What are Presbyterians?
Presbyterians are an outcome of the Reformed Church, which branched from Calvist teachings while holding to many of the Lutheran, and had its beginnings in Great Britain in the sixteenth century (it's basically the Reformed Church in Great Britain). Introduced in Scotland by John Knox in 1559, it was adopted as Scotland's national religion in 1707 and spread to northern Ireland. Presbyterians were influential in reforming the Church of England by dominating the Westminster Assembly from 1643-1649, an outcome of which was the Westminster Confession and the Larger and Shorter Catechism, standard documents for Anglo-Saxon Presbyterians worldwide. Presbyterianism is an adminsitrative church system governed by presbyters (Greek presbyteros, "elder") from each church within a local district and at a higher level by elected assemblies known as presbyteries, which meet anually at the General Synod. Each church is overseen by ordained ministers (who conduct church services and sacraments), elected deacons (responsible for the poor and the sick), and elected elders (responsible for local and community administration). This system is based on the New Testament church organization wherein most of the ruling power remains within each individual church, while still overseen by representatives of the whole body. Presbyterians respect the universal priesthood of all believers and women may be ordaned as ministers. While European church services remain rather structured and elaborate, British and American Presbyterians were influenced by the simplicity of Puritan worship. Although Presbyterianism was brought to America by Reformed members of different nationalities, it was primarily spread by Scottish settlers in Canada and the U.S. between the seventeenth and eighteenth century. In its earlier years, Presbyterian churches were independent, but most had united in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries to form single, national bodies, including the Church of Scotland in 1929, the Presbyterian Church of England in 1876 and its General Assembly in 1921, the Presbyterian Church in Ireland in 1840, and the Presbyterian Church in Canada in 1875. About a dozen Presbyterian churches remain in the U.S., the largest of which are the United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. (1958) and its Civil War faction, The Presbyterian Church in the United States (1857-1861), also known as the Southern Presbyterian Church. Presbyterians believe in the Trinity, the divine and human natures of Christ, original sin and eternal life, the Virgin Birth of Jesus, God's grace through baptism (including infant) and Communion (Lord's Supper, wherin Christ is present spiritually), that only the Holy Spirit can aid the believer in understanding the Bible, and that Christianity transcends denominational and national boundaries. Although Calvinistic in doctrine, they generally do not affirm Calvin's views on election and predestination.
To date, the largest Presbyterian organization in the U.S., the Presbyterian Church (USA), has remained ecclesiastically conservative, although the "progressive" movement among its various gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (GLBT) denominations continues to challenge for all-inclusive ordination into the ministry.
"To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder, a witness of Christ's sufferings and one who also will share in the glory to be revealed: Be shepherds of God's flock that is under your care, serving as overseers -- not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away."
(1 Peter 5:1-4)
Associated Reformed Presbyterian Church
"The Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church as we know it today comes to us across a lengthy history of service in two lands, the British Isles and North America. It had its beginnings in the preaching of John Knox in Scotland when the Scottish Church became the official church of Scotland in 1560 A.D. As always the case when the church and state become too closely allied, controversy and bitter strife over control became a way of life for church and state alike. Things improved somewhat under King William III in 1688 A.D. as he reorganized the Church of Scotland into the Established Presbyterian Church of Scotland. In spite of the improvement, however, a great number of problems still existed, and in 1733 a pastor by the name of Ebenezer Erskine led a group of Christians in forming a separate Associate Presbytery (from thence comes the first part of our name). Ten years later, another group of Christians who for years had suffered problems with the established church organized themselves into the Reformed Presbytery. Both churches spread to Northern Ireland as the Scots were forced to emigrate and both came to America with those "Scots-Irish" folks. The immigrants came to the Pennsylvania area at first, and it was there that both the Associate and the Reformed Presbyteries of Pennsylvania were organized in the 1750-1770 time period. It was a heady time in the new world, and all the "old alliances" were being called into question. The new America was emerging and at the same time our forefathers were seeking to create a new church as well. Formal union talks between the "Associates" and the "Reformed" began in 1777 and by 1782 the Associate Reformed Synod came to be in Philadelphia. This Synod, even though all "Associates" and "Reformeds" did not join, included churches in Pennsylvania, New York, Ohio, North and South Carolina and Georgia. Eight years later, the Associate Reformed Presbytery of the Carolinas and Georgia was formed in Abbeville County, S.C., followed some twenty years later (1803) by the division of the entire church into four Synods and one General Synod. The Synods were those of the Carolinas, Pennsylvania, New York and Scioto with the headquarters of the church in Philadelphia. In 1822 the Synod of the Carolinas was granted separate status, and by the end of the century was the sole remaining body of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church as several mergers over the years had absorbed the rest of the denomination into the old United Presbyterian Church. The remaining "A.R.P.s" in the Southeast continued on as the denomination we have today. We now again have churches in the Northeastern part of the nation and Canada. There are now ten Presbyteries in North America: Canada Presbytery, the Presbytery of the Northeast (Northeastern United States), Virginia Presbytery (Virginia and West Virginia), First Presbytery (North Carolina), Catawba Presbytery (Eastern South Carolina), Second Presbytery (Western South Carolina and Georgia), Florida Presbytery, Tennessee-Alabama Presbytery (Eastern Tennessee and Alabama), Mississippi Valley Presbytery (Arkansas, Missouri, Western Tennessee, Kentucky, and Mississippi), and Pacific Presbytery (Washington, Oregon, and California)."
