Membership, Government and Ministry
The terms of membership require acceptance of the Scriptures as the Word of God and the only infallible rule of faith and practice, a profession of personal faith in Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord and promises of a teachable attitude towards the doctrines of the church and a sincere endeavour to live a consistent Christian life. Communicant (or full) members are baptised persons who satisfy the Session as to their commitment to these vows. The children of such members, though not yet admitted to full privileges, are also members of the congregation.
The name 'Presbyterian' comes from the Greek word for 'elder', so each congregation is governed by the Session, a group of ruling elders. These are men, chosen by the people and with no distinction of rank. Each Session sends delegates to the regular meetings of Presbytery, a higher court of the church. Presbyteries, in turn, meet together in a general gathering, or Synod.
The minister of the congregation is one of the elders, of equal rank with his colleagues, though serving as chairman, or Moderator, of Session. In addition to ruling, he has the responsibility of preaching the Word. Ministers are trained, usually after graduation from university, at the Reformed Theological College, located in Belfast since its establishment in 1854. Those who successfully complete the three-year course are awarded a Diploma in Theology.