What Presbyterians Believe
Fountain City Presbyterian Church is a congregation of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and a proud congregation of the Presbytery of East Tennessee. Presbyterians have a long and rich heritage, stretching all the way back to the Protestant reformation with theologians like Huldrych Zwingli, Heinrich Bullinger, John Calvin, and John Knox. Not only are there many Christian denominations throughout the world, there are also several varieties of Presbyterian churches. As a Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) congregation, what we believe as a church could be aptly summed up through the Brief Statement of Faith found in the Presbyterian Book of Confessions:
In life and in death we belong to God.
Through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,
the love of God,
and the communion of the Holy Spirit,
we trust in the one triune God, the Holy One of Israel,
whom alone we worship and serve.
We trust in Jesus Christ,
Fully human, fully God.
Jesus proclaimed the reign of God:
preaching good news to the poor
and release to the captives,
teaching by word and deed
and blessing the children,
healing the sick
and binding up the brokenhearted,
eating with outcasts,
and calling all to repent and believe the gospel.
Unjustly condemned for blasphemy and sedition,
Jesus was crucified,
suffering the depths of human pain
and giving his life for the sins of the world.
God raised this Jesus from the dead,
vindicating his sinless life,
breaking the power of sin and evil,
delivering us from death to life eternal.
We trust in God,
whom Jesus called Abba, Father.
In sovereign love God created the world good
and makes everyone equally in God’s image
male and female, of every race and people,
to live as one community.
But we rebel against God; we hide from our Creator.
Ignoring God’s commandments,
we violate the image of God in others and ourselves,
accept lies as truth,
exploit neighbor and nature, and threaten death to the planet entrusted to our care.
We deserve God’s condemnation.
Yet God acts with justice and mercy to redeem creation.
In everlasting love,
the God of Abraham and Sarah chose a covenant people
to bless all families of the earth.
Hearing their cry,
God delivered the children of Israel
from the house of bondage.
Loving us still,
God makes us heirs with Christ of the covenant.
Like a mother who will not forsake her nursing child,
like a father who runs to welcome the prodigal home,
God is faithful still.
We trust in God the Holy Spirit,
everywhere the giver and renewer of life.
The Spirit justifies us by grace through faith,
sets us free to accept ourselves and to love God and neighbor,
and binds us together with all believers
in the one body of Christ, the Church.
The same Spirit
who inspired the prophets and apostles
rules our faith and life in Christ through Scripture,
engages us through the Word proclaimed,
claims us in the waters of baptism,
feeds us with the bread of life and the cup of salvation,
and calls women and men to all ministries of the church.
In a broken and fearful world
the Spirit gives us courage
to pray without ceasing,
to witness among all peoples to Christ as Lord and Savior,
to unmask idolatries in Church and culture,
to hear the voices of peoples long silenced,
and to work with others for justice, freedom, and peace.
In gratitude to God, empowered by the Spirit,
we strive to serve Christ in our daily tasks
and to live holy and joyful lives,
even as we watch for God’s new heaven and new earth,
praying, “Come, Lord Jesus!”
With believers in every time and place,
we rejoice that nothing in life or in death
can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Reading this statement may help someone see the rich theology of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), our Judeo-Christian roots, the hope we find in God’s sovereignty, the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the power of the Holy Spirit, our commitment to Scripture, the gift and promise of our two sacraments, and our belief that all people can be called into church leadership. What do you see in this confession that speaks to you? This theology is woven into the fabric of FCPC, from the joy and majesty that one might feel at our worship services to the diverse composition of our church officers, we hope that you might appreciate the depth and breadth of our theology and how it guides us to strive to be a faithful church in Knoxville!
For more specific information about beliefs of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), check out our articles below from scholar Donald McKim:
Presbyterians believe that God exists and that God has been revealed to humanity. God is the creator of all things. God’s creative work is expressed all around us. But not everyone recognizes God’s activity and what God has done in this world. Presbyterians believe this nonrecognition is due to human sin. Humans need a revelation of God that will impact their lives! So God has reached out to the world to provide not only a general revelation—of what God has done, in the creation of the world and in nature and history—but also a special revelation, which is the Bible. The Bible is God’s self revelation, or God’s self communication. God revealed who God is to the people of Israel in the Old Testament (the Hebrew Scriptures) and supremely to the people of the church in the New Testament—in the person of Jesus Christ. The Bible is special revelation in that it conveys a knowledge of God that we would not have had through any other means and a knowledge of God that we cannot find in any other place. The Bible is called the Word of God. The Scriptures express who God is and what God does, as well as what God desires for the world and for humanity. The Bible is the expression of God’s will. It tells the story of God’s activities in the created world and with the people of God throughout the Old and New Testaments.
