Pastors moderating Session meetings

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Puritan Board Freshman
This question is for my Presbyterian brethren. Is it common in all Presbyterian denominations that the Pastor moderates the session meetings? Someone told me the Pastor is in a conflict of interest when he moderates.

What reasoning do we give to explain our Pastors being moderators?
It's in the PCA Book of Church Order.

10-3. The pastor is, for prudential reasons, moderator of the Session.

12-2 . The pastor is, by virtue of his office, the moderator of the Session.
In the pastor’s absence, if any emergency should arise requiring immediate
action, the Session may elect one of its members to preside, the quorum for
such emergency meeting being as in the case of a church with no pastor in
12-1. Should prudential reasons at any time make it advisable for a minister
other than the pastor to preside, the pastor may, with the concurrence of the
Session, invite a minister of the same Presbytery to perform this service.

12-4. Associate or assistant pastors may substitute for the pastor as
moderator of the Session at the discretion of the pastor and Session.
OPC seems to take a different approach:

Chapter XIII
The Local Church and Its Session

4. The session, which is the governing body of the local church,
consists of its pastor, its other ministers, and its ruling elders. It shall
choose its own moderator annually from among its members.
OPC seems to take a different approach

Edward, I just did all the same research as you did, but you beat me to the post button. :)

I agree, the OPC and the PCA do things differently.
Personally, I like the OPC model where hopefully the best man for the job can be elected as moderator.
There is no "conflict of interest" in having the Pastor moderate. Moderation simply provides order to the deliberations. Most sessions are so small that little structure is needed other than at voting time. In the case that a group grows larger that more formal rules of order need to be enforced, there is actually a disadvantage to being moderator because you're not really supposed to engage in the debate if you're the moderator. Having served as the moderator of Presbytery, I enjoyed the experience but there were times when I wish I had not been the moderator for some debates as I wanted to engage the debate at hand but it would have been bad form for me to leave the position of moderator and take up the issue of debate.
Personally, I like the OPC model where hopefully the best man for the job can be elected as moderator.

Generally, if who is sitting at the head of the table is going to make a difference, there's probably a bigger issue than who the moderator is. And if the moderator is a bit uncomfortable with parliamentary procedure, he can ask a seasoned hand to serve as parliamentarian.

While we are at it, Evangelical Presbyterian Church:

18-2 Officers of the Session

A. Moderator

1. The Pastor shall be the Moderator and is a voting member of the Session. If the
Moderator wishes to make motions or otherwise participate in debate, some other
member of the Session should serve as Temporary Moderator.

2. An Associate Pastor, at the request of the Pastor and with the consent of the Session,
may serve as Moderator for the Pastor.

3. If there is no Pastor or Associate Pastor or if there is no Associate Pastor and the Pastor
is absent for more than one month, the Session may elect one of its members to serve
as Moderator.

4. Presbytery, at its discretion, may appoint a Teaching Elder of the Presbytery to serve as
Moderator when a church has no Pastor. The Presbytery may authorize its
Ministerial Committee to appoint, at its discretion with concurrence of the Church
Session, a Minister of Presbytery to serve as Interim Moderator of the Church Session
until such time as the Presbytery can act in the matter.
When I moderate a meeting of session (or a congregational meeting) I usually recuse myself when for whatever reason my compensation is being discussed.

Other than that it does not really provide for much of a problem, especially as Rich notes when there are only 2-5 people on the session as in most smaller Presbyterian churches.
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