Church Leadership

Church Governance and Leadership

Individual churches collectively constitute one church, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A) is governed by presbyterian polity1, a method of church governance characterized by the rule of assemblies of elected presbyters, also called elders.

There are two types of elders:

  • Ruling elders (often simply called elders)
  • Teaching elders (i.e. trained ministers of Word and Sacrament).

Although elders are called to serve by the consent of the congregation, elders do not simply reflect the will of the people, but rather seek together to find and represent the will of Christ.

Each local church is governed by an assembly called the Session. Elders generally serve for staggered three-year terms, with a third of the Session elected each year. Ordination is a for-life designation.  Pastoral care, church discipline, leadership and legislation are the responsibility of the Session, where ministers and elders are equal participants. Decisions are reached in assemblies by vote, following opportunity for discussion, and a majority governs.

Groups of local churches are governed by a higher assembly known as the presbytery; First Presbyterian-Galveston is a member of Presbytery of the New Covenant. Presbyteries are grouped into a synod; Presbytery of the New Covenant is a member of Synod of the Sun. Synods nationwide join together in the General Assembly.

Presbyterian Government

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is a constitutional church.  The Constitution of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) consists of:

The Book of Confessions (Part I): eleven confessional statements through which the church declares to its members and to the world who and what it is, what it believes, and what it resolves to do.

The Book of Order (Part II): the Form of Government, Directory for Worship and Rules of Discipline.

 FPC Session meets monthly. The Session is moderated by the Minister. One elder is elected as Clerk of Session, to keep records of each meeting. To place business on the agenda, speak to the minister or clerk of session.

 Current Session:
Rev. Ed Wolf, Moderator

Class of 2021
Bill Bondurant
Abigail Kasinger
Kerry O’Malley
Lynn Smith
Joe Stanfield

Class of 2022

Bruce Niebuhr
Mary Nelson

Sharon Tallent

Class of 2022
Lyn Fair
Elizabeth Godbehere
David Mitchell
Bujo Waddell
Anne Woodson

The Board of Trustees holds and administers on behalf of the church, and subject to its will as expressed by the congregation or the Session, all church property, trust funds, and endowments. The Board of Trustees is responsible for the operation and maintenance of the church property.


Class of 2021
Henry Boening
Les Sommer
Jane Swanson

Class of 2022
Dan Klein
Skip Sabourin

Class of 2023
Bill Hurt
Golda Leonard

 1Presbyterian polity was developed as a rejection of episcopal polity (governance by hierarchies of single bishops), and also differs from the congregationalist polity in which each congregation is independent. In contrast to the other two forms, authority in the presbyterian polity flows both from the top down (as higher assemblies exercise considerable authority over individual congregations) and from the bottom up (as all officials ultimately owe their elections to individual church members). This theory of government developed in Geneva under John Calvin and was introduced to Scotland by John Knox after his period of exile in Geneva. In addition to Presbyterian churches, this form of governance is strongly associated with Reformed churches arising from the Swiss and Scottish Reformation movements. Because there were many Presbyterians and Reformed Church members among the framers of the US constitution, Presbyterian polity is noticeable in the governance structure of our United States.