So Presbyterians believe in the authority of Scripture. It is to Scripture we turn as the place to hear God speak and read God’s Word. We believe God’s Holy Spirit inspired biblical writers to convey what God wanted conveyed so humans will know who God is and love and serve God the way God intends. We perceive the Bible to be the Word of God by the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. The Spirit gives us the gift of faith in Jesus Christ, who is known to us through the Scriptures, and the Spirit witnesses to us that the Bible is God’s special revelation, God’s Word—the means God uses to convey the knowledge of God and God’s will to us. This is why the Bible is so central to Presbyterian beliefs and practices.
The Bible tells us of a God who created the world and who loves the world. This is the central story of the Scriptures. It is important to believe that God exists; it is even more important to know the nature of this God in whom we believe. The God revealed in Scripture is a God who takes the initiative in communicating with humanity and in calling people into a relationship of love and obedience. Presbyterians emphasize that God is a “covenant God.” A covenant is a promise, or an agreement. Throughout the Bible we find God entering into covenants with individuals and groups. There were covenants with Abraham and Sarah, with the people of Israel, with King David, and with others. In a covenant, God pledges and promises things that are important. Humans may also make promises in covenants: to obey God, to be faithful to what God desires. The fulfillment of all biblical covenants, we believe, is Jesus Christ. God sent Jesus Christ into the world to reach out to the world in love, and through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, humanity can have the relationship with God that God desires and intends. Presbyterians emphasize, with other Christians, that Jesus Christ is the one to whom the whole Old Testament points, as the promised Messiah, and the one in whom all the promises of God find their fulfillment. We know and believe in Jesus Christ by the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives, who gives us the gift of faith.
The covenant God we know in Scripture is the living God who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This central Christian conviction is that God is one God in three persons. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are all fully and equally God. They are intimately related to each other as God, by the relationship of love. They are one God, but they are three persons. That is, the one personal God lives and works in three different ways at the same time. God is the one divine reality whom we know as three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Presbyterian theology, like Christian theology, begins with the triune God. The Trinity is the basis for understanding who God is. The three persons are one God. Who we see in Jesus Christ is God. What we see the Holy Spirit do is God. The God who is revealed in the Old Testament is God. All the work of God is one work in that it is carried out by the one God. But God works as three divine persons, united in the divine love. The Bible distinguishes the work of the persons of the Godhead. But we believe in and worship, as the hymn says, “God in three persons, blessed Trinity.”
Presbyterians believe the story of the Bible is the story of God reaching out to the creation in love—a love that is fully and perfectly expressed in Jesus Christ. The message of the Scriptures is summarized in John 3:16: “‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.’”
Presbyterians believe Jesus Christ is the eternal son of God, the “Word” of God who was “with God” and “was God” (John 1:1). At the same time, we believe “the Word became flesh and lived among us” (John 1:14). These two verses became more fully expressed in the theological controversies of the early church where the church affirmed that Jesus Christ is “fully human, fully God” (Book of Confessions 10.2). Theologically, this is called the incarnation. God has become a human being in Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is Emmanuel—“God with us.” The Christian church proclaims both Jesus’ humanity and his divinity. He is the second person of the Trinity, who has come to earth and “died for us” while “we still were sinners” as an expression of God’s love (Rom. 5:8).
With other Christians, Presbyterians believe the death of Jesus Christ brings salvation. God and humanity are brought together; sin is forgiven; guilt is gone; and a whole new way of living is opened up for humanity. There are many biblical images to describe this: forgiveness, reconciliation, expiation, liberation, redemption, justification. These describe different aspects of the central message of the gospel: the power of sin over human life is broken; a new relationship of love with God through Jesus Christ is now possible. This is the good news!
