Back to OWR Homepage Back to Christianity Flowchart

Back to
Continental European Protestantism

Presbyterian Church

Doctrines The doctrines of the Presbyterian Church are based upon the theology of the reformed tradition. Reformed theology particularly emphasises the absolute supremacy of God and the purpose of humanity to glorify God. The reformed tradition regards certain people as predestined for salvation (the elect) and the rest of humanity as predestined for damnation (the reprobate). The church rejects the place of bishops or priests. Authority is held by a body of elected elders, from whom ministers are chosen.

History The Presbyterian Church traces its origins back to the transplantation of Calvinist theology into England and Scotland. Calvinism was brought to Scotland by George Wishart (1513?-1546) and was established later in the century by the work of John Knox. (See Church of Scotland.) In England reformed theology became strong under the reign of Edward VI (r.1547-1553). The Thirty Nine Articles (the statement of belief of The Church of England) have been influenced by reformed theology. From England and Scotland reformed theology was transplanted into Ireland. During the 17th century the English government sought to control the Irish by planting Scottish and English communities in northern Ireland, and with them came the Presbyterian church. Today the Presbyterian church is the largest church in Northern Ireland.
Calvinism was brought to North America in the 17th century by English Puritans seeking to escape persecution I England and by Dutch Calvinists, who had established a colony in New York (at the time called New Amsterdam ). To their numbers were added Scotch-Irish Presbyterians who first arrived in North America in 1717. Such was the extent of this emigration that by 1776 there were over 250,000 Scotch-Irish Presbyterians in North America.
In 1746 the Presbyterians founded the college that became Princeton University. The church became divided during the American Civil war. Those in the north affiliated with the United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A.; those in the South affiliated with the Presbyterian Church in the United States. These two bodies merged in 1983 into a single organisation, the Presbyterian Church of the U.S.A. This is the largest Presbyterian grouping in the United States. Other American Presbyterian churches include: the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, the Presbyterian Church in America and the Cumberland Presbyterian Church.

Symbols  - The logo of the Presbyterian Church USA is the Celtic cross with flames on either side. The upper part of the cross is formed by a dove descending to earth. The logo of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church is composed of a yellow border within which is a blue clover above which is a red cross on a white background. [The Presbyterian Church in America.] The logo of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church consists of a blue shield on which is a gold Celtic Cross. A circle (or nimbus) surrounds the top of the cross, and a dove is hovering over the cross. The shield represents faith in God; the cross represents the sacrificial death of Christ; the circle is a symbol of eternity; and the dove indicates the presence of the Holy Spirit.

Adherents There are some 50 million Presbyterians in many countries throughout the world. In 1996 the Presbyterian Church U.S.A. had a membership of 2,631,446 ( In 1995 the Cumberland Presbyterian Church had a total membership of 87,896 ( The Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church has about 34,000 members in the United States ( The Presbyterian Church in America had a total membership of 271,263 in 1995 (

Main Centre
 The headquarters of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church are: 1978 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee 38104, U.S.A.