See: Organization


1517 - Reformation movement starts when Martin Luther posts a list of 95 grievances against the Roman Catholic Church on a church door in Wittenberg, Germany.

1536 - John Calvin, a French lawyer, publishes the "Institutes" in which he presents a vision of God in his majesty, of Christ as prophet, priest, and king, of the Holy Spirit as the giver of faith, of the Bible as the final authority, and of the church as the holy people of God. Calvin was a great logician and systematizer, but not an innovator in the doctrine of the reformation. He is often associated with the doctrines of predestination and election, but his thinking was consistent with other reformers.

1537 - Presbyterianism is the name given to one of the groups of ecclesiastical bodies that represent the features of Protestantism emphasized by French lawyer John Calvin.

1540 - John Knox, a Catholic priest, but follower of John Calvin, converted to the Protestant faith when a fellow-reformer was burnt at the stake by order of the Cardinal. Knox was among those who seized the Cardinal's home, St. Andrew's Castle in Edinburgh.

1547 - French troops re-captured the castle. Knox and his fellow Protestants were taken to France as prisoners.

1549 - The English Government managed to negotiate for Knox's release.

1553 - Knox was forced to escape to Europe after Queen Mary declared England a Catholic country, eventually arriving in Geneva.

1559 - Knox returns to England.

1560 Scotland's parliament adopted a confession of faith drawn up by Knox and established the Church of Scotland on a Presbyterian basis. Knox and others drove Mary Stuart, a Roman Catholic, out of Scotland.

1642-1651 - During the English Civil War, Oliver Cromwell, a Congregationalist, purged the Parliament of all Presbyterians.

1706 - Eight Presbyterian ministers met in Philadelphia and formed the Presbytery of Philadelphia, the first Presbyterian presbytery in the New World.

1776 - 12 of the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence were Presbyterian.
(Thomas McKean ,Matthew Thornton ,Abraham Clark ,John Hart ,Richard Stockton ,John Witherspoon, William Floyd ,Philip Livingston ,James Smith ,George Taylor ,Benjamin Rush). There were 32 Episcopalian/Anglicans (incl. Franklin and Jefferson, who were also Deist), 13 Congregationalist (incl. Adams and Paine who were als Unitarian), Others included Quaker, Unitarian and Catholic.

1776 - One of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, the Rev. John Witherspoon, was a Presbyterian minister and the president of Princeton University from 1768-1793.

1788 - The Synod met in Philadelphia to form the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America (PCUSA).

1876 - The Presbyterian Church of England was formed by a merger of factions from English and Scottish congregations.

1958 - The PCUSA and the United Presbyterian Church of North America unite to form the UPCUSA, the largest Presbyterian denomination in the country.

presbyterian seal, symbol, icon 1983 - The United Presbyterian Church USA in the North and the Presbyterian Church in the U.S., in the South merged into the Presbyterian Church (USA) ( Other denominations such as the Presbyterian Church in America (, a more conservative group, are still separate.)
See A Family Tree of Presbyterian Denomination - (timeline os splits and mergers)

1992 - The Special Committee to Study Human Sexuality published a 200-page report "Keeping Body and Soul Together: Sexuality, Spirituality, and Social Justice". This report which proposed relaxed views of pre-marital sex, homosexuality and other contentious issues and created a lot of controversy within the church getting national media attention. It was ultimately voted down.

See more in social issues below.

Some of the Presbyterian Denominations - 2007:
Denomination Churches Members Web
PC USA 10,900 2.3 M1
PC America 1,345 388,000
Evangelical PC 175 70,000
A Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians (ECO) 1482 60,000+
Korean American Presbyterian Church/Reformed   33,000
The Korean Presbyterian Church in America   29,000
Korean American congregations in the PC USA 383 40,000
Orthodox Presbyterian Church 255 28,000
Fellowship Community (Fellowship of Presbyterians)3 400
1. PC USA membership declined from 4 million in 1970 to 1.5 million in 2015.

2. Membership in ECO as of Aug, 2014

3. Fellowship Community is an "umbrella organization" that includes members of the PC(USA), members of ECO, and brothers and sisters in Christ beyond these two denominations. They were started with churches concerned about the health of the PC(USA) as a denomination. In 2012 they launched the new Reformed body, ECO: A Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians.
In 2014, The Fellowship of Presbyterians and Presbyterians for Renewal (PFR) agreed to merge into one organization the Fellowship Community.

Social issues in the Presbyterian Church:
Presbyterian Church USA (PCUSA):
The PCUSA, the largest Presbyterian domination with over 2 million members, has wrestled with these issues for some time.
  • 1956 - Women gained full clergy rights.
  • 1990-91 - A report entitled "Keeping Body and Soul Together: Sexuality, Spirituality and Social Justice" was distributed throughout the PC-USA and received a lot of publicity. It was the result of several years of deliberation from a committee of lay and clergy within the church.
    One of the more controversial concepts was "justice-love" which condoned co-habitation before marriage and Homosexuality.
    It was ultimately rejected by the General Assembly.
  • 2011 - The Presbyteries of the PC(USA), the largest domination, passed amendment 10-A permitting congregations to ordain elders and deacons and presbyteries to ordain ministers in same-sex partnerships and marriages if they feel called to do so.
    In addition the Book of Order, consisting of the Foundations of Presbyterian Polity, Form of Government, Directory for Worship, and Rules of Discipline, was completely revised.
  • At the 2012 General Assembly meeting social issues were discussed again.
    • A motion to change the definition of marriage as between "two people" was NOT approved by a vote of 308-338-2.
    • Just access to female reproductive health care (including abortions).
    • An overture aligning the PC(USA) with the occupy movement (although the specific reference to occupy was removed).
    • An overture advocating the use of sustainable farming practices, claiming that "protection of the environment is an essential part of the Christian Faith"
    • A resolution encouraging participation in the Words Matter Project (attempt to remove sexist language).
  • At the 2014 General Assembly same sex marriage was approved.
    They also voted to divest themselves from stock in three multinational corporations that allegedly sell products to Israel to help promote violence in Palestinian territories.

The Presbyterian Coalition blog by Rev. Dr. Mary Naegeli, moderator of the San Francisco Evangelical Caucus and Executive Director of the Presbyterian Coalition, is a conservative take on the issues.
Social Issues at General Assembly Mission Council (GAMC)
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) - Wikipedia
Home - The Layman Online a conservative Presbyterian Publication.

See Fundamentalist/Modernist Issues

A Brief History of the Presbyterian Church in this Country at the Presbyterian Historical Society.
Presbyterian 101 -- Mission and Ministry -- General Assembly Mission Council (GAMC)
  Social Issues
Family Tree of Presbyterian Denomination
Presbyterians in America: A Timeline

Magazines/Web Pages/Blogs:
The Layman - A conservative watchdog of PC(USA)
The Presbyterian Outlook An independent publication that provides "fair-minded analysis" of issues in PC(USA)
Bill's 'Faith M-atters' Blog - Bill Tammeus, Faith columnist, Kansas City Presbyterian (PC-USA) elder, writes about religion and ethics.

Church Organization
Presbyterian Organization
See also:
Contentious issues in PC (USA) Some of my family members involved in the Presbyterian Church:
Prominent Cousins

last updated 2 Oct 2014