Because of the current confusion about religion in the wider culture, and in the church, this needs to be explained on and ongoing basis – but just because a church has the word “presbyterian” on the sign outside doesn’t mean that they are orthodox, in any historic sense Presbyterian, or even a Christian church.
It’s like the word “baptist” being on the sign; it tells you almost nothing about what’s going on inside that building but for perhaps a certain view of the sacraments. I know one corner not far from here where there are four baptist churches on the four corners and as far as I can tell, none of them consider the others to be a good church.
All kinds of churches have branded themselves “presbyterian” in an attempt at stolen valor because the historicity and success of the tradition grants instant respectability. I can’t feel safe referring a worshipper to any church just because it calls itself ‘presbyterian’. Quite the opposite, if they call themselves by the name the first question would be “What denomination or group of presbyterians?” as many are apostate and others barely recognizable as a church.
Many would fall under the simple categorization of a proper cult, if not better, the occult.
It’s not different with baptist, methodist, episcopalian, or lutheran churches. Once the names have been stolen by fakirs and charlatans they lose their value. So why keep them? Why keep using the names when their force has become diluted through use and envy? Because it is ours. Like the term ‘catholic’ others don’t get to keep it just because they say they want it. We are willing to wrestle them for it.
In the immediate use of the term, it simply means holding to a form of church government where the church is served by Elders elected from the membership of the congregation and that the churches of the kind have accountability to one another. There are higher and lower courts.
Frankly, most so called presbyterian churches are Episcopalian in their form of government (a government of centralized power over the people and the congregations) or are ruled by a board akin to a business corporation, something historic Presbyterians view with suspicion and repudiation.
Second, historic Presbyterianism is of and carrying on the Reformation. Any church that is not of the Reformation in its theology and forms of worship should not use the word as it is a bait and switch. They have our words but not our soul and so cannot share our blessings.
Third, it is a church of the creeds and confessions, which is to say a church of historic orthodoxy. This is a church of the Westminster Confession of Faith, Larger and Shorter Catechisms but with those of the Apostle’s Creed and of Nicea, of the Church Fathers when wise and of Luther and Calvin all day long. We are still what came before and we have not grown so wise in our own eyes as to abandon the past because future looked brighter in its own estimation. Truth is not changing to fit the mood of the moment and only those that stand fast till the end gain the prize.
But more than anything a church of, in and through the Bible, where the Bible as the Bible in its clear and unadulterated form takes the highest place over the church and is taken as the sole infallible rule in all matters of faith and practice. Any church of soothsayers and confidence men selling a Bible a little less than perfect, a few steps down from divine law, an interpretive angle from being the very words of the very God, or something that we receive the word of God through but not the very word of God itself, they will never have an authentic place at this table. They will always be an empty vest whatever the emblems.
So away with the presbyterians because they are such pretenders – but bless and do not curse the presbyterians because even heaven is a presbyterian church.