WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENCES?
Helpful Links and Resources
Website of the Presbyterian Church in America
Some Key Differences Between the PCA and the PC(USA)
A table (pdf file) that briefly summarizes some key differences
The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy
A statement (pdf file) formulated in October 1978 by more than 200 evangelical leaders at a conference sponsored by the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy (ICBI), held in Chicago.
You may not know that there are numerous Presbyterian denominations. Some of those denominations are: the Orthodox Presbyterian Church ("OPC"), the Cumberland Presbyterian Church ("CPC"), the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church ("ARP"), the Presbyterian Church in the United States ("PCUSA"), and the Presbyterian Church in America ("PCA").
NCPC is a congregation of the Presbyterian Church in America, or "the PCA."
So what's different about the PCA? What is the background of the PCA, our doctrinal distinctives, our purpose in being here?
The short answer is that the PCA was organized in 1973 - over forty years ago - in response to deepening theological liberalism within what was then known as the Presbyterian Church in the United States (also known then as "the Southern Presbyterian Church," having separated from "the Northern Presbyterian Church" during the Civil War). In fact, much of the leadership and direction for the new denomination came from congregations in Mississippi.
The key issue in the theological liberalism that began to take over the denomination was the authority of Scripture. Once a church that adhered to the inerrancy and infallibility of Scripture, both the northern and the southern branches of the Presbyterian Church gradually abandoned such beliefs, not only in practice but in the stated doctrinal beliefs of the denomination. Despite many committed and lengthy efforts at renewal and reformation, many found the situation to require compromise that could not be given,and through much prayer and many discussions, ultimately decided that a new beginning was needed. The Presbyterian Church in America came out of these concerns and efforts.
What are the differences between the PCA and the PCUSA?
The key difference, as given above, is in the view of Scripture held by the two bodies. Simply put,the PCA teaches and affirms the Bible to be inspired, inerrant, and infallible. The PCUSA does not teach such a view of Scripture. All pastors, all ordained officers of the PCA - Deacons and Elders - are required to take ordination vows affirming their belief in the inerrancy and infallibility of Scripture. All that is done in the PCA is done from the standpoint that Scripture is our final, sufficient, and complete authority for all that we are to believe and to do. This confidence in Scripture - the belief that Scripture is what is says it is - shapes and determines all that we believe and do in the life of our denomination and of our congregation.
Having abandoned the affirmation that Scripture is inerrant and infallible, the Presbyterian Church (USA) has adopted many other beliefs and practices reflecting its theological framework:
Briefly stated, the main similarity between the PC(USA) and the PCA is a historic system of church government based on leadership by elders and common traditions that can be trace to the Reformation. There are similarities! However, in matters of biblical doctrine, evangelism, missions and social policy, the PCA is visibly more like other evangelical churches which take the Bible seriously and quite unlike "mainline" Protestant denominations, including most (but not all) congregations of the PC(USA). These distinctions are not superficial, but are deeply rooted in the essentials of the Christian faith.
These differences are not given in a spirit of acrimony or of contention, but in the interest of enabling discernment to those seeking to know the differences between the PCA and the PC(USA), between PCA congregations and PC(USA) congregations. We invite you to look more deeply into these issues, to carefully hear what Scripture teaches, and to search out these matters carefully and prayerfully.
As the apostle Paul wrote to Timothy, "The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith," (1 Timothy 1:5).
"When people ask me, “What’s the biggest problem in the church?” I always say the same thing: The absence of discernment. That is the biggest problem in the church because if you can’t discern the truth with the Word of God in your hand, with the Bible in your hand, if you can’t discern the truth, you can die of 1,000 heresies. It’s like having spiritual AIDS. People who have a deficient immune system can die of 1,000 illnesses. The church can die of 1,000 heresies if it can’t exercise discernment. This is always the issue."
From a sermon by John MacArthur, entitled "Strange Fire" (www.gry.org)