About Presbyterians: “They make a lot of noise”
In 1984, Ben Weir, Presbyterian mission worker in Beruit, Lebanon, was kidnapped by Islamic Jihad Shiites, while walking with his wife on city streets. After this happened, An American ambassador who was the target of repeated requests to facilitate his freedom was heard to ask, Who are these Presbyterians? He was told they were a small Protestant denomination, whereupon he retorted, "They may be small, but they make a lot of noise!" (Hostage Bound, Hostage Free, by
A Little Presbyterian History
From the PC (USA) Web Site
A general guide to facts about the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
Presbyterians trace their history to the 16th century and the Protestant Reformation. Our heritage, and much of what we believe, began with John Calvin (1509-1564), whose writings crystallized much of the Reformed thinking that came before him.
Calvin did much of his writing from Geneva, Switzerland. From there, the Reformed movement spread to other parts of Europe and the British Isles. John Knox, a Scotsman who studied with Calvin in Geneva, Switzerland, took Calvin’s teachings back to Scotland.
Presbyterians in the United States
Many of the early Presbyterians in America came from England, Scotland, and Ireland. The Rev. Francis Makemie, who arrived in the United States from Ireland in 1683, helped to organize the first American Presbytery at Philadelphia in 1706. In 1726, the Rev. William Tennent founded a ministerial “log college” in Pennsylvania. The first General Assembly was held in the Philadelphia in 1789. It was convened by the Rev. John Witherspoon, the only minister to sign the Declaration of Independence.
Portions of the Presbyterian church in the United States have separated from the main body, and some parts have reunited, several times. The greatest division occurred in 1861 during the American Civil War. The two branches created by that division were reunited in 1983 to form the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A), currently the largest Presbyterian group in this country.
The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), with denominational offices in Louisville, Kentucky, has approximately 2.3 million members, more than 10,000 congregations and 14,000 ordained and active ministers.
What is distinctive about the Presbyterian Church?
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.
Presbyterian theological beliefs
Some of the principles articulated by John Calvin remain at the core of Presbyterian beliefs. Among these are the sovereignty of God, the authority of the Scripture, justification by grace through faith and the priesthood of all believers. What they mean is that God is the supreme authority throughout the universe. Our knowledge of God and God’s purpose for humanity comes from the Bible, particularly what is revealed in the New Testament through the life of Jesus Christ. Our salvation (justification) through Jesus is God’s generous gift to us and not the result of our own accomplishments. It is everyone’s job -- ministers and lay people alike -- to share this Good News with the whole world. That is also why the Presbyterian church is governed at all levels by a combination of clergy and laity, men and women alike.