What Presbyterians Believe
The Presbyterian denomination shares many beliefs with other protestant denominations in that we affirm the Scriptures to be the written Word of God and the Trinitarian understanding of God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. But it is distinctive in two major ways.
The first distinction is in a pattern of religious thought known as Reformed theology, which emphasizes God's sovereignty over everything. Presbyterians also distinguish themselves from other denominations by doctrine, institutional organization and worship. Presbyterians place great importance upon education and life-long learning that encourages disciples to put faith into practice.
The second distinction is in a form of government that stresses the active, representational leadership of both ministers and church members. Presbyterian government is administered by elected representatives of the congregation called elders. The connectivity of the Presbyterian government is from the congregation up, rather than from the top down. In essence this system of church government is representative, constitutional and relational.
The Reformed faith has essential beliefs that are reflected in our creeds and confessions. The first two beliefs are shared with Christians in all times and in all places:
- Trinity - God the Father, who is over us, God the Son, who is with us and for us, and God the Holy Spirit, who is in us and among us.
- Incarnation - In Jesus Christ, the Word of God became flesh and dwelt among us. In Jesus Christ, the Triune God is revealed.
The next two are shared with those who took part in the Reformation of the Church in the 16th century in their re-affirmation of God's grace in Jesus Christ as revealed in Scripture:
- Salvation by grace through faith.
- Scripture is the Word of God, and our only rule of faith and obedience.
The remaining six beliefs form a distinctive profile of Reformed faith:
- Sovereignty and Providence of God
- The election of the people of God for service as well as for salvation.
- God's involvement in the covenant community of God's people.
- A faithful stewardship of ourselves and God’s creation.
- The recognition of the human sin of idolatry, tyranny, and disobedience.
- The commitment of believers to justice, liberation, and obedience.
The mission of the Church is expressed in these Six Great Ends:
- The proclamation of the Gospel for the salvation of mankind.
- The shelter, nurture and spiritual fellowship of the children of God.
- The maintenance of divine worship.
- The preservation of the Truth.
- The promotion of social righteousness.
- The exhibition of the Kingdom of Heaven to the world.
The Presbyterian Church has two sacraments: Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, which are understood to be instituted by God and commended by Christ. Sacraments are signs of the real presence and power of Christ in the Church and symbols of God’s action.
In Baptism, the Holy Spirit binds the Church in covenant to its Lord. Baptism is the sign and seal of God’s grace and covenant in Christ and is received only once. Baptism of infants and children witnesses to the truth that God’s love claims people before they are able to respond in faith as the congregation commits itself to nurture the child in faith.
The Lord’s Supper is the sign and seal of eating and drinking in communion with the crucified and risen Lord. The invitation to the Lord’s Supper is extended to all who have been baptized, remembering that access to the Table is not a right conferred upon the worthy, but a privilege given to the undeserving who come in faith, repentance, and love.
In Life and death we belong to God.
Through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,
the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit,
we trust in the one true God, the Holy One of Israel,
whom alone we worship and serve.
From the Brief Statement of Faith