What Should Presbyteries Do?
Today presbyteries conduct business rather than engage in devotional conferences. Their meetings are formal, governed by parliamentary rules or Robert’s Rules of Order. Reports, motions, counter-motions, amendments, amendments to amendments are the normal diet at a Presbytery meeting. The business requires the method adopted; decisions are by majority votes rather than consensus. Prayer is built into the opening devotional exercises or in response to particular reports highlighting specific needs.
However, there is another pattern possible. This involves not the abandonment of formal business but supplementing it with shared prayer, pastoral care and concern, biblical study and education. This is a radical idea, but not a novel idea. From the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, 1639:
Anent the keeping of Presbyteriall meetings, it is thought fit that they be weekly, both in sommer and winter, except in places farre distant, who, during the winter season, (that is, between the first of October and the first of April,) shall be dispensed with for meeting once in the fourteen dayes, and that all absents be censured, especially those who should exercise and adde, according to the act of Assembly 1582, at St. Andrews, April 24, Sess. 12, and that some controverted head of doctrine bee handled in the Presbyterie publickly, and disputed among the brethren every first Presbyterie of the moneth, according to the act of Assembly holden at Dundie, 1598, Sess. 12.
Smaller presbyteries with fewer churches, more frequent meeting, more biblical exploration, more pastoral support – truly radical !