This is why I left you in Crete,
so that you might put what remained into order,
and appoint elders in every town as I directed you.
The governance structure of Sovereign Grace churches has recently undergone significant change and development. But one thing that has been true throughout our 30+ year history is a fundamental belief that local churches are not entirely independent. In the New Testament we find Paul and his team frequently visiting the churches they planted, and even after appointing elders (who are the God appointed leaders of the local church) they still wrote letters, and exercised some oversight–especially giving attention to how the local elderships were functioning.
So we believe that at the local church level a plurality of elders should govern the church. Local church elders are ultimately accountable and responsible for leading the church. But we also recognize that even good pluralities of elders can get into trouble. And serious disagreements, or worse, serious sins within an eldership can be very destructive for churches. Therefore each local church within Sovereign Grace is connected to, and accountable to the others in very specific ways (defined in the Sovereign Grace Churches Book of Church Order). Our book of church order describes how our churches organize themselves into regions of 5-20 churches each. How we work together in mission to plant new churches. How we ensure all elders are tested and examined by a common set set of Biblical standards. And how elders and church members are protected from sinful abuse through clearly established procedures and processes of adjudication and discipline.
Our polity (governance) is a careful balance between local church Independence and extra local accountability. That’s why we would describe it as semi-presbyterian.