Presbuteros, the Greek word meaning elder, is used seventy-two times in the New Testament. It provides the name for the Presbyterian family of churches, which includes reformed churches of the world. Both Presbyterian and reformed are synonymous with churches of Calvinist tradition.
In America, the first presbytery was organized in 1706, the first synod in 1717; the first General Assembly was held in 1798. Today's Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) was created by the 1983 reunion of the two main branches of Presbyterian in America, separated since the Civil War: the Presbyterian Church in the U.S. and the United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. The latter had been created by the union of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. and the United Presbyterian Church of North America in 1958.
The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is distinctly a confessional and a connectional church, distinguished by the representation of elders - laymen and laywomen - in its government. The church has a membership of 2,313,662 in all fifty states and Puerto Rico. Presently there are 10,960 congregations, 21,312 ordained ministry, and 97,352 active elders.
WE BELIEVE in the Great Ends of the Church, as set forth in our Book of Order: "the proclamation of the Gospel for the salvation of humankind; the shelter, nurture, and spiritual fellowship of the children of God; the maintenance of divine worship; the preservation of the truth; the promotion of social righteousness; and the exhibition of the Kingdom of Heaven to the world."
WE BELIEVE in a theology of mission, as expressed in the Westminster Confession of Faith: "... Christ hath commissioned his Church to go into all the world and to make disciples of all nations. All believers are therefore under obligation ... to contribute by their prayers, gifts, and personal efforts to the extension of the Kingdom of Christ throughout the whole earth."
* This article originally published by the PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH (U.S.A.) Mission Education and Promotion, 100 Witherspoon Street, Louisville, KY 40202-1396. PDS 70-612-06-950, A ministry of the General Assembly Council.