Presbyterian - Being Reformed
In a day and age where churches are fast shedding any ties to the past (or even hints of ties to the past), we believe that our connection to the past is a great inheritance . In an ever shifting world it gives us a sense of rootedness and of identity. We would like others to share in this wealth.
So what is unique about being a Presbyterian?
When it comes it to belief, we go by the collective name of Reformed.
- We have emphasized the majesty and mystery of God. There has always been the temptation to make God small and domesticated, but a God like that does not deserve to be worshiped. But God's awesome mystery and presence moves us to worship.
- We have emphasized that God actually reveals himself so that we can know and experience him. The chief place where this has taken place is in the person of Jesus Christ , for he was God in the flesh.
- We find out about Jesus and the rest of God's actions in the Scriptures as the Holy Spirit helps us to understand them. Therefore, we have placed a high priority on studying and understanding them. All Presbyterian ministers have to study ancient Greek and Hebrew, which were the original languages of the Bible.
- We emphasize grace. Grace means that God reaches out to us so that we can reach out to him. It means that God is always moving toward us and invites us to respond to him in faith.
- Since this grace is for the whole world, Presbyterians believe that we should be engaged with the world in all spheres: political, artistic, educational, economic, and otherwise. We do not see the world as split between the sacred and the secular, because Jesus is sovereign over everything.
As to organization . . .
- Presbyterians are connectional. This church does not exist in isolation from other churches, as if we did not need anyone else or had all the answers. We are connected with them, partnering in mission and ministry.
- We believe in representation. Elders are elected from the congregation and they lead the church for three-year terms. They in turn represent the congregation at the regional level (which is called the presbytery) and the national level (General Assembly). There is a balance of powers at all levels much like in our American civic government.
- Presbyterians are grass-roots. We have no bishops or superintendents that make decisions for us. The role of the Presbytery to facilitate mission and help churches when they get into trouble.
- We are procedural We have a Form of Government that outlines how we govern ourselves and by what principals we live. There is great wisdom embodied in the document. We try to live by those principals so that everything is done "decently and in order."
- We are confessional. This means that we have written "confessions" which state what we believe. This confessions come from different Christians who have lived over the last two thousand years. They are collected in the Book of Confessions.
In short, we are Presbyterian because there is no reason to invent the wheel. So many wise and knowledgeable men and women have walked this ground before us that it would be sheer folly (not to mention a whole lot of unnecessary work) to start from scratch.
Presbyterians trace their history to the 16th century and the Protestant Reformation. Our heritage, and much of what we believe, began with the French lawyer John Calvin (1509-1564), whose writings crystallized much of the Reformed thinking that came before him.
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