist while the project is underway and are disbanded once the projects are completed. There are also a few single-purpose teams formed from time to time, such as the Leading With Care Team which produced and administers Parkwood's policy for the protection of children, youth and vulnerable adults, as mandated by the national church, an Investment Committee formed in 2011 at the recommendation of the auditors to provide a forum for the review and guidance of the investment policies and investments of Parkwood, and most recently an Audit Team formed on recommendation to the 2011 annual congregational meeting to perform the annual audit of the church's books. The final team to receive mention is the Budget Team, which comes to life around November each year to receive the budgets of the various teams and massage them into a church budget to be presented to the annual congregational meeting in February. This team is chaired by the team leader from Policy & Planning and consists of the secretary of Policy & Planning, the church treasurer, clerk of session, minister and leaders of each of the other ministry teams.

    In addition to the Ministry Teams and other specialized teams mentioned above, there are a few other "positions" that should be mentioned. Parkwood has a group of Trustees, elected by the congregation, who are responsible for issues related to the legal title for the church property, etc. The congregation also elects a Treasurer who keeps track of the church finances and an Auditor to audit the financial statements each year. The Session appoints a number of "officers" who look after specific aspects of its work: a Session Clerk, Communion Clerk, Memorials Clerk, Roll Clerk, Representative Elder and a person who oversees its Benevolent Fund. A look at any of Parkwood's annual reports will provide insight into the duties of the session officers. Information on the duties of the Session Clerk and the Representative Elder can also be found in the Book of Forms mentioned above.

    Governance beyond the local church

    Presbyterian churches are ruled by a hierarchical system of church courts, consisting of presbyteries, synods and General Assemblies. What follows is a brief description of the various church courts. The Book of Forms provides considerable detail on governance beyond the local congregation - see the chapters on THE PRESBYTERY, THE SYNOD and THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY.

    Local - the Presbytery

    In Parkwood's case, the local ruling body is the Presbytery of Ottawa, to which 19 congregations and one mission charge currently belong (fall 2011). The presbytery meetings are attended by the ministers (called teaching elders) and an equal number of ruling elders (the "representative elderts", one from each church within the presbytery. Where a church has two or more ministers, each of whom may attend presbytery, an "equalizing elder" is named for each additional minister so there is always an equal number of teaching and ruling elders to make decisions affecting the local congregations. Presbyteries operate using a committee structure similar to churches. The local presbytery meets approximately five times a year to do its business, and its committees meet with about the same frequency.

    Regional - the Synod

    The regional bodies are known as synods. The synod to which the churches in the Presbytery of Ottawa belong is the Synod of Quebec and Eastern Ontario; it consists of five presbyteries: in addition to Ottawa (20 congregations in 19 charges), the Presbyteries of Lanark-Renfrew (21 congregations in 15 charges) and Seaway-Glengarry (27 congregations in 14 charges) in Ontario and the Presbyteries of Montreal (34 congregations in 32 charges) and Quebec (8 congregations in 8 charges) in the province of Quebec - as of November 2011. The Synod meets once a year, usually in October, to do its business. It has a small committee system and a "Synod Council" to manage its business between synods and bring the appropriate business to the synod when it meets. The synod currently meets as a "commissioned court" with a rotating list of churches in each presbytery commissioned to send representatives to the once-a-year meeting. In 2011 the presbyteries were represented in the following numbers: Quebec 2 teaching elders, 2 ruling elders; Montreal 7 teaching, 5 ruling; Ottawa 5 teaching, 5 ruling; Seaway-Glengarry 3 teaching, 3 ruling; Lanark-Renfrew 3 teaching, 3 ruling. The synods rule on regional issues and are the court of next resort that presbyteries may refer matters to.

    National - the General Assembly

    The General Assembly is the "annual meeting" of the national church. It meets once a year, around the first week in June. Like the synods, it is a commissioned court, so a rotating list of churches in each presbytery are commissioned to send representatives. As with presbyteries and synods there are to be an equal number of teaching and ruling elders attending. Between assemblies an "Assembly Council" does the work of assembly and prepares business for the assembly to rule on when it meets. This council has broad representation across the country, again with ruling and teaching elders in equal numbers. The national church offices report to General Assembly and take guidance from it as to how to do the church's business. The assembly also has a committee structure for organizing its business. The General Assemblies rule on national issues as well as issues referred to it from congregations, presbyteries and synods.


(picture @ top: some reference books useful in governance within the PCC)




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