Confessional, Constitutional, Connectional – Three “C’s” of Presbyterianism

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Today I’m looking forward to a meeting with some friends and colleagues to plan a Halloween dance for the high school youth in our presbytery. It seems in the past few decades my denomination, the Presbyterian Church (USA), has forgotten the basis for our way of being church, the three “C’s”: Confessional (we confess our faith and lift up the examples given to us throughout the history of the Christian church), Constitutional (we are guided by the principals of ordered governance and polity through our constitution, which is made up of our Book of Confessions and our Book of Order), and we are Connectional. It’s this last one that seems so hard for us to figure out.

Our entire system of ecclesiastical government lends itself to the various levels of government (local church session, presbytery, synod, and general assembly) work to support one another. We are not hierarchical, in that we do not elect leaders to make decisions for us from the top. We are not congregational in that each congregation is an autonomous entity that is somewhat loosely associated with other congregations to form associations. Our decision making flows from the bottom up like congregational, but then clearly flows back to the congregations through the presbytery like a more episcopal form of government. We do not have bishops, we have levels of government wherein elders are elected from the level below. We are called to hold one another accountable to our values with love and forbearance.

I’m excited about my meeting today with several youth leaders and pastors in our in our presbytery to plan a high school Halloween party because in a very simple way it is a lived experience of our value of connectionism. As congregations continue to leave our denomination over theological differences, we might at the same time remember that we are all connected through the Body of Christ that is the Church. Thanks be to God.

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