|The Presbyterian Church - is a Representative Democracy governed by elders elected from and by the congregation. The Presbyterian
denomination - is a form of Christianity democratically organized to embrace the faith common to all
Christians. Presbyterians - are a group of Protestants whose church is founded on the concept
of democratic rule under the word of God. |
Assembly - is the national governing body made up of equal numbers of lay people and clergy chosen by the presbyteries.
Synod - consists of representatives elected from each Presbytery to oversee several Presbyteries.
Presbytery - consists of elders and ministers from congregations who oversee the local churches.
Session - consists of ministers (ministers of the word) and elders - all elected by the
|Session - elected
to be the local church governing body. Deacons - elected to conduct the temporal and charitable
ministry of the church. Trustees - elected to manage financial, legal, and property affairs
of the church. |
|Early Christian Church -
The Presbyterian church like all Christian churches, traces its roots back to the early church in
Jerusalem. Modern Presbyterianism is considered by many to be a rebirth of the early church of the New Testament. Martin
Luther - The Protestant Reformation moved forward in 1517 when Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses
to a church door in Wittenberg, Germany. Luther fought against the pretensions of authority by the Pope and called for direct
authority from God. John Calvin - John Calvin is called the father of Presbyterianism, converted
to Protestantism in 1533. He interpreted the Bible as the revelation of God, emphasizing theology, worship, education, thrift,
ethical behavior, and representative government for his followers. From his home city of Geneva, Calvin's ideas spread throughout
Europe. John Knox - The Scottish Protestant, John Knox, fled persecution in his homeland
and studied with Calvin in Geneva. He returned in 1559 and established Presbyterianism in Scotland. Westminster
Assembly - In England the "Westminster Assembly" of 151 Protestants worked steadily between 1643 and
1649 to write the doctrinal guides which Presbyterians now recognize as some of their basic texts. American Revolution
- Presbyterians escaped persecution in Europe and settled in America. Presbyterianism was so prevalent
in America that some British called the American Revolution the "Presbyterian Revolt." At least 14 signers of the Declaration
of Independence were Presbyterians (including clergyman John Witherspoon). Presbyterianism in the US - The first Presbytery in America was established in Philadelphia in 1706. During the 1800s, disagreement over
slavery and evangelism broke the church into northern and southern branches. The two branches reunited in 1983 to form the
Presbyterian Church USA. |
|Inspiration and Guidance
For their faith Presbyterians have two main sources |
|The Bible - Presbyterians
|The Bible is the most authoritative
source of faith and practice for all people. The Bible is the inspired record of the revelation of God to all. The authors
of the Bible were "inspired" by God to reveal God to all people, instead of "Pens of God" as the pre-Christian writers believed.
|Creeds and Confessions -
Creeds and Confessions are statements of doctrine which express the beliefs of a church or congregation.
These include: |
Nicene Creed Scots Confession, 1560 Heidelberg
Catechism Second Helvetic Confession Westminster Confession Barmen Declaration Confession of 1967 |
Presbyterians recognize two sacraments as described in the Bible.|
|Baptism - this
Sacrament unites us with Jesus Christ and makes us members of God's family the church. For Presbyterians, Baptism: |
|Is an initiation into the church
community as ordered by Christ. Is a public confession, not a private one -- its statement of faith made in the presence of
others. Does not a guarantee access to heaven -- unbaptized people are not denied salvation. Can be performed in another church
-- there is no need to be rebaptized in a Presbyterian church.|
|Communion - this
Sacrament is also called the Lord's Supper, Holy Communion, or The Eucharist. In Communion: |
|It is a time to renew faith
and strengthen participants for the duties and privileges of Christian service. The Bread and Wine represent the sacrificed
body and blood of Christ and recall the last meal shared with the Apostles. Together they symbolize the New Covenant between
God and all people. |
|Like other Christians,
Presbyterians believe in:|
|God - Creator
of the universe. Christ - the incarnation of God on earth. Holy Spirit - the presence of God in the world and in the believer. The Church - a universal
company of Christ's followers. Forgiveness of Sin - made possible by the crucifixion of
Jesus. Life Everlasting - shown by the resurrection of Jesus. Bible - the inspired word of God. |
|Some Presbyterian Beliefs
Presbyterians believe that the Holy Spirit constantly heightens truth, and thus admit different understandings of the Confession
of Faith. Christ - Presbyterians believe that Christ is the Son of God, the Revealer of
God, and the Savior of humanity. Church - Presbyterians believe that no Christian church
has exclusive possession of the church government authorized by Christ. Confession - Confession
is voluntary, and made directly to God, although it may be made in the presence of a pastor. Cross -
the empty cross symbolizes the risen Christ who opened the Kingdom of Heaven. Education -
Education is stressed by Presbyterians, for both the ministry and for the laity. Heaven -
the souls of the faithful are reunited with God in a warm and loving relationship. Hell -
separation from God which may exist now as well as in the Hereafter. Marriage - Presbyterians
believe in the sacredness of marriage. They attempt to curb divorce by encouraging young people to seriously prepare for marriage.
Mary - She is honored as the mother of Jesus, the special person chosen to bear the Son
of God. Parenthood - There is nothing in the church's teaching which discourages intelligent,
unselfish family planning. Resurrection - for Presbyterians the resurrection of the body
refers to the reuniting of the spiritual body and physical body. Sacraments - Presbyterians
recognize two sacraments - Baptism and Communion. Salvation - God grants the gift of grace,
which enables us to gain faith necessary for salvation. Trinity - God exists in the trinity
of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost. Virgin Birth - Presbyterians believe that Jesus'
birth was miraculous. |
|Ministry and Worship The creeds of Presbyterians emphasize active participation for all of its members.
|The ministry is the membership
of the church, not a special group set apart from the rest. It includes the ministers, elders, deacons and all of the members.
Some are chosen to provide Direction and Leadership for the community of worshipers. Some are chosen to perform the different
aspects of the Church's function, such as preaching, teaching, charity, and business. |
|Thoughtful reading and interpretation
of scripture are the essentials of worship. Presbyterians follow a stated although not strict liturgy in their church services.
The liturgy is designed to include the entire congregation in worship, just as the ministry potentially includes all members.
Formal church services, in keeping with the democratic foundation of the church, may vary from one congregation to another.
|Effective Church Member:|
|Maintaining Christian Habits
- such as regular church attendance, Bible reading, prayer and participation in church activities
and services. Setting a Worthy Example - for the world, as a person who strives to be more
worthy of Christ. Giving Regularly - of the time, money, and abilities given to one by God.
Becoming Informed - about Christian work around the world, and supporting this work. |