Grace and Peace to you from the Commissioned Ruling Elder Oversight Committee (CREOC)!
We are a team of individuals who are charged by the Lehigh Presbytery to review applications for commissioned ruling elders as well as walk with applicants (hereafter called “seekers”) during their journey. We are considered a subcommittee of the Committee on Ministry and a bridge for the seekers between Committee on Preparation for Ministry and the Committee on Ministry. We would like to offer you some information on what the ministry of a Commissioned Ruling Elder means for our Presbytery.
What is a Commissioned Ruling Elder? A Commissioned Ruling Elder (CRE) is a person that “the presbytery many authorize…..to be commissioned to limited pastoral service as assigned by the presbytery. A ruling elder so designated may be commissioned to serve in a validated ministry of the presbytery. Presbytery, in its commission, may authorize the ruling elder to moderate the session of the congregation to which he or she is commissioned, to administer the Sacraments, and to officiate at marriages where permitted by state law. This commission shall also specify the term of service, which shall not exceed three years but shall be renewable. The presbytery shall review the commission at least annually” (Book of Order G-2.1001).
What does “limited pastoral service” mean? A CRE follows God’s call within the bounds of the presbytery. A CRE may be commissioned to a church or to another validated ministry, such as chaplaincy.
Who can be a CRE? Anyone previously ordained as an Elder can become a CRE seeker! Regardless of age, race, gender, or previous employment, a current ruling elder may feel a call to ministry. A church family may also sense a call to ministry in a particular elder.
Why would a person want to be a CRE vs. pursuing a Masters of Divinity (M.Div.)? There are many reasons why someone might wish to be a CRE vs. pursuing an M.Div. In many cases, life circumstances (such as time, health, and finances) lead an individual away from the M.Div. process. The academic commitments for an M.Div. are much more rigorous, as are the time requirements and the costs. A CRE seeker’s time is spent engaging in more experiential work than an M.Div. student. The CREOC works with each individual to determine which educational commitment is right for each individual.
When should a church consider hiring a CRE? According to our CRE policy, “Lehigh Presbytery considers the commissioning of ruling elders a further means of fulfilling the presbytery’s commitment to ensure that all congregations and validated ministries within its bounds have the best possible leadership.” A church may consider hiring a CRE when:
- the pastoral needs of a congregation exceed the financial resources to provide them;
- the pastoral needs of a congregation can be met by a committed individual who has training for the task, regardless of whether she or he has an M.Div.
How does one become a CRE? (Please see the CRE Policy below for more information, but there are basics!)
- Step ONE: An elder believing he or she has been called by God, and/or an elder whom the congregation has discerned with gifts to lead a congregation in ministry or lead a particular validated mission, will first meet with a session to discern together how to move forward. If there is an agreement regarding the seeker’s call, the session then helps the seeker fill out the application, located below, and pledges prayer and financial assistance when possible. Session and the seeker then submit the application to the CREOC who reviews it and determines whether to receive the seeker into the CRE program.
- Step TWO: The seeker enrolls in the course of study as identified in the CRE policy (below). Our local educational opportunity is through the Crossroads Program at Moravian Seminary. Other programs may be identified and suggested to the CREOC for approval. During the learning stage, the seeker shall also pass background checks and undergo psychological evaluation. He or she will also submit their statement of faith and completed a 6 to 12 month internship.
- Step THREE: Having completed the necessary requirements the CREOC submits the seeker’s name and intentions to the Committee on Preparation for Ministry, who certifies the seeker ready for a commission. The seeker is then transferred to the Committee on Ministry (COM). The Committee on Ministry keeps an eye out for churches and validated ministries that would benefit from a CRE. The Committee on Ministry appoints a Minister of Word and Sacrament (ordinarily a CREOC member) to mentor the CRE. Once the contract has been negotiated by the Committee on Ministry, the seeker and the session or place of validated ministry; the presbytery shall examine the CRE candidate and vote to approve the commission.
- Step FOUR: Continuing education is a blessing for all of those in ministry, so it is expected that the CRE’s will take advantage of continuing ed opportunities as well.
You can find the CRE policy, application and session endorsement forms below or under Resources/forms-policy-grants on this website.