Presbyterian Church in America: Wikis

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Presbyterian Church in America
Classification Protestant
Orientation Reformed Evangelical
Polity Presbyterian
Associations North American Presbyterian and Reformed Council; National Association of Evangelicals
Geographical area United States & Canada, especially the American South
Origin December 1973
Birmingham, Alabama
Separated from Presbyterian Church in the United States
Merge of incorporated the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod in 1982
Separations Reformed Presbyterian Church General Assembly
Congregations 1693
Members 340,852
Statistics for 2009; Source: byFaith Magazine Online[1]

The Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) is a theologically orthodox evangelical Protestant Christian denomination, the second largest Presbyterian church body in the United States after the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). The PCA professes a strong commitment to evangelism, missionary work, and Christian education. The church declares its goal to be "faithful to the Scriptures, true to the Reformed faith, and obedient to the Great Commission."

Contents

History

The origins of the PCA lie somewhat in a re-alignment of American Presbyterianism, which since the Civil War had generally been divided along North-South lines – the United Presbyterian Church in the United States of America (UPCUSA) and the Presbyterian Church in the United States (PCUS), respectively. Movement towards a national merger (which eventually occurred in 1983) had begun to take shape by the early 1970s, and was accelerated by the decision of many dissident conservative congregations to withdraw from the PCUS.

The role of race and civil rights in the creation of the PCA is disputed by scholars. PCA historian Frank Smith has argued that social and political issues, including race, were not driving factors for the creation of the PCA. However, historian R. Milton Winter pointed out in his study of the PCA in Mississippi that "the same demographic factors that gave rise to segregated private schools in Mississippi played a role in which Presbyterian churches joined the PCA."[2]

In December 1973, delegates from 260 congregations (over half of them from Mississippi, Alabama, and South Carolina) that had left the PCUS gathered at Briarwood Presbyterian Church in suburban Birmingham, Alabama, and organized the National Presbyterian Church. After protests from a UPCUSA congregation of the same name[3] in Washington, D.C., the denomination at its Second General Assembly (1974) called itself the National Reformed Presbyterian Church, then adopted its present name the next day.

According to the PCA's official website, it "separated from the PCUS in opposition to the long-developing theological liberalism which denied the deity of Jesus Christ and inerrancy and authority of Scripture." Additionally, the PCA espoused a complementarian interpretation of Scripture regarding the matter of women in church offices, excluding them from the offices of elder and deacon, whereas the PCUS had begun accepting the ordination of women over a decade earlier.

The mid-1970s witnessed the PCA's first significant acquisition of congregations outside the South, when several theologically orthodox UPCUSA churches in Ohio and Pennsylvania joined the PCA. This move was precipitated by a case regarding an ordination candidate, Wynn Kenyon, denied by the Pittsburgh presbytery because of his refusal to support women's ordination to either the ministry or eldership (the presbytery's decision was upheld by the UPCUSA General Assembly).

More significant numerically, though, was the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod merging with the PCA in 1982. The RPCES had been formed in 1965 by a merger of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church (an offshoot of the Bible Presbyterian Church and not the current denomination by that name) and the Reformed Presbyterian Church in North America, General Synod. The latter body maintained a direct historical tie to the Scottish Covenanter tradition. The RPCES brought two important things: a more nationally-based membership, and a college and theological seminary, the latter of which the PCA did not officially have up to that point, relying instead on independent evangelical institutions such as Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson, Mississippi. However, it must be said that RTS received its initial support at the time of its founding in the mid-1960s by PCUS pastors and churches that would ultimately join the PCA, so in a sense, RTS served as the PCA's de facto seminary. One notable figure from the RPCES was evangelical cultural theologian Francis Schaeffer.

Also that year and in 1983, on the eve of the UPCUSA's and PCUS' merger into the current Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), several PCUS churches that had originally decided to remain loyal in 1973 opted to defect to the PCA (some others joined the recently-formed Evangelical Presbyterian Church, unrelated to the 1950s and 1960s body of that name). A clause in the Plan of Union between the two mainline bodies allowed dissenting PCUS congregations to refrain from joining the merger and to join the denomination of their choosing.

These moves laid the foundation for a body that has engaged in aggressive evangelistic work, most notably in church planting. Especially since the late 1980s, the PCA has focused its efforts toward establishing congregations in suburbs of fast-growing metropolitan areas, particularly in the South and the Western U.S.

Doctrine and practice

The PCA is a theologically orthodox, Protestant denomination, professing adherence to the traditional statements of Presbyterianism—the Westminster Confession of Faith, the Westminster Shorter Catechism, and the Westminster Larger Catechism. These secondary standards are viewed as subordinate to the Bible[4], which alone is viewed as the inspired Word of God[5], a viewpoint which encompasses the doctrine of inerrancy in matters of fact, history, and teaching.

Much in the vein of pre-20th-century Presbyterianism, the PCA has sought to value academic endeavor a great deal more highly than more revivalist-oriented evangelical churches. Apologetics in general and presuppositional apologetics in particular has become something of a specialty with many of its theological professors and higher-ranking clergy, and many also practice "cultural apologetics" (pioneered by authors like Schaeffer) by engaging with and participating in secular cultural activities such as film, music, literature, and art in order to win them for Christ.

