The Presbyterian (or “Reformed”) branch of the Christian family dates to the early 1500’s when the Reformation was sweeping across Europe. Martin Luther had affixed his 95 Theses to the church door in Wittenberg. England’s Henry VIII had forced Catholic priests to swear fealty to him or to leave his island. In Geneva, attorney John Calvin was teaching, among other things, that “once saved, always saved” (perseverance of the saints), that every area of human life was tainted at least a little by sin AND that we are incapable of saving ourselves (total depravity), and that authority should be wielded by groups, not by individuals. Soon after, John Knox brought the Presbyterian form of government to Scotland’s churches.

The word “Presbyterian” comes from the Greek word for elder. Ours is government by elders. Each local congregation elects a board of elders – the session. A session holds the authority that the Roman Catholic Church vests in its priests. The church’s pastor, who is session’s moderator, has significant influence but limited authority – one vote and no veto.

At the local level the congregation: 1) decides to sell, encumber, or buy real property; 2) decides whether to be bi- or unicameral; 3) elects officers; 4) calls pastors; and 5) determines the remuneration of its called pastor(s). The session has authority over all other matters.

The Presbyterian Church USA, of which FPC Monroe is a part, consists of approximately 2.2 million members and 11,000 congregations.

Each session sends commissioners to periodic meetings of one of 173 PCUSA presbyteries, regional bodies that correspond to Roman Catholic dioceses. (FPC Monroe is a member of the Presbytery of Greater Atlanta.) Fifty percent of a presbytery’s commissioners are clergy, and 50% are laypeople. Together they work as a “corporate” bishop: making decisions about clergy (approving ordinations, calls to churches, dissolutions of call), overseeing and assisting the work of its clergy and congregations, engaging in mission work, etc.

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With other Christians, Presbyterians have traditionally believed that:

  • The one God is eternally triune – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
  • The one God is sovereign, ruling over all things, seen and unseen.
  • The one God is immortal, omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, spirit, holy, unfathomable love, just, wise, merciful, a doer of miracles and an answerer of prayer.
  • Jesus, who is God the Son, left heaven to come to Earth, where he was born of a virgin.
  • Jesus died on the Cross for our sins, and rose bodily from the grave on the third day.
  • Jesus will return, visibly, at the end of the age
  • God the Holy Spirit brings us to repentance and makes us new.

 

With other Protestants, Presbyterians believe that:

  • Scripture is God’s trustworthy and authoritative Word.
  • Salvation is by faith in Christ Jesus, not by works.
  • There are two sacraments: baptism and communion.

 

It is Presbyterian Church USA practice to:

  • Express our faith in creeds and confessions.
  • Ordain men and women to all church offices.
  • Baptize believers and their children.
  • Invite all baptized believers to share communion with us.
  • Disallow private celebrations of the sacraments.
  • Expect one’s faith to engage one’s head and heart.
  • Maintain confidentiality in giving.
  • Require college and seminary training for our clergy.
  • Welcome opportunities to worship, serve and fellowship with Christians of "all stripes."