by John Armstrong
The end of October is here and I’m 37,000 feet over the Amazon on a six hour flight from
Asuncion, Paraguay to Panama City. You may be wondering why I’m here, why I’m spending my
time and money to go down to Paraguay on Presbytery business? That is a valid question and
since we are nearing the end of October and the beginning of November when we as a church
typically focus on mission work, I think it is important to write about these things.
As most of you are probably aware, our church, the Presbyterian Church in America is a small
denomination that is composed of several thousand churches across the country. Each church
has its own elders, both teaching and ruling elders that make up the local court of the church
we call a “session.” The elders of a particular region make up a Presbytery, our Presbytery is
called “Potomac” and encompasses the Washington D.C. area. The elders from every church in
the nation then make up the “General Assembly.” We are a “grass roots” denomination
because the power and authority of the church is not something that flows from top-down, but
from bottom-up. The work of the church happens at the local level and is supported from the
local level. As the Teaching Elder of Faith Church, I’m a member of the Presbytery and subject
to the authority of the Presbytery. The Ruling Elders of Faith Church are members of the
church and they are also counted members of the Presbytery. Now, what does this have to do
with me being on a trip to Paraguay?
Martin Hudzinski and I are members of a “Provisional Presbytery” for a mission work down in a
Paraguay. This is a work that was established by the General Assembly as requested by
Potomac Presbytery, which we received as a request from the church in Paraguay. They
wanted oversight from a Presbyterian body and since we were connected to them through
relationships already formed here in the U.S., that was the logical course of action. There are
three churches that we are working with in Paraguay that are seeking to establish their own
national reformed Presbyterian denomination. They are not yet at a place where they are big
enough to establish their own Presbytery, so they need help. So, we have a “Provisional
Presbytery” that serves as a “commission” meaning we can act as a Presbytery, examining,
ordaining, and installing men to ministry as well as a number of other things. They benefit from
having others come to lend a hand in the work so they know that they are not alone in trying to
make godly and wise decisions. Mutual accountability and encouragement is one of the
beauties of our Presbyterian system. Our hopes are for the churches in Paraguay to be able to
stand up as a Presbytery in the next two years. They need to have a minimum of four churches
and they are getting close to that goal.
I would like to thank the congregation for giving me the time to go and do the work of the
Presbytery. It is a sacrifice on the part of the local church, but it also benefits the church in the
ways I grow through this work. As you have the opportunity, I would encourage you to thank
Martin Hudzinski for going down to Paraguay to participate. It is easier for a teaching elder to
go do this kind of work, but it is more difficult for a ruling elder to take time off from his job to
go and support this kind of thing. I want you to understand that it is critical to the work of the
Presbytery and to the health of our denomination for our ruling elders to participate actively
and fully in the life of the Presbytery and denomination. Martin serves as the Chairman of our
Presbytery’s Mission to the World Committee. I’ll close with this request, that you pray for
your elders as they go and do the work not only caring for the local church, but taking the work
out to the world. Please remember Rich Rochford, David Johnston, and myself as we go with
the Faith Church team down to Colombia beginning on November 11 th .