Presbyterian churches are representative democracies which govern themselves by representatives, called elders, chosen from within each local congregation. The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), our denomination, consists of governing bodies which in turn include more bodies from lower to higher. These bodies are the session, the presbytery, the synod, and the general assembly.
The Session of First Presbyterian
A session governs the local congregation. It is made up of several elders with the pastor serving as moderator making sure that all voices are heard and that the meetings are run in a way that is fair to everyone. An elder is a male or female member of the congregation who has been chosen to lead the congregation in all of its activities from choosing a paint color for the church hallway to choosing a new pastor. Elders are the people who answer to God for running our local church.
The Presbytery of Southeastern Illinois
A presbytery is comprised of every minister and at least one elder from each congregation within its borders. Our congregation is part of the Presbytery of Southeastern Illinois. The PSEI includes 79 congregations. There are 170 presbyteries in the PC(USA).
The Synod of Lincoln Trails
A synod is made up of representative members of several presbyteries. Our synod is the Synod of Lincoln Trails. It includes eight presbyteries and over 700 congregations in Indiana and Illinois. There are sixteen synods in the PC(USA).
The General Assembly
The General Assembly is the most inclusive ruling body of our denomination. It holds a national meeting every two years. There are currently more than 10,000 congregations and more than 1.7 million members in the PC(USA).