What’s a Presbyterian?

The short answer: Rebels and revolutionaries who like to dress up a little bit on Sunday morning.

The longer answer: Parkville Presbyterian is a member of the Presbyterian Church (USA), a national denomination which holds the wide majority of Presbyterians in the United States. Like other Presbyterians, we hold to the essential tenets of Reformed theology (more below) and a Presbyterian system of leading the church (more below). Our denomination is distinct from other Presbyterian groups in being a fully inclusive church that ordains both women and men to positions of leadership.

Reformed theology traces its roots back to John Calvin, a sixteenth-century pastor who transformed Geneva, Switzerland, helping its people break from the established church and maintain their identity in the face of opposition. Like other Protestant reformers of his time, Calvin emphasized the central nature of God’s Word and God’s grace. His theology also placed special emphasis on the sovereignty of God, our call to engage in civic affairs as people of faith, and the priesthood of all believers–the notion that we are all called to ministry and empowered with gifts for service to others.

Presbyterianism began to take shape when John Knox, a Scottish pastor and contemporary of Calvin, combined Reformed theology with a Presbyterian way of leading the church. Presbuteros is a Greek word meaning ‘elder,’ and Presbyterian means ‘rule by elders.’ Essentially, this means that unlike other churches, which are ruled by bishops, priests, or others on the ecclesiastical hierarchy, our churches are ruled by elected representatives.

If you think that sounds a bit like the governing system of the United States, you’re right. Many of the same Scots who became the first Presbyterians came to the early colonies to more freely practice their faith, and they had a hand in shaping the new U.S. government as it formed. The only minister to sign the Declaration of Independence was a Presbyterian named John Witherspoon, and many in the U.K. derisively dubbed the Revolutionary War as “a Presbyterian war.”

Today, we seek to continue the legacy of Calvin, Knox, Witherspoon, and others, by recognizing everyone’s gifts for ministry, respecting all voices, serving the world in a transformative way, and demonstrating the revolutionary power of God’s love.

If you’d like to be part of this movement, contact Pastor Steve to learn more.