Covenant Network of Presbyterians
"The Covenant Network of Presbyterians is a broad-based, national group of clergy and lay leaders working for a church that is simultaneously faithful, just, and whole. We seek to support the mission and unity of the Presbyterian Church (USA) in a time of potentially divisive controversy. We intend to articulate and act on the church's historic, progressive vision and to work for a fully inclusive church. We are committed to finding a way both to live out the graciously hospitable gospel we have received and to live together with all our fellow members in the PC(USA)."
Evangelical Presbyterian Church
"We are unique among American Presbyterians with our self-conscious attempt to balance essential and non-essential matters within a confessional heritage. We are unified in our commitment to the essentials of the historic Christian faith taught in the Bible, but allow liberty of conscience on those matters which are not so plain in or central to the Bible�s teaching. We believe that the Bible is fully inspired by God the Holy Spirit to lead people to a saving knowledge of God and to help them understand their world rightly. By its very nature, the Bible is infallible. The EPC is Presbyterian in government, Reformed in theology and Evangelical in spirit. To be Presbyterian is to be governed according to the pattern of elders seen in the Old and New Testaments. We are ruled neither by bishops in a hierarchical model nor by members in a congregational model. Biblically qualified elders are recognized through congregational election and, along with ministers, rule the church corporately. It also means being connected in mutual accountability and responsibility. Just as individual Christians are connected to one another as members of the body of Christ, so also individual congregations are connected under Christ as the great Head of the Church. To be �Reformed� means several things. Historically, it means that we trace our roots to the Reformation, when John Calvin and others led the movement to reform the Church according to Scripture. Theologically, it means belief in the absolute sovereignty of God and that the highest good is God�s glory. This historical and theological heritage is often expressed in the �solas� of the Reformation�God�s grace alone as the only way to be reconciled to God, faith alone as the only means of receiving God�s grace, Christ alone as the ground of God�s saving grace, Scripture alone as the only infallible authority for belief and God�s glory alone as the ultimate purpose for the lives of men and women. To be �Evangelical� means to believe in the importance of sharing the good news that through Jesus Christ the kingdom of God has been inaugurated, freeing people from the guilt and power of sin through personal faith and repentance. We express this priority on evangelism by stating it in our governing documents as the first work of the church. This priority is evidenced in our emphasis on church planting and world missions... We lie in the middle area of a continuum of American Presbyterian denominations. The EPC believes in historic Christianity as taught in Scripture, thus looking to the Bible as our guide on moral issues and believing in the reality of sin, salvation and judgment. At the same time, we want to give evidence of what we consider a mark of the true church�loving fellowship�by holding our convictions with charity toward others and charitably allowing a diversity of views within the EPC on non-essential issues. Thus we identify positively with those Presbyterian denominations which hold to biblical authority. The EPC believes the Holy Spirit is active today in applying the benefits of Christ�s redemption and equipping the Church for service through the granting of spiritual gifts, including the gifts of office (Eph. 4:8ff.). The EPC believes the church should encourage God�s people to serve Him with all the gifts the Spirit gives. The EPC consists of churches which believe the charismatic gifts are still given today as well as churches which do not. This would be a prime example of what the EPC believes is a �non-essential.� We believe that the baptism of the Holy Spirit is part of the new birth (1 Cor. 12:13), but that every believer is commanded to be filled with the Holy Spirit as part of the ongoing work of God�s grace (Eph. 5:18)... The EPC looks to the Bible as the rule of faith and practice on such issues. For example, we believe that homosexual practice, like many other things, is sinful. Regarding abortion, we believe the Bible does not distinguish between prenatal and postnatal life, attributing personhood to an unborn child... The EPC consists of approximately 190 churches in the United States and Argentina, representing approximately 65,000 members."
