History of the Presbyterian Church in America

The Presbyterian faith got its start overseas in Europe. The background for Presbyterian beliefs was established by a Frenchman named John Calvin (Jean Caulvin). Originally a Roman Catholic, Calvin converted to Protestantism in 1533. Calvin left his native France and settled in Geneva, Switzerland, where he began social and government reforms. Calvin’s teachings were based on the belief in a sovereign God, which is a fundamental element of Presbyterian belief.
 
In the 1500s, persecution of Protestants increased in England and Scotland. John Knox fled his homeland of Scotland to avoid this persecution. He settled in Geneva, Switzerland, where he studied under Calvin. John Knox later returned to Scotland and established the Presbyterian Church of Scotland.
 
Presbyterians and other protestants were ruthlessly persecuted for their beliefs. Such massive persecution in European countries such as Scotland, Ireland, England, and France caused many Protestants, a large number of whom were Presbyterian, to flee their homelands and settle in America.
 
Presbyterians in America were first organized around 1705. Presbyterianism spread among colonists. In 1741, the Presbyterian church split when new ideas clashed with traditional values. The Presbyterian faith continued to spread throughout all the colonies. Eventually, the Presbyterian church was reunited. Presbyterians came together in May of 1789 to form “The Presbyterian Church in the United States of America.” Unfortunately, by 1837, the church again divided along the lines of new ideas and old ideas.
 
In 1845, the “New Side” Presbyterians divided after their Presbyterian Assembly passed some drastic resolutions regarding slavery. Just a few years later, in in 1861, the “Old Side” Presbyterians divided over the passing of the Gardiner-Springs resolution. This resolution, which called for loyalty to the United States, its government, and its Constitution, was passed during the Civil War. Of the eight states that had seceded from the Union, very few representatives were present at the resolution’s passing. Compliance with the Gardiner-Springs resolution would have meant that those Presbyterians in the 8 seceded states would have had to leave home and community.
 
Over the years, the Presbyterian church in the United States has split, and parts have reunited several times. Currently the largest group is the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), which has its national offices in Louisville, Kentucky. It was formed in 1983 as a result of reunion between the Presbyterian Church in the U.S. (PCUS), the so-called “southern branch,” and the United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. (UPCUSA), the so-called “northern branch.” Other Presbyterian churches in the United States include: the Presbyterian Church in America, the Cumberland  Presbyterian Church and the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church. Our church, First Presbyterian of Lexington, North Carolina, is affiliated with the PC(U.S.A.).
 
The information contained above was derived from the following sources:
What Presbyterians Believe. Gettys, Joseph. Copyright 1982.
About Being Presbyterian. Channing L. Bete Company, Inc. Copyright 1974.