What Do Presbyterians Believe?
Presbyterians are distinctive from other denominations 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.
Theology is a way of thinking about God and God’s relation to the world. Reformed theology evolved during the 16th century religious movement known as the Protestant Reformation. It emphasizes God's supremacy over everything and humanity’s chief purpose as being to glorify and enjoy God forever.
In its confessions, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) expresses the faith of the Reformed tradition. Central to this tradition is the affirmation of 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)
Who are Presbyterians?
Presbyterians are SERVING PEOPLE
The church is a missionary society whose purpose is to share the love of God in Jesus Christ in word and deed and with all the world. Witnessing to the good news of Jesus Christ throughout the world, Presbyterians engage in mission activities, seek to alleviate hunger, foster self-development, respond to disasters, support mission works, preach the gospel, heal the sick and educate new generations for the future. In partnership with more than 165 churches and Christian organizations around the world, the missionary efforts of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) involve nearly 300 volunteers and compensated personnel.
A host of other dedicated workers includes mission specialists and contract associates, Presbyterian Church members working for overseas employers recognized as having strategic roles with missionary intent, binational servants who advocate the insights of one culture while living in another and overseas Christians enabled by Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) funds and ecumenical planning to go in mission with congregations and presbyteries in the United States.
Presbyterians are CARING PEOPLE
Besides annual receipts from congregations and income from endowments, additional special funds are received each year that make particular ministries possible. These include funds received through special church-wide offerings: One Great Hour of Sharing which provides disaster assistance, feeds the hungry and helps people development; Christmas Joy Offering which supports racial ethnic schools and assistance programs of the Board of Pensions; Peacemaking Offering to support peace education and peacemaking efforts throughout the world; and Pentecost Offering to support ministries with youth and young adults and children at risk.
Presbyterians are LOOKING TOWARD the FUTURE
Presbyterians in the 21st century have a vision of ministry that is vibrant and inviting and reflects the love and justice of Jesus Christ. The denomination has set four mission priorities for the next phase of our life as the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.):
Evangelism and Witness — We are called to invite all people to faith, repentance and the abundant life of God in Jesus Christ, to encourage congregations in joyfully sharing the gospel and through the power of the Holy Spirit to grow in membership and discipleship.
Justice and Compassion — We are called to address wrongs in every aspect of life and the whole of creation, intentionally working with and on behalf of poor, oppressed and disadvantaged people as did Jesus Christ, even at risk to our corporate and personal lives.
Spirituality and Discipleship — We are called to deeper discipleship through Scripture, worship, prayer, study, stewardship and service and to rely on the Holy Spirit to mold our lives more and more into the likeness of Jesus Christ.
Leadership and Vocation — We are called to lead by Jesus Christ’s example, to identify spiritual gifts and to equip and support Christians of all ages for faithful and effective servant leadership in all parts of the body of Christ.
With the knowledge that in life and death we belong to God, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) continues the journey with hope and confidence as we move toward a third century of witness and service to a world in need of love.