Ours is a God-centered church. God rules. Our task, our privilege and our comfort are to accept God’s power and trust God’s purpose. In God’s will we find our peace. Because of this, Presbyterians are uniquely and persistently optimistic.
Presbyterians trace their history to the 16th century and the Protestant Reformation. Our heritage, and much of what we believe, comes from a French lawyer, John Calvin (1509-1554) whose writings crystalized much of the reformed thinking that came before him. The Reformed movement spread to other parts of Europe and the British Isles. Many of the early Presbyterians in America came from England, Scotland and Ireland. The first American Presbytery was organized in Philadelphia in 1706. The first General Assembly was convened in the same city in 1789. The First Assembly was convened by the Reverend John Witherspoon, the only minister to sign the Declaration of Independence.
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. We believe 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. The Presbyterian church is governed at all levels by a combination of clergy and laity, men and women alike.