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Beliefs

HISTORY AND BELIEFS

   The Presbyterian Church was founded on the ideals of the Protestant Reformation and is based on the concept of democratic rule under the authority of God. The name Presbyterian comes from a Greek word, presbuteros, meaning “elder.” It refers to a system used by the early church of choosing its leaders from among the wisest members.

   The father of Presbyterianism, John Calvin, was born in France in 1509. He studied at the University of Paris, and was forced to flee from France after publicly expressing his belief in the truths of the Reformation. He found refuge in Switzerland and was asked to lead the Protestant Reformation in Geneva. The Council of Geneva accepted his “Articles,” which detailed his ideas of church structure and government. Clashes with civil authorities forced him into exile in Germany, but he later returned to Geneva, which became the center of the Reformation in Europe under his leadership. Calvin’s teachings on the sovereignty of God, the priesthood of all believers and church structure form the basis of today’s Presbyterian Church.

   Presbyterianism grew rapidly in America beginning in the mid 1600’s. A series of Confessions, Catechisms and other texts, prepared by the Westminster Assembly in England between 1643 and 1649, became the cornerstone of American Presbyterianism. Numerous, mergers, splits and reorganizations, particularly since the Civil War, characterized the Presbyterian movement in this country. In 1983, the two largest Presbyterian Churches reunited to form the Presbyterian Church (USA), generally referred to as the PCUSA. It is to this body that St. Paul Presbyterian Church in Greensboro belongs.

   There is no strict set of beliefs which unites Presbyterians or separates us from other followers of Christ. It is often said that anyone who can be a Christian can be a Presbyterian. Like other Christians, Presbyterians believe in God as the creator of the universe, the Bible as the inspired word of God, Jesus Christ as the incarnation of God on earth, and the Holy Spirit as the presence of God in the world and in the believer.

We believe in the forgiveness of sin made possible by the crucifixion of Jesus, and in eternal life as shown by His resurrection. Presbyterians observe two Sacraments – Baptism, which unites us with Jesus Christ and makes us members of God’s family, the Church;  and The Lord’s Supper or Communion, in which the symbols of bread and wine represent the body and blood of Christ and recall the last meal Jesus shared with his disciples, as well as the new covenant between God and all people. A number of Creeds and Confessions, including the Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds, the Westminster Confession, and the Larger and Shorter Catechisms among others, are used by Presbyterians to give expression to their beliefs. But all that is really required to be a Presbyterian is to 1)Confess the Christian faith; 2)Trust in Christ as Savior; 3)Promise to follow Christ and Christ’s example for living; and 4)Commit to attend church and become involved in its work.

 

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