Free Presbyterian Church
"On St. Patrick�s Day, 1951, a new Biblical witness for Christ was born in the village of Crossgar, County Down, Northern Ireland. As a result of the high-handed actions of the Down Presbytery, the elders of the local Presbyterian church were banned from using their church hall for a Gospel mission. When the leaders refused to acquiesce, they were suspended. All this took place less than twenty-four hours before the mission was due to commence. Those elders could not go back to their church without denying or compromising the gospel. So they decided to leave a denomination that permitted dances and parties of various kinds in its church halls but which, in this case, banned the gospel of Jesus Christ. With the help of the Rev. Ian Paisley, their guest evangelist, they formed the Presbytery of the Free Presbyterian Church of Ulster. From four congregations in that first year, the growth of the new church continued until its witness spread to all parts of Northern Ireland. The church was founded to faithfully preach and defend the gospel of Christ in an age of growing compromise and apostasy. That determination is still to be found in every Free Presbyterian Church. The church has now spread well beyond the boundary of Northern Ireland. Today there are over one hundred Free Presbyterian churches and extensions throughout the world; in Northern Ireland, England, Scotland, Wales, the Irish Republic, Australia, Canada, USA, Germany, Jamaica and Spain with missionaries in many other places... The Free Presbyterian Church (FPC) is a group of Bible-believing Protestants whose Presbyterian roots go back to the great Reformation of the 16th century. Our motto is that of the reformers: "The Scriptures Only." Believing the Bible to be the verbally inspired and infallible Word of God, we hold it to be the final authority for all our belief and practice. We acknowledge the Bible's revelation of God as One who is absolutely sovereign, preaching that "salvation is of the Lord" (Jonah 2:10). As Presbyterians, we adhere to the exposition of Scripture doctrine that is set forth in the Westminster Confession of Faith and the Articles of Faith of the Free Presbyterian Church. We are part of a growing Presbyterian denomination that is serving the Lord with more than 100 churches and extension works in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Australia, Spain, Germany, Canada, and the United States. Very simply put, "we preach Christ crucified" (1 Corinthians 1:23). This is the message of God's Word that every soul needs to hear. Therefore, Christ is central to all our preaching. We believe that salvation is by grace through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and that the love of Christ is the Christian's motivation for holy living. Thus, we have a message of grace and salvation for guilty souls and hope and encouragement for burdened souls. Many have never discovered the peace, joy, and assurance a truly Christ-centered ministry can bring... We encourage God's people to an earnest and serious study of God's Word, as it is the direct revelation of His will and the source of spiritual growth and strength. Believing that prayer is the life of the Church, we stress the vital importance of the prayer life of the Christian, seeking to foster the sense of our total dependence upon God alone. In these days of great spiritual apathy, we pray continually that God would once again send a gracious revival to His Church. Contending that God's people are "separated unto the gospel" of Christ (Romans 1:1), we are free from all association with liberalism or ecumenism. Specifically, we are separated from the World Council of Churches, the National Council of Churches, and every other form of theological compromise that would undermine the truth of Scripture."
"In 1989, a group of Christians challenged a group of Christians during a prayer meeting. The answer to this challenge was the formation of Knox Fellowship, committed to assisting churches in their outreach ministries and discipleship training.
There are more than 1,000 lay people involved with Knox Fellowship. The ministry is led by President, Dr. Robert A. Pitman and a board of directors, made up of men and women, laity and clergy, ethnic and non-ethnic minorities from all over the globe. It is the prayer of every person associated with the Knox Fellowship that churches will experience a revitalization of their church through evangelistic ministries. There are three key elements of this vital ministry: That Jesus Christ is exalted as He is presented in the Scriptures; That the Word of God is the authority for faith and life; That prayer is the energizing force of the church."
The Layman Online
"The Layman Online is the official web site of the Presbyterian Lay Committee, to work within the church for the following objectives: 1. To put greater emphasis on the teaching of the Bible as the authoritative Word of God in our seminaries and churches. 2. To emphasize the need for presenting Jesus Christ as the Lord and Savior through preaching, teaching and witnessing, with evangelical zeal, as the primary mission of the Church, and to stress the need for regular Bible study and prayer. 3. To encourage individual Presbyterians to take their place in society and, as led by the Holy Spirit, become involved in social, economic and political affairs as Christian citizens. 4. To encourage official church bodies to seek and express the mind of God as revealed in Scripture on individual and corporate moral and spiritual matters. We urge that official church bodies refrain from issuing pronouncements or taking actions unless the authority to speak and act is Biblical, the competence of the church body has been established and all viewpoints have been considered. 5. To provide an adequate and reliable source of information on significant issues confronting the church, including those being proposed for consideration at General Assembly or other governing bodies, in order to enable Presbyterians and others in the Reformed family of faith to express informed positions. The mission of the Presbyterian Lay Committee is to inform and equip God�s people by proclaiming Jesus Christ alone as: The Way of salvation; The Truth of God�s Word; The Life of discipleship."
New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia - Presbyterianism
"Presbyterianism in a wide sense is the system of church government by representative assemblies called presbyteries, in opposition to government by bishops (episcopal system, prelacy), or by congregations (congregationalism, independency), in its strict sense, Presbyterianism is the name given to one of the groups of ecclesiastical bodies that represent the features of Protestantism emphasized by Calvin. Of the various churches modelled on the Swiss Reformation, the Swiss, Dutch, and some German are known as the Reformed; the French as Huguenots (q. v.); those in Bohemia and Hungary by their national names; the Scotch, English, and derived churches as Presbyterian. There is a strong family resemblance between all these churches, and many of them have given their adherence to an "Alliance of the Reformed Churches throughout the World holding the Presbyterian System", formed in 1876 with the special view of securing interdenominational cooperation in general church work. The most important standards of orthodox Presbyterianism are the "Westminster Confession of Faith" and "Catechisms" of 1647. Their contents, however, have been more or less modified by the various churches, and many of the formulas of subscription prescribed for church officials do not in practice require more than a qualified acceptance of the standards. The chief distinctive features set forth in the Westminster declarations of belief are Presbyterian church government, Calvinistic theology, and absence of prescribed forms of worship. Between the episcopal and congregational systems of church government, Presbyterianism holds a middle position, which it claims to be the method of church organization indicated in the New Testament. On the one hand, it declares against hierarchical government, holding that all clergymen are peers one of another and that church authority is vested not in individuals but in representative bodies composed of lay (ruling) elders and duly ordained (ruling and teaching elders). On the other hand, Presbyterianism is opposed to Congregational independency and asserts the lawful authority of the larger church. The constitutions of most of the churches provide for four grades of administrative courts: the Session, which governs the congregation; the Presbytery, which governs a number of congregations within a limited territory; the Synod, which governs the congregations within a larger territory; and the General Assembly, which is the highest court. Generally the church officers include, besides the pastor, ruling elders and deacons. These officers are elected by the congregation, but the election of the pastor is subject to the approval of the presbytery. The elders with the pastor as presiding officer form the session which supervises the spiritual affairs of the congregation. The deacons have charge of certain temporalities, and are responsible to the session."
