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Presbyterianism is a part of the Reformed tradition within Protestantism, which traces its origins to Britain, particularly Scotland.
Protestantism is the second largest form of Christianity with collectively between 800 million and more than 900 million adherents worldwide or nearly 40% of all Christians. It originated with the 16th century Reformation, a movement against what its followers perceived to be errors in the Roman Catholic Church. Protestants reject the Roman Catholic doctrine of papal supremacy and sacraments, but disagree among themselves regarding the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. They emphasize the priesthood of all believers, justification by faith alone rather than also by good works, and the highest authority of the Bible alone in faith and morals. The "five solae" summarise basic theological differences in opposition to the Roman Catholic Church.
Great Britain is an island in the North Atlantic Ocean off the northwest coast of continental Europe. With an area of 209,331 km2 (80,823 sq mi), it is the largest of the British Isles, the largest European island, and the ninth-largest island in the world. In 2011, Great Britain had a population of about 61 million people, making it the world's third-most populous island after Java in Indonesia and Honshu in Japan. The island of Ireland is situated to the west of Great Britain, and together these islands, along with over 1,000 smaller surrounding islands, form the British Isles archipelago.
Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It covers the northern third of the island of Great Britain, with a border with England to the southeast, and is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, the North Sea to the northeast, the Irish Sea to the south, and more than 790 islands, including the Northern Isles and the Hebrides.
Presbyterian churches derive their name from the presbyterian form of church government, which is governed by representative assemblies of elders. A great number of Reformed churches are organized this way, but the word Presbyterian, when capitalized, is often applied uniquely to churches that trace their roots to the Church of Scotland,as well as several English dissenter groups that formed during the English Civil War. Presbyterian theology typically emphasizes the sovereignty of God, the authority of the Scriptures, and the necessity of grace through faith in Christ. Presbyterian church government was ensured in Scotland by the Acts of Union in 1707, which created the Kingdom of Great Britain. In fact, most Presbyterians found in England can trace a Scottish connection, and the Presbyterian denomination was also taken to North America, mostly by Scots and Scots-Irish immigrants. The Presbyterian denominations in Scotland hold to the Reformed theology of John Calvin and his immediate successors, although there is a range of theological views within contemporary Presbyterianism. Local congregations of churches which use presbyterian polity are governed by sessions made up of representatives of the congregation (elders); a conciliar approach which is found at other levels of decision-making (presbytery, synod and general assembly).
Presbyterianpolity is a method of church governance typified by the rule of assemblies of presbyters, or elders. Each local church is governed by a body of elected elders usually called the session or consistory, though other terms, such as church board, may apply. Groups of local churches are governed by a higher assembly of elders known as the presbytery or classis; presbyteries can be grouped into a synod, and presbyteries and synods nationwide often join together in a general assembly. Responsibility for conduct of church services is reserved to an ordained minister or pastor known as a teaching elder, or a minister of the word and sacrament.
Ecclesiastical polity is the operational and governance structure of a church or of a Christian denomination. It also denotes the ministerial structure of a church and the authority relationships between churches. Polity relates closely to ecclesiology, the study of doctrine and theology relating to church organization.
The Church of Scotland, also known by its Scots language name, the Kirk, is the national church of Scotland. It is Presbyterian and adheres to the Bible and Westminster Confession; the Church of Scotland celebrates two sacraments, Baptism and the Lord's Supper, as well as five other rites, such as confirmation and matrimony. It is a member of the World Communion of Reformed Churches.
The roots of Presbyterianism lie in the Reformation of the 16th century, the example of John Calvin's Republic of Geneva being particularly influential. Most Reformed churches that trace their history back to Scotland are either presbyterian or congregationalist in government. In the twentieth century, some Presbyterians played an important role in the ecumenical movement, including the World Council of Churches. Many Presbyterian denominations have found ways of working together with other Reformed denominations and Christians of other traditions, especially in the World Communion of Reformed Churches. Some Presbyterian churches have entered into unions with other churches, such as Congregationalists, Lutherans, Anglicans, and Methodists. Presbyterians in the United States came largely from Scottish immigrants, Scots-Irish immigrants, and also from New England Yankee communities that had originally been Congregational but changed because of an agreed-upon Plan of Union of 1801 for frontier areas.Along with Episcopalians, Presbyterians tend to be considerably wealthier and better educated (having more graduate and post-graduate degrees per capita) than most other religious groups in United States, and are disproportionately represented in the upper reaches of American business, law and politics.
TheReformation was a movement within Western Christianity in early 16th-century Europe that posed a religious and political challenge to the Roman Catholic Church—and papal authority in particular. Although the Reformation is usually considered to have started with the publication of the Ninety-five Theses by Martin Luther in 1517, there was no schism between the Catholics and the nascent Lutheran branch until the 1521 Edict of Worms. The edict condemned Luther and officially banned citizens of the Holy Roman Empire from defending or propagating his ideas. The end of the Reformation era is disputed: it could be considered to end with the enactment of the confessions of faith which began the Age of Orthodoxy. Other suggested ending years relate to the Counter-Reformation, the Peace of Westphalia, or that it never ended since there are still Protestants today.
The term "ecumenism" refers to efforts by Christians of different Church traditions to develop closer relationships and better understandings. The term is also often used to refer to efforts towards the visible and organic unity of different Christian denominations in some form.
The World Council of Churches (WCC) is a worldwide Christian inter-church organization founded in 1948. Its members today include the Assyrian Church of the East, the Oriental Orthodox Churches, most jurisdictions of the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Mar Thoma Syrian Church of Malabar, the Old Catholic Church, the Anglican Communion, most mainline Protestant churches and some evangelical Protestant churches. Notably, the Catholic Church is not a member, although it sends accredited observers to meetings. The WCC arose out of the ecumenical movement and has as its basis the following statement:
The World Council of Churches is a fellowship of churches which confess the Lord Jesus Christ as God and Savior according to the scriptures, and therefore seek to fulfill together their common calling to the glory of the one God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
It is a community of churches on the way to visible unity in one faith and one eucharistic fellowship, expressed in worship and in common life in Christ. It seeks to advance towards this unity, as Jesus prayed for his followers, "so that the world may believe."
Presbyterian tradition, particularly that of the Church of Scotland, traces its early roots to the Church founded by Saint Columba, through the 6th century Hiberno-Scottish mission.Tracing their apostolic origin to Saint John, the Culdees practiced Christian monasticism, a key feature of Celtic Christianity in the region, with a presbyter exercising "authority within the institution, while the different monastic institutions were independent of one another." The Church in Scotland kept the Christian feast of Easter at a date different from the See of Rome and its monks used a unique style of tonsure. The Synod of Whitby in 664, however, ended these distinctives as it ruled "that Easter would be celebrated according to the Roman date, not the Celtic date." Although Roman influence came to dominate the Church in Scotland, certain Celtic influences remained in the Scottish Church, such as "the singing of metrical psalms, many of them set to old Celtic Christianity Scottish traditional and folk tunes", which later became a "distinctive part of Scottish Presbyterian worship".
