The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is governed by a system of representative democracy known as presbyterian polity. This means that the church is governed by councils of elders, or presbyters.
The PCUSA has four levels of governing bodies:
Congregation: Every member in a congregation has a say in who their elected representatives are on session and, in most cases, who their teaching elder (pastor) is.
Session: The session is the governing body of a local congregation. It is composed of elders elected by the congregation and is responsible for the spiritual life and the mission of the congregation.
Presbytery: Presbyteries are the governing bodies of a group of congregations. They are composed of ministers and elders from the congregations in the presbytery.
Synod: Synods are the governing bodies of a group of presbyteries. They are composed of ministers and elders from the presbyteries in the synod and they are responsible for the oversight of congregations within their geographic area.
General Assembly: The General Assembly is the highest governing body of the PCUSA. It is composed of ministers and elders (representatives from the presbyteries and synods). The General Assembly meets every two years to make decisions about the church’s overall mission and direction.
Presbyterian polity is a system of shared governance. This means that all levels of the church have a say in how the church is run. This system of governance is designed to promote participation and accountability, and to hear all voices, regardless of their eligibility to vote.
Great Bridge Presbyterian Church is a member of the Presbytery of Eastern Virginia (PEVA), which is in the Synod of the Mid-Atlantic.
As of 2021, there are 16 synods, 166 presbyteries, and more than 8,800 PCUSA churches.