What We Believe

February 2017 New Horizons

A Presbyterian Approach to Mercy Ministry

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A Presbyterian Approach to Mercy Ministry

Presbyterianism brings churches together into relationships of mutual accountability and cooperation. This form of church government has been called “connectional” to distinguish it from church traditions in which congregations are independent of one another. Accountability in connectional church government is illustrated in examinations of ministerial candidates by presbyteries, their review of sessional records, and the whole process of church discipline, in which individuals and churches can appeal to the presbytery and the general assembly for assistance in resolving disputes in the church. In connectional church government, cooperation is also illustrated in the sharing of resources to send and support missionaries abroad, to plant and support new churches at home, and to publish teaching tools like the magazine this article appears in. In all these ways, the advantages of being in a connectional church should be obvious. But what about diaconal ministry? In what ways do the local deacons of ... Read more

Too Much of a Good Book?

The Bible has been ubiquitous in American life. Practically every home and hotel room has one. It used to be used in every public school classroom. The Economist reported in 2007 that over 100 million copies of the Bible are sold or given away every year. It is available (at least in part) in 2,426 languages, which makes it accessible to 95 percent of the world’s population. Scripture was also responsible for some of the fiercest riots in the United States before the Civil War. In 1843, when the Roman Catholic bishop of Philadelphia objected to the reading of the King James Bible in the city’s public schools—he wanted Rome’s Douay version—his opposition added to existing tensions between native Philadelphians and Irish immigrants. In the run-up to municipal elections that would have a bearing on the administration of public schools, Protestants organized rallies in predominantly Roman Catholic neighborhoods. Parades turned into violence. For nativist Protestants, opposition to Bible reading in ... Read more

The Reformation of Worship

Doctrine and worship are mutually formative aspects of church life. What we believe determines how we worship, and over time the way we worship shapes what we believe. Accordingly, the Protestant Reformation was an attempt to reform both doctrine and worship according to Scripture and with respect for the customs of the ancient church. Unlike the Lutheran wing of the Reformation—which was reluctant to introduce extensive changes in worship—the Calvinistic Reformers sought to purge the church of all man-made rites, ceremonies, and ordinances that had corrupted pure worship with superstition and idolatry. For Luther, the Reformation was chiefly a war against works righteousness. For the Calvinists, the Reformation was primarily a war against the idols of Rome. The Regulative Principle of Worship Lutherans and Anglicans held that whatever is not forbidden in Scripture is lawful in worship, as long as it edifies the church. Presbyterians (and the Reformed more generally), however, insisted that ... Read more


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