Jesus’ death on the cross brings God and humanity together in the relationship intended in creation. Theo- logically, this is called the atonement. God and humanity “at one.” This sets our relationship with God on a new basis. We are no longer turned in upon ourselves. Now we are freed to live lives of love, justice, peace, and service because Jesus Christ has died to defeat the power of sin in our lives and, ultimately, in the life of the world. In the cross of Christ, God’s love for us is shown in that God has done for us what we can never do for ourselves: reached out to save us, to bring us salvation.
The death of Christ is made effective for us by the resurrection of Jesus Christ. If Christ had died and stayed dead, his death would have no power beyond that of an important example. His death would not have had the power to save us or bring us a new life of forgiveness and reconciliation. The cross is Christianity’s central symbol. But Presbyterians stress that the cross is now an empty cross. Jesus Christ is risen! The resurrection of Christ vindicates the life Jesus lived, conveying God’s love in action. The resurrection vindicates the death Christ died by showing God’s persistent love in raising Christ from the dead (1 Cor. 15:4). Death is not the last word, but through the power of God, Christ is alive, and his death now has the power to bring the reconciliation God intends. Christ’s resurrection means that for God’s people the power of sin is broken, that we need not fear death, and that the “eternal life” Jesus Christ proclaimed (John 10:28; 11:25) and the reign of God he embodied where sin and evil are defeated (Mark 1:14– 15) are now realities.
Salvation comes to us in Jesus Christ through the work of Jesus Christ by the work of the Holy Spirit.
The Spirit is the third person of the Trinity, the one who applies what God has done. The Spirit illumines us, opens our eyes to see Scripture as the Word of God and to enable us to confess Jesus Christ as God’s Son, our Lord and Savior. The Spirit gives us the gift of faith.
Faith is the means God uses to make the connection be- tween what God has done and we humans, for whom God has acted. We perceive who Jesus Christ is by the gift of faith. Presbyterians believe the power of sin is so pervasive and all encompassing that our hearts and minds are turned away from God and from all desire to have a relationship with God. By the work of the Holy Spirit, the gift of faith is given so we see reality in a whole new way. Our hearts, minds, and wills are made new!
Theologians call this the witness of the Holy Spirit. Presbyterians have always stressed that we come to faith in Christ as Lord and Savior by God’s divine work, through the Holy Spirit, and not by our own powers of reason or intuition or experience. God has provided salvation as a free gift in Jesus Christ. We recognize, receive, and believe in this gift by the work of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit enables us to look at creation and perceive it as God’s work. As the psalmist declared, “The heavens are telling the glory of God” (Ps. 19:1). When we know the reality of God, by faith, we can see nature around us as the glorious work of God. We receive faith by the Holy Spirit. The Spirit makes the work of Christ real and effective in our lives, giving us a new birth or “being born from above” (John 3:3). The Spirit overcomes the power of sin in our lives and makes us new people. We call this regeneration—our whole lives made new by the work of the Spirit in giving us the gift of faith. Through faith we perceive the realities of what God has done in Christ. As Paul put it, “No one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor. 12:3).
Salvation by Grace
God’s work in providing salvation in Jesus Christ is a work of God’s grace. “Grace” means God’s unmerited favor. When we receive the grace of God, we are receiving that which we can never deserve or merit on our own. It is a free gift. Ephesians puts it clearly: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God not the result of works, so that no one may boast” (Eph. 2:8–9). The salvation we receive in Jesus Christ is provided by God; our reception of salvation comes by the work of the Holy Spirit, who gives us the gift of faith. We are the recipients of the work of the triune God, and we receive the benefits of salvation by the work of God.
Predestination and Election
Presbyterians are known for believing in predestination or election. There are many caricatures of this doctrine. Some think it means Presbyterians see themselves as the “elite” or “chosen” of God and so we do not care about other Christians—just ourselves. Or, there is the view that if you believe in predestination, you will not care about evangelism or spreading the gospel, and that election leads to indifference in the Christian life doing whatever one pleases because one is “automatically” saved.
Instead, Presbyterians affirm a belief in predestination or election because we believe it is biblical and because we believe it brings glory to God and affirms God’s greatness and sovereignty in all things.
