On Being Presbyterian


Presbyteros, the Greek word meaning elder, is used seventy-two times in the New Testament.  It provided the name for the Presbyterian family of churches, which includes the Reformed churches of the world.  Both Presbyterian and Reformed are synonymous with churches in the Calvinist tradition.

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is distinctly a confession and a connectional church, distinguished by the representation of elders — laymen and laywomen — in its government.  The church has a membership of 2.2 million people in 50 states and Puerto Rico.

Believers and Doers

We believe in “the proclamation of the Gospel for the salvation of humankind; the shelter, nurture, and spiritual fellowship of the children of God; the maintenance of divine worship; the preservation of truth; the promotion of social righteousness; and the exhibition of the Kingdom of Heaven to the world.” 

We do this work through the structures of our church.  The General Assembly is our governing body, which meets every two years to decide matters of theology and administration important to the church.  The General Assembly is comprised of Presbyteries, including our own, National Capital Presbytery.

We do mission in partnership locally, nationally, and globally, by prioritizing our available resources, guided by the emphases given by our General Assembly.  Through this meeting, all Presbyterians have a voice in setting directions for mission.

Attuned to the Times

Our style for mission is built on our past commitments and experience, but adapts to newly emerging needs and changing relationships.  We engage in mission and relations in partnership with churches and ecumenical bodies in almost seventy countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, Africa, the Middle East and Europe, Central, South and Southeast Asia, and East Asia and the Pacific.  

Our witness, corporately and individually, is rooted in the gospel ministries of preaching, teaching and healing, and in Christ’s example of advocacy for the poor, the hungry, and the oppressed.

Looking Toward the Future

Presbyterians in the twenty-first century have a vision of ministry that is vibrant, inviting and reflects the love of Jesus Christ.  The denomination has set four mission priorities for the coming years.

Evangelism and Witness

We are called to invite all people of faith, repentance, and the abundant life of God in jesus Christ, to encourage congregations to joyfully share the gospel.

Justice and Compassion

We are called to address wrongs in every aspect of life and the whole of creation, intentionally working with and on behalf of poor, oppressed, and disadvantaged people as did Jesus Christ, even at the risk to our corporate and personal lives.

Spirituality and Discipleship

We are called to deeper discipleship through Scripture, worship, prayer, study, stewardship and service, and to rely on the HOly Spirit to mold our lives more and more into the likeness of Jesus Christ.

Leadership and Vocation

 We are called to lead by Jesus Christ’s example, to identify spiritual gifts, and to equip and support Christians of all ages for faithful and effective servant leadership in all parts of the body of Christ.

With the knowledge that in life and death we belong to God, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) continues the journey with hope and confidence as we move toward a third century of witness and service to a world in need of love.


– Adapted from “Who are we Presbyterians?” PDS 12112-09-950 General Assembly Council