"A resource for churches reaching out to those who are struggling with homosexuality, heterosexual addiction, the effects of childhood sexual abuse, and other forms of sexual brokenness. OneByOne is a ministry created to address the needs of those in conflict with their sexuality. We were formed in 1995 by Presbyterian pastors and lay leaders throughout the United States who were concerned about the lack of such ministry within the PCUSA. We Believe: The Bible is the written word of God, our foremost authority for right living; In one God, existing eternally as Father, Son and Holy Spirit; That Jesus Christ is the Son of God. He lived a sinless life, was crucified, buried and physically rose from the dead; In the fallenness of humanity. All humankind has been born with a sin nature that is in opposition to God. As a result, we experience broken relationships with God and each other; That faith alone in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior frees us from the mastery of sin and restores our relationship with God and one another. Christ died for our sin and now enables us to live out His resurrected life; The Holy Spirit grants us the freedom to grow in relationship with God by a life marked by surrender and obedience; That the church of Jesus Christ is comprised of all who know Him as Lord and Savior; The Bible teaches that all sexual relations outside of a marriage commitment between one man and one woman are contrary to God's plan for our lives. Yet, we affirm that the Gospel proclaims God's unconditional love, forgiveness and redemption of all sin as we submit our lives to Christ."
The Orthodox Presbyterian Church
"During the nineteenth century, the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. was largely a strong and faithful church. But liberalism began to creep in from Europe, and little was done to check its spread. In 1924 about 1,300 (out of 10,000) Presbyterian ministers signed the liberal Auburn Affirmation, which denied that the Bible was without error and declared that belief in such essential doctrines as Christ's substitutionary atonement and his bodily resurrection should not be made "tests for ordination or for good standing in our church." Unbelief was taking over the church. Princeton Theological Seminary in Princeton, New Jersey, remained a bastion of Presbyterian orthodoxy. But in 1929 its Board was reorganized with a mandate to put liberal professors on the faculty. Four Princeton professors resigned and (with the support of others) established Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia as an independent institution to continue teaching biblical Christianity. The leading opponent of liberalism in those days was J. Gresham Machen, a Presbyterian minister and professor at Princeton (and later Westminster). When he exposed the modernist unbelief that permeated the foreign missions of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A., the General Assembly in 1933 refused to do anything about it. Because he and others would only support missionaries who were actually preaching the gospel, they established the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions. The 1934 Assembly condemned their action, and they were soon deposed from office. In response, 34 ministers, 17 ruling elders, and 79 laymen met in Philadelphia on June 11, 1936, to constitute the Presbyterian Church of America. (Because of a lawsuit brought by the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A., the name of the new church was changed to the Orthodox Presbyterian Church in 1939.) They wanted to "continue the true spiritual succession of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A." They hoped that a mass exodus of Bible-believing Christians would swell the ranks of the new denomination, but it never happened. Then, on January 1, 1937, Machen's untimely death dealt a severe blow to the new church. The first major question facing the new church was whether it would be a typically American fundamentalist and evangelical church, or whether it would follow its confession and be biblically Reformed in character. Many who favored the former left in 1937 to form a different church. That left the OPC with a more clear-cut commitment to the Reformed faith. Early leaders of the Church included men of Dutch Reformed and Scottish Presbyterian backgrounds, such as Cornelius Van Til and John Murray. This struggle continued through the ensuing decades, but the church maintained a firmly Reformed stand. This tension between a more American evangelical and a more rigorously Reformed emphasis remains in the OPC, but our commitment is to follow the Holy Spirit speaking in Scripture, wherever he leads. From the beginning, the OPC emphasized mission work, both at home and abroad. As a result of church-planting efforts, the OPC experienced slow but steady growth (which has accelerated in recent years). Today, one may find her approximately 290 churches and mission works in 45 states (and one Canadian province), organized into 16 regional churches, each governed by a presbytery. The OPC is currently gaining about a dozen churches and mission works annually. Carrying the whole truth of Scripture to the ends of the earth has also been important to Orthodox Presbyterians from the outset. Today the OPC has missions around the world. Although the OPC is not large, she has never isolated herself from the rest of Christ's church. She has energetically promoted the Reformed faith around the world and has engaged in ecumenical discussions with other biblically Reformed churches in order to perfect the unity that Christ desires for his people."