Additionally, the PCA has enjoyed growing interest and participation in ministries of mercy such as caring for the poor, the elderly, orphans, American Indians, people with physical and mental disabilities, refugees, etc. As a result, the denomination has held several national conferences to help equip members to participate in this type of work, and several PCA affiliates such as Desire Street Ministries and New Song Fellowship have received national attention for their service to the community at large.

Comparison to other Presbyterian denominations

The PCA is more theologically conservative than the larger PC(USA). Its view of Biblical and doctrinal interpretation and of social issues are more orthodox. Like the PC(USA), however, the PCA accommodates different views of creation[6] and strives for racial reconciliation.[7]

The PCA is generally less conservative than the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC) and more conservative than the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, though the differences can vary from presbytery to presbytery and even congregation to congregation. The PCA, as mentioned above, does not allow women to be ordained as ministers, elders or deacons; the EPC considers this issue a "non-essential" matter left to the individual ordaining body. While the OPC only allows women to teach women and children in Sunday school, some churches in the PCA allow women to do anything a non-ordained man can do. Also, PCA churches hold worship services in various styles (e.g, traditional Presbyterian, liturgical, contemporary), while most in the OPC hold to the traditional Scottish/Scots-Irish practice of singing only psalms and older hymns. The OPC also generally has stricter requirements overall on its officers' subscription to their standards of doctrine. Nonetheless, the two denominations enjoy fraternal relations and cooperate in a number of ways, such as sharing control of a publication company, Great Commission Publications, which produces Sunday school curricula for both denominations.

Affiliations and agencies

According to its official website, the Presbyterian Church in America has 1,693 churches (includes established churches and new church plants) throughout the USA and Canada. There were 340,852 communicant and non-communicant members (as of 2009).[1] As a church with origins in that region, the PCA has its greatest concentration in the states of the Deep South, with more scattered strength in the Atlantic South, the upper Ohio Valley, and the Southwest.[8]

Additionally, the denomination has its own agency for sending missionaries throughout the world (Mission to the World), its own ministry to students on college campuses (Reformed University Fellowship), its own camp and conference center (Ridge Haven, Brevard, North Carolina), and its own college (Covenant College, Lookout Mountain, Ga., near Chattanooga, Tenn.) and seminary (Covenant Theological Seminary, St. Louis, Mo.).

Most recently, the PCA has begun publishing its own denominational magazine, byFaith.

The church maintains headquarters in Lawrenceville, Ga., a suburb of Atlanta, which was once home to the former PCUS (the reunited PC(USA) moved all offices to Louisville, Ky. in 1988).

The PCA is a member of the North American Presbyterian and Reformed Council (NAPARC), an interchurch body representing conservative denominations in the Calvinist tradition. It is also a member of the National Association of Evangelicals.

Notable figures with PCA background

References

  1. ^ a b "PCA News - Actions of the 37th General Assembly Reported". byFaith Magazine Online. http://byfaithonline.com/page/pca-news/stated-clerk-issues-report-on-general-assembly-2. Retrieved 2009-07-21.  
  2. ^ Crespino, Joseph, In Search of Another Country: Mississippi and the Conservative Counterrevolution, Princeton University Press, 2007, p. 172.
  3. ^ National Presbyterian Church
  4. ^ Westminster Confession of Faith I.10
  5. ^ Westminster Confession of Faith I.9
  6. ^ "Report of the Creation Study Committee", 2000
  7. ^ "The PCA Pastoral Letter on Racism", approved by the 32nd General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America, June 2004
  8. ^ [1] "PCA Church Directory"
  9. ^ http://www.freebase.com/view/en/todd_akin

Further reading

  • Loetscher, Lefferts A., The Broadening Church: A Study of Theological Issues in the Presbyterian Church Since 1869. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1964.
  • Smith, Morton H. How is the Gold Become Dim. Jackson, MS: Premier Printing Company, 1973.
  • Smartt, Kennedy. I Am Reminded. Chestnut Mountain, GA: n.p., n.d.
  • Hutchinson, George P. The History Behind the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod Cherry Hill, NJ: Mack Publishing, 1974.
  • Nutt Rick. "The Tie That No Longer Binds: The Origins of the Presbyterian Church in America." In The Confessional Mosaic: Presbyterians and Twentieth-Century Theology. Edited by Milton J. Coalter, John M. Mulder, and Louis B. Weeks, 236-56. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 1990. ISBN 0-664-25151-X
  • North, Gary. Crossed Fingers: How the Liberals Captured the Presbyterian Church. Tyler, TX: Institute for Christian Economics, 1996. ISBN 0-930464-74-5
  • Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Book of Confessions: Study Edition. Louisville, KY.: Geneva Press, c1999. ISBN 0664500129
  • Settle, Paul. To God All Praise and Glory: 1973 to 1998 - The First 25 Years. Atlanta, GA: PCA Administrative Committee, 1998. ISBN 0-934688-90-7
  • Smith, Frank Joseph. The History of the Presbyterian Church in America. Presbyterian Scholars Press, 1999. ISBN 0-9676991-0-X
  • Lucas, Sean Michael. On Being Presbyterian. Phillipsburg, PA: P&R Publishing, 2006. ISBN 1-59638-019-5

External links

North American Presbyterian and Reformed Council member denominations
Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church | Free Reformed Churches in North America | Heritage Reformed Congregations | L'Église réformée du Québec | Korean-American Presbyterian Church | Orthodox Presbyterian Church | Presbyterian Church in America | Reformed Church in the United States | Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America | United Reformed Churches in North America
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