Our Denomination: the Presbyterian Church in America
First Presbyterian Church of Ft. Oglethorpe is a congregation of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA). The PCA was organized in 1973 with the motto: "Faithful to the Scriptures, True to the Reformed Faith, and Obedient to the Great Commission." Since that time, it has grown to become a fellowship of nearly 1900 churches with a total of over 350,000 members.
The PCA is an Evangelical and Reformed Presbyterian denomination. By Evangelical, we mean that we emphasize the gospel (the good news of salvation) through faith in Jesus Christ, and are committed to the inerrancy of Scripture and other orthodox Christian doctrines.
By Reformed, we mean that we are committed to the historic teachings of the church and doctrinal beliefs recovered by the Protestant Reformation. These doctrinal beliefs are expressed in the Westminster Confession of Faith and the Larger and Shorter Catechisms. All officers (elders and deacons) of the Presbyterian Church in America must personally subscribe to and uphold the teachings of the Westminster Confession of Faith.
By Presbyterian, we describe our representative form of church government. Local churches are governed by a board of elders (the “Session”), which is elected by the members of the congregation. Representatives of all the churches within a geographical area make up a "presbytery" which oversees their ministries. Representatives of all the presbyteries then meet annually at the General Assembly. Thus, through the combined efforts and resources of all our churches, we work together to proclaim the gospel and advance God's Kingdom.
Our Doctrinal Standards
The PCA wholeheartedly maintains that the Bible, consisting of both the Old and the New Testaments, is the inerrant Word of God, the only infallible rule of faith and practice. As such, it is our primary and ultimate authority in all matters of faith, and the doctrinal statements of the Church are always viewed as subordinate to it.
The secondary doctrinal standards of the PCA are the Westminster Confession of Faith (1646), along with the Westminster Larger and Shorter Catechisms (1647). These classic Protestant doctrinal statements were painstakingly written by the Westminster Assembly, which was commissioned by the English Parliament in 1643, and met for the next 5 years. The goal of these godly ministers was to faithfully summarize the teaching of Scripture, especially as it relates to God, man, sin, Christ, salvation and the Christian life.
In 1647, the Westminster Confession of Faith was adopted by the Church of Scotland. The following year, the Larger and Shorter Catechisms were also approved. Even beyond the Presbyterian churches, the Westminster Confession of Faith greatly influenced the Anglican Church, English Baptists and Congregationalists. In 1788, with minor revisions, the Westminster standards were adopted by the first national Presbyterian Church in the United States of America. Since that time, many new movements, divisions and mergers have taken place within American Presbyterianism, but virtually all of the resulting church bodies have recognized the Westminster Confession of Faith and the Westminster Larger and Shorter Catechisms as their official doctrinal standards.
By the 1960’s, however, both the northern and the southern “mainline” Presbyterian denominations began to have less regard for the authority of Scripture, and to de-emphasize the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms as well. A new confession of faith was approved in 1967, and included in a “Book of Confessions” by which pastors and elders would agree merely “to be guided.” As a result, the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) was formed in 1973 to maintain the historic beliefs and mission of the church. One of its first actions was to adopt the Westminster Confession of Faith and the Larger and Shorter Catechisms, subject to the Bible, as its official doctrinal standards.