The Hiberno-Scottish mission was a series of missions and expeditions initiated by various Irish clerics and cleric-scholars who, for the most part, are not known to have acted in concert. There was no overall coordinated mission, but there were nevertheless sporadic missions initiated by Gaelic monks from Ireland and the western coast of Scotland, which contributed to the spread of Christianity and established monasteries in Britain and continental Europe during the Middle Ages. The earliest recorded Irish mission can be dated to 563 with the foundation of Iona by the Irish monk Saint Columba. Columba is said by Bede and Adamnán to have ministered to the Gaels of Dál Riada and converted the northern Pictish kingdoms. Over the next centuries more missions followed and spread through Anglo-Saxon England and the Frankish Empire. Since the 18th and 19th centuries, these early missions were called 'Celtic Christianity', though aside from some idiosyncratic cultural features, this version was still orthodox and maintained relationships with the Holy See.
John the Apostle was one of the Twelve Apostles of Jesus according to the New Testament, which refers to him as Ἰωάννης. Generally listed as the youngest apostle, he was the son of Zebedee and Salome or Joanna. His brother was James, who was another of the Twelve Apostles. The Church Fathers identify him as John the Evangelist, John of Patmos, John the Elder and the Beloved Disciple, and testify that he outlived the remaining apostles and that he was the only one to die of natural causes. The traditions of most Christian denominations have held that John the Apostle is the author of several books of the New Testament.
The Culdees were members of ascetic Christian monastic and eremitical communities of Ireland, Scotland, Wales and England in the Middle Ages. Appearing first in Ireland and subsequently in Scotland, attached to cathedral or collegiate churches, they lived in monastic fashion though not taking monastic vows.
Presbyterian history is part of the history of Christianity, but the beginning of Presbyterianism as a distinct movement occurred during the 16th-century Protestant Reformation. As the Catholic Church resisted the reformers, several different theological movements splintered from the Church and bore different denominations. Presbyterianism was especially influenced by the French theologian John Calvin, who is credited with the development of Reformed theology, and the work of John Knox, a Scotsman and a Roman Catholic Priest, who studied with Calvin in Geneva, Switzerland. He brought back Reformed teachings to Scotland. The Presbyterian church traces its ancestry back primarily to England and Scotland. In August 1560 the Parliament of Scotland adopted the Scots Confession as the creed of the Scottish Kingdom. In December 1560, the First Book of Discipline was published, outlining important doctrinal issues but also establishing regulations for church government, including the creation of ten ecclesiastical districts with appointed superintendents which later became known as presbyteries.
The history of Christianity concerns the Christian religion, Christendom, and the Church with its various denominations, from the 1st century to the present.
The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the largest Christian church, with approximately 1.3 billion baptised Catholics worldwide as of 2017. As the world's oldest and largest continuously functioning international institution, it has played a prominent role in the history and development of Western civilisation. The church is headed by the Bishop of Rome, known as the pope. Its central administration, the Holy See, is in the Vatican City, an enclave within the city of Rome in Italy.
John Calvin was a French theologian, pastor and reformer in Geneva during the Protestant Reformation. He was a principal figure in the development of the system of Christian theology later called Calvinism, aspects of which include the doctrines of predestination and of the absolute sovereignty of God in salvation of the human soul from death and eternal damnation, in which doctrines Calvin was influenced by and elaborated upon the Augustinian and other Christian traditions. Various Congregational, Reformed and Presbyterian churches, which look to Calvin as the chief expositor of their beliefs, have spread throughout the world.
In time, the Scots Confession would be supplanted by the Westminster Confession of Faith, and the Larger and Shorter Catechisms, which were formulated by the Westminster Assembly between 1643 and 1649.
The Westminster Confession of Faith is a Reformed confession of faith. Drawn up by the 1646 Westminster Assembly as part of the Westminster Standards to be a confession of the Church of England, it became and remains the "subordinate standard" of doctrine in the Church of Scotland and has been influential within Presbyterian churches worldwide.
The Westminster Larger Catechism, along with the Westminster Shorter Catechism, is a central catechism of Calvinists in the English tradition throughout the world.
The Westminster Shorter Catechism is a catechism written in 1646 and 1647 by the Westminster Assembly, a synod of English and Scottish theologians and laymen intended to bring the Church of England into greater conformity with the Church of Scotland. The assembly also produced the Westminster Confession of Faith and the Westminster Larger Catechism. A version without Scripture citations was completed on 25 November 1647 and presented to the Long Parliament, and Scripture citations were added on 14 April 1649.
Presbyterians distinguish themselves from other denominations by doctrine, institutional organization (or "church order") and worship; often using a "Book of Order" to regulate common practice and order. The origins of the Presbyterian churches are in Calvinism. Many branches of Presbyterianism are remnants of previous splits from larger groups. Some of the splits have been due to doctrinal controversy, while some have been caused by disagreement concerning the degree to which those ordained to church office should be required to agree with the Westminster Confession of Faith, which historically serves as an important confessional document – second only to the Bible, yet directing particularities in the standardization and translation of the Bible – in Presbyterian churches.
Presbyterians place great importance upon education and lifelong learning, tempered with the knowledge that no human action can affect salvation.
Continuous study of the scriptures, theological writings, and understanding and interpretation of church doctrine are embodied in several statements of faith and catechisms formally adopted by various branches of the church, often referred to as "subordinate standards". It is generally considered that the point of such learning is to enable one to put one's faith into practice; many Presbyterians generally exhibit their faith in action as well as words, by generosity, hospitality, as well as proclaiming the gospel of Christ.
Presbyterian government is by councils (known as courts) of elders. Teaching and ruling elders are ordained and convene in the lowest council known as a session or consistory responsible for the discipline, nurture, and mission of the local congregation. Teaching elders (pastors) have responsibility for teaching, worship, and performing sacraments. Pastors are called by individual congregations. A congregation issues a call for the pastor's service, but this call must be ratified by the local presbytery. The Pastor is a teaching elder, and Moderator of the Session, but is not usually a member of the church.
Ruling elders are laymen and laywomen who are elected by the congregation and ordained to serve with the teaching elders, assuming responsibility for nurture and leadership of the congregation. Often, especially in larger congregations, the elders delegate the practicalities of buildings, finance, and temporal ministry to the needy in the congregation to a distinct group of officers (sometimes called deacons, which are ordained in some denominations). This group may variously be known as a "Deacon Board", "Board of Deacons" "Diaconate", or "Deacons' Court". These are sometimes known as "presbyters" to the full congregation.
