Presbyterians generally exhibit their faith through acts of generosity, hospitality, the constant pursuit of social justice and reform, as well as proclamation the gospel of Christ. But, so do many other denominations.
Below are five beliefs that set Presbyterians apart from the other Protestant Christians.
1. Governing Body:
The Presbyterian Church governing body is based on a system of elders. Teaching and ruling elders, or ministers, are ordained and responsible for the discipline, nurture and mission of the local congregation. The practicalities of buildings, finance and temporal ministry to the needy in the congregation are delegated to a group of officers called deacons.
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Presbyterianism is historically a "confessional" type tradition. Confessional churches express their faith in the form of "confessions of faith." 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.
Presbyterians put an emphasis on equal education for all people. Because of this they "planted" and encouraged schools across the U.S. as the country grew and the missionaries were sent out to the people. In times past when Presbyterians arrived in a new place, they would usually build a church, a school, and a hospital, in that order. Presbyterians see the right to worship of God as paramount, and education as necessary, so that they can serve the world in God's name.
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4. Majority Rule:
When Presbyterians have a policy or an action to consider, they pray, they talk, and then they vote. In fact, Presbyterians probably take more votes than any other religious group. They believe that the Holy Spirit lives in individuals but works through the community. Because of this lay and clergy votes count the same.
Presbyterians traditionally have held the worship position that there are only two sacraments: Baptism and Communion. Presbyterians baptize infants as well as unbaptized adults by sprinkling or pouring water, rather than immersion. Infants are baptized on the biblical belief that because Hebrew infants were circumcised in order to show that they were part of the covenant community, infants of believing parents should likewise be baptized. The ritual of communion, also known as partaking of the Lord's Supper, is based on the belief that Christ is present in the bread and wine through the Holy Spirit.
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