Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A) (or PCUSA) is the largest Presbyterian body in Georgia, with more than 300 congregations and more than 81,000 members as of 2003. The church is also one of the oldest in the state, dating back to the colonial era.
The form of church government provides the name for the Presbyterian Church. The word presbyter (from the Greek presbuteros) means "elder." Presbyterian congregations elect elders to serve on the session, or governing body, of a particular church. The pastor of a congregation serves as the moderator of its session and conducts its meetings. Individual churches in turn are organized
Presbyteries examine candidates for ministry, ordain new ministers, examine and supervise entering ministers, discipline ministers if cases of misconduct arise, and supervise the conduct of particular churches. All member churches of a presbytery staff the committees of the presbytery, so its work, even in cases of discipline, is an organic act of that community. In this way, Presbyterian churches are "connectional"; that is, they are united in their ministry and government.
Session meetings and presbytery meetings are held at least four times a year and more often as needed. Presbytery meetings may be attended by anyone. The voting members of a presbytery meeting are the pastors of the presbytery and the elders appointed by their session to attend.
The General Assembly is the highest governing body of the PCUSA. The commissioners to the General Assembly are elders and ministers chosen by each presbytery.
Doctrine and Theology
The constitution of the PCUSA has two major parts: the Book of Confessions and the Book of Order. The Book of Confessions includes the Apostles' Creed, the Nicene Creed, the Westminster Confession of Faith, the Barmen Declaration, and other statements of faith. The Book of Order includes the Form of Government, the Directory for Worship, and the Rules of Discipline.
History in Georgia
When Georgia was founded
Presbyterians in Georgia, as elsewhere, participated heavily on the patriot side in the American Revolution (1775-83). Afterwards, Presbyterians were active on the Georgia frontier. A number of Presbyterian ministers were missionaries to Native Americans, including the Cherokees, whom several Presbyterian ministers accompanied on the Trail of Tears.
In 1916 African American Presbyterian churches were organized into a synod, which in 1917 was named
In the 1970s concern over theological liberalism, which embraces modern ideas and encourages the individual interpretation of Scripture, in the seminaries and the church in general led conservatives to form the Presbyterian Church in America. In 1983 the United Presbyterian Church in the United States of America (also known as the Northern Presbyterian Church) reunited with the PCUS to form the PCUSA.
The PCUSA in Georgia has become increasingly diverse, and several congregations speak primarily Korean, Chinese, Vietnamese, Portuguese, Spanish, and other languages. Many new ethnic churches represent lands served during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries by Georgia Presbyterian missionaries.
Lefferts A. Loetscher, A Brief History of the Presbyterians, 4th ed. (Philadelphia, Pa.: Westminster Press, 1983).
James Stacy, A History of the Presbyterian Church in Georgia (Elberton, Ga.: Press of the Star, 1912).
Franklin C. Talmage, The Story of the Presbytery of Atlanta (Atlanta: Foote and Davies, 1960).
Franklin C. Talmage, The Story of the Synod of Georgia ([Atlanta]: n.p., 1961).
Ernest Trice Thompson, Presbyterians in the South, 3 vols. (Richmond, Va.: John Knox Press, 1973).
David S. Williams, From Mounds to Megachurches: Georgia's Religious Heritage (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2008).
Gayraud S. Wilmore, Black and Presbyterian: The Heritage and the Hope (Philadelphia, Pa.: Geneva Press, 1983).
A. J. L. Waskey, Dalton State College
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