The Eldership in the Reformed Church


Thomas F. Torrance, "The Eldership in the Reformed Church," Scottish Journal of Theology 37 (1984): 503-518; #1984-441


Torrance, Thomas F. "The Eldership in the Reformed Church." Scottish Journal of Theology 37, no. 4 (1984): 503-518; #1984-441

Publication life cycle / General notes

Compare booklet by Handsel Press (#1984-431) and article in the Scottish Journal of Theology (#1984-441). Reprinted in Gospel, Church, and Ministry (#2012-TFT-1i).


The institution of the office of elder in the Reformed Church in the sixteenth century was an innovation in the traditional structure of the western Catholic Church and the canonical pattern of its ministry. There were precedents for something like this in the Waldensian and Bohemian (later Moravian) Communities in the twelfth and fifteenth centuries, and there still are features corresponding to it in the leadership of congregational life in Greek Orthodox Churches arising out of the overlap between the worshipping congregation and the cultural community. In the Reformed Church itself the eldership came to be more closely associated with the ministry of Word and Sacrament which has had the effect of linking together ‘clerical’ and ‘lay’ service within the corporate priesthood of the Church and in the operation of its ‘sacral courts’ at synodal, presbyteral and consistorial levels. The eldership has certainly been a source of inner cohesion and stability in the life of Reformed Churches, leaving upon them characteristics of particular significance in the ecumenical fellowship of Churches.

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