The word Presbyterian describes a particular type of church government, and not our theological beliefs; our theological beliefs are reformed. The word Presbyterian is derived from the Greek word presbuteros-which means elder. Presbyterians elect members of the church as officers who represent the congregation in church affairs and governing the church, thus we have a representative form of government. In fact, America’s representative democracy was based on this model. At least fourteen signers of the Declaration of Independence were Presbyterians.
Other denominations are organized in different ways:
- In a “congregational” form of church government, the entire congregation makes all of the important decisions. Congregational church government has its roots in New England town meetings.
- In an “Episcopal” form of church government, Bishops govern the churches. The word bishop comes form the Greek word episcopas which means overseer. Both Methodist and Episcopal churches have this type of government.
- The “papal” form of government describes the Roman Catholic Church, giving authority to a single individual. In a papal government, one individual – the pope – has supreme authority over the church.
So, do denominations matter? Is one denomination better or more scriptural? God does not see individual denominations but one “Church.” As the Apostles’ Creed states, “we believe…in the holy catholic (universal) Church.” God cares only that the church confesses Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and trusts in Him.