Being Presbyterian means we not only have links with churches in our own network and other Presbyterian bodies, but also with all other churches that are faithful to the Bible.
Historically this faithfulness has been reflected in the ancient creeds of the church, notably the Apostles’ Creed and the Nicene Creed. These are carefully worded summaries of the Bible’s core teachings and define what it means to be Christian. We use these ancient statements of faith in our worship as a way of declaring our shared beliefs and commitment to them.
We are also committed to the summary of Bible teaching found in the Westminster Confession of Faith, the Larger Catechism and the Shorter Catechism. These documents were drawn up during the 1640s by the Westminster Assembly in London, a body of pastor-theologians from churches throughout the British Isles. The Assembly was called and asked by Parliament to produce a summary of Bible teaching to forge greater unity of worship and practice among the churches of Britain and Ireland.
The goal of achieving such cross-church unity was never realised. Nevertheless, these documents went on to play an extraordinary role, not just in Presbyterian churches, but also in many other churches that used them as the basis for their own statements of faith,
The reason the church has drawn up such summaries of Bible doctrine is twofold. In part it is to lay a foundation of clear teaching on which to build the church. But they are also there to provide a fence that draws a line between teachings that are faithful to Scripture and those that are not.
Every generation has to wrestle with new ideas and interpretations of the Bible that need to be weighed to judge their merits and demerits. Being a ‘confessional church’ – one that clearly states what we believe and promise to uphold – helps us to remain true to the Bible and stand in line with generations of Christians who have gone before us.