Statements of Faith

Our common faith in God as our Creator; the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ as God and Savior of the world; and God the Holy Spirit dwelling among us gives us unity with all Christians since the first disciples of Christ.

In the Presbyterian Church (USA) we recognize that we are all in different places in our walk with Christ. We believe that the Holy Spirit reveals God to us as is appropriate and beneficial for where we are in life and and in our faith. Therefore, Presbyterians of the PC(USA) uphold a spectrum of beliefs on the inessentials of faith, while we all continue to work toward discerning what God would have us do and believe here and now.

What We Believe

The PC(USA) continues to discern God’s Word and will for the Church in our ever-changing world. Most recently, in 1983 the PC(USA) added A Brief Statement of Faith to its list of creeds. Currently, the PC(USA) upholds nine creeds. They are printed in The Constitution of the Presbyterian Church (USA) Part I: The Book of Confessions.

“This multiplicity of confessions, written by many people in many places over such a great span of time, obviously means that the Reformed tradition has never been content to recognize any one confession or collection of confessions as an absolute, infallible statement of the faith of Reformed Christians for all time. In the Reformed traditions confessional statements do have authority as statements of faith of Reformed Christians at particular times and places, and there is a remarkable consistency in their fundamental content. Some have had convincing power for a long time. Nevertheless, for Reformed Christians all confessional statements have only a provisional, temporary, relative authority.” ~ The Book of Confessions

Below you will find a bit of information about each creed.


The Apostles’ Creed

A second century Christian by the name of Marcion believed that the God of the Old Testament was a tyrant who created a flawed world, and he saw Jesus as a deity wholly separate from the God of the Old Testament. To refute the views of Marcion and his followers, Roman Christians developed an early form of the Apostle’s Creed in around 180 CE. They affirmed that Jesus is indeed connected to the God of the Old Testament–God is the Father and Jesus is his only Son!

“I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord…”

The creed continue to undergo scrutiny and further development. In the 3rd through the 7th centuries important additions were given to the creed:

“I believe in the forgiveness of sins”
“I believe in the holy (belonging to God) catholic (universal) church”
“he descended to hell”

Finally, by the eighth century the creed took on its final form as we now know it as the Apostle’s Creed.

The Nicene Creed

A council of the Church convened in Nicaea in 325 CE for the purpose of establishing a creed to settle growing disagreement over Christ’s divinity. This creed coming from Nicaea made the official position of the Church that Christ was God–not merely similar to God, but one and the same as God. A second council had to be called at Nicaea in 381 CE to revise and expand the original creed. The language this council officially adopted, in the creed now known as Nicene Creed, affirms that Christ was:

“…begotten from the Father before all ages,
God from God,
Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made;
of the same essence as the Father.”

The Scots Confession

In 1560, Scotland declared itself a Protestant nation and set its clergy to the task of composing a confession of faith. John Knox was among the clergy who completed the confession in four days, after which it was ratified by the Scottish Parliament.

Though this confession is written in the language of a time long ago (“Kirk” means “Church”), the truths within it remain applicable to this day. The Scots Confession notably sets forth three marks of the Church:

“the true preaching of the Word of God…
“the right administration of the sacraments of Christ Jesus…
“ecclesiastical discipline…”


The Second Helvetic Confession

This second Helvetic (Swiss) confession was composed in 1561 by Heinrich Bullinger–a Reformed minister serving in Zurich, Switzerland during the emergence of Swiss-German Reformed Protestantism. Originally, the confession was to be a private document for his congregation in Zurich. It did not take long, however, and Bullinger’s confession moved into the public arena where it was criticized by the Lutherans (for being too Reformed). Churches in Switzerland, however, found it to be helpful and they adopted it as their new confession of faith. The Second Helvetic Confession is known for delving into the practical reality of the life of the church; it includes the church as a community gathered, worship, conflict, and even how to decorate the sanctuary:

“Therefore, all luxurious attire, all pride, and everything unbecoming to Christian humility, discipline and modesty, are to be banished from the sanctuaries and places of prayer of Christians. For the true ornamentation of churches does not consist in ivory, gold, and precious stones, but in the frugality, piety, and virtues of those who are in the Church. Let all things be done decently and in order in the church, and finally, let all things be done for edification.”


The Heidelberg Catechism

Many reformations collectively make up the Reformation famously attributed to Martin Luther. Independent, yet related, movements of Lutheran and Reformed thought traveled throughout Europe, and they collided in Heidelberg. The controversy stemmed from disagreeing understandings of the Lord’s Supper–Lutheran theology claimed real bodily presence of Christ in the elements, and the Reformed Christians believed that Christ was not bodily present in the elements, but that Christ’s real presence was in the communal act of the partaking in the sacrament. An effort was made to create a catechism that would be acceptable to both sides. The catechism, completed in 1562, addresses each of its questions personally to “you” and draws heavily on biblical language. The catechism includes the following language that both sides could agree upon regarding Christ’s presence in the Lord’s Supper.