Presbyterian Church in America
"The Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) contributes to the ethos of the Atlanta community by teaching and encouraging its members to integrate life and faith. Unlike many activist organizations that lobby local, state, and federal governments for the enactment of laws, neither the PCA nor its churches attempts to represent its members in public matters. The PCA does encourage its members to be active in political and civic organizations. Consequently, the denomination is well represented in prison ministries, adoption services, pregnancy crisis centers, disaster relief, and many other such organizations in the communities where the churches are located. The PCA does humbly petition the government, when appropriate, regarding the significant moral issues that trouble our communities and nation. The Presbyterian Church in America also cooperates with other denominations and churches where there are common goals. One example is Quest Atlanta '96, in which 25 denominations and some 1,500 churches are working together. Quest Atlanta '96 is committed to unite the body of Christ to welcome the world during the Olympic Games in an effort to proclaim and demonstrate the love of God. The PCA is one of the faster growing denominations in the United States, with over 1450 churches and missions throughout the USA and Canada. There were over 306,000 communicant and non-communicant members as of December 2000. "Reformed" defines the doctrinal beliefs of the PCA, which holds that the purest expressions of scriptural doctrine are found in the Calvinistic creeds, particularly the Westminster Confession of Faith. The PCA's representative form of church government is rooted in its name -- presbyterian. Local churches are governed by elders (presbyters) elected by the church members. This form of government extends through the regional presbyteries, which facilitate connectionalism, to the national General Assembly, which expresses PCA's connectionalism and the bond of union between/among all the churches."
The Presbyterian Church in Canada
"Canadian Presbyterians have a long history. We are: part of the Old Testament story of God's covenant relationship with the world; part of the 2,000 years of witness to Jesus Christ; part of a distinctive Reformed and Presbyterian history. Presbyterians get their name from the Greek word "presbyteros" meaning "elder." This word occurs many times in the New Testament and also in the Greek translation of the Old Testament. It refers to mature members of the community who are respected for their experience and faithfulness. The word may also designate a particular office of leadership. A Presbyterian church is one governed by elders. Today, Presbyterian churches in Canada are governed by elders who are elected by members of the congregation. Although elders are ordained for life, congregations may choose term service for elders. Presbyterians also claim the names "Reformed," and "Protestant." Our denomination came out of the Protestant Reformation, a major religious movement that occurred in the early and middle years of the sixteenth century. At that point in history, the Christian Church had divided into two main branches - the Eastern Church (Greek and Russian Orthodox) and the Western Church (Roman Catholic). In the sixteenth century, church leaders began to protest the corruption of the Christian Church and seek its reform. They were called "Protestants" because they were bearing witness (Latin pro plus testare: to bear witness) to what they regarded as New Testament Christianity. The chief leaders in the reformation movement were Luther, Calvin, Knox, Zwingli and Cranmer. These leaders were intense, courageous, zealous, and assertive. They believed that people were put right in the sight of God by God's grace alone. They said people received God's grace by faith and not by anything that they had done. These Reformers believed that all people had access to God through prayer and the Bible. They believed that God's forgiveness could be received directly without the intervention of a priest. The Reformers also claimed the "indwelling" of Christ in the believer and stressed the sovereignty of God. They will always be recognized for their hope and confidence in the power of a loving God and for recovering the concept of the "priesthood of all believers." Today Canadian Presbyterians consider themselves to be both "Reformed" and "reforming." "
Presbyterian Church in Ireland
"The Presbyterian Church in Ireland serves the whole island, both North and South and, with a total membership of some 300,000 people in over 560 congregations, it is the largest protestant denomination in Northern Ireland. The Presbyterian form of Christian faith is best described as 'Reformed' with its strong emphasis on the Sovereignty of God, the Kingship of Christ and the authority of the Bible. The Church's corporate work is organised through members representation at local congregational level up to General Assembly which is the highest decision making body. It meets once a year under the chairmanship of the Moderator who is elected annually as the Church's principal public representative... Irish Presbyterianism had its origins in Scottish migrations to Ulster in the early seventeenth century. The first presbytery was formed in 1642 by chaplains of a Scottish army which had come to Ireland because of an Irish Catholic rebellion. In spite of this and later Catholic uprisings and the hostility of the established Anglican Church, Presbyterianism put down strong roots in Ireland before the end of the seventeenth century. In the eighteenth century it was weakened by emigration to colonial America and by division over subscription to the Westminster formularies, which encouraged Scottish Convenanters and Seceders to form congregations and presbyteries in Ulster. The restoration of subscription in 1835 led to union with the Seceders to form the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland. Today the Irish Presbyterian Church, which is a founder member of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, has over 560 congregations in 21 presbyteries throughout Ireland with over 300,000 members. The Church has been much involved in education, evangelism, social service and world mission in India, China, the Middle East, Jamaica, Africa, Indonesia, Nepal and Brazil. In our Christian worship, the preaching of the Word of God is central, in a setting of prayer and praise. There is no fixed liturgy. Prayers and hymns, psalms and paraphrases, Scripture reading and sermon are adapted to the needs of the occasion. The word 'Presbyterian' describes the form of our Church government which emphasises the individual and corporate responsibility of members. Ministers and members must share in the organising and running of every aspect of the Church's work. Locally this means the provision of worship and teaching along with pastoral care while the corporate work of the Church involves social action, evangelism, mission at home and overseas, training of ministers and working with young people and children. The best test of our Church and its members lies in what their faith compels them to do for others, not just what has been done for them as individuals. The King and Head of the Church loved us and gave Himself for us so that we should no longer live for ourselves. We are called to service."