Above the sessions exist presbyteries, which have area responsibilities. These are composed of teaching elders and ruling elders from each of the constituent congregations. The presbytery sends representatives to a broader regional or national assembly, generally known as the General Assembly, although an intermediate level of a synod sometimes exists. This congregation / presbytery / synod / general assembly schema is based on the historical structure of the larger Presbyterian churches, such as the Church of Scotland or the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.); some bodies, such as the Presbyterian Church in America and the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, skip one of the steps between congregation and General Assembly, and usually the step skipped is the Synod. The Church of Scotland abolished the Synod in 1993.
Presbyterian governance is practised by Presbyterian denominations and also by many other Reformed churches.
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Presbyterianism is historically a confessional tradition. This has two implications. The obvious one is that confessional churches express their faith in the form of "confessions of faith," which have some level of authoritative status. However this is based on a more subtle point: In confessional churches, theology is not solely an individual matter. While individuals are encouraged to understand Scripture, and may challenge the current institutional understanding, theology is carried out by the community as a whole. It is this community understanding of theology that is expressed in confessions.
However, there has arisen a spectrum of approaches to confessionalism. The manner of subscription, or the degree to which the official standards establish the actual doctrine of the church, turns out to be a practical matter. That is, the decisions rendered in ordination and in the courts of the church largely determine what the church means, representing the whole, by its adherence to the doctrinal standard.
Some Presbyterian traditions adopt only the Westminster Confession of Faith as the doctrinal standard to which teaching elders are required to subscribe, in contrast to the Larger and Shorter catechisms, which are approved for use in instruction. Many Presbyterian denominations, especially in North America, have adopted all of the Westminster Standards as their standard of doctrine which is subordinate to the Bible. These documents are Calvinistic in their doctrinal orientation. The Presbyterian Church in Canada retains the Westminster Confession of Faith in its original form, while admitting the historical period in which it was written should be understood when it is read.
The Westminster Confession is "The principal subordinate standard of the Church of Scotland" but "with due regard to liberty of opinion in points which do not enter into the substance of the Faith" (V). This formulation represents many years of struggle over the extent to which the confession reflects the Word of God and the struggle of conscience of those who came to believe it did not fully do so (e.g. William Robertson Smith). Some Presbyterian Churches, such as the Free Church of Scotland, have no such "conscience clause".
The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has adopted the Book of Confessions , which reflects the inclusion of other Reformed confessions in addition to the Westminster Standards. These other documents include ancient creedal statements (the Nicene Creed, the Apostles' Creed), 16th-century Reformed confessions (the Scots Confession, the Heidelberg Catechism, the Second Helvetic Confession), and 20th century documents (The Theological Declaration of Barmen, Confession of 1967 and A Brief Statement of Faith).
The Presbyterian Church in Canada developed the confessional document Living Faith (1984) and retains it as a subordinate standard of the denomination. It is confessional in format, yet like the Westminster Confession, draws attention back to original Bible text.
Presbyterians in Ireland who rejected Calvinism and the Westminster Confessions formed the Non-subscribing Presbyterian Church of Ireland.
Presbyterian denominations that trace their heritage to the British Isles usually organise their church services inspired by the principles in the Directory of Public Worship, developed by the Westminster Assembly in the 1640s. This directory documented Reformed worship practices and theology adopted and developed over the preceding century by British Puritans, initially guided by John Calvin and John Knox. It was enacted as law by the Scottish Parliament, and became one of the foundational documents of Presbyterian church legislation elsewhere.
Historically, the driving principle in the development of the standards of Presbyterian worship is the Regulative principle of worship, which specifies that (in worship), what is not commanded is forbidden.
Over subsequent centuries, many Presbyterian churches modified these prescriptions by introducing hymnody, instrumental accompaniment, and ceremonial vestments into worship. However, there is not one fixed "Presbyterian" worship style. Although there are set services for the Lord's Day in keeping with first-day Sabbatarianism, [ clarification needed ] or semi-formal, allowing for a balance of hymns, preaching, and congregational participation (favored by probably most American Presbyterians). Most Presbyterian churches follow the traditional liturgical year and observe the traditional holidays, holy seasons, such as Advent, Christmas, Ash Wednesday, Holy Week, Easter, Pentecost, etc. They also make use of the appropriate seasonal liturgical colors, etc. Many incorporate ancient liturgical prayers and responses into the communion services and follow a daily, seasonal, and festival lectionary. Other Presbyterians, however, such as the Reformed Presbyterians, would practice a cappella exclusive psalmody, as well as eschew the celebration of holy days.one can find a service to be evangelical and even revivalist in tone (especially in some conservative denominations), or strongly liturgical, approximating the practices of Lutheranism or Anglicanism (especially where Scottish tradition is esteemed),
Among the paleo-orthodox and emerging church movements in Protestant and evangelical churches, in which some Presbyterians are involved, clergy are moving away from the traditional black Geneva gown to such vestments as the alb and chasuble, but also cassock and surplice (typically a full length Old English style surplice which resembles the Celtic alb, an ungirdled liturgical tunic of the old Gallican Rite), which some, particularly those identifying with the Liturgical Renewal Movement, hold to be more ancient and representative of a more ecumenical past.
Presbyterians traditionally have held the Worship position that there are only two sacraments:
Early Presbyterians were careful to distinguish between the "church," which referred to the members, and the "meeting house," which was the building in which the church met.Until the late 19th century, very few Presbyterians ever referred to their buildings as "churches." Presbyterians believed that meeting-houses (now called churches) are buildings to support the worship of God. The decor in some instances was austere so as not to detract from worship. Early Presbyterian meeting-houses were extremely plain. No stained glass, no elaborate furnishings, and no images were to be found in the meeting-house. The pulpit, often raised so as only to be accessible by a staircase, was the centerpiece of the building. But these were not the standard characteristics of the mainline Presbyterians. These were more of the wave of Presbyterians that were influenced by the Puritans and simplicity.
In the late 19th century a gradual shift began to occur. Prosperous congregations built imposing churches, such as Fourth Presbyterian Church of Chicago and Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church in New York City, and many others.
