What does it mean to be Presbyterian today? This is a question Presbyterians and the Presbyterian Church have wrestled with from the beginning. For much of our history going back to the Protestant Reformation, Presbyterians have defined ourselves based on our distinctive theology and polity.
Theology: Presbyterian theology has always emphasized the grace of God in the face of human sin. Sin, which distorts our relationship with God, others, and ourselves, corrupts every aspect of human life. And yet, God’s grace and love overcome our brokenness and sin. We are not able to go to God on our own, but God chooses to come to us.
Polity: The Presbyterian way of governance is democratic and connectional. The congregation elects its leaders (ministers, elders, and deacons) who serve for a time. Additionally, Session elects commissioners to attend presbytery which in turn elects commissions to synod and General Assembly. Our polity is also connectional in that each congregation is connected to other local churches through the presbytery, other regional churches through the synod, and churches throughout the country in the General Assembly.
At the heart of the Presbyterian tradition is the motto “The church reformed and always reforming according to the Word of God.” During the Protestant Reformation of 1500s, the Presbyterian Church recognized flaws in how the church was operating and instituted reforms to more closely align the church with God’s vision and Jesus’ life and ministry. Over the past 500 years, that reform has continued. The church is not perfect, it never will be, but we are called to continually work to bring it into greater alignment with God.
As the church in recent years has wrestled with the question of what it means to be Presbyterian today, it has discerned that we are a people called out of our sanctuaries into our communities to make a difference. To equip all levels of the church to live out this part of Presbyterian identity, the Presbyterian Mission Agency launched the Matthew 25 initiative which has three foci: building congregational vitality, dismantling structural racism, and eradicating systemic poverty. Throughout August there will be a Sunday School class looking at this initiative and how we can be a part of it. Please join us in the Garden Room at 10 am!