What is the Session?
Every Presbyterian church is governed by a representative democracy. The governing body of the church typically consists of the church Staff, the Session and a variety of committees. The Session of First Presbyterian Church of Athens consists of our Senior Pastor, Associate Pastor, and the thirty Ruling Elders in active service. The Ruling Elders in active service are congregation members nominated by the Nominations Committee and elected by the congregation. Ruling Elders are representatives for the people of the church, active in various committees, and oversee all aspects of a church. All members of the Session are entitled to vote on issues presented to them.
Every year, ten members of the church are elected to the office of Ruling Elder to serve for three consecutive years. The group of elders elected each year are called a class. For example, if ten people are elected for the office of Elder in 2003, those Elders would be called the class of 2006, since their term ends in the year 2006.
Responsibilities of the Session:
The Church Session is charged with maintaining the spiritual welfare and government of the church. In keeping with this purpose, it has the power to receive members into the communion of the church; to grant certificates of dismission to other churches; to instruct, examine, ordain and install Ruling Elders on their election by the congregation; and to develop and supervise the church including the preaching of the Word, the sharing of the Sacraments, and for the music program, in keeping with the principles in the Directory for Worship.
It is further charged to order collections for Christian purposes, to devise suitable measures for advancing the spiritual interests of the church and the congregation, to select among the active Ruling Elders representatives to the Presbytery and the Synod, who shall submit reports concerning the meetings on their return.
Other Responsibilities of the Session include:
- Ministering to those in need, to the sick, to the friendless and to those who may be in distress. It is further the duty of the Session to develop the grace of liberality in members of the church,
- Promoting a program of education designed to acquaint members of the congregation with the many activities of the church, the need of financial support and the importance of giving to support God’s work and for one’s own personal and spiritual growth in discharging responsibility as a worthy steward, and
- Approving the church budget which reflects the various causes and functions of the church supported by offerings of the congregation and to see that offerings are distributed for the causes and functions for which they were contributed.
The Session serves as Trustees of this church. In that role, the Session acts solely under the authority of the congregation. Trustees have the power and authority with consent of the congregation to buy, sell, or mortgage the property of the church, to acquire and convey title to such property, to hold and defend title to the same, and the management of any permanent special funds entrusted to it for the furtherance of the purposes of the church. The latter responsibility has been assigned to the Church Endowment Fund Trustees, which in turn report to the Session of the church.
Other specific responsibilities are listed in the Book of Order.