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What is distinctive about the Presbyterian Church?
Presbyterians are distinctive in three major ways:
- They follow
a formulation of religious thought known as Reformed theology;
- They have a form of government which stresses the active, representational
leadership of ministers and church members;
- The Presbyterian
Church is a connectional body of worshipers who participate in mission,
ministry and organizational oversight of congregations locally
(through a presbytery), regionally (through a synod), and nationally
(through the General Assembly).
Presbyterians believe the will
of God may be better discerned by a collective body of believers
rather than by a single individual, which is why the Presbyterian
Church is governed at all levels by a combination of clergy
and laity, men and women who represent the diversity of the
How did the
Presbyterian Church begin?
Presbyterians trace their history to the 16th century and
the Protestant Reformation. Our heritage, and much of what we
believe, began with the French lawyer John Calvin (1509-1564),
whose writings synthesized much of the Reformed thinking that
came before him. Calvin did much of his writing in Geneva, Switzerland.
From there, the Reformed movement spread to other parts of Europe
and the British Isles.
Many of the early Presbyterians in America
came from England, Scotland and Ireland. The first American
Presbytery was organized at Philadelphia in 1706. The first
General Assembly was held in the same city in 1789, and it was
convened by the Rev. John Witherspoon, the only minister to
sign the Declaration of Independence.
What do Presbyterians
Some of the principles expressed by John Calvin remain at
the core of Presbyterian beliefs. Among these are:
- The sovereignty
- The authority of Scripture,
- Justification by grace through
- The priesthood of all believers.
beliefs affirm that God is the supreme authority throughout
the universe and our knowledge of God and God's purpose for
humanity comes from the Bible, particularly as revealed in the
New Testament through the life, teachings, death, burial, and
resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Our salvation (justification) through Jesus is God's generous
gift to us and not something that we can earn through doing
good works. (For it is by God’s grace that you have been
saved through faith. It is not the result of your own efforts,
but God’s gift, so that no one can boast about it. Ephesians
Although we do not have to do anything to earn salvation—in
fact we cannot do anything because everything already has been
done by and through Jesus Christ—but everyone is called to respond
to this free gift through acts of ministry, mission, and service.
We do not respond because we have got to, but because we get
to out of our love for all that Jesus has done for us.
the essential principles of the Presbyterian Church?
The Book of Order is Part II of the Constitution of
the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A), and the opening chapter outlines
the preliminary principles. It begins by affirming that Jesus
Christ is Head of the Church, which is his body. This affirmation
is followed by what Presbyterians call the "Great Ends of the
Church," which include the core principles at the heart of all
activity within and beyond a particular congregation. The Great
- The proclamation of the Gospel for the salvation of humankind;
- The shelter, nurture,
and spiritual fellowship of the children of God;
- The maintenance
of divine worship;
- The preservation of the truth;
- The promotion
of social righteousness;
- The exhibition of the Kingdom of
Heaven to the world.
[Book of Order G-1.0200]
the Presbyterian Church believe about mission and ministry?
The Presbyterian Church believes the mission and ministry
of the church today is a continuation of God's work through
history. Presbyterians believe the church is called to present
the claims of Jesus Christ, leading persons to repentance, acceptance
of Jesus as Savior and Lord, and to a new life as his disciples.
We affirm we are called to participate in God's activity in
the world through its life for others by healing and reconciling
and binding up wounds; ministering to the needs of the poor,
the sick, the lonely, and the powerless; engaging in the struggle
to free people from sin, fear, oppression, hunger, and injustice;
giving itself and its substance to the service of those who
suffer; and sharing with Christ in the establishing of his just,
peaceable, and loving rule in the world. [Book of Order
Furthermore, the Church is called to undertake
this mission even at the risk of losing its life, trusting in
God alone as the author and giver of life, sharing the gospel,
and doing those deeds in the world that point beyond themselves
to the new reality in Christ. [Book of Order G-3.0400]
What do Presbyterians
affirm regarding diversity and inclusiveness?
Variety of Worship: The church
in its witness to the uniqueness of the Christian faith is called
to mission and must be responsive to diversity in both the church
and the world. Thus the fellowship of Christians as it gathers
for worship and orders its corporate life will display a rich
variety of form, practice, language, program, nurture, and service
to suit culture and need.
Openness to Others: Our unity
in Christ enables and requires the church to be open to all
persons and to the varieties of talents and gifts of God's people.
Full Participation: The Presbyterian
Church (U.S.A.) shall give full expression to the rich diversity
within its membership and shall provide means which will assure
a greater inclusiveness leading to wholeness in its emerging
life. Persons of all racial ethnic groups, different ages, both
sexes, various disabilities, diverse geographical areas, different
theological positions consistent with the Reformed tradition,
as well as different marital condition (married, single, widowed,
or divorced) shall be guaranteed full participation and access
to representation in the decision making of the church. [Book
of Order G-4.0401-.04