Presbyterians are distinctive in two major ways: they adhere to a pattern of religious thought known as Reformed theology and a form of government that stresses the active, representational leadership of both ministers and church members.
Reformed theology emphasizes God's supremacy over everything and humanity's chief purpose as being to glorify and enjoy God forever.
Representational leadership occurs though democratic election of elders to represent the congregation at the session and presbytery meetings.
This is the group of people, elected by the congregation, who make the decisions for the running of the local church. In some churches this group is called the "church council."
The session is composed of elders. This doesn't have to do with age so much as those who are considered competent and wise enough to make good decisions. There are two kinds of elders, "ruling elders" and "teaching elders." The ruling elders come from the congregation and are elected to serve in three-year cycles. The teaching elder is the pastor. This person is called a teaching elder because he or she must go to school to get the education to preach and teach proper doctrine.
The presbytery is made up of a group of churches usually in a certain geographical area.
The presbytery meeting includes "presbyters," both ruling and teaching elders, who gather to make decisions affecting the presbytery. By having their representatives gather together as a group, congregations both support each other and are held accountable to each other.
Every two years all the presbyteries in the country elect commissioners or representatives to a meeting of the General Assembly. The General Assembly makes decisions for the church as a whole. This is where Presbyterians become a national rather than a local church.
Book of Order
This is the rule book for the Presbyterian Church. It contains the guidelines for church life, including structure, worship and collective action. It not only tells us how to do things but also explains why. It was developed and can be modified by the General Assembly, with the ratification of a majority of the presbyteries.
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
Synod of Living Waters
Middle Tennessee Presbytery
Periodical of PCUSA
Middle Tennessee Presbytery Retreat & Camp Center