Usually a Presbyterian church will not have statues of saints, nor the ornate altar more typical of a Roman Catholic church. Instead, one will find a "communion table," usually on the same level as the congregation. There may be a rail between the communion table and the "Chancel" behind it, which may contain a more decorative altar-type table, choir loft, or choir stalls, lectern and clergy area. The altar is called the communion table and the altar area is called the Chancel by Presbyterians. In a Presbyterian (Reformed Church) there may be an altar cross, either on the communion table or on a table in the chancel. By using the "empty" cross, or cross of the resurrection, Presbyterians emphasize the resurrection and that Christ is not continually dying, but died once and is alive for all eternity. Some Presbyterian church buildings are often decorated with a cross that has a circle around the center, or Celtic cross. This not only emphasized the resurrection, but also acknowledges historical aspects of Presbyterianism. A baptismal font will be located either at the entrance or near the chancel area. Presbyterian architecture generally makes significant use of symbolism. You may also find decorative and ornate stained glass windows depicting scenes from the bible. Some Presbyterian churches will also have ornate statues of Christ or Graven Scenes from the Last Supper located behind the Chancel. St. Giles Cathedral ( Church of Scotland- The Mother Church of Presbyterians) does have a Crucifix next to one of the Pulpits that hangs alongside. The image of Christ is more of faint image and more modern design.
John Knox (1505–1572), a Scot who had spent time studying under Calvin in Geneva, returned to Scotland and urged his countrymen to reform the Church in line with Calvinist doctrines. After a period of religious convulsion and political conflict culminating in a victory for the Protestant party at the Siege of Leith the authority of the Catholic Church was abolished in favour of Reformation by the legislation of the Scottish Reformation Parliament in 1560. The Church was eventually organised by Andrew Melville along Presbyterian lines to become the national Church of Scotland. King James VI and I moved the Church of Scotland towards an episcopal form of government, and in 1637, James' successor, Charles I and William Laud, the Archbishop of Canterbury, attempted to force the Church of Scotland to use the Book of Common Prayer. What resulted was an armed insurrection, with many Scots signing the Solemn League and Covenant . The Covenanters would serve as the government of Scotland for nearly a decade, and would also send military support to the Parliamentarians during the English Civil War. Following the restoration of the monarchy in 1660, Charles II, despite the initial support that he received from the Covenanters, reinstated an episcopal form of government on the church.
However, with the Glorious Revolution of 1688 the Church of Scotland was finally unequivocally recognised as a Presbyterian institution by the monarch due to Scottish Presbyterian support for the aforementioned revolution and the Acts of Union 1707 between Scotland and England guaranteed the Church of Scotland's form of government. However, legislation by the United Kingdom parliament allowing patronage led to splits in the Church. In 1733, a group of ministers seceded from the Church of Scotland to form the Associate Presbytery, another group seceded in 1761 to form the Relief Church and the Disruption of 1843 led to the formation of the Free Church of Scotland. Further splits took place, especially over theological issues, but most Presbyterians in Scotland were reunited by 1929 union of the established Church of Scotland and the United Free Church of Scotland.
The Presbyterian denominations in Scotland today are the Church of Scotland, the Free Church of Scotland, the United Free Church of Scotland, the Free Church of Scotland (Continuing), the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland, the Associated Presbyterian Church (Associated Presbyterian Churches), and the Reformed Presbyterian Church of Scotland.
Within Scotland the term kirk is usually used to refer to a local Presbyterian church. Informally, the term 'The Kirk' refers to the Church of Scotland. Some of the values and ideals espoused in Scottish presbyterian denominations can be reflected in this reference in a book from Norman Drummond, chaplain to the Queen in Scotland.
In England, Presbyterianism was established in secret in 1592. Thomas Cartwright is thought to be the first Presbyterian in England. Cartwright's controversial lectures at Cambridge University condemning the episcopal hierarchy of the Elizabethan Church led to his deprivation of his post by Archbishop John Whitgift and his emigration abroad. Between 1645 and 1648, a series of ordinances of the Long Parliament established Presbyterianism as the polity of the Church of England. Presbyterian government was established in London and Lancashire and in a few other places in England, although Presbyterian hostility to the execution of Charles I and the establishment of the republican Commonwealth of England meant that Parliament never enforced the Presbyterian system in England. The re-establishment of the monarchy in 1660 brought the return of Episcopal church government in England (and in Scotland for a short time); but the Presbyterian church in England continued in Non-Conformity, outside of the established church. In 1719 a major split, the Salter's Hall controversy, occurred; with the majority siding with nontrinitarian views. Thomas Bradbury published several sermons bearing on the controversy, and in 1719, "An answer to the reproaches cast on the dissenting ministers who subscribed their belief of the Eternal Trinity.". By the 18th century many English Presbyterian congregations had become Unitarian in doctrine.
A number of new Presbyterian Churches were founded by Scottish immigrants to England in the 19th century and later. Following the 'Disruption' in 1843 many of those linked to the Church of Scotland eventually joined what became the Presbyterian Church of England in 1876. Some, that is Crown Court (Covent Garden, London), St Andrew's (Stepney, London) and Swallow Street (London), did not join the English denomination, which is why there are Church of Scotland congregations in England such as those at Crown Court, and St Columba's, Pont Street (Knightsbridge) in London. There is also a congregation in the heart of London's financial district called London City Presbyterian Church that is also affiliated with Free Church of Scotland.
In 1972, the Presbyterian Church of England (PCofE) united with the Congregational Church in England and Wales to form the United Reformed Church (URC). Among the congregations the PCofE brought to the URC were Tunley (Lancashire), Aston Tirrold (Oxfordshire) and John Knox Presbyterian Church, Stepney, London (now part of Stepney Meeting House URC) – these are among the sole survivors today of the English Presbyterian churches of the 17th century. The URC also has a presence in Scotland, mostly of former Congregationalist Churches. Two former Presbyterian congregations, St Columba's, Cambridge (founded in 1879), and St Columba's, Oxford (founded as a chaplaincy by the PCofE and the Church of Scotland in 1908 and as a congregation of the PCofE in 1929), continue as congregations of the URC and university chaplaincies of the Church of Scotland.
In recent years a number of smaller denominations adopting Presbyterian forms of church government have organised in England, including the International Presbyterian Church planted by evangelical theologian Francis Schaeffer of L'Abri Fellowship in the 1970s, and the Evangelical Presbyterian Church in England and Wales founded in the North of England in the late 1980s.
In Wales, Presbyterianism is represented by the Presbyterian Church of Wales, which was originally composed largely of Calvinistic Methodists who accepted Calvinist theology rather than the Arminianism of the Wesleyan Methodists. They broke off from the Church of England in 1811, ordaining their own ministers. They were originally known as the Calvinist Methodist connexion and in the 1920s it became alternatively known as the Presbyterian Church of Wales.
