top of page

What is a Presbyterian?


The Presbyterian Church  (U.S.A.) has approximately 1.9 million members, 10,000 congregations and over 14,000 ordained and active ministers. Presbyterians trace their history to the 16th century and the Protestant Reformation.  Central Presbyterian Church is also a member congregation of Grace Presbytery, a juridiction of the PC(USA) and is comprised of over 140 congregations in Central Texas, North Central Texas, and East Texas.

When did Presbyterianism begin?                                                                

Presbyterians trace our history to the 16th century and the Protestant Reformation. Our heritage and much of what we believe, began with the French lawyer John Calvin (1509-1564), whose writings crystallized much of the Reformed thinking that came before him.

Calvin did much of his writing from Geneva, Switzerland. From there, the Reformed movement spread to other parts of Europe and the British Isles. Many of the early Presbyterians in America came from England, Scotland, and Ireland. The first American Presbytery was organized at Philadelphia in 1706. The first General Assembly was held in the same city in 1789 and was convened by the Rev. John Witherspoon, the only minister to sign the Declaration of Independence.

What is distinctive about Presbyterian Church (USA)?

Presbyterians are distinctive in a few major ways: 

  • we adhere to a pattern of religious thought known as Reformed theology, and

  • our form of government stresses the active, representational leadership, equally,

         of both ordained ministers and ordained church members, of every gender, identity, and sexual orientation.

  • non-members and children  have a voice in our congregational and committee meetings, and

         one voice can create change!​

  • we are a connectional denomination, working together with sister congregations in districts (presbyteries) and regions (synods); one voice can move one session to partner with others in proposing change, even at the national level.

What our Presbyterian Beliefs?                             

Some of the Reformed principles articulated by John Calvin remain at the core of Presbyterian beliefs. Among these are:the sovereignty of God, the authority of the Scripture,justification by grace through faith,and the priesthood of all believers. 

What these tenets mean is that God is the supreme authority throughout the universe. Our knowledge of God and God's purpose for humanity comes from the Bible, particularly what is revealed in the New Testament through the life, ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Our salvation (justification) through Jesus is God's generous gift to us and not the result of our own accomplishments. It is everyone's calling - ministers and lay people alike - to share this Good News with the whole world. That is also why the Presbyterian church is governed at all levels by a combination of clergy and laity, men and women alike. 


As far back as 1837, Presbyterians have affirmed that the church, by its very nature, is a missionary society whose purpose is to share the love of God in Jesus Christ in word and deed and with all the world. Witnessing to the good news of Jesus Christ throughout the world, Presbyterians continue to engage in mission activities, including, but not limited to, seeking to alleviate hunger, fostering self-development, responding to disasters, supporting mission works, preaching and the gospel, and educating new generations for the future. 

Additionally, we affirm a conviction that neither the Church as the body of Christ, nor Christians as individuals, can be neutral or indifferent toward evil in the world. We have a responsibility to speak on social and moral issues for the encouragement and instruction of the Church and its members, seeking earnestly both to know the mind of Christ and to speak always in humility and love. And that it is our calling to not only to encourage and train our members in daily obedience to God's will, but corporately reveal God's grace in places of suffering and need, resist the forces that tyrannize, and support the forces that restore the dignity of all people as the children of God, as proclaimed most fully in the gospel. 

Which Presbyterian Church is Central?                                                            

Throughout our storied history, portions of the Presbyterian church in the United States have separated from the main body, and some parts have reunited several times. The greatest division within the denomination occurred in 1861 during the American Civil War. The two branches created by that division were reunited in 1983 to form the current Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) which remains the largest (and most progressive) Presbyterian group in America. 

bottom of page