“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”
Presbuteros, the Greek word meaning “elder,” is used 72 times in the New Testament. It provided the name for the Presbyterian family of churches, which includes the Reformed churches of the world. Both Presbyterian and Reformed are synonymous with churches of the Calvinist tradition.
In America the first presbytery was organized in 1706, the first synod in 1717; the first General Assembly was held in 1789. Today’s Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) was created by the 1983 reunion of the two main branches of Presbyterians in America separated since the Civil War — the Presbyterian Church in the U.S. and the United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. The latter had been created by the union of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. and the United Presbyterian Church of North America in 1958.
The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is distinctly a confessional and a connectional church, distinguished by the representation of elders — laymen and laywomen — in its government. The church has a membership of 2.3 million in all 50 states and Puerto Rico. Currently there are nearly 11 thousand congregations, more than 21,000 ordained ministers, 1,100 candidates for ministry and more than 94,000 elders.
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.
Points of Distinction
One of the places where the church has had the opportunity to live up to its proclamations for the equality of all persons is in the status that it gives women in its own life and work.