“Predestination” and “election” are often used synonymously. They refer to God’s work in salvation. If we are all sinners (Rom. 3:23) and enslaved to the power of sin (Rom. 6:17) and are “dead through the trespasses and sins” (Eph. 2:1), then we do need a savior. The gospel message is that God has sent Jesus Christ into the world to provide salvation—so we can become a “new creation”—people who are reconciled with God in Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 5:16–17), by the work of the Holy Spirit. “All this,” said Paul, “is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ” (2 Cor. 5:18). In other words, God has done for us what we could not do for ourselves. God has reached out to save us and make us new people in Jesus Christ.
Election and predestination are proclamations that our salvation belongs to God’s work, that God has taken initiative, and that the work of salvation is God’s work in us. They are another way of saying salvation is by God’s grace. It is not by our own powers or works that we are saved; it is by God’s unmerited favor, God providing the gift of faith by the work of the Holy Spirit. Presbyterians believe Scripture affirms that God predestines persons to salvation (Rom. 8:29–30) and refers to these as the “elect” of God (Mark 13:27; Rom. 8:33; 2 Tim. 2:10). It is God who “chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love” (Eph. 1:4).
Election and predestination are great comforts to us. They remind us that it is God’s power that saves us and not our own feebleness or our imagined powers. Assurance of salvation rests in the God who has given us salvation in Christ. We do not worry or speculate about our salvation. We need simply ask, “Do I believe in Je- sus Christ?” If we do, we recognize that we do so by the power of the Holy Spirit and that our salvation is secure in God’s electing purposes. We do not have to—nor should we!—speculate about whether or not others are elect. Our mission is to proclaim the gospel to all persons and trust God’s electing purposes in Christ, by the Holy Spirit, to draw people to faith. Election and predestination give us great freedom to be secure in Christ and to live lives of grateful obedience for the “good news of great joy for all the people,” of which the angels sang when Jesus Christ was born (Luke 2:10).
Theologically, the church is the people of God (Col. 3:12; Titus 1:1; 1 Peter 1:2). The people of Israel in the Old Testament, with whom God entered into covenants, and the church of God in the New Testament—those who believe in Jesus Christ—are people who have been chosen by God to do God’s work in this world. The church is God’s covenant people who by faith are united with one another in Jesus Christ. Because we believe in Christ, we seek to serve God as Christ’s disciples in the world. It is God’s initiative that establishes the church. It is God who “calls,” who grants the gift of faith, and who by the Holy Spirit is with the church to guide, empower, and equip the church to carry out mission and ministry in the world. As the Confession of 1967 puts it: “To be reconciled to God is to be sent into the world as [God’s] reconciling community” (Book of Confessions 9.31).
Presbyterians believe in the “visible church,” which is the body of believers we see around us, attending worships and aligning themselves in some ways with the church. All those who confess faith in Christ—without regard to race, gender, social or economic location—are members of the visible church. The church is the place from which ministries in the name of Jesus Christ begin. The church is entrusted with the message of reconciliation in Christ and serves Christ by spreading the good news of the gospel, working for peace, seeking justice, bringing healing, and committing itself to carrying out God’s purposes in the world—even in the midst of difficult social, cultural, or political situations. The visible church is a witness to Jesus Christ (Acts 1:8).
We also believe in the “invisible church,” which is the church known only to God and is all those who have genuine faith in Jesus Christ. Sometimes people unite with a church but then fall away and do not exercise their faith any further. Some may make a profession of faith that is not genuine or sincere. They may be part of the visible church but not of the invisible church in that they do not truly love Jesus Christ. Ultimately, the invisible church is the elect of God through all ages, what is called in the Apostles’ Creed the “communion of saints.” It is not left to us to determine who is genuinely Christian or whose faith profession is real and true. The doors of church membership must always be open to all who confess their faith in Jesus Christ. The reality of their profession is known only to God. So it is not our job to judge. But Presbyterians have a comprehensive view of the church, looking to those who have gone before us, to those who are the church in the present day, and to those who will come after us as the “church of God.”
Presbyterians believe in two sacraments in the church: baptism and the Lord’s Supper. These are received in the midst of the church’s worship, where the people of God are gathered to give praise and glory to God and to celebrate what God has done. Sacraments are gifts God gives to strengthen and nourish our faith. They are out- ward or visible signs of a reality that is invisible.
