Our Theological Heritage and Governmental Structure
The Church has a calling from God to be “a pillar and buttress of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15), and in order to fulfill that calling, she must be continually sanctified by the truth, which is the Word of God upon which she stands (John 17:17). Like every believer to whom she is Mother (Galatians 4:26), the Church must constantly look to God’s instruction to remember who she is and how she is to act (James 1:21-25); she must be a hearer and doer of the Word.
Since the time the statement was first penned by Jodocus Van Lodenstein in his devotional of 1674, it has been uttered with growing frequency that “The church is reformed and is always in need of being reformed according to the word of God.” The reform spoken of is not a fresh reinvention of the Christian Faith amenable to each new generation’s unique cultural climate but a constant discipline of turning our attention to the Scriptures so that we would hear and heed and be daily brought into renewed conformity with God’s eternal truth.
Our church has a reformed character, again referring to our historical and traditional ties with the Protestant Reformation of the sixteenth century as a movement of renewal in the Western Church. We are reformed (lower case “r”) with respect to our association with the general and continual work of reformation, and we are also Reformed (upper case “R”) or Calvinistic with respect to our close associations with the Protestant Reformers of Switzerland (most notably John Calvin) and their successors. We believe that the Reformed tradition is the most accurate representation of the Christian Faith based on the teachings of Holy Scripture.
Our church has a presbyterian character (meaning “eldership”), referring to a particular form of church government regarding local congregations and their connections with the broader denomination through regional presbyteries (assemblies of elders), and the general assembly. In simplest terms, presbyterianism is a balanced authority structure between the extremes of the episcopalian form of church government (which concentrates authority in the hierarchy of the denomination) and the congregational form of church government (which concentrates authority in the local church).
And as Presbyterians (upper case “P”), we have historical and traditional associations with the Protestant Reformation as it developed in the churches of England and Scotland following the Reformed tradition. In modern usage, Reformed and Presbyterian churches are essentially synonymous in terms of their teachings. “Reformed” generally refers to churches descending from those on the European continent and are confessionally governed by the Three Forms of Unity (i.e. the Belgic Confession of Faith, the Heidelberg Catechism, and the Canons of Dort). “Presbyterian” generally refers to churches descending from those in England and Scotland and are confessionally governed by the Westminster Standards (i.e. the Confession of Faith and the Larger and Shorter Catechisms).