Presbyterian Church (USA)
"The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has approximately 2.5 million members, 11,200 congregations and 21,000 ordained ministers. 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 crystallized much of the Reformed thinking that came before him... In western Europe, the authority of the Roman Catholic Church remained largely unquestioned until the Renaissance in the 15th century. The invention of the printing press in Germany around 1440 made it possible for common people to have access to printed materials including the Bible. This, in turn, enabled many to discover religious thinkers who had begun to question the authority of the Roman Catholic Church. One such figure, Martin Luther, a German priest and professor, started the movement known as the Protestant Reformation when he posted a list of 95 grievances against the Roman Catholic Church on a church door in Wittenberg, Germany in 1517. Some 20 years later, a French/Swiss theologian, John Calvin, further refined the reformers' new way of thinking about the nature of God and God's relationship with humanity in what came to be known as Reformed theology. John Knox, a Scotsman who studied with Calvin in Geneva, Switzerland, took Calvin's teachings back to Scotland. Other Reformed communities developed in England, Holland and France. The Presbyterian church traces its ancestry back primarily to Scotland and England. Presbyterians have featured prominently in United States history. The Rev. Francis Makemie, who arrived in the U.S. from Ireland in 1683, helped to organize the first American Presbytery at Philadelphia in 1706. One of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, the Rev. John Witherspoon, was a Presbyterian minister. The Rev. William Tennent founded a ministerial "log college" in New Jersey that evolved into Princeton University. Other Presbyterian ministers, such as the Rev. Jonathan Edwards and the Rev. Gilbert Tennent, were driving forces in the so-called "Great Awakening," a revivalist movement in the early 18th century. The Presbyterian church in the United States has split and parts have reunited several times. Currently the largest group is the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), which has its national offices in Louisville, Ky. It was formed in 1983 as a result of reunion between the Presbyterian Church in the U.S. (PCUS), the so-called "southern branch," and the United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. (UPCUSA), the so-called "northern branch." Other Presbyterian churches in the United States include: the Presbyterian Church in America, the Cumberland Presbyterian Church and the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church."
The Presbyterian Coalition
"Born out of concern for the Church which struggled to witness to historic and Biblical leadership standards and out of hope that the Lord of the Church would work His will through the people and polity of this Church, the Presbyterian Coalition has gathered individuals, churches, organizations and their leadership into a loosely defined, open, and active movement sharing the conviction that the words of Scripture, interpreted by the Confessions of the Church, reveal the will of God. The matters of sexuality and ordination, most commonly presented as the question of ordaining practicing homosexuals to the offices of the church, prompted the early participants to coalesce in order to bear witness together to Biblical and Confessional standards on this issue. Soon this issue was seen to be related to other ones for which we share similar concerns and convictions about our common life in the PC(USA). National gatherings held in Chicago (1996) and Dallas (1997) brought many people together to work for the passage of high and clear ordination standards regarding sexuality (Amendment B), and to expose the challenge to those standards (Amendment A). Through worship, fellowship, prayer, workshops on theology and polity, a larger network of like-minded Presbyterians developed at these Gatherings who sought and committed to the renewal of the whole Church. Gathering III (Dallas, 1998) adopted "Union in Christ - A Declaration for the Church", a theological statement which defines the foundations of the Coalition's work. A strategy paper, "Turning Toward the Mission of God: A Strategy for the Transformation of the PC(USA)" was also adopted to outline the most essential concerns and hopes for the Church in six areas: Mission, Worship, Polity, Theological Education, Educational Ministries, and Church Discipline. Task Forces now study and strive in those areas and a Board of Directors supervises and coordinates that work. Gathering IV (September 1999) at the Dallas-Forth Worth Hyatt, brought people together again for further conversations about the state and the renewal of the PC(USA), and the Coalition's role. At each General Assembly the Presbyterian Coalition continues its work with like-minded Presbyterians by observing the work of the GA committees, offering advice to commissioners, and hosting, with renewal organizations, an evening time of strategy, prayer, and information exchange. This year we continue that work with the Presbyterian Renewal Network and will also host a booth in the Exhibit Hall for meeting new friends, building the Coalition, presenting our Declaration and Strategy papers and assisting those who want to be part of a movement that strengthens the life and participates in the transformation of the PC(USA)."
Presbyterian Frontier Fellowship
"PFF maintains a close relationship with the General Assembly Council of the PCUSA as a Validated Mission Support Group. The Covenant was reaffirmed in 1999. We work in direct partnership with the Office of International Evangelism of the Worldwide Ministries Division... In 1999 the PFF Board approved a mission statement encapsulating the mission of PFF. We challenge, mobilize and empower Presbyterian congregations into global partnerships that establish indigenous churches among unreached people groups. In 1999 the PFF Board approved a Core Values statement to flesh out our priorities. Presbyterian Frontier Fellowship is a missional servant community. We are: Committed to the Lordship of Jesus Christ; Seeking the Empowerment of the Holy Spirit; Rooted in Scripture and Prayer; Devoted to faithful stewardship of life and possessions; Boldly proclaiming the gospel to every people; Serving the Presbyterian Church (USA); Uplifting the congregation�s faithfulness to God�s mission calling; Focusing on the congregation as a wellspring for mission initiative; Calling forth People Movements to Jesus among unreached people groups; Advocating the indigenous expressions of the body of Christ in all people groups; Supporting the planting of indigenous churches committed to God�s Mission; Advocating a partnership approach to mission; Committed to the unity of the global church in mission. A shortened version of our mission statement hopes to communicate our vision for what PFF exists to accomplish: For Every People: An Indigenous Church. For Every Church: A Mission Vision."
