Presbyterian churches are led by elders. In fact, the word “Presbyterian” means “governed by elders” or “of elders.” It is a biblical model for how to organize and oversee churches.
Each month, the pastor and 9 elders meet to oversee the direction, mission and well-being of the congregation. Westminster has a system where, every two years, a third of the elders step down from active eldership, and three new elders are elected in their place. (To learn more about how eldership works and what they do, see the white brochure called ‘Elders’ at the church.)
It’s also important to note that in our tradition, “elder” doesn’t refer to one’s age—but to a recognized position of leadership and authority in the church. Elders are elected from the congregation by the congregation.
What is the process for electing new elders?
When is the nomination period?
It stretches over three Sundays (October 15, 22 and 29). There are small blue nomination ballots on those days. They are to be returned in person to elder Colin Leonard.
Who is eligible to be nominated?
All professing members of the congregation are eligible to be nominated. “Professing members” are those who have gone to Membership Gatherings with Rev. Ruttan (usually held twice a year) and have professed their Christian faith in front of the congregation, or those who have officially transferred their membership certificate from another congregation.
Who can fill out a nomination ballot and nominate someone?
Only professing members may nominate someone for eldership. (For a definition of “professing members” see above.)
Why can only professing members nominate people?
Professing members have met with Rev. Ruttan through the membership process, have learned about Westminster and following Christ, have made a commitment to Westminster as their church home, and professed their faith in front of the congregation.
How does the nomination process work?
- A nominee would need to be nominated by two different professing members
- They would need to agree to the ‘Character Traits & Responsibilities’ of Church Elders (see other side of this handout)
- They would need to be a suitable nominee (as per the required Character Traits and Responsibilities)
- They would need to agree to let their name stand after a conversation with Rev. Ruttan.
When nominees are established, their names will be published in the church bulletin along with their pictures and a bit of information about them. Then there will be an election on November 26th. The three nominees with the most votes would be selected. They would be ordained and inducted into eldership on January 7th during worship. They would then begin to serve a term of leadership of 6 years.
Who are our current active elders?
Reverend Ruttan is officially our “teaching elder.” The other elders (called “ruling elders”) are Don Hickey (clerk of Session), Rob Adamson, Wanda Anderson, Jim Bewick, Cathy Clark, Wayne Hope, Colin Leonard, Bethany Touchette and Judy Pringle. At the end of this year, the terms for Don Hickey, Rob Adamson and Judy Pringle come to an end. These three may stand for election again if (a) they are nominated by two professing members, and (b) if they agree to it.
What should we do?
Read through the character traits and responsibilities below, and start to pray about if you feel led to nominate an individual (who is a professing member) of our church family.
Can I nominate more than one person, and do I need to get their permission first?
Please be prayerful and thoughtful. If you feel led by God to nominate more than one person you may do so. (Use separate ballots.) And no, you don’t have to get their permission first. After a list of eligible candidates is finalized, Rev. Ruttan will talk to the potential nominees to see if they would like to let their name stand or not.[UPDATE: The nomination period has now ended. Click here for a 1-page pdf document of the three candidates: Candidate Profiles]
The Character Traits & Responsibilities of Church Elders:
Our elders will be strong Christian leaders who:
- Have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour that includes daily prayer and Bible reading
- Be able to articulate their faith
- Are baptised and are a member of the congregation
- Are “an example to [other] believers in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity” (1 Tim. 4:12)
- Have sound judgment and are of upright character
- Are knowledgeable (or are prepared to learn) about the government of the church
- Have gifts for spiritual leadership (see 1 Corinthians 12)
- Are in regular attendance in worship
- Are prepared to be an active participant in the ministry of the church
- Are prepared to attend the regular and emergent elders meeting
- Assume a key leadership role in at least one other ministry of the church
- Develop a personal relationship with people in their district (in the example of 1 Peter 5: 1-11)
- Pass a Volunteer Sector Records Check screening
- Agree to and sign the Covenant of Care as per the denomination’s Leading with Care policy
- Are able to adhere to these ordination vows:
- Do you believe in God the Father, made known in His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom the Holy Spirit witnesses in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments?
- Do you accept the subordinate standards* of this Church, and do you promise to be guided thereby in fostering Christian belief, worship and service among the people?
- Do you accept the government of this Church by sessions, presbyteries, synods and general assemblies, and do you promise to share in and submit yourself to all lawful oversight therein, and to follow no divisive course but to seek the peace and unity of Christ among your people and throughout the Holy Catholic Church?
- In accepting the office of Elder, do you promise to perform your duties in the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, striving to build up His Church and to strengthen her mission in the world?
* “Subordinate Standards” are authoritative faith statements in The Presbyterian Church in Canada. They are called “subordinate” because they are under Christ and under the Bible itself in authority.
There are three Subordinate Standards. They can be accessed here in pdf form:
- Living Faith: Living-Faith
- The Declaration of Faith Concerning Church and Nation: Declaration of Faith
- The Westminster Confession of Faith: gao_westminster_confession_of_faith (With respect to The Westminster Confession of Faith, it should be noted that it is a document that was composed between 1643 and 1646 in England in the Westminster Abbey (which is why it is named as it is). That time was one of great polarity between Protestants and Roman Catholics. Therefore, you will find references like the one in chapter 25, section 6, to the Pope being called the “Antichrist.” However, The Presbyterian Church in Canada no longer holds that view. If you have questions about any of the content please simply speak with the pastor. The language is dated and is a product of it’s time; yet it still communicates important theological truths for our own day.)
Hard copies of these documents are available in the church library in a binder labelled “Subordinate Standards.”