Baptism is a sign of God’s covenant in which God welcomes new believers into the household of faith, the church. Infant baptism is an important part of Presbyterian theology in that we see children of believers being brought into the church as part of the covenant community. The parents of the infant act on behalf of the child in professing faith, while the worshiping congregation promises to nourish and encourage Christian faith on behalf of the child. When the child matures, a personal profession of faith in Christ, reaffirming the vows made by others in baptism, can occur.
The Lord’s Supper is God’s gracious action in Christ to nourish our faith. When we eat the bread and drink the cup, we receive the benefits of Christ’s death for us. Our faith is strengthened by Christ’s presence with us in the Supper, conveying the blessings of the gospel and as suring us of his presence with us in all of life and of the ultimate reign or kingdom of God (1 Cor. 11:23–26).
Creation and Providence
The God who is at the very foundation of our lives and who is the eternal God revealed in Scripture is the God who created all things and sustains and guides all things according to divine purposes.
We meet this affirmation in the first verse of the Bible: “God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen. 1:1). God created all things, “visible and invisible,” as the Nicene Creed affirms. All the created order owes its existence to God and belongs to God. This includes the universe around us and we humans within it. We are born and given the breath of life—by God. God desires us to live our lives in the relationship of love that is described in the first two chapters of the book of Genesis, where humans have a fellowship and communion with God that is blessed. To acknowledge God as our creator is to acknowledge our dependence on God, our need to trust in God, and our responsibility in this life to live as God desires—being responsible for taking care of the earth, living in relationships of love with others, and seeking to do God’s will in all things.
Presbyterians believe that God created all things and also that God sustains and guides all things. This is called the doctrine of Providence. God upholds the creation by God’s power. If God created all things and then walked away, everything would collapse! God’s ongoing preserving power is needed to support the creation. But even more, Presbyterians believe that God is also involved in creation. One part of providence is that God cooperates with the people whom God created to work in the world to accomplish God’s divine purposes. Humans can have a relationship with God that enables us to share in God’s work and carry out God’s will. God’s divine will is the power and purpose behind the universe. The fantastic news of the Christian faith that Presbyterians share is that humans can participate in the divine purposes! God can use even us to carry out God’s will for creation and the human family. This enables our lives themselves to have purpose and meaning; we are participating in God’s work in this world. We can trust God’s plan and live lives in which we look to God to guide and direct us. God’s ultimate purposes will be fulfilled as history emerges. We believe that God’s ultimate reign will be established. But on our way to the future, we can trust God’s providence to sustain the world and to draw us into God’s purposes, because by the work of the Holy Spirit, God guides our lives and the life of the world.
Humanity and Sin
Our Presbyterian beliefs in God as creator, sustainer, and the one who guides our life raise big questions about the nature of human life itself. Who are we created to be? Who are we? What does it mean that I am created as a unique individual? What is the purpose of my life?
Presbyterians have emphasized certain dimensions of our lives as human beings. Since we are created by God and belong to God, then God is concerned with the totality of our lives. In the Old Testament and in the New Testament, as Jesus said, we are to love God with our heart, our soul, our mind and strength (Mark 12:29–30). We are to love God with our full human existence. God created us as whole persons. Our lives are to reflect our creation and our creator. God wants us to be devoted in our love for God, with our whole selves. This is important because it means our relationship with God has to do with all dimensions of our lives—every part of our lives, every day. There are no parts of us in which God is not interested! So also we will care for others in the fullness of their lives too—be concerned about their physical as well as their spiritual well-being. This view is an important perspective for churches carrying out ministries.
Presbyterians have also emphasized the biblical teaching that humans are created in the “image of God” (Gen. 1:26–27). We are created by God and in the image of God. This has far-reaching implications. We are to be image bearers—conveying God to other people. We are to represent God to others. Another way to say it is that we are to image God. When people see us, they should be reminded of the creator who created us in love and created us in order to love other people. Relatedly, when we look at others, we are to see them as fellow creatures who are also created in the image of God. Outward dimensions—race, gender, social or economic location—are not the important facts about others. The most important thing we can say is that others are created in the image of God. We are called by God to recognize the image of God in other persons. To do so is to affirm our central conviction that we all stand as equal persons who bear the divine image.
