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Commissioned Ruling Elders

Frequently asked questions


Questions and Answers about Commissioned Lay Pastors

How do I become a CLP?
If you are a PC(USA) elder who feels led to consider this extension of that ministry should talk with your pastor and then check with your presbytery to see if they are in need of CLPs and what your presbytery requires. Consult your presbytery before beginning any CLP study program.

Does every presbytery have a CLP program?
No. They are not required to commission lay pastors. Presbyteries that have many ministers, educators and others may not need CLPs.

If my presbytery does not have a CLP program, can I serve in another presbytery?
No. CLPs are locally authorized by the presbytery in which you are an elder and church member.

Are lay pastors automatically authorized for all of the pastoral functions when they are commissioned?
No. Each presbytery decides what the particular church needs and authorizes the CLP for the functions needed. The authorization is to carry out those functions needed for the particular ministry of the church or churches to which the CLP is commissioned.

How does the presbytery decide?
A presbytery consults with the session of the church involved and considers whether the work to which the elder is commissioned requires such authorization and whether the particular lay pastor is ready, able and willing to take on these activities.

How long does the training take?
That depends on the presbytery and the person. Some programs extend over a period of several years with participants meeting once or twice a month.

Can an elder do CLP training online?
Yes. Dubuque Theological Seminary has an online study program and Pittsburgh Seminary partners with area presbyteries in a program that is partially online. Be sure to get approval of your presbytery before you begin any study program.

How long does a CLP serve a church?
A commission may be for as long as 3 years and then must be either renewed or it expires and the elder may no longer serve CLP functions.

Is the CLP paid?
Some CLPs may be financially able to serve as volunteers, but most are paid in proportion to the time and effort expended in service they provide. Their expenses (travel, telephone, etc.) are usually reimbursed as well. Read more information about compensation and the IRS.

May CLPs use Church Leadership Connection to make themselves available for service in other presbyteries?
No. If a CLP moves to a new area, they are encouraged to become involved in a PC(USA) congregation and transfer their membership, letting the pastor and presbytery know of her/his CLP training and experience. If the new presbytery needs CLP help, they can authorize service, perhaps with additional training.

Since we have a Formula of Agreement that allows “orderly exchange” of ministers, can CLPs also be exchanged with those partner churches?
No. The agreement is only for exchange of ministers of Word and Sacrament.

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