The Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) has a strong commitment to evangelism, missionary work at home and abroad, and to Christian education. From its inception, the church has determined its purpose to be “faithful to the Scriptures, true to the reformed faith, and obedient to the Great Commission.”
The PCA separated from the Presbyterian Church in the United States (PCUS, commonly called the “Southern Presbyterian Church”) in opposition to the long-developing theological liberalism which denied the deity of Jesus Christ and the inerrancy and authority of Scripture. Additionally, the PCA holds to the traditional position on the role of women in church offices.
When it became clear in 1973 that a merger between the PCUS and the even more liberal Northern Church (UPCNA) to become the PCUSA was inevitable, delegates representing some 260 congregations gathered at Briarwood Presbyterian Church in Birmingham, Alabama, and organized the National Presbyterian Church, which later changed its name to the Presbyterian Church in America.
In 1982, the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod (RPCES) joined the Presbyterian Church in America.
The PCA has made a firm commitment on the doctrinal standards which had been significant in presbyterianism since 1645, namely the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms. These doctrinal standards express the distinctives of the Calvinistic or Reformed tradition.
Among the distinctive doctrines of the Westminster Standards and of Reformed tradition is the unique authority of the Bible. The reformers based all of their claims on sola scriptura, the Scriptures alone. This included the doctrine of their inspiration, which is a special act of the Holy Spirit by which He guided the writers of the books of Scriptures (in their original autographs) so that their words should convey the thoughts He wished conveyed, bear a proper relation to the thoughts of other inspired books, and be kept free from error of fact, of doctrine, and of judgment — all of which were to be an infallible rule of faith and life. Historically, the concept of infallibility has included the idea of inerrancy.
Other distinctives are the doctrines of grace, which depict what God has done for mankind’s salvation:
- Total Depravity. Man is completely incapable within himself to reach out towards God. Man is totally at enmity with God, cf. Romans 3:10-23.
- Unconditional Election. There is absolutely no condition in any person for which God would save him. As a matter of fact, long before man was created, God chose or predestined some to everlasting life. He did this out of His mere good pleasure, cf. Ephesians 1:4 and 5.
- Particular Atonement. God in His infinite mercy, in order to accomplish the planned redemption, sent His own Son, Jesus Christ, to die as a substitute for the sins of a large but specific number of people, cf. Romans 8:29 and 30.
- Irresistible grace. This is the effectual work of the Holy Spirit moving upon a particular person whom He has called, applying the work of redemption, cf. John 3:5 and 6.
- Perseverance of the Saints. This is that gracious work of God’s sanctification whereby He enables a saved person to persevere to the end. Even though the process of sanctification is not complete in this life, from God’s perspective it is as good as accomplished, cf. Romans 8:30, 38, and 39, and Philippians 1:6.
The PCA maintains the historic polity of Presbyterian governance set forth in The Book of Church Order, namely rule by presbyters (or elders) and the graded assemblies or courts. These courts are the session, governing the local church; the presbytery, for regional matters; and the general assembly, at the national level.
The PCA is one of the faster growing denominations in the United States. The PCA has grown to over 342,000 members, with 1,666 churches (including mission churches) in seventy-six Presbyteries. Eighteen churches were added to the denomination in 2007. Over 10,200 professions of faith were reported. Our foreign missions committee Mission to the World (MTW) has 594 long-term missionaries, 136 two-year missionaries, 342 interns, and sent out 6,006 people on short-term mission trips in 2007. MTW now works with 584 national partners. Our home missions committee Mission to North America (MNA) reported that the PCA placed 53 church planters in 2007. There are now 172 PCA-endorsed chaplains, many of whom served in the Iraq-Afghanistan war zones in 2007.
Our college campus ministry Reformed University Fellowship (RUF) now works on 117 campuses in the USA. Seven new campus ministries were added in 2007; seven more are slated for 2008. Covenant College, our denominational liberal arts college, reported an enrollment of 1,343 students in 2007. Covenant Theological Seminary, our denominational seminary, also reported record enrollments with students coming from 46 states and 21 countries.
In this new century, the Presbyterian Church in America continues its commitment to evangelism world-wide and the building up of the Church of our Lord Jesus Christ.