What basic difference underlies the Episcopalian and Reformed/ Presbyterian forms of church government?
A national church system is related to this view. It believes that one national church should establish common policy and procedure for all churches in the country. Local churches should only be subdivisions of the national church which houses the decision-making power.
3. Episcopalian government - Episcopalians believe that Christ, as Head of the church, has entrusted the government of the church into the hands of a successive line of bishops as the successors of the apostles. The ruling of the bishops is exclusive - the common members of the church have no input into the government of the church.
The Roman Catholic system adopts the episcopalian form of government but adds to the succession of apostles that of primary apostle, as a perpetual successor to Peter. This primary apostle is termed "Father" or "Pope." The Church of Rome is an absolute monarchy, under the rule of a Pope, who has the power to speak infallibly. Under him is a hierarchy of rulers (cardinals, bishops, priests, etc.), the clergy, that rule over the common church members, or the laity.
4. Independent government - This form is often termed the congregational system, and is used by many congregational and Baptist churches. In this view, each local congregation is a complete church, independent of all others. Each local congregation holds exclusive power to regulate and govern its own affairs. Desired association can be made with other churches, but the actions or decisions of the larger (or major) assemblies are strictly declarative or advisory, not binding on any local congregation.
5. Reformed-Presbyterian government - This form of government lies between the episcopal and independent. It believes in God's government through officebearers on the basis of God's Word. But it avoids a hierarchy of officebearers by holding all those in the same office to be equal. No minister, elder, or deacon is over another in the same office. It maintains the primary duty of government with the local congregation, yet the local congregations meet in classes and synods on occasion where they can be corrected, so that each does not "do that which is right in their own eyes." A council of officebearers, not an individual, makes decisions at each