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The Presbyterian Fellowship
Men and Women -
Equal in Christ,
Equal in Mission"
 
 
Frequently Asked Questions
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Q. Do you think that the Fellowship, by its existence, promotes factionalism and division within our church?

A. No. The factions already exist. The Fellowship has simply responded to a need within the church. We were established to give a voice to any person or group within the church that feels under threat from spiritual arrogance or from ill-considered change that seeks to take away their rights as church members.

Many of these conditions exist now and were in existence before the Presbyterian Fellowship came into existence. We are merely performing a service to people in our congregations. Our most important service is to tell them that they are not alone.



Q
. We are a parish without a minister. Our selection committee is being subjected to a lot of pressure from our Interim Moderator to call a particular minister about whom we have reservations. What are our rights in this situation?

A. The role of the Interim Moderator is to see that the processes of calling a minister are completed according to the laws of the church. He does not have the right to impose his own choice of minister on the selection committee. Ultimately the selection committee does nothing more than recommend a name to a congregational meeting for its approval or otherwise. It is a congregational decision.

If an interim moderator is being excessively heavy-handed, it is within the rights of a Session  to ask the Presbytery to make another appointment.



Q.
Our Session has not commissioned an elder to the State Assembly for two years. We do not have an elder who is prepared to go. Given the importance of some of the business that has been conducted in recent years, we believe that our voice is not being heard. What courses are available to us?

A. Sessions have the right to commission an elder from another congregation to be their commissioned elder at the Assembly if they cannot commission one of their own number. Your session may do this either by approaching directly an elder who agrees with its aims  and then forwarding a commission, or by informing the Clerk of Assembly (PO Box 2196, Strawberry Hills, NSW 2012) who will advise on a course of action. The NSW Code II 4.75 outlines the rules.

 



Q.  
Our congregation has just voted to call a minister but he has made it a condition of acceptance that women elders must step down from their position and he will not ordain or induct new women elders. What can we do?

A. There is no such  thing as a conditional call, either in the eyes of God or the laws of the church, and one must wonder if this call is a wise or a genuine one.

A vote to call a minister is only the first stage in the call process. A written call form is circulated among the members for signing. It is quite proper for a person having reservations to withhold their signature. The minimum support to sustain a call is 60%. The Presbytery handling the call, as well as the minister receiving the call, must decide if there is sufficient support to allow it to proceed. Even 25% of a congregation not signing would be cause for concern.

Please give moral support to your women elders. They will feel under deep pressure.

Q. Our newly inducted minister has declared that he cannot work with women elders and has demanded that they step down from their office or face being removed. He has even suggested that the Presbytery will support him. Should our women do so for the peace and harmony of  the church?

A. No-one will ever see such an act as a recipe for peace and harmony. This question has to be viewed from two perspectives.

Firstly, elders, whether men or women, have accepted ordination because they believe themselves to be called to that office. To step down from that office “for peace and harmony” is to deny your calling and to declare that all service rendered in that office was misplaced. Can an elder do that? Not only are you perfectly within your rights to refuse to step down, you are probably wise in doing so. Your own peace of mind and integrity requires it but there is more to it than that. Other women need your moral support and by standing firm you will receive theirs. The eldership is an avenue of service. If you have the gifts, the confidence, the vision and the calling, who is there to challenge your right to hold that office.

Remember also that if you give in to bullying of any kind, you open the door for more of the same.

The second perspective involves whether a minister has the legal right and power to implement his demand.

Only a Session may remove elders from its roll, and only for a proven offence such as moral laxness or an extended period of non-involvement. Your minister cannot remove an elder from office and is bluffing when he says he will be supported by Presbytery. That court, if pressed by a process of appeal, is obliged to uphold the laws of the church. Those laws guarantee your right to hold the office of elder.

Q. Our minister refuses to ordain and induct women onto our session. What  can we do in this situation?

A. The church recognizes the right of women to be elders when they have been elected according to the laws of the church. It is a congregation that decides who its elders are to be, not the minister. A  minister cannot refuse to induct women into the eldership as he or she has made a public commitment to the laws of the church and must conform to them until they are changed.  Most ministers will see it  this way, and if not, the Presbytery should be approached to instruct the minister to perform the induction.



Q
. As Assembly and Presbytery representative elder, I frequently find that my minister and I disagree on how to vote on certain issues. He has made it clear to me, both in words and in body language, that he regards it as disloyalty to vote differently. What should I do?

A. You are commissioned to those courts in your own right. Our Presbyterian system expects you to make up your own mind on the basis of the information, arguments and evidence presented to the court. Even the court that commissioned you cannot tell you how to vote on any issue in advance, although it may advise you what are its opinions. Our founding fathers, in establishing courts comprising balanced numbers of ministers and elders, showed great insight in recognizing that ministers, as highly trained professionals, and elders, as practical men and women successful in applying their faith in the “real world”, would sometimes see things with different eyes. Both perspectives are equally valuable to the church.

You must vote on the persuasive quality of the debate and it is you, as the commissioned elder, who is the judge of the issues in the debate. Please have no fear about contributing to the debate from an elder’s viewpoint. The church needs your voice as well as your vote.



Q
. Why have I not heard of the Presbyterian Fellowship before? Why is printed information not available in our local churches?

A. We are aware, sadly, that much of our printed material is blocked from reaching congregation members and even elders on Session. We periodically send out correspondence to session clerks and ministers. One conclusion that can be easily drawn is that ministers who censor the opinions with which they disagree must be insecure in their own views. There is little we can do about this, although you should be aware that decisions relating to material on display or for sale in churches is the prerogative of the Session rather than the minister. 

People who are members of our organization or who subscribe to the Presbyterian Review will receive it directly through their mailbox. They will always be able to get an alternative view on significant issues. People who search this web-site will have access to a lot of useful information that cannot be censored.  



Q.
The activities of the Presbyterian Fellowship seems to be strongly orientated towards the state of New South Wales. Are you active in other states?

A. The various state churches are largely autonomous and, for this reason, it is true that we focus our activities on New South Wales. The needs and circumstances of each state church are different. However many of our members are from interstate and we try to provide for their needs as best as we can.

We do have associations with our sister organization, the Burning Bush Society of Victoria  but these have not gone much further than an exchange of  information.
Many individuals on other states, e.g South Australia, contact our organisation or its members when they are confronted by a problem that needs addressing.

We would be happy to publicize their activities on our web-site if they so wish.