Forms of Government

Historically there are three different ways that churches have chosen to organize themselves. Listed below is the form and representative denominations that follow the forms. (Some follow the forms rather flexibly.)

Rule by Bishops

Decisions are made by bishops and/or councils of bishops.

Anglican Churches
Eastern Orthodox Churches
Roman Catholic Churches
Lutheran Churches
Methodist Churches

Rule by Elders

Decisions are made by representative lay members of a congregation and lay and clergy representatives of churches within a region.

Presbyterian Churches
Reformed Church in America
Christian Reformed Church

Rule by All the Members

Decisions are made by a vote of the members of a congregation.

Baptist Churches
Congregational Churches
Free Churches

For Further Study

Christian Classics Ethereal Library articles