Think. Serve. Worship. Belong.

What Presbyterians Believe

Rev. Dr. Fritz Ritsch, Pastor

It’s always good for us to review the particular beliefs that are the marks of being Presbyterian.
Here’s a brief overview.

We Presbyterians believe in the grace, love, and rule of God that are demonstrated through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We believe that the main purpose of human life is to “magnify God and to enjoy God forever” (Westminster Shorter Catechism Q. 1). We believe that Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection have made God’s grace available to anyone. We believe that we are called to lives that demonstrate that God’s love, justice, mercy, peace, and forgiveness have already taken root in the world.

Presbyterian means “governed by elders.” We have a representative government, somewhat like that of the United States. In fact, King George III called the American Revolution a “Presbyterian revolution”! It also means that our church is more than individual congregations—we are connected. When you join a Presbyterian congregation, you are also joining the whole church, including the “presbytery”, which is made up of the Presbyterian churches in your area.

Presbyterian also means something about what we believe. There is plenty of room within our church for individual differences, but as a whole, we are committed to what is called the REFORMED faith. Our motto is “The church reformed, always reforming.” That means we are always seeking to understand what the Bible is saying to us, so that our identity is shaped by a scriptural response to the challenges of the present times. As a great 20th Century theologian put it, we hold the Bible in one hand, and the newspaper (or iPhone!) in the other. Our beliefs are always being reshaped and renewed as we mature in our understanding.

Every few generations we try to put our beliefs into writing, in what is called a creed, or a confession, which is a statement of how we understand the Bible is speaking to us in the present day. These statements are sometimes amended or revised by vote of the whole church through the presbyteries
and the biennial Presbyterian Church (USA) General Assembly.

Our Presbyterian forebears shared a common belief in the greatness of God and a need for logical, educated, thinking people to continue a deep search for theological understanding. Presbyterians believe that the inner spiritual life of the individual is essential to faith but that it must be accompanied by a disciplined mind.

We also believe that “faith by itself, if it does not produce action, is dead” (James 2:16). You will find PC(USA) Presbyterians struggling with the tough issues of the day: injustice, inequality, racism, sexism, and poverty, just to name a few. These issues mattered to Jesus and the prophets–so they
matter to us!

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