What is the state of the Presbyterian church? One aspect of my question is its position on the liberal-conservative spectrum. I am not asking this because of some personal difficulty, but simply because my wife and myself have a distant acquaintance with a minister in that church, and we are curious about this.
It depends on whether you’re talking PCUSA (Presbyterian Church in the USA), the largest in the States, or one of the smaller groups such as Presbyterian Church in America, Reformed Presbyterian Church, Bible Presbyterian Church, Orthodox Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Presbyterian Church, Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, Cumberland Presbyterian Church, Reformed Presbyterian Church in the United States (RPCUS)
The PCUSA is on the left.
The Presbyterian Church in America tilts center-right.
Orthodox Presbyterian Church is on the right.
Don’t know about the others.
Their traditional service of worship looks like Matins from the Divine Office - lots of Psalm-singing and Scripture reading. There is also a sermon and a sung anthem.
I’m not sure how many Presbyterian churches still follow this model, though - a lot of them are getting into Lectionary-based worship (which is considered “liberal” from their point of view).
Most Presbyterians tend to think of themselves as “conservative” but they do ordain women as Elders (service) and Ministers (Word and Sacrament) - this began to occur during the 1970s.
Typically, they do oppose abortion and homosexual marriage, but they permit birth control of all kinds.
They tend to be “law and order” types - their favourite Scripture verse (if a denomination can be said to have one) is I Cor. 14:40 - “Let all things be done decently and in order.”
The largest American Presbyterian denomination is the PCUSA, which is a typical “mainline” denomination. That is to say, the leadership tends to be quite liberal, but the rank and file range over a wide spectrum. None of them are ultra-conservative (those who oppose women’s ordination, for instance, have almost all left)–they range from moderate evangelicals to extreme liberals. As with most of the mainline denominations, some of the largest and most thriving churches are evangelical, and this no doubt has some impact on the denomination as a whole, even though the denominational bureaucracy tends to be hostile.
There are a lot of conservative Presbyterian denominations. The largest is the PCA, which split from the Southern Presbyterians just before the reunion with the more liberal Northern denomination. They don’t ordain women and are much more explicitly Calvinist than PCUSA. However, in my experience some of them at least have a fairly high theology of the sacraments, and while they’re mostly anti-Catholic there’s a movement among some of them toward a greater appreciation for the medieval tradition. The Orthodox Presbyterian Church is even more conservative, and the Bible Presbyterian Church is extremely fundamentalist. The Evangelical Presbyterian Church is more moderate–basically it’s identical in belief with the more conservative wing of PCUSA. They ordain women, for instance.
The Cumberland Presbyterians are quite different–they dropped most aspects of Calvinism in the 19th century, though I think they do believe in eternal security (like the Baptists). My understanding is that they’re not very conservative, but I don’t know much about them.
Of course, all of this assumes that you live in the U.S.!
I was a member of the RPCUS (Reformed Pres. Ch. in the United States.)
They are confessional (use the West. Conf of Faith) and Creedal, they often recite the Apostle’s and Niceno-Constantinoplian Creed. That’s the one we say at Mass. aka, “the Nicene Creed”
They don’t pray to Mary too much, actually, they just pray God.
Politically, they say “All Conservatives conserve is the liberalism of yesterday” which is to say that they are way to the right of conservative republicans. In fact, there’s probably not 3 politicians in the whole country that they would vote for.
The Cumberland Presbyterians were the first Presbyterian denomination to ordain a woman. And they are sort of liberal as far as presybterians go.
Presbyterians serious about their faith often get into philosophy and history and stuff like that. And the Bible.