So, Have I Got a Question for You!
Ever had a question regarding our church’s policies that no one seemed to want
to answer? Read on… and discover the answers to five such Presbyterian hot potatoes.
Question 1: The company by which our minister’s spouse is employed has an extensive health and dental benefits package for all employees. Why does our congregation still have to contribute to the church’s plan when our minister will not benefit from it?
Answer: Your minister can benefit from the health and dental plan even if their spouse’s company already offers an extensive package. The first amount of an bill is billed to one of the insurance companies. Any excess can be billed to the other one. The health and dental
benefits package was adopted by the General Assembly in 1986. In the year that followed,
ministers were not granted an increase in stipend to cover the cost of this package. All churches are required to pay for this benefits package while they have a minister and during the first 12 months of a vacancy of the pulpit. This requirement stems from the type of policy adopted by the national church. The plan is based on the clergy positions available within the church rather than the person holding the position. All positions within the church must be included in order for the church to get the plan at the present cost. If certain churches were allowed to opt out of the plan, the cost of the plan would rise for those churches left in.
Question 2: Our congregation has recently completed the search process for a new minister. The congregation voted 99% in favour of the candidate. Why do we need presbytery’s approval for him or her to come?
Answer: Presbyteries are responsible for the ministers and the congregations within their bounds. Ministers in the Presbyterian Church in Canada are accountable to the presbytery in which they reside, not to their congregation or session. When presbytery examines the
call of a congregation to a minister, they ensure the wording in the call document is correct and fair to the congregation and the candidate. When a presbytery sustains a call to a minister, it is just one part of their involvement in the whole search process which begins with the appointment of an interim moderator.
Question 3: I disagree with some of the policies of the Presbyterian Church in Canada. I am a church member, but not an elder. How do I make my voice heard?
Answer: Any member of the Presbyterian Church in Canada has access to their session as a means of voicing their disagreement with a policy of the church. A member should bring such a matter to their session in writing. In order for the concern to be brought to General Assembly, it must have the support of a court of the church (session, presbytery or synod).
It is then presented to the Assembly as an overture.
Question 4: I disagree with my minister on a number of points of his or her ministry; how do I voice my opinion?
Answer: A member must first approach their minister in private to discuss his or her concerns (Matthew 18:15-17). It is important to recognize that no minister can please all of the people all of the time. It is equally important for the member to listen to the minister’s
point of view during this dialogue and to give the minister time to respond to the concerns. Only if this process is unsatisfactory and the concerns great, should the process of bringing a complaint against the minister be brought to the presbytery through the session. Members of presbytery would then be appointed to investigate and respond to the concerns. A complaint against a minister is a serious charge and must be dealt with very carefully according to proper procedure.
Question 5: Why are session minutes not public? Why can’t any member of the church attend a meeting of Session, as they are discussing the life and work of the congregation?
Answer: Much of the work of session can and should be shared with the congregation through monthly bulletin inserts or announcements. Nevertheless, there are times when a session is forced to make difficult decisions and the discussion surrounding those decisions needs to be private. Session is responsible for the pastoral care of the congregation and sometimes is asked to address issues which people do not wish to become public knowledge. Therefore, for the good of the members of a congregation, the minutes of Session are not public and no one is permitted to attend Session meetings unless agreed to by the session in advance.