“by this visible sign and pledge…we come to share in his true body and blood through the working of the Holy Spirit…”


The Westminster Confession of Faith

In response to an ordinance passed by the English House of Commons in 1643, the Parliament called together 151 persons to craft a document of Standards to settle disputes between the government and the Church in England. 1,163 sessions were convened in Westminster Abbey by this assembly before it concluded its work in 1649. Already in 1647 the Scottish General Assembly replaced the Scots Confession of 1560 with this new Westminster Standards for use in the church (or kirk, as they termed it). The Westminster Standards include: The Westminster Confession of Faith, the Shorter Catechism, and the Larger Catechism; all of which lift up the authority of Scripture (in the original Hebrew and Greek) and double predestination (yes, there is such a thing!) among many other Reformed beliefs. As a document that aimed to settle disputes between church and government, it is fitting that the standards remind both ruler and citizen of their responsibilities to God and one another.

The first questions of both the shorter and the larger catechisms are nearly identical and are among the catechisms’ most familiar:

“Q. 1. What is the chief and highest end of man [sic]?”
“A. Man’s [sic] chief and highest end is to glorify God, and fully to enjoy him [sic] forever.”


The Theological Declaration of Barmen

As Adolph Hitler gained power in Germany in the 1930’s, the majority of of German Christians and churches allowed themselves to believe Hitler’s reign aligned with God’s will for the people of Germany. Some churches, however, refused to align the Church with Hitler’s agenda. Among those Christians who resisted the resisted the Nazi takeover of the Church were notable theologians including Karl Barth. 139 Christians from Lutheran, Reformed, and United churches gathered in Barmen, Wupperthal in May of 1934. These representatives from the Confessing Church (those who opposed the German Christians) gathered to create and send a declaration to send to German Evangelical churches in an effort to persuade them to resist further alignment with German National Socialism.

“We publicly declare before all evangelical churches in Germany that what they hold in common in this Confession is grievously imperiled, and with it the unity of the German Evangelical Church. It is threatened by the teaching methods and actions of the ruling church party of the “German Christians” and of the church administration carried on by them.”

The declaration focuses on the freedom of the Church in Jesus Christ, and the Church’s obedience to God.

“The Christian Church is the congregation of the brethren in which Jesus Christ acts presently as the Lord in Word and Sacrament through the Holy Spirit. As the church of pardoned sinners, it has to testify in the midst of a sinful world, with its faith as with its obedience…”


The Confession of 1967

In 1956 the General Assembly United Presbyterian Church in the United States of America (UPCUSA) received an item of business requesting a revision of the Westminster Shorter Catechism. It should be noted that the UPCUSA and the Presbyterian Church in the U.S. (PCUS) merged in 1983 to become the Presbyterian Church USA (PCUSA). It wasn’t until 1958, however, that a new General Assembly proposed the task of framing a contemporary statement of faith. A committee spent seven years laboring toward that goal before it was sent to the General Assembly of 1965 where it was revised and sent to presbyteries for consideration. Suggested changes and additions were given to a newly appointed committee tasked with making the revisions. The final draft was accepted by the General Assembly of 1966 and submitted to presbyteries–90% of which approved it.

The Confession of 1967 draws heavily on the idea of reconciliation as it aims to address the role of the church in the modern world. Specifically, it calls the Church to respond to a variety of social problems.

“God has created the peoples of the earth to be one universal family. …The church is called to bring all men [sic] to receive and uphold one another as persons in all relationships of life: in employment, housing, education, leisure, marriage, family, church, and the exercise of political rights.”


A Brief Statement of Faith

When the UPCUSA and the PCUS merged in 1983 to become the PCUSA, they thought it important to form a brief statement of faith to be added to the Book of Confessions and used in worship. Several aspects distinguish the it from other creeds including its emphasis on Jesus ministry in Judea and Galilee, gender inclusive language, affirmation of the ordination of both women and men, and both masculine and feminine imagery of God.

“Jesus proclaimed the reign of God:
preaching good news to the poor
and release to the captives…
…eating with outcasts,
forgiving sinners,
and calling all to repent and believe the gospel.”

“Loving us still,
God makes us heirs with Christ of the covenant.
Like a mother who will not forsake her nursing child,
like a father who runs to welcome the prodigal home,
God is faithful still.”