|Prester John (from Nuremberg Chronicle, 1493)|
This esteemed title harkens back to the term presbuteros, which is mentioned “58 times in the Greek New Testament.” Back in the Judean church, these elders were appointed and visited by Paul and Barnabas. The presbuteros directed “the affairs of the church,” did some “preaching and teaching,” prayed for the sick, and were “entrusted with God’s work.”
Elders still play pivotal roles within the Presbyterian Church of America and the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). Similar leadership models can be found within
the United Church of Christ and United Methodist denominations.
Michael Lipka of the Pew Research Center reports that members of these denominations are “among the oldest of the 30 religious groups we were able to analyze.” The median age for adult members of the Presbyterian and United Church of Christ congregations is 59. “Only about one-in-ten adults” in United Methodist congregations are under 30.
Does the aging of these populations mean that the denominations are becoming obsolete? Not necessarily. As Lipka points out, other important factors such as “fertility rates, religious switching [and] immigration” come into play.
Copyright August 13, 2016 by Linda Van Slyke All Rights Reserved