A New Vision for Pastoral Leadership

The Session of First Presbyterian Church of Yorktown (FPCY) is inviting the congregation to begin a new journey by considering The Rev. Chip Low and The Rev. Tami Seidel to be called as Co-Pastors. The purpose of this brief paper is to address, in a general manner, what that might look like and what it might mean for the future of FPCY.

The Session has been engaged in a discernment process about the co-pastor model since the Session retreat in January. In discussing this new model of pastoral leadership, the Session continually asked this question: What is going to help FPCY move forward with vision and faith toward greater engagement and growth in our ministry and mission? At its May meeting, the Session voted unanimously to propose the co-pastor model to the FPCY congregation this fall.


  • What are Co-Pastors?
    In Acts 18, Romans 16:3, 1 Corinthians 16:19 and 2 Timothy 4:19, we meet the characters of Aquila and his wife Priscilla, co-workers with Paul for the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Aquila and Priscilla are likely the first representatives of something looking like a “clergy couple”, using a “co-pastor” model of doing ministry in the New Testament Church.The roles of co-pastors has been lived out for some time in certain PC(USA) churches, not only among married clergypersons wishing to serve together, but also between two individual clergypersons who have intentionally partnered together in serving as co-pastors. Titles such as “Senior/Lead Pastor” and “Associate Pastor” commonly imply differences in status, responsibility, longevity, and authority. Such titles may suggest, in the minds of some, mutually exclusive roles and job descriptions.  In some settings, these titles might be helpful in identifying needed boundaries.The title of “co-pastor”, however, expresses a different priority. It seeks to diminish those distinctions. Instead, the emphasis is placed on a pastoral team of equals driven by mutuality of vision, shared goals in achieving that vision, and like investment in the mission of the church. Co-pastoral ministry allows for creative flexibility in defining roles, specifically tailored to best promote the vision of the church, while capitalizing on each pastor’s special strengths and gift-sets. Co-pastoral ministry also invites the Session and the congregation into a greater sense of shared ministry.The Church has used the language of “partnership in the gospel” and “co-workers” as a practical and celebrated definition of leadership offered for the benefit of the church. Both “lay” (we hesitate to use this term because in our polity and theology, ruling elders, deacons, and teaching elders [pastors] are all ordained) and clergy are “ministers”, as are all members of the Church. Just as the Apostle Paul defines the various functions expressed in the one body, so we desire to live out this expression of shared faith in the roles and leadership we share.

    We clearly understand that this co-pastor model would involve a learning curve for all involved. As one set of co-pastors described it: Co-pastors arriving at a church for the first time are a little like two porcupines showing up in your living room – fascinating additions, but how do you handle them? This new co-pastor model is something that all of us would be exploring together as it unfolds. It will take a period of time for all of us to adjust to this new way of doing things.

  • What would the Co-Pastor Model look like at FPCY?
    The co-pastor model proposed by Session is for two co-pastors serving ¾ time positions with identical terms of call. From the start, the co-pastors would intentionally share equally in the public roles of the office of pastor/teaching elder – preaching, worship leadership, pastoral care (including weddings, funerals, and baptisms) and in moderating the Session. Beyond these public roles, the co-pastors and Session would discern what other specific areas of ministry would be staffed by each co-pastor. It would be one of our first priorities to develop a clear picture for the staff and congregation as to which pastor will relate to which areas of ministry, with an eye towards considering future needs of the church and staff development.
    Based on projections, an approximate increase in pledges of 8% over the 2014 pledged amount would cover the co-pastor terms of call.
  • How will this help us grow?
    The vision, ministry and mission of FPCY are bigger than one pastor. The co-pastor model would allow for expanded ability to serve our church family and the community. It would help to build capacity for greater engagement, not only by the pastoral team, but also by the whole congregation – broadening leadership, deepening connection, equipping for discipleship and service. Two pastors bring a diversity of gifts and strengths, skills and perspectives that would enhance the pastoral ministry of the church.

Opportunities for Further Conversation:

  • Sunday, September 28 @ 11:15 am (after special 10:00 am worship service)
  • Sunday, October 5 @ 9:30 am & 12 noon (after both worship services)
  • Sunday, October 12 @ 9:30 am & 12 noon (after both worship services)


Next Congregational Meeting:

A Special Meeting of the Congregation will be held in the Sanctuary on Sunday, October 19, 2014, at 9:30 am (changed time) to review and discuss the co-pastor model, and to vote on creating the positions and approving the Terms of Call, if the way be clear.
If you have further questions, please contact any member of the Co-Pastor Task Force:

Gordon Braudaway – (914) 245-6646
Bruce Johnson – (845) 528-4000
Eugene McGrath – (914) 528-3501