Bessemer Presbyterian Church's beliefs can be expressed as being both catholic and orthodox, Protestant, Reformed and Presbyterian. What does all that actually mean?
We are Catholic and Orthodox
We are not "Roman Catholic" or "Eastern Orthodox." But these two ancient words "catholic" and "orthodox" have been used to describe Christianity throughout time. The term catholic means "universal," and orthodox means "right belief." We are a part of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church along with all those traditions historically considered "catholic" and "orthodox." Although we are not currently in full communion with the actual traditions which call themselves "Catholic" or "Orthodox" by name, with them, we do affirm the most universal and basic Christian confessions of faith: the Nicene and Apostles' Creeds.
We worship one God alone, revealed as one God in the three divine persons: the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This God is the creator and sustainer of all living things, visible and invisible. Therefore, we confess the mystery of the Holy Trinity: One God in trinity, and three persons in unity.
We believe that God has revealed himself in many and varied ways, but in these last days, God has revealed Himself supremely in the person of Jesus Christ, the Son. Jesus is the only-begotten Son of God, the Messiah, and the very Word of God in human flesh. In the person Jesus, all the fullness of God dwells, for He is fully human and fully God. Therefore we confess the mystery of the incarnation, which makes possible our salvation and redemption.
We believe that Jesus demonstrated the coming and power of the Kingdom of God in his teachings, his miracles, and his life of love. He lived a sinless life, only to be rejected, suffer and die on the cross. By doing this, Jesus destroyed the power of sin by living a perfect life and then offering his life as an atoning sacrifice, thereby forgiving sin and bridging the gap between God and humans that was caused by sin. On the third day, Jesus rose from the dead, victorious over death, and beginning the new creation. He appeared to many, and ascended to the right hand of God. Though Jesus is at the right hand of the Father, God has sent to us the Holy Spirit, who is God's invisible presence with us, and who enables us to follow Jesus and to be a part of his Kingdom. Jesus will come again to judge the world and to bring about the total recreation and renewal of all things. Therefore we confess the mystery of our faith: "Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again."
- In response to these mysteries, we are called to live out the two greatest commandments: to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength; and to love our neighbor as ourselves. Thus, the Christian response to these mysteries of God is joyful submission to lordship of Jesus Christ in all things.
We ARe Protestant and Reformed
As a part of the Reformed tradition, we trace our heritage to the events of the Protestant Reformation, and the particularly the teachings of such people as John Calvin and John Knox. We are the church reformed, always being reformed according to the Word of God.
- We understand Jesus Christ to be the Word of God incarnate, who alone is head of the Church, which is his body.
- We understand the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments (The Bible) to be the Word of God written, inspired by the Holy Spirit as humans spoke from God; therefore these Scriptures are our final authority on matters of faith and practice, because they testify to Jesus Christ, the Word of God in human flesh. Subordinate to the Scriptures are the confessions and creeds of the church, which along with human reason and personal experience, help us to discern God’s will for our lives.
- We profess that our salvation comes by God’s grace alone received through faith alone in the love of Christ alone.
- The greatest purpose of human life (or "chief end of man") is to glorify God and to enjoy Him for ever. We believe that we humans have through the entrance of sin into our world fallen short of the glory of God. Through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we are transformed from this state of sin and spiritual death and to a new and eternal life.
- We are charged by Jesus to proclaim this message in word and deed with the world, starting from where we are and carrying it to the ends of the earth. This is the mission of the Church, and each of us are called to be missionaries in our daily life and work. We carry out this mission in the power, and with the gifting, of the Holy Spirit.
- All things belong to our Sovereign God, and therefore, we humans are stewards of what we have. All of our gifts, our possessions and our lives, are to be used for the glory of God. Further, we believe we are called to be stewards of the world God created.
- There is only one Church, which Jesus created and redeemed to be his holy bride. This Church is catholic in scope in that it transcends man-made denominational and cultural boundaries, and is founded on the testimony of the prophets and apostles, with Jesus as its chief cornerstone. It exists wherever the Word of God is rightly preached, the sacraments are rightly administered and church discipline is rightly upheld. It is held together in the unity of the Holy Spirit.
- We celebrate two sacraments: Baptism and Holy Communion, also called the Eucharist or the Lord’s Supper. They are outward and visible signs and seals of God inward and invisible grace.
- Baptism marks the beginning of our journey of faith, and is offered to both believers and their children, recognizing that Christ is present in our lives even before we can respond in faith. Baptism forms our identity in Jesus Christ, and therefore is only administered once for the forgiveness of sins; although we are called to remember our baptism frequently.
- The Lord’s Supper (also called the Eucharist, or Holy Communion) is the perpetual celebration of remembrance and thanksgiving for the death and resurrection of Jesus, until he comes again in glory. By the power of the Holy Spirit, as the bread and cup are lifted before us to receive, we are lifted spiritually to the ascended Lord, with whom we have holy communion, and wherein the Lord confirms and strengthens our faith, nourishing us toward eternal life, and providing a foretaste of the heavenly feast to come. Further, we are united with all Christians of every time and place as one body when we receive this meal. It is a perpetual remembrance and celebration of the meaning of our baptism. The Lord’s Supper is open to all Christians who trust in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, recognizing that our access to the Table is not a right conferred upon the worthy, but a privilege given to the undeserving who come in faith, penitence and love.
- We affirm that our only comfort in life and in death is that we belong body and soul, not to ourselves, but to our faithful Savior Jesus Christ.
we are presbyterian
This simply describes our church government, which is structured around the office of elder (or in the Greek, presbuteros).
- We have teaching elders (Ministers of Word and Sacrament, or Pastors) and ruling elders, who are gifted and called by the Holy Spirit to provide for the spiritual leadership and government of the church.
- Each congregation exists within a "presbytery," which is a body consisting of one ruling elder and all the teaching elders in a geographic area. The presbytery functions as a "corporate bishop" by providing pastoral oversight and leadership for multiple churches in a geographic area.
- As members of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), "we receive and adopt the essential tenets of the Reformed faith as expressed in the confessions of our Church as authentic and reliable expositions of what Scripture leads us to believe and do, and [are] instructed and led by those confessions as [we] lead the people of God." To read these confessions, visit the following link: Presbyterian Creedal Standards.
Banner image by Nathan Leslie