(Full title in printed version: Recognition of Elders and Deacons)
13.1 Local Churches are normally to be led by elders (of which it is desirable that at least one is supported by and serves the Church in a full-time capacity) and deacons. The role of elders is to serve the Church by:
- giving themselves to prayer;
- directing the affairs of the Church, planning’its meetings, and leading it in fulfilling its task of evangelism;
- interviewing those who wish to join the Church;
- teaching the members of the Church, individually and together;
- ensuring that each member receives the pastoral care which he (or she) needs;
- spiritual ministry to those who are sick;
- leading the Church in the exercise of discipline; and
- developing members’ gifts and enabling them to use these to serve God.
13.2 The role of deacons is to serve the Church by:
- efficient administration of Church affairs and finances;
- ensuring that Church property is properly maintained and prepared for meetings and activities which take place on the premises; and
- assisting the elders in pastoral care of those in need (including, where possible, the meeting of any practical needs).
13.3 For a person to be recognised as an elder or deacon, he must be known to possess the appropriate gifts and character (these are laid down in I Timothy 3:1-13 and Titus 1:5-9), as well as having a personal awareness that this is what God wants him to do. He must also have a clear grasp of the Church’s outline of belief, and accept it wholeheartedly.
13.4 The whole Church shall be involved in discerning who should serve the Church as elders or deacons, under the direction of the Holy Spirit. Any member may nominate another member for consideration as elder or deacon, having first discerned that person’s suitability as set out above and having secured his consent to this action. The nomination should be put in writing to the existing elders, who shall discuss it with the member and with the nominee (alternatively, the elders themselves may make the initial approach). They should consider such matters as the nominee’s Christian faith and life, his beliefs, approach to Church practice, and spiritual gifts. If the elders discern that the nominee is gifted and spiritually fit to undenake the work, they should then inform a Members’ Meeting of the nomination. Any members with reservations about the nominee’s fitness for the work should make their feelings known to the elders, who shall consider the reasons given and take action as necessary.
13.5 Not less than a month later, the elders are to remind the members at a Members’ Meeting of the spiritual requirements for leaders so that the members may assess the nominee’s suitability against those standards. The nominee should be given opportunity to express his convictions on the matter and answer questions (the nominee and his immediate family will be requested to leave the meeting for a time so that the members may discuss the nomination). After prayer together, a secret ballot should be taken. For a nominee to be appointed he should receive the favourable votes of at least 75% of those members present and entitled to vote, provided that the total of favourable votes received shall be not less that 50% of the membership entitled to vote (the nominee and his immediate family shall not be entitled to vote).
13.6 Elders and deacons thus appointed shall take office with immediate effect, and formal recognition should be arranged as part of.a regular Sunday meeting. At this meeting, teaching should be given regarding responsibilities of the members and of those being appointed towards each other. The Church should then publicly affirm its confidence that those appointed are called by God, and shall set them apart as elders or deacons and pray that the Holy Spirit will equip them (as a symbol of this, while prayer is offered the elders may lay hands on them).
13.7 It may be necessary on occasion to seek full-time elders from outside the Church. In such a situation the above procedure should be followed, but fellowship is desirable at each step with the nominee’s home Church.
13.8 Elders and deacons shall make the Church’s work their primary responsibility in the sphere of Christian service, and not take on other Christian work which would have an adverse effect on this. Both groups shall meet regularly, together and separately; in particular, the combined group should meet before a Members’ Meeting. An elder or deacon wishing to relinquish office should not do so unilaterally but should discuss this with the other elders and deacons, in order that together they may seek God’s will.
13.9 Should an elder or deacon neglect his duty or be unable to fulfil his commitments, he should be removed from office. If an elder or deacon should fall into serious sin or depart from his acceptance of the Church’s outline of belief, the Church should engage in discipline as necessary (1 Timothy 5: 1921).
13.10 Elders and deacons shall be responsible for ensuring adequate provision is made for those employed by the Church, and the observance of clear terms of service (including an agreed period of notice on either side). They shall also be responsible for ensuring, as far as their power shall allow, similar provision for members serving with other Christian agencies.