Being Presbyterian (in a country or wider)

Being Presbyterian (in a country or wider)

Being part of a Presbyterian denomination means more than doing some things together with churches in the same region; it also means being connected in a country. The denomination my church is a part of has sister churches in Sydney, Canberra and Queensland. How can we possibly connect in a useful way with churches so far away?

We are fundamentally united in theology (what we believe), our form of church government (how we function) and in our general culture (trying to reach our communities with the gospel of Jesus). In other words, we have a lot in common with one another. We all agree to the same standards of examining elders and pastors. This means that all churches under our banner stand for the same things.

Each church does things differently due to the context it is in and the leadership of that church. So a sister church in Queensland based in a retirement area runs ministries for seniors, while a sister church in a low socioeconomic area runs a food distribution programme. We want to be salt and light where God has put us and offer the good news of the gospel. The proclamation of God’s word is central, and evangelism and discipleship needs to be creative and intentional.

Being far away does make relationships difficult. Every 18 months we meet together face to face in a gathering known as a National Assembly (NA, sometimes known as a Synod). It is important to do this so that we know and trust one another, and it is so much easier making decisions and discussing issues in person. At NA we discuss things that have an impact denomination-wide, things like our relationships to other church groups, legal issues, changes in the political environment, and mission work. We also have the opportunity to hear from challenging speakers on ministry or current issues.

It is important for all of us to understand that God’s work in the world is bigger than what he is doing in Australia. We have a strong relationship with a group of churches in Myanmar. We send and receive people to like-minded denominational gatherings in our region. We are members of the World Reformed Fellowship which connects reformed and Presbyterian denominations together in various ways.

Churches are stronger together. At times like our National Assemblies, which happened only last week, I am reminded of that. I see what my brothers and sisters are trying in other places, pray with them in their struggles, and catch up with how their families are going. Ministry can be isolating; we need to know there are many working in the same direction.