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Commissioned Ruling Elders

Commissioned Ruling Elders

'Raising Up Leaders'
raising up leaders

In exploring together how larger churches can help to empower smaller, neighboring congregations, Bedford Central Presbyterian Church and Duryea Presbyterian Church in Brooklyn, N.Y., discovered an exciting new way to grow Christ’s church deep and wide by sharing resources for ministry. Key among those resources are the church’s leaders, especially Ted Hickman, a financial management executive and an elder at Bedford Central, who heard God’s call to go deeper into ministry by supplying Duryea’s pulpit. Hickman, a Commissioned Ruling Elder, has been instrumental in helping to turn the small, fragile Duryea church around. Not only has the partnership energized and renewed both congregations, it has strengthened Christ’s witness in the community. Length: 5:32

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What is a Commissioned Ruling Elder (formerly called "Commissioned Lay Pastor")?

When the presbytery, in consultation with the session or other responsible committee,  determines that its strategy for mission requires it, the presbytery may authorize a ruling elder to be commissioned to limited pastoral service as assigned by the presbytery. G-2.1001

What do Commissioned Ruling Elders do?

That varies a great deal from presbytery to presbytery and with particular ministries they serve.

CREs may be commissioned to a particular ministry to:

  • moderate the congregation
  • administer the Sacraments
  • officiate at marriages where permitted by state law

Some CREs serve:

  • clusters of churches as part of ministry teams
  • as part-time pastors of small churches
  • as pastor to new immigrant populations
  • as temporary leaders for churches seeking an ordained pastor
  • new worshipping communities
  • churches in transformation
  • in specialized pastoral ministries

How does a person become a Commissioned Ruling Elder?


An interested person:

  • must be a PCUSA ruling elder
  • contacts the presbytery to learn if the presbytery has a mission need for such service
  • talks with her/his pastor and session about CRE ministry
  • applies to the presbytery for acceptance into the program
  • participates in the training program required by the presbytery
  • is examined on faith, motives, and knowledge by a presbytery committee
  • works with the presbytery and validated ministry to establish a ministry relationship
  • is commissioned by the presbytery for a specified term up to 3 years
  • is supervised by a teaching elder as a mentor (G-2.1004)

Planning a Presbytery Program to Prepare Ruling Elders for Pastoral Service

As you consider the mission needs of your presbytery, you may find that CREs are needed to serve churches that cannot meet the minimum compensation for a minister, or churches that are in settings where teaching elders are unavailable, or churches need a leader who is fluent in the language and culture of a new immigrant group. If you have ministers, educators, and others available to meet your mission needs, it is not required that a presbytery institute a CRE program. Some presbyteries commission only new immigrants as CREs.

Read the full article by downloading it here.

Spanish Language Regional Programs for Commissioned Ruling Elders in PCUSA

As Presbyterians reach out to Spanish speaking neighbors, Hispanic/Latino(a) Commissioned Ruling Elders are prepared through Spanish Language Programs.

Read the full article by downloading it here.

Watch a 'web-ucation' module

Commissioned Ruling Elders - One Path for Elder Ministry

Recognizing the growth of Commissioned Ruling Elders (CREs) since the role was first created in 1984 – and in the light of the many questions about CREs being raised across the whole church – the Office of Vocation has prepared an online training module for use by individuals, congregations, presbyteries, and others who seek comprehensive information on the role, function, training, commissioning and oversight of CREs.

Designed to be viewed within your web browser, this training tool uses a variety of formats and is suitable for both individual and group use.

Begin this web-ucation module

Learn how Commissioned Ruling Elders are prepared and deployed

More than 130 of our presbyteries have CRE programs, each of them unique. The Office of Ordered Ministries and Certification and the Committee on Theological Education (C.O.T.E.) have partnered to learn about how Commissioned Ruling Elders are being prepared and deployed for service and to make the research available to the church.

Part I of Study on Commissioned Ruling Elders

Profile of CREs in the PC(USA)

Part I of the study is a survey of presbyteries about Commissioned Ruling Elders. It has been completed by PC(USA) Research Services and is available here.

Presbytery Survey About Commissioned Ruling Elders, Appendix A


Part II of Study on Commissioned Ruling Elders Now Available

Part II of the study, commissioned by the Office of Ordered Ministries and Certification in partnership with COTE, involves a close look at the variety of Commissioned Ruling Elder education programs offered by presbyteries, seminaries, colleges and others. The second part of the study, produced by the Center for the Study of Theological Education at Auburn Seminary, is available here.