Since becoming Lutheran a handful of years ago from the Presbyterian tradition, where elders play a prominent role in church polity and life, I've wondered what exactly is the role of Lutheran elders. I know what they don't do as far as preaching, administering the sacraments, etc, but I'm not sure exactly what they do.
Elder is the word we use to translate the German "Vorsteher" - those who stand in front, if you will. In my parish, the Elders serve as the counselors of the pastor and as his assistants in carrying out the responsibilities of his office. They visit those who are slack in attendance, they will help in visiting the sick, they attend to the altar, they assist with Baptisms, they join me in prayer for our parish, and so on.
That's pretty much what elders do.But I'd add this. They are not appointed by the pastor or sent by a "bishop", they are elected by the voting members of their congregation.I have three degrees including a doctorate and a bunch of certificates for this and that, but I consider having been elected, called if you will, to serve my parish at the time as an elder the greatest honour bestowed on me by others in my life.
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