But our views of who we are do not stop there. Christians affirm, and Presbyterians have also emphasized, that
the divine image of God in God’s creatures has been distorted. It has been disturbed. It has been fractured. Humans, as we know ourselves and others today, are not the people we should be. We have turned against the purposes of God for our lives, we have lived lives focused on ourselves rather than loving God and others, and we have resisted living in the ways God wants us in seeking justice, showing love, and pursuing peace.
These are expressions of what the Bible calls sin. Sin is our rebellion against God, our choosing to pursue our own paths instead of God’s, and our desires to live our own wills instead of seeking the will of God. Sometimes, however, we sin in that we try to hide from God; we shrink back from loving God and from the relationships and service God desires. The Bible uses many images to describe human sinfulness. Humans are sinners in what we do and in who we are. We have broken the image of God and now do not reflect God or represent God to others. As our Brief Statement of Faith puts it: “we violate the image of God in others and ourselves, accept lies as truth, exploit neighbor and nature, and threaten death to the planet entrusted to our care. We deserve God’s condemnation” (Book of Confessions, 10.3).
Theologically, our sinful condition is called original sin. It means that in our origins as human beings, sin has played a role, and now all persons find themselves to be sinners, in need of God’s forgiveness, mercy, and grace. Our sin affects the totality of our lives. We cannot, on our own, establish the relationship with God that God wants us to have. We cannot, because our lives are oriented away from God and toward ourselves so that we do not desire to live otherwise. The results are that our loves, our choices, our whole life’s directions are turned in upon ourselves and turned away from God’s purposes for us. We cannot change our natures by ourselves. We need divine help if we are to find forgiveness, freedom from guilt and sin. In short, we need a savior.
The Bible is the story of salvation. The big picture of the Bible is that the covenant God is at work in history among all peoples and all cultures to establish the reign, or the kingdom, of God. The ultimate reign of God is marked by knowledge of God, obedience to God, God’s just rule, and peace (Hebrew shalom) among nations. God’s reign is taking shape in the world, even as Jesus proclaimed (Mark 1:15). It is imperceptible now, but its success is assured (Matt. 13:31–33). We do get glimpses, however. As Jesus told us in his parables, the reign of God is taking shape from small, seemingly insignificant beginnings. God is at work for the divine purposes in the midst of history. In a sense, the kingdom has “already come” in the person of Jesus himself, who in his life, death, and resurrection established God’s reign in the world. But the kingdom is also “not yet.” We live, anticipating the ultimate fulfillment of the reign of God and the day when “every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord” (Phil. 2:11).
Other biblical dimensions of the future life—the second coming of Jesus Christ, the Last Judgment, the final states—are elements that will also be revealed in the future. But Presbyterians emphasize that the future is secure in God’s hands, that we can trust God’s ultimate reign to emerge, and that “with believers in every time and place, we rejoice that nothing in life or in death can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Book of Confessions 10.5)!
Women in Ministry
One of the places where the church has had the opportunity to live up to its proclamations for the equality of all persons is in the status that it gives women in its own life and work.
Although women were first ordained as elders in one of the predecessor denominations to the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) in 1930, it was not until 1956 that presbyteries were permitted to ordain women to the ministry.
In a different predecessor denomination, the 1956 General Assembly approved changes in the church’s constitution to allow the election of women as deacons and ruling elders. Those changes were defeated by the presbyteries, but the 1957 General Assembly responded to the defeat by urging that women be included in all church committees including those on finances and budget. The first ordination of women as elders in this denomination actually occurred in 1962. As ministers, women were ordained beginning 1965.
In 1971, the General Assembly sent overtures to its presbyteries providing for election to church offices in all governing bodies, “giving attention to a fair representation of both the male and female constituency” (Minutes of the 183rd General Assembly (1971), United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A., pp. 305-306).
One can find both women and men in all ordered ministries of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). Whether feeling called to the role of deacon, ruling elder, or pastor, a person’s gender is not a barrier to living into God’s call.
(Adapted from the Compilation of PC(USA) Social Witness Policies).