What Do Presbyterians Believe?

The basic confession of the Presbyterian Church (USA) is the same as that of every other Christian church: JESUS CHRIST IS LORD. With that as the basis for beginning our understanding, one finds wide variety among individuals within the Presbyterian family. Thus, to say "What Presbyterians Believe" would always be an oversimplification. However, the Presbyterian Church (USA) does have certain written affirmations which are contained in our Book of Confessions (available at any Presbyterian Church or from denominational headquarters in Louisville, KY). The most recent statement was adopted in 1991 and provides a good overview of our beliefs.

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A BRIEF STATEMENT OF FAITH PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH (USA)

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, and 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, forgiving sinners, and calling all to repent and believe the gospel. Unjustly condemned for blasphemy and sedition, Jesus was crucifed, suffering the depths of human pain and giving his life for the sins of the world. God raised him 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 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.
* * Instead of saying this line, congregations may wish to sing a version of the Gloria. (adopted by the 202nd General Assembly)


Copyright © 1991 by the Office of the General Assembly, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). This document is part of the Book of Confessions, which is in turn Part I of the Constitution of the Church. Used with permission.


For further, more-detailed material on Presbyterian beliefs, see our Belonging to God: A First Catechism or the Study Catechism for adults approved by the 1998 General Assembly.


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