Elder (religious)

From Academic Kids

A religious elder (in Greek, presbuteros) is valued for his or her wisdom, in part for their age, by the logic that the older one is then the more one is likely to know. The concept of an elder was common in parts of the world where what is now called civilization had taken over. The elders in the Bible were also called Scribes or Pharisees. Elders are typical of societies where oral history plays a large part; in societies with patrilineal descent, elders are frequently male, whereas in societies with matrilineal descent, elders are often female. However, both men and women may be elders of a particular society. The sections below look at the concept of eldership held in various religious denominations.

Contents

Methodism

An Elder is someone who has been ordained by a bishop to the ministry of Word, Sacrament, and Order. The office of Elder, then is what most people tend to think of as the pastoral, priestly, clergy office. In most Methodist churches, ordination to the office of Elder is open to both women and men.

Mormonism

Elder is a title for an adult male member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or Mormon who has the Melchizedek Priesthood. Male missionaries of the Church, who typically serve for two years beginning at age 19, are considered elders despite their youth. See also Elder (Mormonism).

Congregationalism

In some Protestant churches, an elder is a senior member of an individual church who is a lay and non-salaried minister. This is a defining characteristic of a Presbyterian church, which draws its name from the Greek language for 'elder'. The elders provide either an advisory or a ruling role in the decision process of local issues; though most modern churches now emphasize the participation of all confirmed members.

Jehovah's Witnesses

Among Jehovah's Witnesses, an elder is an "older man" appointed to teach the congregation, according to Bible requirements. It is rare that an elder would be a man under thirty years of age.

An elder works within an arrangement known as a body of elders, each assigned to specific congregational tasks entailing oversight of the congregation. Each congregation has a chairman, or presiding overseer, typically the most mature elder.

Elders are not clergy in the common sense of the term; they are not paid and elder is not a title.

Traveling overseers and those involved in the writing of the publications of Jehovah's Witnesses are considered elders.

Elders receive no monetary compensation for their work.

Presbyterian Church (USA)

In the Presbyterian Church (USA), elders are lay people. They form, in effect, a board of directors for their congregation.

Governmental responsibilities

Elders are chosen by the people. Together with ministers of the Word and Sacrament, they exercise leadership, government, and discipline and have responsibilities for the life of a particular church as well as the church at large, including ecumenical relationships. They shall serve faithfully as members of the session. (G-10.0102) When elected commissioners to higher governing bodies, elders participate and vote with the same authority as ministers of the Word and Sacrament, and they are eligible for any office.

Gifts and requirements

Elders should be persons of faith, dedication, and good judgment. Their manner of life should be a demonstration of the Christian gospel, both within the church and in the world. (G-6.0106)

Specific responsibilities

It is the duty of elders, individually and jointly, to strengthen and nurture the faith and life of the congregation committed to their charge. Together with the pastor, they should encourage the people in the worship and service of God, equip and renew them for their tasks within the church and for their mission in the world, visit and comfort and care for the people, with special attention to the poor, the sick, the lonely, and those who are oppressed. They should inform the pastor and session of those persons and structures which may need special attention. They should assist in worship. (See W-1.4003, W-2.3011-.3012, W-3.1003, W-3.3616, and W-4.4003.) They should cultivate their ability to teach the Bible and may be authorized to supply places which are without the regular ministry of the Word and Sacrament. In specific circumstances and with proper instruction, specific elders may be authorized by the presbytery to administer the Lord's Supper in accord with G-11.0103z. Those duties which all Christians are bound to perform by the law of love are especially incumbent upon elders because of their calling to office and are to be fulfilled by them as official responsibilities.

Restoration Movement

In churches growing out of the American Restoration Movement (or Campbell-Stone Movement), namely the Church of Christ, Independent Christian Church, and Disciples of Christ, elders are laity who form the major government of the church. In the Church of Christ, all elders are still male. In this group, the elders are generally the entire governing unit of the congregation; they hire and fire minsters, determine Sunday school curriculum, and are generally the trustees of the physical building and other real estate of the congregation as well. This arrangement is generally followed to some extent in the Independent Christian Church as well; in more recent years the function of the eldership in the Disciples of Christ has been more of an advisory and ceremonial role (serving the Lord's Supper, for example) and a separate board has been constituted to serve in conjunction with the minister in the church's governance.

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