The Presbyterian Outlook
"The Presbyterian Outlook Foundation is organized and shall be operated exclusively for religious, charitable, literary and educational purposes. The specific objectives of the corporation are: to promote free and independent discussion of issues confronting the Presbyterian Church; to disseminate accurate information about developments in the Christian Church in general and the Presbyterian Church in particular; to advance understanding of the Reformed faith in its historic and contemporary meaning; to promote study of the Christian message; to develop an informed constituency of Presbyterians who can contribute their talents to the life and mission of both the Presbyterian Church and the whole body of believers; to promote preaching the Christian gospel, establishing churches and nurturing Presbyterian communities; to insure the survival of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) as a vital Christian community. Its principal activity is the publication of The Presbyterian Outlook."
Presbyterians for Renewal
"A Call to Renewal was issued by 73 renewal-minded ministers and elders of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) in the spring of 1988. The meeting in Dallas, Texas, was convened by the Rev. Dr. B. Clayton Bell, the Rev. Dr. John A. Huffman, Jr., and the Rev. Dr. J. Murray Marshall. At that time few envisioned the possible birth of a new organization to promote renewal within the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). That �Call to Renewal� led to �A Gathering of Presbyterians� the following year. Over a thousand people representing every synod and almost every presbytery gathered from across the Church to meet in St. Louis in April 1989. The Rev. Dr. Paul Watermulder chaired the Conference Steering Committee, and the Rev. Kathleen Goodrich served as Conference Director.�A Gathering of Presbyterians� listened to the call for renewal from several important voices in the church,including Dr. Samuel Moffett, Emeritus of Princeton Theological Seminary; Dr. Maria Santa-Maria, St. Petersburg, Florida; Dr. Virgil Cruz, Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary; the Rev. Dr. C. Kenneth Hall, Moderator of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.); and the Rev. Dr. James Andrews, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly. The conference was specifically designed to create Presbyterians for Renewal, a new broad-based renewal organization. It is, in part, the heir of two former rewewal movements within the Presbyterian Church: Presbyterians United for Biblical Concern (PUBC) and Covenant Fellowship of Presbyterians (CFP). A board of 60 persons was elected by the conference attendees: 12 people from each of 5 regions of the country. A balance of clergy and lay persons, men and women, and racial ethnic persons was sought to be represented on the Board of Directors... At the final meeting of the conference, the attendees were given the opportunity to sign a Covenant of Renewal which highlighted a deep commitment to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, Christ's unique mission of salvation to the world, a call to repentance and personal faith in Christ, a call to understand the Scriptures as the authority for faith, and the imperative of seeking to lead a holy life. All committed themselves to prayer for renewal and support of the denomination, underscoring their willingness to serve in the committees and courts of the Church. A continued commitment to social justice and righteousness and to the combating of racism and sexism was underlined. Making this conference unique were the broad inclusion of evangelical moderates; its holistic Biblical agenda; the visible involvement of those who are known in the structures of the church as committed church-persons; and the willingness of the two former existing renewal structures to participate enthusiastically in the birth of Presbyterians for Renewal. The moderator of the General Assembly called this a moment of grace for the Church. The prayer of those attending was that this might be so. Few could imagine the phenomenal growth in service and participation that would take place in the next few years. The vision and purpose of Presbyterians for Renewal has struck a responsive chord in thousands of Presbyterians across the Church. Today, with an active board and a dedicated staff, PFR continues to serve the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and to provide leadership in multiple facets of ministry. A strong emphasis is placed on equipping the laity for the work of their ministry in the church and the world."
Presbyterian Peace Fellowship
"The Presbyterian Peace Fellowship is a national community of Presbyterians who trust in the nonviolent Jesus Christ. We call forth and celebrate prophetic action by individuals and by our denomination (The Presbyterian Church USA) in the search for alternatives to violence, exploitation, militarism, and war. Through the decades, across generations, and in the changing circumstances of history -- this is our trust and our task. Join Us! The Presbyterian Peace Fellowship has a long history that began in 1944 as an effort to support conscientious objectors in the Presbyterian Church. In 1983 the Southern Presbyterian Peace Fellowship and the United Presbyterian Peace Fellowship came together when their two churches merged, to become the current Presbyterian Peace Fellowship. We work cooperatively with the Peacemaking Program of our denomination, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), to encourage and educate Presbyterian congregations about the critical importance of peacemaking in the life of the church."
The Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America
"Our part of the organized body of Christ is known as the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America. The "Reformed" in our name refers to our adherence to the biblical principles set down by the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century. Our spiritual fathers include Martin Luther, John Calvin, and John Knox. "Presbyterian" refers to our form of church government. Each congregation is under the oversight of those elected as elders, who are also part of the higher courts known as presbyteries and Synod. Reformed Presbyterians have also been referred to historically as Covenanters because of their identification with public covenanting in Scotland, beginning in the 16th century. This act was a protest for Christ's crown rights over the state and the recognition of Christ as King over the Church without interference from the government. Our roots also include those referred to as the Seceders, who share in the testimony for Christ's Crown and Covenant. In 1743 the first Reformed Presbyterian congregation was organized in North America. In this continent, too, the Kingship of Christ has been maintained as a foundational principle of our denomination. Today, congregations reach all across North America. We also acknowledge sister churches of Reformed Presbyterians in Ireland, Scotland, and Australia. Our beliefs all stem from a full commitment to the authority of the Bible as the inerrant, infallible Word of God. This means that we believe in the Triune God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We acknowledge our total inability to save ourselves and, in faith, depend on Christ alone as our Savior. We acknowledge Him as Covenant Lord in every area of life, and we vow together to advance His Kingdom on earth. We believe that God desires His Church to set forth clear statements of her system of doctrine that can be supported from Scripture. We therefore accept as our creed, or subordinate standards, The Westminster Confession of Faith and the Larger and Shorter Catechisms. In addition to these doctrinal statements, we adhere to the Testimony of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America, which is our continuing application of God's written word to the world and the church of today. We believe that God's Word clearly sets forth how He is to be worshiped. The reading and exposition of the Word of God are the central focus of our worship. Our musical praise employs God's Word only, thus making use of the divinely inspired Book of Psalms of the Bible. In keeping with the New Testament Church's directive for heart worship, we sing without the aid of musical instruments."
Religious Tolerance.org - The Presbyterian Church (USA) and Homosexuality
"Of the many Christian denominations in the United States, the Episcopal Church (USA), the Presbyterian Church (USA), and the United Methodist Church are probably experiencing the greatest amount of conflict over equal rights for their gay and lesbian members. More liberal Christian denominations have already largely accepted homosexuality as simply another normal and natural sexual orientation. More conservative denominations have retained unchanged the historical Christian beliefs which condemn all same-sex behavior... During the late 1990's and continuing to the present time, internal conflict within the church over beliefs and practices has intensified. The main sticking points seem to be homosexuality and salvation: specifically: Whether whether gays and lesbians in committed relationships can be considered for ordination; Whether ministers should be allowed to hold holy union ceremonies for committed gay and lesbian couples; Whether a path exists for personal that does not involve Jesus. Currently, the denomination is seriously split in three ways: Within each congregation, between religious liberals and conservatives; Between urban and rural congregations; Between "liberal" areas of the country, like the northeast, and "conservative" areas, like the southern states. There appear to be only three possible future scenarios: The denomination might persist as it has in the past, with continuing debates causing dissention in the church for many years into the future; The church might split into two denominations as it did in the past over the morality of human slavery; The church might develop some form of local option in which individual presbyteries would decide matters of procedure for themselves."
Voices of Sophia
"Voices of Sophia is a community of women and men, being reformed by God through the Spirit of the Living Christ, working in the Presbyterian Church (USA); We exist because the full equality God intends for all has not yet been realized; We work toward the reformation of the church into a discipleship of equals, and focus this work on challenges to the full participation of women in the life of the Presbyterian Church (USA)... Sophia is the Greek word for "wisdom". Wisdom/Sophia language comes from a strong biblical tradition. In the wisdom literature of the Hebrew Scriptures Sophia has a significant relatedness to God. In the letters of Paul, Jesus is described as the "Sophia of God" (1 Cor. 1:24) Whether seeing Sophia as a "reflection" or an "aspect" of the Triune God-feminist thinkers find value in the Sophia tradition. It invites insights for our understanding of God and asserts women's right to claim their own experience in relationship to the Bible and in speaking of God to the Church... Since reunion in 1983, the number of elected members on advocacy committees for women have dropped from 55 to 12 and additionally committees on women employed by the church and committees on women of color have been eliminated. Who Chooses to Join Voices of Sophia? Those who: Seek a vision that carries the church forward into the future; Believe in a church reformed and always being reformed; Are excluded by the structures and systems of the church; Are faithful, progressive, justice-seeking servants of the church."
"We are a network of concerned Presbyterians responding to God's call to do justice, and to work with hope for healing and wholeness in a world increasingly broken. Our mission is: to listen and learn from those who have been silenced; to nurture the prophetic voice of the church through reflection, discernment, and action; to equip Presbyterians for faithful participation in the church and the world; to challenge unjust relationships of power; to advocate for peace, justice, the integrity of creation, and the full inclusion of all God's people in church and society. Through our witness, we seek to revitalize the church's proclamation and action, informed by the full witness of the Bible and the confessions, animated by our hope for the reign of God."
"The reason I left you in Crete was that you might straighten out what was left unfinished and appoint elders in every town, as I directed you. An elder must be blameless, the husband of but one wife, a man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient. Since an overseer is entrusted with God's work, he must be blameless -- not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain. Rather he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined. He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it."
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