More About Presbyterians
Presbyterians in the twenty-first century have a vision of ministry that is vibrant and inviting and reflects the love and justice of Jesus Christ. The denomination has set four mission priorities for the next phase of our life as the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.):
Evangelism and Witness – We are called to invite all people of faith, repentance, and the abundant life of God in Jesus Christ, to encourage congregations in joyfully sharing the gospel, and through the power of the Holy Spirit to grow in membership and discipleship.
Justice and Compassion – We are called to address wrongs in every aspect of life and the whole of creation, intentionally working with and on behalf of poor, oppressed, and disadvantaged people as did Jesus Christ, even at risk to our corporate and personal lives.
Spirituality and Discipleship- We are called to deeper discipleship through Scripture, worship, prayer, study, stewardship, and service, and to rely on the Holy Spirit to mold our lives more and more into the likeness of Jesus Christ.
Leadership and Vocation – We are called to lead by Jesus Christ’s example, to identify spiritual gifts, and to equip and support Christians of all ages for faithful and effective servant leadership in all parts of the body of Christ.
Presbuteros, the Greek word meaning elder, is used seventy-two times in the New Testament. It provided the name for the Presbyterian family of churches, which includes the Reformed churches of the world. Both Presbyterian and Reformed are synonymous with churches of the Calvinist tradition.
In America, the first presbytery was organized in 1706, the first synod in 1717; the first General Assembly was held in 1789. Today’s Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) was created by the 1983 reunion of the two main branches of Presbyterians 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. At the end of 2005 (our most recent data), there were 10,960 congregations and 2,313,662 members in all fifty states and Puerto Rico. There were a total of 21,312 ministers in 2005; 13,727 active and 7,585 retired. Of active ministers, approximately 29 percent are female (4,031).
Organization Of The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has about 11,000 congregations which are organized into 173 presbyteries (district governing bodies) and 16 synods (regional governing bodies). The local church is governed through its Session. The denomination is governed through the Office of the General Assembly.
The Session of a local church consists of Elders, who are members elected by the congregation and ordained for service. Elders serve a three year term and may be re-elected for another three year term. The Moderator of Session is the pastor. The Session meets regularly and oversees the spiritual life and business of the church.
A Presbytery is the local governing body of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), consisting of presbyters (that is, elders and ministers) of local congregations. Our Presbytery is the Presbytery of Monmouth and is comprised of churches in Ocean and Monmouth Counties.
A Synod is a regional governing body for coordinating resources. Our synod is the Synod of the Northeast with headquarters in Albany, NY.
The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has its national office, the Office of the General Assembly, in Louisville, Kentucky. The Office of the General Assembly is the ecclesiastical arm of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). The OGA staff carries out the directives assigned to the Clerk by the General Assembly, the denomination’s highest governing body.
The General Assembly consists of ministers and lay people elected every two years to a meeting that reviews the work of synods, resolves controversies in the church, is responsible for matters of common concern for the whole church, and serves as a symbol of unity for the church. A Moderator of the General Assembly is also elected every two years to preside over the plenary sessions. The Moderator can be a minister or lay person and serves a two year term promoting the church’s mission.
The Constitution of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
The Constitution of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) consists of several parts. The first volume is the Book of Confessions, the second (consisting of the Form of Government, Directory for Worship, and Rules of Discipline) is called the Book of Order. The Book of Confessions contains historical statements of what we as a church believe. The Book of Order is Part II of the Constitution of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). This document contains the Form of Government, Directory for Worship, Rules of Discipline, and the Formula of Agreement.