Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
PC(USA) has denominational offices in Louisville, KY with over two million members, more than 10,000 congregations and 14,000 ordained and active ministers.
Presbyterians share many beliefs with early Christians and can trace their church history to the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century and the writings of John Calvin (1509-1564) and others. Calvin's beliefs helped unify Reformed thinking. From Geneva, Switzerland, where Calvin wrote, the Reformed movement spread throughout Europe and the British Isles. Many early American Presbyterians came from England, Scotland and Ireland. The first American Presbytery was organized at Philadelphia in 1706, and the first General Assembly was held there in 1789. Rev. John Witherspoon convened the first Assembly. He was the only minister to sign the Declaration of Independence.
Over time new statements of belief have been written and have become part of the confessional heritage of our denomination. Our creeds are used in worship, study, and for personal reflection as we seek to understand our faith and live what we believe. Each of the eleven confessions in the Book of Confessions reflects a particular moment in history, often a time of crisis or change.
325 CE - The Nicene Creed
The Nicene Creed, our oldest creed, was named for the Council of Nicea that refuted the theology of Arius who said that Christ was only like God, and therefore God himself was not fully present in Christ.
6th-7th century - The Apostles' Creed
The Apostle’s Creed, taken from a first century doctrine, was probably a personal confession made at the time of baptism.
1560 - The Scots Confession
This confession was written in four days by John Knox and five associates. It remained the confession of the Church of Scotland until it was replaced a century later by the Westminster Confession of Faith.
1563 - The Heidelberg Catechism
It was written by two young scholars, Ursinus and Olevianus, who were brought to the University of Heidelberg by Frederick III to write a document that would resolve differences between the Lutheran and Reformed branches of the church. This practical creed asks what benefit is to be derived from the doctrine under consideration.
1561 - The Second Helvetic Confession
This confession was written by Heinrich Bullinger, the Swiss reformer, as his own confession and testament. It details the work of the parish minister.
1643 - The Westminster Confession of Faith
In 1643 the English Parliament convened an assembly of churchmen from England and Scotland to write a new confessional statement for their recently united kingdoms. They met at Westminster and completed their work in 1649. Brought to America by early settlers, this creed became the doctrinal statement of the Presbyterian Church in America in 1729 and was the sole confession until it was incorporated into the Book of Confessions in 1967.
1643 - The Shorter Catechism (one of the Westminster Catechisms)
This catechism was primarily written by the Reverend John Wallis for the education of children. It deals with questions of God, Christ, the Christian life, the Ten Commandments, the sacraments, and the Lord's Prayer. Unlike most earlier catechisms it doesn’t contain a section on the Apostles' Creed.
1643 - The Larger Catechism (one of the Westminster Catechisms )
The Larger Catechism, written primarily by Dr. Anthony Tuckney, professor of divinity and vice-chancellor of Cambridge University, was designed to be used from the pulpit. It deals with the same issues as the Shorter Catechism.
1943 - The Theological Declaration of Barmen
This creed was written by a group of Lutheran, Reformed and United church leaders in Germany to help Christians withstand the challenges of the Nazi party. It asserts the primacy of Jesus Christ.
1967 - The Confession of 1967
The central theme of this confession is reconciliation: God’s Work of Reconciliation and The Ministry of Reconciliation Today.
1983 – A Brief Statement of Faith
Our most recent confession, this declaration came from the 1983 reunion of the United Presbyterian Church in the USA (mostly in the North) and the Presbyterian Church of the United States (mostly in the South). It was approved in 1991 by the General Assembly of the PC (USA).