Presbyterianism is the largest Protestant denomination in Northern Ireland and the second largest on the island of Ireland (after the Anglican Church of Ireland),[ citation needed ] and was brought by Scottish plantation settlers to Ulster who had been strongly encouraged to emigrate by James VI of Scotland, later James I of Ireland and England. An estimated 100,000 Scottish Presbyterians moved to the northern counties of Ireland between 1607 and the Battle of the Boyne in 1690.[ citation needed ] The Presbytery of Ulster was formed in 1642 separately from the established Anglican Church. Presbyterians, along with Roman Catholics in Ulster and the rest of Ireland, suffered under the discriminatory Penal Laws until they were revoked in the early 19th century. Presbyterianism is represented in Ireland by the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, the Free Presbyterian Church of Ulster, the Reformed Presbyterian Church of Ireland and the Evangelical Presbyterian Church.
There is a Church of Scotland (Presbyterian) in central Paris: The Scots Kirk, which is English-speaking, and is attended by many nationalities. It maintains close links with the Church of Scotland in Scotland itself, as well as with the Reformed Church of France.
The Waldensian Evangelical Church (Chiesa Evangelica Valdese, CEV) is an Italian Protestant denomination. The church was founded in the 12th century, and centuries later, after the Protestant Reformation, it adhered to Calvinist theology and became the Italian branch of the Presbyterian churches. As such, the church is a member of the World Communion of Reformed Churches.
Even before Presbyterianism spread with immigrants abroad from Scotland, there were divisions in the larger Presbyterian family. Some later rejoined only to separate again. In what some interpret as rueful self-reproach, some Presbyterians refer to the divided Presbyterian churches as the "Split Ps".
Presbyterianism first officially arrived in Colonial America in 1644 with the establishment of Christ's First Presbyterian Church in Hempstead, NY. The Church was organized by the Rev. Richard Denton.
Another notable church was established in 1703 the first Presbytery in Philadelphia. In time, the presbytery would be joined by two more to form a synod (1717) and would eventually evolve into the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America in 1789. The nation's largest Presbyterian denomination, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) – PC (USA) – can trace their heritage back to the original PCUSA, as can the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC), the Bible Presbyterian Church (BPC), the Cumberland Presbyterian Church (CPC), the Cumberland Presbyterian Church in America, the Evangelical Presbyterian Church (EPC), and the Evangelical Covenant Order of Presbyterians (ECO).
Other Presbyterian bodies in the United States include the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America (RPCNA), the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church (ARP), the Reformed Presbyterian Church in the United States (RPCUS), the Reformed Presbyterian Church General Assembly, the Reformed Presbyterian Church – Hanover Presbytery, the Covenant Presbyterian Church, the Presbyterian Reformed Church, the Westminster Presbyterian Church in the United States, the Korean American Presbyterian Church, and the Free Presbyterian Church of North America.
The territory within about a 50-mile (80 km) radius of Charlotte, North Carolina, is historically the greatest concentration of Presbyterianism in the Southern United States, while an almost identical geographic area around Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, contains probably the largest number of Presbyterians in the entire nation.
The PC(USA), beginning with its predecessor bodies, has, in common with other so-called "mainline" Protestant denominations, experienced a significant decline in members in recent years. Some estimates have placed that loss at nearly half in the last forty years.
Presbyterian influence, especially through Princeton theology, can be traced in modern Evangelicalism. Balmer says that:
Evangelicalism itself, I believe, is a quintessentially North American phenomenon, deriving as it did from the confluence of Pietism, Presbyterianism, and the vestiges of Puritanism. Evangelicalism picked up the peculiar characteristics from each strain – warmhearted spirituality from the Pietists (for instance), doctrinal precisionism from the Presbyterians, and individualistic introspection from the Puritans – even as the North American context itself has profoundly shaped the various manifestations of evangelicalism: fundamentalism, neo-evangelicalism, the holiness movement, Pentecostalism, the charismatic movement, and various forms of African-American and Hispanic evangelicalism.
In the late 1800s, Presbyterian missionaries established a presence in what is now northern New Mexico. This provided an alternative to the Catholicism, which was brought to the area by the Spanish Conquistadors and had remained unchanged. The area experienced a "mini" reformation, in that many converts were made to Presbyterianism, prompting persecution. In some cases, the converts left towns and villages to establish their own neighboring villages. The arrival of the United States to the area prompted the Catholic church to modernize and make efforts at winning the converts back, many of which did return. However, there are still stalwart Presbyterians and Presbyterian churches in the area.
In Canada, the largest Presbyterian denomination – and indeed the largest Protestant denomination – was the Presbyterian Church in Canada, formed in 1875 with the merger of four regional groups. In 1925, the United Church of Canada was formed by the majority of Presbyterians combining with the Methodist Church, Canada, and the Congregational Union of Canada. A sizable minority of Canadian Presbyterians, primarily in southern Ontario but also throughout the entire nation, withdrew, and reconstituted themselves as a non-concurring continuing Presbyterian body. They regained use of the original name in 1939.
Presbyterianism arrived in Latin America in the 19th century.
The biggest Presbyterian church is the National Presbyterian Church in Mexico (Iglesia Nacional Presbiteriana de México), which has around 2,500,000 members and associates and 3000 congregations, but there are other small denominations like the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church in Mexico which was founded in 1875 by the Associate Reformed Church in North America. The Independent Presbyterian Church and the Presbyterian Reformed Church in Mexico, the National Conservative Presbyterian Church in Mexico are existing churches in the Reformed tradition.
In Brazil, the Presbyterian Church of Brazil (Igreja Presbiteriana do Brasil) totals approximately 1,011,300 members;other Presbyterian churches (Independents, United, Conservatives, Renovated, etc.) in this nation have around 350,000 members. The Renewed Presbyterian Church in Brazil was influenced by the charismatic movement and has about 131 000 members as of 2011. The Conservative Presbyterian Church was founded in 1940 and has eight presbyteries. The Fundamentalist Presbyterian church in Brazil was influenced by Karl McIntire and the Bible Presbyterian church USA and has around 1 800 members. The Independent Presbyterian Church in Brasil was founded in 1903 by pastor Pereira, has 500 congregations and 75 000 members. The United Presbyterian Church in Brazil has around 4 000 members. There are also ethnic Korean Presbyterian churches in the country. The Evangelical Reformed Church in Brazil has Dutch origin. The Reformed Churches in Brazil were recently founded by the Canadian Reformed Churches with the Reformed Church in the Netherlands (liberated).
Congregational churches present in the country are also part of the Calvinistic tradition in Latin America.
There are probably more than four million members of Presbyterian churches in all of Latin America. Presbyterian churches are also present in Peru, Bolivia, Cuba, Trinidad and Tobago, Venezuela, Colombia, Chile, Paraguay, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Argentina and others, but with few members. The Presbyterian Church in Belize has 14 churches and church plants and there is a Reformed Seminary founded in 2004. Some Latin Americans in North America are active in the Presbyterian Cursillo Movement.
Presbyterianism arrived in Africa in the 19th century through the work of Scottish missionaries and founded churches such as St Michael and All Angels Church, Blantyre, Malawi. The church has grown extensively and now has a presence in at least 23 countries in the region.
