As Presbyterians, there is no list of things that you must subscribe to in order to be a member. The only affirmation required is trusting in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. Below are some foundational theological beliefs of Presbyterians. Presbyterians are a part of the Reformed Tradition. This means that we are a branch of the Christian family tree that emerged from the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century. Presbyterians grew out of the leadership of John Knox who traveled from Scotland to Geneva Switzerland to study under John Calvin. John Knox brought Presbyterian beliefs to Scotland.
All People are Made in the Image of God
The writers of Genesis include the affirmation the God looked at all of creation and called it, “good.” All people, not in spite of who they are, but exactly because of who they are, are named as a part of God’s good creation and considered beloved.
The word Presbyterian refers primarily to the way the church is governed. Presbyterian comes from the Greek word “presbutero” meaning “elder” or “ruled by elders.” Therefore, Presbyterians are distinguished from other Christian denominations by a representative form of government, where officers are elected from among the congregation’s membership. This representative form of government ensures that the people’s voice is heard.
Scripture is the Inspired Word of God
Presbyterians don’t read the Bible literally, like a history or science textbook of facts, wise sayings, or a book of rules. Instead, we believe that the Bible was written by humans in a particular time and place who were inspired by the Holy Spirit. God did not take over human functioning and dictate every word while humans were the secretaries who wrote those words down.The Bible is not God’s literal words. And the Bible is not just a book like any other book.The Holy Spirit accompanied and guided the human writers of scripture, respecting their humanity in all its limitations and its conditioning by historical, social, and cultural context.
Priesthood of All Believers
Presbyterians believe that all people, not just those who are ordained as ministers, have a dynamic relationship with God and are called to serve God through their unique gifts and talents. All are ministers of the gospel. The differences between pastors, elders, and lay leaders is that of function and not of calling.
Faith in Public Life
Presbyterians believe that faith is personal and communal but never private. We are called to be God’s people in the church and in the public square. There is integration between what we believe and our lives in and among the world.
The Presbyterian Church uses a Book of Confessions, which is a collection of confessions written by people in different times and places expressing how God is operating in a particular time and circumstance. As followers, we can look back and learn from those writings aware that documents of the past reflect the biases of history, while also sharing with us the wisdom and thinking of our ancestors.
Freedom of the Conscience
Freedom of conscience, as we use it in the life of the church, is the right to disagree with a position of a council or councils of the church. It is derived directly from this principle that ‘God alone is Lord of the conscience’ and that our consciences are thus bound to nothing other than Scripture. This protects minority views and affirms that God can lead faithful people to different conclusions.
How We Are Governed
Preston Hollow Presbyterian Church is a member of the Presbyterian Church (USA). We are governed by a series of representative leadership bodies. Session The leadership body in the local congregation is known as the Session, made up of elders elected from among the congregation. Presbytery The church’s regional body of leadership is called the Presbytery. Presbyteries consist of Presbyterian churches within a particular geographic area. PHPC belongs to Grace Presbytery. Synod The greater regional body of the church is the Synod which is made up of presbyteries within a particular geographic area. Our presbytery belongs to the Synod of the Sun. General Assembly The national body of the Presbyterian church is the General Assembly. Meetings of the General Assembly occur every other year. Constitution All Presbyterian church bodies are governed by a constitution, which has two parts: Book of Confessions – the doctrinal statements that convey what the church believes. Book of Order - the policies and procedures of the church to enable it to carry out its ministries.
Who can be a pastor?
Any person of strong faith, dedicated discipleship, and a love of Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord can pursue being a pastor. PC (USA) pastors are required to have a Masters of Divinity from a Reformed Seminary and complete a three-year ordination process in conjunction with the leadership body of their local congregation, the Session, and with the regional body, the Presbytery.
Who can be an elder or deacon?
Ruling elders and deacons are all persons elected by the congregation from among its members. Those nominated should be persons of sound faith and spiritual maturity. The nomination and election of ruling elders and deacons shall also express the rich diversity of the congregation’s membership and shall guarantee participation and inclusiveness.
Who can serve?
Any person who desires to do God’s work as part of PHPC can serve. Some roles require a background check prior to serving.
Who can lead?
All members of PHPC can serve in leadership roles at the church. This happens in different ways including volunteering, personal invitation, and nomination and election by the congregation.
Who can be married? What marriages are recognized by PHPC?
PHPC is an open and affirming congregation of the PC (USA). As part of the PC (USA), PHPC recognizes same-sex marriage, and pastors can perform same-sex weddings.
Who can join?
All are welcome into membership at PHPC. Prospective members are required to complete our new member class called Starting Point. Starting Point classes are “one Sunday classes” and are offered four times throughout the year.
Similarities and Differences Among Presbyterian Denominations
Presbyterian Church in America (PCA)
The PCA is also part of the reformed tradition. Churches in PCA do not allow women or LGBTQ people to serve in ordained leadership positions and do not recognize or perform same-sex marriages.
ECO: A Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians (ECO)
ECO is also part of the reformed tradition. Churches in ECO do not allow LGBTQ people to serve in church leadership positions and do not recognize or perform same-sex marriages. They do allow women to serve in ordained positions.