Presbyterian Glossary

Associate Pastor
Associate pastors are called by and serve a local congregation, but are considered members of the presbytery. Associates are ordained and serve alongside the pastor.

Book of Common Worship
The Presbyterian service book, published in 1993, that suggests orders and texts for various worship services.

Book of Confessions
A volume of historic confessions of the Christian church, covering twenty centuries. Part of the Constitution, along with the Form of Government, including the Scots Confession (1560), the Heidelberg Catechism (1563), the Second Helvetic Confession (1566), the Westminster Confession of Faith (1647), the Declaration of Barmen (1934), the Confession of 1967, and the Brief Statement of Faith (1993).

A “call” is extended to a prospective pastor or associate pastor by a congregation.

One who identifies with the theological views of John Calvin as set forth in Institutes of the Christian Religion (1536), with special stress upon God as sovereign.

Celtic Cross
Traditional cross with circle superimposed where cross-pieces join. Sometimes referred to in Scotland as the Wayside Cross.

Ordained office. A deacon is elected by the congregation to minister to those in need, the sick, the friendless, and any who may be in distress. The board of deacons carries out its work under the session’s oversight.

General Assembly
The highest of the four governing bodies in the Presbyterian Church (USA). The General Assembly (GA) consists of commissioners and advisory delegates and meets every other year in the summer for a week of meetings and worship.

Governing Bodies
Session, presbytery, synod, and General Assembly.

Presiding officer of a committee, youth group, board of deacons, session, presbytery, synod, or General Assembly.

The setting apart for the ministry of the Word and Sacrament or the office of elder or deacon. Persons are ordained only once.

An ordained minister of Word and Sacrament, pastors serve in local congregations and are also known as “teaching elders.”

The governing body above the session, defined by geographical boundaries. There are 173 presbyteries.

A term that emerged during the time of the Protestant Reformation in sixteenth century Europe. Reformed theology is marked by a recognition that Christian faith needs constantly to be articulated and confessed. Theologians in the Reformed tradition realize that all our theological statements are, at best, approximations. We can never absolutize a particular way of speaking Christian truth, because God is always leading us on and giving us new insights from the Scriptures.

Robert’s Rules of Order
A form of parliamentary procedure used by some governing bodies.

Ruling Elder
Member elected by the congregation, ordained, and installed as a member of the session. May or may not currently serve actively on the session.

Presbyterians observe two sacraments: baptism and the Lord’s Supper.

Institutions for training prospective pastors and other church workers. Currently, there are 10 PC(USA) seminaries.

Stated Clerk
Secretary/Parliamentarian of a governing body

The middle governing body made up of presbytery representatives. There are 16 synods.

Legally elected managers of a corporation. The office ordinarily relates to matters of property. This is a non-ordained position.