African Presbyterian churches often incorporate diaconal ministries, including social services, emergency relief, and the operation of mission hospitals. A number of partnerships exist between presbyteries in Africa and the PC(USA), including specific connections with Lesotho, Malawi, South Africa, Ghana and Zambia. For example, the Lackawanna Presbytery, located in Northeastern Pennsylvania, has a partnership with a presbytery in Ghana. Also the Southminster Presbyterian Church, located near Pittsburgh, has partnerships with churches in Malawi and Kenya. The Presbyterian Church of Nigeria, western Africa is also healthy and strong in mostly the southern states of this nation, strong density in the south-eastern states of this country. Beginning from Cross River state, the nearby coastal states, Rivers state, Lagos state to Ebonyi and Abia States. The missionary expedition of Mary Slessor and Hope Waddel and their group in the mid 18th century in this coastal regions of the ten British colony has brought about the beginning and the flourishing of this church in these areas.
The Presbyterian Church of East Africa, based in Kenya, is particularly strong, with 500 clergy and 4 million members.
The Reformed Presbyterian Church in Malawi has 150 congregations and 17 000–20 000 members[ citation needed ]. It was a mission of the Free Presbyterian church of Scotland. The Restored Reformed Church works with RPCM. Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Malawi is an existing small church. Part of the Presbyterian Church in Malawi and Zambia is known as CCAP, Church of Central Africa-Presbyterian. Often the churches there have one main congregation and a number of Prayer Houses develop. education, health ministries as well as worship and spiritual development are important.
Southern Africa is a major base of Reformed and Presbyterian Churches.[ citation needed ]
In addition, there are a number of Presbyterian Churches in north Africa, the most known is the Nile Synod in Egypt and a recently founded synod for Sudan.
Cumberland Presbyterian Church Yao Dao Secondary School is a Presbyterian school in Yuen Long, New Territories. The Cumberland Presbyterian Church also have a church on the island of Cheung Chau. There are also Korean Christians resident in Hong Kong who are Presbyterians.[ citation needed ]
Presbyterian Churches are the biggest and by far the most influential Protestant denominations in South Korea, with close to 20,000 churches affiliated with the two largest Presbyterian denominations in the country.In South Korea there are 9 million Presbyterians, forming the majority of the 15 million Korean Protestants. In South Korea there are 100 different Presbyterian denominations.
Most of the Korean Presbyterian denominations share the same name in Korean, 대한예수교장로회 (literally means the Presbyterian Church of Korea or PCK), tracing its roots to the United Presbyterian Assembly before its long history of disputes and schisms. The Presbyterian schism began with the controversy in relation to the Japanese shrine worship enforced during the Japanese colonial period and the establishment of a minor division (Koryu-pa, 고려파, later The Koshin Presbyterian Church in Korea, Koshin 고신) in 1952. And in 1953 the second schism happened when the theological orientation of the Chosun Seminary (later Hanshin University) founded in 1947 could not be tolerated in the PCK and another minor group (The Presbyterian Church in the Republic of Korea, Kijang, 기장) was separated. The last major schism had to do with the issue of whether the PCK should join the WCC. The controversy divided the PCK into two denominations, The Presbyterian Church of Korea (Tonghap, 통합) and The General Assembly of Presbyterian Church in Korea (Hapdong, 합동) in 1959. All major seminaries associated with each denomination claim heritage from the Pyung Yang Theological Seminary, therefore, not only Presbyterian University and Theological Seminary and Chongsin University which are related to PCK but also Hanshin University of PROK all celebrated the 100th class in 2007, 100 years from the first graduates of Pyung Yang Theological Seminary.
Korean Presbyterian denominations are active in evangelism and many of its missionaries are being sent overseas, being the second biggest missionary sender in the world after the United States. GMS, the missionary body of the "Hapdong" General Assembly of Presbyterian Churches of Korea, is the single largest Presbyterian missionary organization in Korea.In addition there are many Korean-American Presbyterians in the United States, either with their own church sites or sharing space in pre-existing churches as is the case in Australia, New Zealand and even Muslim countries such as Saudi Arabia with Korean immigration.
The Korean Presbyterian Church started through the mission of the Presbyterian Church (USA) and the Australian Presbyterian theological tradition is central to the United States. But after independence, the 'Presbyterian Church in Korea (KoRyuPa)' advocated a Dutch Reformed position. In the 21st century, a new General Assembly of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church of Korea (Founder. Ha Seung-moo) in 2012 declared itself an authentic historical succession of Scottish Presbyterian John Knox.
The Presbyterian Church in Taiwan (PCT) is by far the largest Protestant denomination in Taiwan, with some 238,372 members as of 2009 (including a majority of the island's aborigines). English Presbyterian Missionary James Laidlaw Maxwell established the first Presbyterian church in Tainan in 1865. His colleague George Leslie Mackay, of the Canadian Presbyterian Mission, was active in Tamsui and north Taiwan from 1872 to 1901; he founded the island's first university and hospital, and created a written script for Taiwanese Minnan. The English and Canadian missions joined together as the PCT in 1912. One of the few churches permitted to operate in Taiwan through the era of Japanese rule (1895–1945), the PCT experienced rapid growth during the era of Kuomintang-imposed martial law (1949–1987), in part due to its support for democracy, human rights, and Taiwan independence. Former ROC president Lee Teng-hui (in office 1988–2000) is a Presbyterian.
In the mainly Christian Indian state of Mizoram, Presbyterianism is the largest of all Christian denominations. It was brought there by missionaries from Wales in 1894. Prior to Mizoram, Welsh Presbyterians started venturing into the northeast India through the Khasi Hills (now in the state of Meghalaya in India) and established Presbyterian churches all over the Khasi Hills from the 1840s onwards. Hence, there is a strong presence of Presbyterians in Shillong (the present capital of Meghalaya) and the areas adjoining it. The Welsh missionaries built their first church in Sohra (aka Cherrapunji) in 1846. The Presbyterian church in India was integrated in 1970 into the United Church of Northern India (originally formed in 1924). It is the largest Presbyterian denomination in India.
In Australia, Presbyterianism is the fourth largest denomination of Christianity, with nearly 600,000 Australians claiming to be Presbyterian in the 2006 Commonwealth Census. Presbyterian churches were founded in each colony, some with links to the Church of Scotland and others to the Free Church. There were also congregations originating from United Presbyterian Church of Scotland as well as a number founded by John Dunmore Lang. Most of these bodies merged between 1859 and 1870, and in 1901 formed a federal union called the Presbyterian Church of Australia but retaining their state assemblies. The Presbyterian Church of Eastern Australia representing the Free Church of Scotland tradition, and congregations in Victoria of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, originally from Ireland, are the other existing denominations dating from colonial times.
