What does it mean to be a Presbyterian?
Presbyterians, first of all, are Christians. We believe in one God who revealed himself and his plans for us in the Bible and especially through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. As members of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)–2.57 million strong–we are an expression of Reformed Christianity, a part of the holy catholic church celebrated in the Apostles’ Creed, a people whose roots go back to John Calvin at the time of the Reformation. We are distinctive in our Reformed theology and our 400-year-old form of government, combining the equal values of authority and freedom, order and passion.
We Presbyterians worship and function in over 11,000 congregations nationwide, served by more than 17,000 active pastors (around a quarter of whom are women), and over 100,000 elders. Local congregations are connected to others in area-wide presbyteries (173 in the U.S.), and presbyteries unite in regional synods (16 in theU.S.). All join together at the national level through the yearly General Assembly.
El Montecito Presbyterian Church, with approximately 250 members, has a Session (board of elders), consisting of 15 lay men and women elders, who govern our church.
In addition, our Board of Trustees (12 men and women) are responsible for the finances and property of the church. A Board of Deacons (18 men and women) carries out the ministry of lay pastoral care to the congregation. We also have a staff of two pastors and many other professionals who work in ministry to children, youth and adults, music ministries and outreach ministries.
Intellectually and spiritually we stand within the Reformed Tradition. The Scripture as the Word of God is the authoritative guide for our life and faith; and the Confessions of the Church are reliable guides to our understanding of God’s Word in specific historical situations.
We acknowledge the sovereignty of God in every moment of life, and look to God alone for purpose and meaning and guidance in this life. God is the foundation and object of our faith and we know God as Creator and Redeemer, Friend and Lord.
We admit our sinfulness and inability to live up to the fullness of God’s image within us. We confess the old, old story of God’s redeeming, atoning love in Jesus Christ. We remember the sacrifice and suffering of Christ on the cross and hold to the hope of resurrection which the empty cross represents.
We believe in the power of the Holy Spirit who gives us faith, renews our commitment, strengthens us for discipleship, and confirms the presence of God in our lives. We believe in the power of prayer to bring change, healing and new life to our faith and to the world.
We believe that the church is called together to remember, forgive, love and serve. The church is a community based on covenant with God and with each other. We develop support for each other in the loneliness, meaningless and fear that gnaws within us.
We struggle to make the Word of God a reality in our lives, and we strive to bear witness to that reality every day.
We also focus on the task of discipleship. We remember that the response to belief in Christ is not a mere intellectual acceptance, but a response in action–a response in service and love to God and to all God’s people. At the heart of the church and its calling is the commandment of Christ to love the Lord with all our hearts and all our being and to love our neighbor as ourselves.