Presbyterianism is an important Protestant strand within the Christian tradition. As indicated by its name, derived form a Greek word meaning ‘old’, its distinguishing feature is the system by which individual churches are regulated by its senior members, its so-called ‘elders’ (who need not in fact be the most aged). Though it emerged as a force during the Reformation, Presbyterianism does not see itself as an innovation, but rather as the restoration of a form of church governance inherited from the synagogues that was characteristic of Christianity in its earliest days, before authoritarian centralization by bishops under the pope. Theologically, Presbyterianism looks to the doctrines advanced by the Genevan reformer John Calvin (1509–64), with their stress on the helplessness of the individual, who is necessarily sinful as a consequence of original sin unless aided by the free gift of divine grace, and on strict ethical standards in personal life and business. In worship, which generally follows accepted patterns though there is no fixed liturgy, the accent is on dignified simplicity without ritualism. Main features are Bible readings and sermons in which the minister expounds scripture, often drawing out practical moral lessons. Though respected, communion is not a central concern as in Catholicism; it is celebrated at varying intervals—sometimes just twice a year— in the different Presbyterian churches. Strong in Scotland since the time of the formidable reformer John Knox (c.1513–72), Presbyterianism is the doctrine of the Church of Scotland. As well as standing out against the claims of the Episcopal Church of Scotland, it suffered over the centuries from internal feuding. In England, Congregationalism, as it was called, emerged at the time of the Reformation. Breaking away from the Church of England its adherents, under the designation ‘Independents’, won Cromwell’s favour during the Civil War, and though they were attacked for non-conformity at the Restoration, they continued in their own way. In 1832 they amalgamated with the Congregational Church of Wales, and in 1972 the Congregationalists joined with the English Presbyterians, with whom they had marked affinities despite certain differences on organization, to form the United Reformed Church. The Presbyterian and Congregational churches founded across the Empire and beyond, to provide for expatriates and carry out missionary work, have since the War also generally combined in pioneering successful ecumenical experiments.
   Further reading
    Bulloch, J. (1977) The Church of Scotland, Exeter: Religious Education Press.
    Slack, K. (1978) The United Reformed Church, Exeter: Religious Education Press.

Encyclopedia of contemporary British culture . . 2014.

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  • Presbyterianism — Presbyterian Church redirects here. For other uses, see Presbyterian Church (disambiguation). John Calvin Presbyterianism refers to a number of Christian churches adhering to the Calvinist theological tradition within Protestantism, which are… …   Wikipedia

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  • PRESBYTERIANISM —    a GROUP of PROTESTANT CHURCHES arising out of the CALVINIST REFORMATION distinguished by their form of CHURCH GOVERNMENT based on PRESBYTERS or ELDERS and a series of Church courts. The lowest court is that of the local Congregation. Above it… …   Concise dictionary of Religion

  • Presbyterianism — Presbyterian ► ADJECTIVE ▪ relating to a Protestant Church or denomination governed by elders all of equal rank. ► NOUN ▪ a member of a Presbyterian Church. DERIVATIVES Presbyterianism noun …   English terms dictionary

  • Presbyterianism — noun see Presbyterian II …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • presbyterianism — noun That form of church government which invests presbyters with all spiritual power, and admits no prelates over them; also, the faith and polity of the Presbyterian churches, taken collectively …   Wiktionary

  • Presbyterianism — noun A form of Protestant Christianity based on Calvinism See Also: Presbyterian …   Wiktionary

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