In 1977, two-thirds of the Presbyterian Church of Australia, along with most of the Congregational Union of Australia and all the Methodist Church of Australasia, combined to form the Uniting Church in Australia. The third who did not unite had various reasons for so acting, often cultural attachment but often conservative theological or social views. The permission for the ordination of women given in 1974 was rescinded in 1991 without affecting the two or three existing woman ministers[ citation needed ]. The approval of women elders given in the 1960s has been rescinded in all states except New South Wales, which has the largest membership[ citation needed ]. The theology of the church is now generally conservative and Reformed[ citation needed ]. A number of small Presbyterian denominations have arisen since the 1950s through migration or schism.
In New Zealand, Presbyterian is the dominant denomination in Otago and Southland due largely to the rich Scottish and to a lesser extent Ulster-Scots heritage in the region. The area around Christchurch, Canterbury, is dominated philosophically by the Anglican (Episcopalian) denomination.
Originally there were two branches of Presbyterianism in New Zealand, the northern Presbyterian church which existed in the North Island and the parts of the South Island north of the Waitaki River, and the Synod of Otago and Southland, founded by Free Church settlers in southern South Island. The two churches merged in 1901, forming what is now the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand.
In addition to the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand, there is also a more conservative Presbyterian church called Grace Presbyterian Church of New Zealand. Many of its members left the largely liberal PCANZ because they were seeking a more Biblical church. It has 17 churches throughout New Zealand.
The Presbyterian Church in Vanuatu is the largest denomination in the country, with approximately one-third of the population of Vanuatu members of the church. The PCV was taken to Vanuatu by missionaries from Scotland. The PCV (Presbyterian Church of Vanuatu) is headed by a moderator with offices in Port Vila. The PCV is particularly strong in the provinces of Tafea, Shefa, and Malampa. The Province of Sanma is mainly Presbyterian with a strong Roman Catholic minority in the Francophone areas of the province. There are some Presbyterian people, but no organised Presbyterian churches in Penama and Torba, both of which are traditionally Anglican. Vanuatu is the only country in the South Pacific with a significant Presbyterian heritage and membership. The PCV is a founding member of the Vanuatu Christian Council (VCC). The PCV runs many primary schools and Onesua secondary school. The church is strong in the rural villages.
The Presbyterian Church (USA) is a mainline Protestant Christian denomination in the United States. A part of the Reformed tradition, it is the largest Presbyterian denomination in the US, and known for its relatively progressive stance on doctrine. The PC(USA) was established by the 1983 merger of the Presbyterian Church in the United States, whose churches were located in the Southern and border states, with the United Presbyterian Church in the United States of America, whose congregations could be found in every state. The similarly named Presbyterian Church in America is a separate denomination whose congregations can also trace their history to the various schisms and mergers of Presbyterian churches in the United States.
The Non-subscribing Presbyterian Church of Ireland has its origins with those early 18th-century Presbyterian ministers who refused to subscribe at their ordination to the Westminster Confession, a standard Reformed (Calvinist) statement of faith; and who were placed, in 1725, the Presbytery of Antrim. A similar disagreement led to the creation of the Remonstrant Synod of Ulster in 1830. In 1835 the two bodies together with the Synod of Munster formed the Association of Irish Non-subscribing Presbyterians. However, the foundation of the earliest of Irish Presbyterian congregations predates the formulation of the Westminster Confession,and the congregations of the Synod of Munster never subscribed to it. When the Presbytery of Antrim was formed, it received support from the Synod of Munster ref Sealy, Charles Scott, (2010), Church authority and non-subscription controversies in early eighteenth century Presbyterianism, p167, theses.gla.ac.uk/1792/1/2010sealyphd. As the eighteenth century progressed, the attitude to subscription within the Synod of Ulster became more relaxed. ref Barkley, J (1956)The Westminster formularies in Irish Presbyterianism, p13.
The Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland was formed in 1893 and claims to be the spiritual descendant of the Scottish Reformation: its web-site states that it is 'the constitutional heir of the historic Church of Scotland'. It is occasionally referred to by the pejorative term the Wee Wee Frees. Although small the church has congregations on five continents.
The Presbyterian Church in the United States of America (PCUSA) was the first national Presbyterian denomination in the United States, existing from 1789 to 1958. In that year, the PCUSA merged with the United Presbyterian Church of North America, a denomination with roots in the Seceder and Covenanter traditions of Presbyterianism. The new church was named the United Presbyterian Church in the United States of America. It was a predecessor to the contemporary Presbyterian Church (USA).
The Bible Presbyterian Church is an American Protestant denomination in the Reformed tradition.
The Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America (RPCNA) is a Presbyterian church with congregations and missions throughout the United States, Canada, and Japan. Its beliefs—formulated via membership in the Reformed Presbyterian Church and RP Global Alliance—place it in the conservative wing of the Reformed family of Protestant churches. Below the Bible—which is held as divinely inspired and without error—the church is committed to several "subordinate standards," together considered with its constitution: the Westminster Confession of Faith and Larger and Shorter Catechisms, along with its Testimony, Directory for Church Government, the Book of Discipline, and Directory for Worship.
The Evangelical Presbyterian Church (EPC) is a Calvinist, Christian evangelical denomination that is found only in Northern Ireland, where it is the smallest of the Presbyterian churches. It was formed on 15 October 1927 by Rev. James Hunter (1863–1942), former minister of Knock Presbyterian Church (Belfast), and James (W.J.) Grier, a former student at the Assembly's College. They were joined by others who seceded from the Irish Presbyterian Church.
The Presbyterian Church of Brazil is an Evangelical Protestant Christian denomination in Brazil. Oldest of the Reformed family of Protestantism in Brazil. It is the largest Presbyterian denomination in the country, having an estimate 1,011,300 members, 8,315 ordained ministers and 5,015 churches and 5,392 parishes. It is also the only Presbyterian denomination in Brazil present in all 26 States and the Federal District. It was founded by the American missionary Rev. Ashbel Green Simonton, who also oversaw the formal organization of the first congregation and the first Presbytery. Although the Presbyterian Church of Rio de Janeiro was only formally organized in January 1863, and the Brazilian church only left the jurisdiction of the joint missions board of the American churches in 1888, when the Synod was formed, the denomination considers the date of Simonton's arrival in Brazil, August 12, 1859, as its foundation date.
The Reformed Presbyterian Church of Ireland is a Presbyterian church in Ireland. The church currently has forty-three congregations, of which thirty-five are located in Northern Ireland; the remaining eight are located in the Republic of Ireland. As of 2011, its total communicant membership is 1,952. The distribution of Reformed Presbyterians accords with the distribution of the Ulster Scots, with most congregations based in Counties Antrim, Londonderry and Down. Several new congregations have, however, been formed recently in the Belfast area, along with new fellowships in Galway and Dublin.
