What We Believe

Presbyterians trace their history to the 16th century and the Protestant Reformation in Scotland. This heritage, and much of what we believe, can be linked to John Knox (1514-1572), a Scottish preacher and later a student of theologian John Calvin (1509-1564), whose writings crystallized much of the Reformed thinking that came before him. Through Calvin's theology, Knox developed and brought doctrine to Scotland that allowed him to lead in the formation and establishment of Presbyterianism and Scotland's national church. 

Many of the early Presbyterians in America came from England, Scotland, and Ireland. The first American Presbytery was organized at Philadelphia in 1706. The first General Assembly was held in the same city in 1789. The first Assembly was convened by the Rev. John Witherspoon, the only minister to sign the Declaration of Independence. 

Among our core Presbyterian beliefs are:

  • The belief in one God, eternally existent in three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
  • The sovereignty of God, 
  • The authority of Scripture,
  • Justification by grace through faith and the priesthood of all believers.

What these tenets mean is that God is the supreme authority throughout the universe. Our knowledge of God and God’s purpose for humanity comes from the Bible. Our salvation (justification) through Jesus is God’s generous gift to us and not the result of our own accomplishments. It is everyone’s job — ministers and lay people alike — to share this Good News with the whole world. That is also why the Presbyterian church is governed at all levels by a combination of clergy and laity, men and women alike.