As a member church of the Presbyterian Church (USA), we adhere to the beliefs and participate in the life of that historic denomination. The following information is drawn from the PCUSA Book of Order, Book of Confessions, and the denominational website (pcusa.org) to help you get acquainted with us.
“In gratitude to God,
empowered by the Spirit,
we strive to serve Christ in our daily tasks and to live holy and joyful lives,
even as we watch for God’s new heaven and new earth,
praying, ‘Come, Lord Jesus.’”
—From “A Brief Statement of Faith”
At the core of Presbyterian identity is a secure hope in the grace of God in Jesus Christ, a hope that, by the power of the Holy Spirit, empowers us to live lives of gratitude:
“In affirming with the earliest Christians that Jesus is Lord,
the Church confesses that he is its hope,
and that the Church, as Christ’s body,
is bound to his authority and thus free to live
in the lively, joyous reality of the grace of God.”
—From “The Book of Order (F-1.020)
The name Presbyterian comes from the Greek term in the New Testament for elder (presbyteros). The Presbyterian movement began among Protestants in the 16th and 17th centuries and centered on what form of church government would be appropriate. Some Reformers thought the church should be governed by bishops and became the Episcopalian party; some thought each congregation should be autonomous and they became the Congregationalist party; and some Reformers thought churches should be connected to each other by councils led by elected elders and they became the Presbyterian party.
In North America the first presbytery was organized in 1706. The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is distinctly a confessional and a connectional church, distinguished by the representation of both clergy and laity in its government. The church has a membership of 1.6 million, with nearly 10 thousand congregations and worshiping communities.
What is unique about the Presbyterian Church?
Presbyterians are distinctive in two major ways.
They adhere to a pattern of religious thought known as Reformed theology and a form of government that stresses the active, representational leadership of both ministers and church members.
What are human beings created to do? Presbyterians affirm that we human beings are to “know God and enjoy Him forever.”
In its confessions, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) emphasizes the majesty, holiness and providence of God who creates, sustains, rules and redeems the world in the freedom of sovereign righteousness and love. Related to this central affirmation of God’s sovereignty are other great themes of the Reformed tradition:
• The election of the people of God for service as well as for salvation.
• Covenant life marked by a disciplined concern for order in the church according to the Word of God.
• A faithful stewardship that shuns ostentation and seeks proper use of the gifts of God’s creation.
• The recognition of the human tendency to idolatry and tyranny, which calls the people of God to work for the transformation of society by seeking justice and living in obedience to the Word of God. (Book of Order, G-2.0500)
Elders are chosen by the members of the congregation. Together with ministers of the Word and Sacrament, they exercise leadership, government, and discipline and have responsibilities for the life of a particular church as well as the church at large, including ecumenical relationships. The body of elders elected to govern a particular congregation is called a session.
What is Presbyterian worship like?
Worship in a Presbyterian congregation is determined by the pastor and the session, the church’s governing body. It generally includes prayer, music, Bible reading and a sermon based upon Scripture, prayers of intercession, personal response/offering, and the Sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper.
Prayer. Prayer is at the heart of worship. It is a gift from God, who desires dialogue and relationship with us. It is a posture of faith and a way of living in the world. Prayer is also the primary way in which we participate in worship. Christian prayer is offered through Jesus Christ and empowered by the Holy Spirit. Faithful prayer is shaped by God’s Word in Scripture and inspires us to join God’s work in the world.
Music. “The singing of psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs is a vital and ancient form of prayer. Singing engages the whole person, and helps to unite the body of Christ in common worship. The congregation itself is the church’s primary choir; the purpose of rehearsed choirs and other musicians is to lead and support the congregation in the singing of prayer. Music in worship is always to be an offering to God, not merely an artistic display, source of entertainment, or cover for silence.” (W-2.0202).
Scripture. “The Scriptures bear witness to the Word of God, revealed most fully in Jesus Christ, the Word who ‘became flesh and lived among us'." (John 1:14) Where the Word is read and proclaimed, Jesus Christ the living Word is present by the power of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, reading, hearing, preaching, and affirming the Word are central to Christian worship and essential to the Service for the Lord’s Day.