The Presbyterian Church in Ireland is the largest Presbyterian denomination in Ireland, and the largest Protestant denomination in Northern Ireland. Like most Christian churches in Ireland, it is organised on an all-island basis, in both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. The church has approximately 225,000 members.
The Reformed Presbyterian churches are a communion of Presbyterians originating in Scotland in 1690 when its members declined to be part of the establishment of the Church of Scotland. The Reformed Presbyterian churches collectively have a little over 9,538 members worldwide in Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland, Scotland, France, the United States of America, Canada, Japan, South Sudan and Australia.
The Reformed Presbyterian Church of India is a historic confessional Presbyterian denomination in India, established in the 19th century by Scottish and Irish missionaries.
The Africa Evangelical Presbyterian Church (AEPC) is a growing conservative Presbyterian and Reformed Church which adheres to the Westminster Confession of Faith started in Kenya, later spread to the surrounding countries like Burundi, Tanzania, Congo and as far as Zimbabwe. The headquarters of the church is located in Nairobi, Kenya.
The Reformed Church in Japan is a confessional Reformed denomination in Japan. It was formerly a member of the World Communion of Reformed Churches, but it chose to suspend its membership.
The Presbyterian Church in Japan is a growing conservative Reformed denomination in Japan, founded by American missionaries in the mid-1900s.
The International Presbyterian Church is a Reformed church in Europe, that holds to the Presbyterian confession of faith, with common commitments, purpose and accountability and government.
Presbyterianism has had a presence in the United States since colonial times and has exerted an important influence over broader American religion and culture.
The Adopting Act of 1729 is an act of the Synod of Philadelphia that made the Westminster Standards, particularly the Westminster Confession of Faith, the official confessional statements for Presbyterian churches in colonial America. Presbyterian ministers were required to believe or "subscribe" to the "essential and necessary" parts of the standards, but defining what was essential and necessary was left to individual presbyteries to determine.
The Kosin Presbyterian Church in Korea, also called Korea-pa, is an Evangelical Reformed and Presbyterian denomination in the Republic of South Korea. Although, congregations have spread all over North America and in many other countries.
For many Presbyterian evangelicals in Scotland, the 'achievements of the Reformation represented the return to a native or national tradition, the rejection of an alien tyranny that had suppressed ... Scotland's true character as a Presbyterian nation enjoying the benefits of civil and religious liberty'. What they had in mind was the mission established by Columba at Iona and the subsequent spread of Christianity through the Culdees of the seventh to eleventh centuries. For Presbyterian scholars in the nineteenth century, these communities of clergy who differed in organisation and ethos from later monastic orders were further evidence of the similarity between early Christianity in Ireland and Scotland and later Presbyterianism. This interpretation of the character of the Celtic Church was an important aspect of Presbyterian identity in global terms. At the first meeting in 1877 of the Alliance of the Reformed Churches holding the Presbyterian System (later the World Alliance of Reformed Churches), Peter Lorimer (1812–79), a Presbyterian professor in London, noted 'that the early Church of St. Patrick, Columba, and Columbanus, was far more nearly allied in its fundamental principles of order and discipline to the Presbyterian than to the Episcopalian Churches of modern times'.
The zealous Presbyterian maintains, that the church established by Columba was formed on a Presbyterian model, and that it recognized the great principle of clerical equality.
Columba has found favour with enthusiasts for all things Celtic and with those who have seen him as establishing a proto-Presbyterian church clearly distinguishable from the episcopally goverened church favoured by Rome-educated Bishop Ninian.
The Culdees who claimed at the Synod of Whitby apostolic descent from St. John, as against the Romish claim of the authority of St. Peter, retired into Scotland.
...for the primitive apostolic church which St. John had established in the East and Columba transported to our shores. Thus the days of Culdeeism were numbered, and she was now awaiting the martyrs doom.
Presbyterians after 1690 gave yet more play to 'Culdeeism', a reading of the past wherein 'culdees' (derived from céli dé) were presented as upholding a native, collegiate, proto presbyterian church government uncontaminated by bishops.
For seven whole centuries (400–1100 A.D.) there existed in Scotland a genuine Celtic Church, apparently of Greek origin, and in close connection with both Ireland and Wales. In this Celtic Church no Pope was recognized, and no prelatical of diocesan bishops existed. Their bishops were of the primitive New Testament style—presbyter-bishops. Easter was kept at a different time from that of Rome. The tonsure of the monks was not, like that of Rome, on the crown, but across the forehead from ear to ear. The monastic system of the Celtic Church was extremely simple—small communities of twelve men were presided over by an abbot (kindred to the Patriarch title of the Greeks), who took precedence of the humble parochial bishops.
The Celtic Church evolved separated from the Roman Catholic Church. The Celtic Church was primarily monastic, and the monasteries were administered by an abbot. Not as organized as the church in Rome, it was a much looser institution. The Celtic Church celebrated Easter on a different date from the Roman, too. Life within the Celtic Church tended to be ascetic. Education was an important element, as was passion for spreading the word, that is, evangelism. The Celtic brothers led a simple life in simply constructed buildings. The churches and monastic buildings were usually made of wood and wattle and had thatched roofs. After the death of St. Columba in A.D. 597, the autonomy of the Celtic Church did not last long. The Synod of Whitby in 664 decided, once and for all, that Easter would be celebrated according to the Roman date, not the Celtic date. This was the beginning of the end for the Celtic Church.
After the Synod of Whitby in about 664, the Roman tradition was imposed on the whole Church, though remnants of the Celtic tradition lingered in practice.
A distinctive part of Scottish Presbyterian worship is the singing of metrical psalms, many of them set to old Celtic Christianity Scottish traditional and folk tunes. These verse psalms have been exported to Africa, North America and other parts of the world where Presbyterian Scots missionaries or Emigres have been influential.
Last, because Scotland was a sovereign land in the sixteenth century, the Scottish Reformation came under the influence of John Knox rather than Henry Tudor. The organization of the Church of Scotland became Presbyterian, with significant Calvinist influences, rather than Episcopalian. Upon incorporation Scotland was allowed to keep her church intact. These regional religious differences were to an extent superimposed upon linguistic differences in Wales, Scotland, and Ireland. One of the legacies of the Celtic social organization was the persistence of the Celtic languages Gaelic and Welsh among certain groups in the periphery.
Following the formulation of the Westminster Confession, fully fledged Sabbatarianism quickly took root too, being embodied in an Act of 1661, then spreading northwards and westwards as the Highlands were opened up after the '45, during which time the doctrine lost its original force and vigour in the Lowlands.
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