3 Presbyterian Church

Presbyterian Church

   The Presbyterian Church (USA) was formed in 1983 by a merger of the United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. and the Presbyterian Church in the United States, thus healing a breach that had opened in the years prior to the American Civil War. Over the years since the Civil War, the United Presbyterian Church had participated in several mergers, each of which brought in a scattered segment. Included in its predecessor bodies are the first Presbyterian synods founded in what is now the United States.
   Presbyterians, who constituted the largest segment of the Puritan movement in Great Britain, began to move to the American colonies in the 17th century, especially after the fall of the Commonwealth (1648-60) and the restoration of Anglicanism in the Church of England. Most early congregations appeared in Connecticut, New York, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey. The first synod was formed in 1706. In the middle of the century, the movement was split for a time over the new revivalism as practiced by George White-field and Jonathan Edwards.
   Early in the 19th century, the supporters of revivalism and the new camp meetings founded the Cumberland Presbyterian Church. The nonre-vivalist majority of British Presbyterians persisted as the Presbyterian Church U.S.A. In 1906, most of the Cumberland Presbyterians reunited with the Presbyterian Church U.S.A.
   Scottish Presbyterians, mostly from the factions that had split away from the established Church of Scotland, drifted into the American colonies in the middle of the 18th century. Different factions formed the Associate Presbyterian Church in 1753 and the Reformed Presbyterian Church in 1774. In 1782, these two churches merged to form the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, though one group stayed out of the merger and continued as the Associate Presbyterian Church. In 1822, the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church split into two factions, one in the north and one in the southern part of the country. In 1858, the continuing Associate Presbyterian Church and the northern faction of the Associate Reformed Church merged to constitute the United Presbyterian Church of North America.
   In 1958, the main body of Scottish Presbyterians, the United Presbyterian Church of North America, and the main body of British Presbyterians merged to form the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. In 1983, that church, with its strength in the northern states, would merge with the Presbyterian Church in the U.S., primarily the southern church, to form the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
   During the early part of the 19th century, Presbyterians made common cause with Congrega-tionalists on the American frontier, and in 1801 the two groups approved a plan of union to cut down on competition. After 1810, the two groups also cooperated in foreign missionary fields by their mutual support of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions. That cooperation lasted until 1870, when the Presbyterians decided to create their own mission board. Mission churches created around the world that have matured into autonomous churches now operate in a partnership relationship with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
   in 1967, the United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. caused considerable controversy when it adopted a new confession of faith. The controversy was reminiscent of the Fundamentalist controversy that shook the Presbyterians in the 1920s and 1930s. However, the church then published a new book of confessions that contained the Apostles' Creed, the Nicene Creed, several Reformed confessions, the Westminster documents, and the new confession of 1967. The adoption of such a broad confessional base communicated the fact that the church sees the Christian tradition in general and the Reformed tradition in particular as a living tradition to be understood in the light of both history and the contemporary situation.
   The Presbyterian Church (USA) has its headquarters in Louisville, Kentucky The church is organized on a presbyterial model. Its highest legislative body is the general assembly. Congregations are grouped into presbyteries and synods across the country. In 2000, it reported 2.5 million members. The church supports a number of colleges and theological seminaries. Women have been accepted into the ministry since 1956.
   The Presbyterian Church (USA) is ecumenically oriented and is a member of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches and the World Council of Churches.
   Further reading:
   ■ Randall Balmer and John R. Fitzmier, The Presbyterians (Westport, Conn.: Praeger, 1994)
   ■ Wallace N. Jamison, The United Presbyterian Story (Pittsburgh, Pa.: Geneva Press, 1958)
   ■ Park Hays Miller, Why I Am a Presbyterian (New York: Thomas Nelson & Sons, 1956)
   ■ William J. Weston, Presbyterian Pluralism: Competition in a Protestant House (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1997).

Encyclopedia of Protestantism. . 2005.

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