Preaching. “A sermon, based on the Scripture(s) read in worship, proclaims the good news of the risen Lord and presents the gift and calling of the gospel. Through the sermon, we encounter Jesus Christ in God’s Word, are equipped to follow him more faithfully, and are inspired to proclaim the gospel to others through our words and deeds." (W-3.0305)
Intercession. In response to the Word, we pray for the world God so loves — joining Christ’s own ministry of intercession and the sighs of the Spirit, too deep for words. These prayers are not the work of a single leader, but an act of the whole congregation as Christ’s royal priesthood. We affirm our participation in the prayer through our ‘amen’ and other responses.” (W-3.0308)
Offering. “Christian life is an offering of one’s self to God. In the Lord’s Supper we are presented with the costly self-offering of Jesus Christ for the life of the world. As those who have been claimed and set free by his grace, we respond with gratitude, offering him our lives, our spiritual gifts, and our material goods." Every service of worship includes an opportunity to respond to Christ’s call to discipleship through self-offering. The gifts we offer express our stewardship of creation, demonstrate our care for one another, support the ministries of the church, and provide for the needs of the poor. (W-3.0411)
Sacraments. The Sacraments are the Word of God enacted and sealed in the life of the Church, the body of Christ. They are gracious acts of God, by which Christ Jesus offers his life to us in the power of the Holy Spirit. They are also human acts of gratitude, by which we offer our lives to God in love and service. The Sacraments are both physical signs and spiritual gifts, including words and actions, surrounded by prayer, in the context of the Church’s common worship.
The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has two sacraments, Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.
Baptism. “Baptism is the sign and seal of our incorporation into Jesus Christ. In his own baptism, Jesus identified himself with sinners—yet God claimed him as a beloved Son and sent the Holy Spirit to anoint him for service. In his ministry, Jesus offered the gift of living water. Through the baptism of his suffering and death, Jesus set us free from the power of sin forever. After he rose from the dead, Jesus commissioned his followers to go and make disciples, baptizing them and teaching them to obey his commands. The disciples were empowered by the outpouring of the Spirit to continue Jesus’ mission and ministry, inviting others to join this new way of life in Christ. As Paul wrote, through the gift of Baptism we are ‘dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus’ (Rom. 6:11).” (W-3.0402)
“Baptism enacts and seals what the Word proclaims: God’s redeeming grace offered to all people. Baptism is at once God’s gift of grace, God’s means of grace, and God’s call to respond to that grace. Through Baptism, Jesus Christ calls us to repentance, faithfulness, and discipleship. Through Baptism, the Holy Spirit gives the Church its identity and commissions the Church for service in the world.” (W-3.0402)
“As there is one body, there is one Baptism. The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) recognizes all baptisms by other Christian churches that are administered with water and performed in the name of the triune God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” (W-3.0402)
“Both believers and their children are included in God’s covenant love. The baptism of believers witnesses to the truth that God’s gift of grace calls for our grateful response. The baptism of our young children witnesses to the truth that God claims people in love even before they are able to respond in faith. These two forms of witness are one and the same Sacrament.” (W-3.0402)
Lord’s Supper. “The Lord’s Supper (or Eucharist) is the sign and seal of our communion with the crucified and risen Lord. Jesus shared meals with his followers throughout his earthly life and ministry—common suppers, miraculous feasts, and the covenant commemorations of the people of God. Jesus spoke of himself as the bread of life, and the true vine, in whom we are branches. On the night before his death, Jesus shared bread and wine with his disciples. He spoke of the bread and wine as his body and blood, signs of the new covenant and told the disciples to remember him by keeping this feast. On the day of his resurrection, Jesus made himself known to his disciples in the breaking of the bread. The disciples continued to devote themselves to the apostles’ teaching, fellowship, prayers, and the common meal. As Paul wrote, when we share the bread and cup in Jesus’ name, ‘we who are many are one body’ (1 Cor. 10:17).” (W-3.0409)
“The Lord’s Supper enacts and seals what the Word proclaims: God’s sustaining grace offered to all people. The Lord’s Supper is at once God’s gift of grace, God’s means of grace, and God’s call to respond to that grace. Through the Lord’s Supper, Jesus Christ nourishes us in righteousness, faithfulness, and discipleship. Through the Lord’s Supper, the Holy Spirit renews the Church in its identity and sends the Church to mission in the world.” (W-3.0409)
“When we gather at the Lord’s Supper the Spirit draws us into Christ’s presence and unites with the Church in every time and place. We join with all the faithful in heaven and on earth in offering thanksgiving to the triune God. We reaffirm the promises of our baptism and recommit ourselves to love and serve God, one another, and our neighbors in the world.” (W-3.0409)
“The opportunity to eat and drink with Christ is not a right bestowed upon the worthy, but a privilege given to the undeserving who come in faith, repentance, and love. All who come to the table are offered the bread and cup, regardless of their age or understanding." If some of those who come have not yet been baptized, an invitation to baptismal preparation and Baptism is graciously extended.
More information about Presbyterian (USA) beliefs and practices, including its stances on important social issues of the day, can be found on the denominational website: Social Issues