In step with the precepts of the Presbyterian Church (USA), Knox Presbyterian Church is led by a Session of (ruling) Elders, with additional support from a Board of Deacons. However, as explained on the shared ministry page, the traditional role of the Pastor is significantly diminished, as the lay leadership combine their various gifts to perform the day-to-day management, discipleship and worship-related roles.
A Little Denominational Background
The Presbyterian Church is one of a number of Protestant denominations that grew out of the Reformation movement initiated by Martin Luther in 1517, when he posted a paper containing 95 revolutionary opinions, or "theses" on the door of Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. At the top of the paper was this simple statement: "Out of love for the truth and from desire to elucidate it, the Reverend Father Martin Luther, Master of Arts and Sacred Theology, and ordinary lecturer therein at Wittenberg, intends to defend the following statements and to dispute on them in that place. Therefore he asks that those who cannot be present and dispute with him orally shall do so in their absence by letter. In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, Amen. "
In his theses, Luther condemned the excesses and corruption of the Roman Catholic Church, especially the papal practice of asking payment—called "indulgences"—for the forgiveness of sins. At the time, a Dominican priest named Johann Tetzel, commissioned by the Archbishop of Mainz and Pope Leo X, was in the midst of a major fundraising campaign in Germany to finance the renovation of St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. Though Prince Frederick III the Wise had banned the sale of indulgences in Wittenberg, many church members traveled to purchase them. When they returned, they showed the pardons they had bought to Luther, claiming they no longer had to repent for their sins.
Luther's frustration with this practice led him to write the 95 Theses, which were quickly snapped up, translated from Latin into German and distributed widely. A copy made its way to Rome, and efforts began to convince Luther to change his tune. He refused to keep silent, however, and in 1521 Pope Leo X formally excommunicated Luther from the Catholic Church. That same year, Luther again refused to recant his writings before the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V of Germany, who issued the famous Edict of Worms declaring Luther an outlaw and a heretic and giving permission for anyone to kill him without consequence. Protected by Prince Frederick, Luther began working on a German translation of the Bible, a task that took 10 years to complete.
The term "Protestant" first appeared in 1529, when Charles V revoked a provision that allowed the ruler of each German state to choose whether they would enforce the Edict of Worms. A number of princes and other supporters of Luther issued a protest, declaring that their allegiance to God trumped their allegiance to the emperor. They became known to their opponents as Protestants; gradually this name came to apply to all who believed the Church should be reformed, even those outside Germany. By the time Luther died, of natural causes, in 1546, his revolutionary beliefs had formed the basis for the Protestant Reformation, which would over the next three centuries revolutionize Western civilization.
The Presbyterian Church, proper, subsequently grew from the efforts of two notable Reformation leaders: John Calvin and John Knox. Knox, one of Calvin's students in Geneva, was the actual founder of Presbyterianism—a version of Calvanism—when through his efforts it was established in 1560 (originally being called the Church of Scotland) as the offical religion in Scotland following the death of the highly disdained Marie de Guise, mother of Mary, Queen of Scots.
The 95 Theses
Luther's 95 Theses—arguably the "backbone" of the Reformation—makes for a short, but truly enlightening read. Surely, all Protestants ought to be exposed to Luther's thoughts so succinctly expressed therein. We have included two versions that you may wish to check out: the original version, and a modern translation. You are encouraged to read both versions.
So, just what does it actually MEAN to say that we're "Presbyterian"? Ask ten Presbyterians, and you're liable to get ten different answers. A great online resource for those new to the Presbyterian way is newchurchofficer.com, a site developed by First Presbyterian Church, Texarkana, Arkansas. You are encouraged to spend a little time there and view the instructional videos. Understanding our underlying denominational principles will perhaps help you with perspectives that you maybe haven't considered.
Another great resource for learning about being a Presbyterian is our own national organization's (PC USA) website. Their Presbyterian 101 page presents much information that is guaranteed to whet your appetite.
The Presbyterian Constitution
Two documents to which all Presbyterian leaders—for that matter, all Presbyterians—should be exposed are the Book of Confessions and the Book of Order. These two documents comprise the Constitution of the Presbyterian Church (USA). You are invited to check them out. Being in electronic (PDF) format, they are searchable, which may help you as you explore.
Ruling Elders—the Session
Knox's Session consists of six (officially dubbed "ruling") elders serving in three classes of two each. Each year, two elder terms expire, and they are then replaced by newly-elected elders who then serve in a new class. Session fulfills three critical roles: (1) Administration, facilities and finance, (2) Worship Ministries, and (3) Discipleship. Each role relates and works closely with its Shared Ministry Team (SMT) counterpart. Additionally, the Board of Deacons and the Pastoral Care groups operate semi-autonomously on the SMT side of the organizational chart and report to Session through the Discipleship elders.
Moderator. In a pastor-centric model, the pastor serves as the moderator of session. However, since we began our non pastor-centric "journey" called Shared Ministry, the Presbytery of the Inland Northwest has appointed us a session moderator. In that light Rev. Dick Avery (retired and former senior pastor at Shadle Park Presbyterian Church) is serving Knox admirably, helping to keep us on track and assisting us as we navigate the uncharted waters on which we have embarked.
Clerk of Session. Dick Raymond is Knox's current clerk of Session.
Knox's Board of Deacons consists of nine ordained members serving in three classes of three each. Each year, three deacon terms expire, and they are then replaced by newly-elected deacons who then serve in a new class. The Board of Deacons' primary ministry is pastoral care.