What we believe
Followers of Jesus Christ have always called themselves Christians, at least ever since the believers in a place called Antioch (Acts 11:26) were designated as such. That label has stuck with the whole body of believers throughout history and has remained the most inclusive designation for the whole church. To be a Christian meant from the very beginning that a person belonged to a community of faith.
While Presbyterians may take immense pride in their understanding and application of the Christian faith, it is hard to find many Presbyterians who arrogantly assume we have a corner on truth. We delight in our relationships with Catholics, Anglicans, United Church, Lutherans, Baptists, Pentecostals and we are eager in the diverse world in which we find ourselves to build on strong relationships with Judaism and other faiths, and to learn from each other. We readily acknowledge that God has a big tent and we like it that way.
Like other Christians, Presbyterians believe in:
- God: Creator of the universe;
- Christ: the Incarnation of God on earth;
- The Holy Spirit: the presence of God in the world and in the believer;
- That God exists in the Trinity of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit;
- The Church: a universal company of Christ’s followers;
- Forgiveness of sin: made possible by the reconciling death of Christ;
- Life everlasting: shown by the resurrection of Jesus;
- The Bible: the inspired word of God.
What is especially distinctive about Presbyterians is how we organize our churches. From the Greek word for “elder”, presbyteros, came the name for Presbyterians, “those ruled by elders”. Presbyterian pioneers considered the word “elder” a synonym for the word “bishop,” a word of importance for Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, Methodist Christians, among others, who are organized in a hierarchical structure.
A Presbyterian church is overseen at a local level by its group of elders, called a Session who meet regularly to decide on church business. There are two kinds of elders in the Presbyterian Church, the ruling elders and the teaching elders trained for the proclamation of the Word and the administration of the Sacraments. Elders of both kinds form a presbytery, a court governing the life of congregations in a local area. Representatives from various presbyteries comprise a synod, a regional court. And representatives from all presbyteries in the denomination gather for a General Assembly at the national level.