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Policies Mandated by the Book of Order

Policies Mandated by the Book of Order

The PCUSA Book of Order mandates that ALL COUNCILS – meaning every church session, presbytery, synod, and the General Assembly – SHALL adopt and implement the following policies:
  • A sexual misconduct policy
  • A harassment policy
  • A child and youth protection policy
  • An antiracism policy

The policies shall state that ALL Session Members, Pastors, and Educators of each church are REQUIRED to attend Boundary Training at least once every 3 years. This Boundary Training shall include:

  • Sexual Misconduct Prevention
  • Child Sexual Abuse Prevention

The Presbytery of East Tennessee provides online Boundary Training for Session Members, Pastors, and Educators in a 3-year cycle. These are normally offered at the beginning of each calendar year.

  • Year A: Sexual Misconduct Prevention
  • Year B: Harassment Prevention
  • Year C: Child Sexual Abuse Prevention

Writing Policies for Your Church

When writing any policy for your church’s safety, the FIRST step is to call or go online to your insurance carrier. All major insurance companies who write church coverage have a library of information about policies and prevention.

Sexual Misconduct and Harassment Prevention 

PraesidiumAcademy.com, the Insurance Board’s online training used by our presbytery and many more, as well as other denominational judicatories, contains a library of training materials and handbooks for the prevention of sexual misconduct. Start there. All current pastors and educators should have login credentials because of our presbytery’s required annual training; however, contact the Stated Clerk of the presbytery if you need login help.

The Presbytery of East Tennessee’s Sexual Misconduct Policy can be downloaded at the Forms and Policies page of our website: https://www.presbyteryeasttn.org/forms-and-documents/.

A sample template for a Church Sexual Misconduct Policy which includes provisions for harassment can be downloaded here.

Child Safety

The Presbytery’s insurance carrier, Brotherhood Mutual, has an excellent booklet about Child Safety, including policies and procedures. Download the document by clicking here. Guide One has a policy template at its website. Download the Guide One document by clicking here. 

Antiracism

The Committee On the Office of the General Assembly (COGA) of the PCUSA created a document providing guidelines for antiracism. Download the COGA Antiracism Statement here.

Resources for Antiracism work can be found in this PCUSA document

Church Leadership

Pastors

The Basics of Session Minutes
  • Record when, where, and by whom the meeting was CONVENED. Include the name of the MODERATOR.
  • All meetings should be opened and closed with prayer. That this was done should be recorded.
  • Minutes should record the session members present. Absences need not be recorded.
  • Report changes to the church rolls.
  • Report any correspondence addressed to the session.
  • Motions made may include the name of the maker, or the name of the committee making the motion. The person seconding a motion is not named. It is not necessary to record the number of votes for or against a motion, unless a written or hand ballot is called for. Simply report that the motion passed or failed.
  • Baptisms, including names of those baptized and the elder presenter should be recorded with date. Celebrations of the Lord’s Supper should also be recorded after they have occurred.
  • It’s not necessary to include written committee reports in the minutes. Do record all actions that committees have taken as authorized by session. If committees are functioning within their budgets and their committee description in the Administrative Manual, committee actions should be reported as shared information, but do not require further approval by session.
  • Record that session approved the minutes from the previous meeting as part of the meeting. Minutes aren’t minutes until the session votes to approve them. Until then, they’re just neatly typed notes.
  • Record the time of meeting adjournment with prayer.
  • State the date and time of the next meeting.

Taking and Preserving Minutes

  • Minutes should be typed.
  • Minutes should be stored in a sturdy, 3-ring binder. Minutes should be printed on Letter-size paper.
  • Most paper now is acid-free, but at least 20 lb paper is recommended.
  • The pages of minutes should be consecutively numbered, not just in one binder, but from one to the next.
  • If corrections need to be made to a page of minutes, they may be done in writing, crossing out the amended text and hand writing with a single line. Inserted text should be printed as neatly as possible with the CLERK’S initials beside the correction.
  • Make minutes easy to read, with decisions of the session clearly marked as such.
  • Write in complete sentences. Be concise, but include all necessary details.
  • Minutes should be printed and preserved in a binder. This could be a 3-ring binder, or an expensive heavy duty binder from Cokesbury, or minutes could also be spiral-bound.
  • Minute binders should be clearly labeled as such and stored in the church office or some other location where they can be easily accessed.
  • Minutes are the property of a congregation.
  • Most churches are saving their minutes online, perhaps on Google Drive or Dropbox. If so, be sure that the login credentials and sharing ability is distributed among multiple people. That way if one person leaves or otherwise is unavailable, the stored minutes will still be accessible.
  • Regardless of how and where the minutes are stored, there needs to be a printed version available for public viewing, kept in a clearly-marked, sturdy binder. Storage media changes. Paper has never gone out of style.
  • Every few years, a church should send a copy of its minutes to the Presbyterian Historical Society for scanning and archiving.

The Session

What’s A Session?
The Session is the governing council of the local church. It consists of Ruling Elders elected by a congregation and the Pastor(s). Ruling Elders are elected by the congregation to serve 3 year terms on Session. Elders work, study, pray, and lead together – always seeking the will of God for the benefit of the congregation. A Session is a collection of independent thinkers who use their talents to discern Christ’s presence through the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
G-3.02 Book of Order – Responsibilities and Ministry of Session

Elder Training: The Miniseries
Read more here: https://www.presbyteryeasttn.org/resources/elder-training/
Five Sessions to be used at a retreat or over a series of weeks. Contains videos, Leaders’ Guide, and Students’ Guide in English and Korean.

  1. Foundations of Presbyterian Polity
  2. Ministry of ALL Members
  3. Ministry of Ruling Elders
  4. Ministry of Sessions
  5. Ministry of the Clerk of Session
Usual Order of Events in Pastoral Trasition
  • A pastor lets the church’s Session and the presbytery’s Committee on Ministry know that s/he is leaving.
  • The pastor sends a letter to the congregation informing them of the coming departure.
  • The Session calls a Congregational Meeting for the purpose of asking the Committee on Ministry to dissolve the relationship between the pastor and the congregation. This meeting will normally happen after the pastor has completed her/his last day of active service in the congregation.
  • The Committee on Ministry will appoint a Minister of Word and Sacrament who is a member of the presbytery to be the Moderator of the Session and its meetings.
  • The Session, with the assistance of the Committee on Ministry, will contract with temporary Ministers to serve as Supply Pastors for one or more Sundays. Supply Pastors may contract with the Session to perform emergency visitations and other duties as agreed.
  • The Session may, with the assistance of the Committee on Ministry, decide upon and contract with an Interim or Transitional Pastor to provide longer-term stability for the congregation until another Pastor is called and installed to the congregation.
  • The congregation will elect a Pastor Nominating Committee to perform the duties of assessing the congregation’s needs and searching for a new Pastor.
Calling a Pastor
  • The process of calling a Pastor, Commissioned Ruling Elder, Educator, or other church professional is a long but exciting process. The Committee on Ministry (COM), and the General Presbyter stand ready to assist your congregation as it prayerfully seeks new leaders.

    The Presbyterian Church (USA)’s website has much information for churches seeking pastors. The Church Leadership Connection (CLC) page begins with videos and booklets for congregations.