The Presbyterian Church in America is one of the fastest-growing denominations in the United States. The denomination was founded in 1973 with 240 congregations and just over 40,000 members, and by 2000 it had grown to include around 1,450 congregations and more than 306,000 members. In 2006 Georgia had 93 congregations and 22,000 members, compared with 14 congregations and 2,784 members in 1973 The denomination’s headquarters are located in Lawrenceville.
This denomination, which was first known as the National Presbyterian Church but changed its name in 1974 to the Presbyterian Church in America, was organized at a constitutional assembly in December 1973. The Presbyterian Church in America separated from the Presbyterian Church in the United States (Southern) in opposition to a long-developing theological liberalism, which denied the deity of Jesus Christ and the inerrancy and authority of Scripture. Additionally, the Presbyterian Church in America held to the traditional position on the role of women in church offices—women could not hold offices of authority over men in the church. From its inception the church has determined its purpose to be “faithful to the Scriptures, true to the Reformed faith, and obedient to the Great Commission.”
The Presbyterian Church in America is committed to the doctrinal standards that have been significant in the Presbyterian tradition since 1645, namely the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms. These doctrinal standards express the distinctives of the Reformed tradition. As “Reformed” denotes the doctrinal beliefs of the Presbyterian Church in America, “Presbyterian” refers to the form of church government.
Among the distinctive doctrines of the Reformed tradition is the unique authority of the Bible. The Presbyterian Church in America believes that the Bible is the written Word of God, inspired by the Holy Spirit and without error in the original manuscripts, and that Scripture is the infallible and divine authority in all matters of faith and life. Another distinctive doctrine includes the belief that salvation is by the action of God alone, who sovereignly chooses out of the fallen race of humankind those who will be saved. God alone saves the people whom God draws to Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit.
The Presbyterian Church in America maintains a Presbyterian or representative form of church government. Presbyters or elders are elected by the church members to govern local congregations. The presbyters sit in a session, which has the oversight of the faith and life of the local congregation. Representatives from the local sessions constitute the presbytery. The presbytery oversees the ministries of the churches in a designated geographical area. For example, there are two presbyteries in Georgia, the Central Georgia presbytery and the North Georgia presbytery. The local churches also send presbyters to the General Assembly—the highest court of the church. The assembly meets annually and enables all member churches to have a voice in guiding the spiritual and practical affairs of the entire denomination.
The denomination’s headquarters moved to Lawrenceville in 1982, and the church’s activities are organized into four program committees—Mission to the World, Mission to North America, Christian Education and Publication, and Reformed University Ministries. Perimeter Ministries International, a church-planting organization and a network of Presbyterian Church in America churches that cooperates with Mission to North America, is also located in Atlanta. The network includes twenty churches and missions in the greater Atlanta area.