What is a Presbyterian? Presbyterians are a gathering of followers of the Lord Jesus Christ who govern themselves through the election of Elders, chosen by the congregation in accordance with the Word of God.
What do Presbyterians believe? Presbyterians believe in God, the Creator of the Universe; Christ, the incarnation of God on earth; the Holy Spirit, the presence of God in the world and in the believer; the church, a universal company of Christ’s followers; forgiveness of sin, made possible by the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ; life everlasting, as confirmed by the resurrection of Jesus, and the Bible, the inspired and authoritative Word of God.
What about Sacraments? Presbyterians recognize two sacraments as described in the Bible – Baptism and Communion.
Baptism unites us with Jesus Christ making us members of God’s family, the church. For Presbyterians, Baptism is a welcoming into the community of the church, as commanded by Christ. In the case of adults, it is a public confession, not a private one – a statement of faith made in the presence of others. In the case of children it is a covenant on the part of both parents and congregation to provide for the child in every way until the child confirms her/his own faith at Confirmation. The act of Baptism does not guarantee access to heaven and unbaptized persons are not denied salvation. Presbyterians believe that Baptism, whether adult or child, is a recognition of the saving act of Jesus Christ and that it is not necessary to be rebaptized under any circumstances. It is appropriate, however, to reaffirm Baptismal vows at any time.
Communion, also called The Lord’s Supper, Holy Communion, or the Eucharist, is a time to celebrate Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf, to rejoice in our unity as the Body of Christ and to renew faith and strengthen participants for the duties and privileges of Christian service. In Communion, the bread and wine (grape juice) represent the sacrificial body and blood of Christ and recalls the last meal shared with the Apostles. They are symbols of the New Covenant between God and His people and the very real presence of Christ with us.
Who’s in charge? Christ is the head of the church. Under Christ, the church is governed by Session (a body comprised of Elders who are elected from and by the congregation and the Pastor who serves as Moderator) The Session oversees the day-to-day work of the church and supervises the Board of Deacons who are elected to conduct the temporal and charitable ministry of the church. To learn more about the local, regional, and national church structure, visit the Presbyterian Church U.S.A’s website at www.pcusa.org.