We are a church created by and committed to the Bible! But that can mean many things in this day and age. We think what a church believes is true will ultimately drive everything it does. That makes defining those beliefs critical. So we summarize our commitment to the teaching of Scripture as clearly as we can by being a confessional church. ‘Confessional’ means that we are not making things up as we go… We have personally embraced a clearly articulated theology drawn from Scripture and applicable for Christian living that has stood the test of generations of scrutiny.
That means our church leaders confess, or pledge agreement in good faith to the Westminster Confession of Faith and the Westminster Larger and Shorter Catechisms as accurately summarizing the teaching of the Bible. The Confession is not Scripture, but we think it's an accurate summary of its critical teaching. It does not have the same authority as the Bible, but since it is a biblical summary, it holds serious authority for Presbyterians.
This is terribly confusing for many evangelical Christians who are likely to say, “I believe in no creed but Christ.” But what about Christ do you exactly believe? The "no creed but Christ" slogan means well, but it is short-sighted. The church has always needed to state definitively what it believes about Christ, and so we have always used creeds and confessions.
The Westminster "Standards" as they are collectively known, were written in the 1640's over a period of several years by pastors, theologians, and Bible scholars who worked to come up with a clear and reliable summary of the Christian faith. The Standards have been modified in minor ways over the past 350+ years as new light from Scripture has been given, but have largely stood the test of time and scrutiny by generations of Christians as being a solid summary of the essentials of Christian doctrine and practice.
For more on the Westminster Confession and Catechisms.... You can find a copy of the Westminster Confession of Faith on the PCA's website by clicking here. "Presbyterian" also means we are not autonomous in our thinking- that we answer to only ourselves. Instead, we have accountability and partnership with other Bible-believing churches through our denomination - the Presbyterian Church in America - at both a regional (Presbytery) and a national (General Assembly) level.
Here is a quick summary of twelve core beliefs contained in our Confession and Catechisms: