A second theory is contended for by Principal Campbell in his treatise on the eldership, and by others also, that there is no warrant in Scripture for the eldership as it exists in the Presbyterian Church; that the ruling elder is not, and is not designed to be, a counterpart of the New Testament elder; in other words, that he is not a presbyter, but only a layman chosen to represent the laity in the church courts and permitted to assist in the government of the church.
To share with the minister such general oversight is not regarded by intelligent and influential laymen as an incongruous or unworthy office; but to identify the duties of the eldership, even in theory, with those of the minister is a sure way of deterring from accepting office many whose counsel and influence in the eldership would be invaluable.'
Future vacancies in the eldership were filled up by the office-bearers.
The eldership was not for life, but there was always a tendency to make it so.
Before the year was out, yielding to the prayer of six or eight persons who had freed themselves from the Munster spell, he agreed to become their minister, and was set apart (January 1537) to the eldership at Groningen, with imposition of hands by Obbe Philipsz, who is regarded as the actual founder of the Mennonite body.
It was here and now that divergent ideals as to the powers of the eldership really emerged.