13 Differences Between the PCA and the PCUSA

I was recently asked to outline some of the major differences between the Presbyterian Church in the USA (PCUSA) and my own denomination the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) and I came up with the following 13 point list:

1) The PCA does not ordain women to either of the offices in the church (Teaching/Ruling Elder, Deacon). The PCUSA by contrast ordains women to both offices.

2) The PCA affirms that the bible is inerrant and infallible in all that it teaches. The PCUSA does not.

 3) The PCA repudiates abortion and considers it a violation of the sixth commandment. The PCUSA believes, there should be no limits on access to abortions, there should be public funding of abortions, and that there should be limits placed on people who demonstrate against abortion.

 4) The PCA is against homosexual behavior and same sex marriage and believes both are sins. The PCUSA does not consider homosexuality to be a sin, ordains practicing homosexuals and came within 30 votes of giving the go ahead to same sex marriage ceremonies in the church. Their next General Assemby (GA) will probably do so.

 5) The PCA is against divorce except in cases of adultery or desertion. The PCUSA by contrast allows for no-fault divorce and remarriage.

 6) The PCA has a constitution consisting of the Westminster Standards and Book of Church Order. All church officers must subscribe to these documents as their Confession of Faith. Teaching against the doctrines contained in these documents or violating them could result in trial and deposition from office.

 By contrast, the PCUSA has a “Book of Confessions” containing all of the major Reformed Confessions, and some modern confessions of faith which change or even deny things contained in these confessions. They are viewed more as a series of general guidelines or suggestions that do not bind the conscience of officers in any way. PCUSA church officers routinely teach contrary to the doctrines contained in these documents.

 7) The PCA is explicitly Reformed in its theology. Someone denying Calvinism would have an extremely hard time being ordained in the PCA. By contrast, the theology of PCUSA congregations varies widely from church to church and can cover a spectrum from defacto Unitarian Universalism to Neo-Orthodoxy to soft Arminianism. Very few PCUSA congregations are explicitly Calvinistic in their teaching and preaching.

 8) The PCA is explicitly evangelistic in its belief that Jesus Christ is “the way, the truth, and the life” and that “No one comes to the Father except through [Him]” as well as its desire to see all people come to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Whereas in the PCUSA evangelism is much less popular and often either non-existent or repudiated in the manner of influential PCUSA Pastor Rev. Randall K. Bush who stated recently: “As of this point, the Gospel of Jesus Christ has been preached to all the corners of the world, so knock it off…. Once the evangelical notion of the church can be turned down for a moment, the wisdom of other faiths can finally speak.”

 9) The PCA is committed to a principle of voluntary association and all PCA congregations own their own property. Additionally all giving to the administration and permanent committees of the PCA is voluntary. By contrast the property of PCUSA congregations is regarded as held in trust for the benefit of the PC(USA).” This makes the dissolution of the denominational bond much more difficult in the PCUSA and can sometimes mean a congregation must leave without their church building.

 10) While the PCA is gradually centralizing power, the PCA was originally intended to be a “grass roots” denomination and power is still vested largely in Presbyteries in the PCA. By contrast, in the PCUSA, power is much more centralized in the administration and General Assembly.

 11) While the PCA is gradually becoming tolerant towards the teaching of theistic evolution, Creationism is still the doctrine held and confessed by most PCA pastors. By contrast, in the PCUSA, evolution is widely accepted.

 12) While the PCA is gradually becoming more open to being involved in national and international politics, particularly through its membership in the NAE, they generally hesitate to take stands on issues that do not clearly fall under the oversight of the church. The PCUSA, on the other hand, routinely takes stands on a host of political issues ranging from immigration to increased funding for public schools to condemning big tobacco to divestment from Israel.

 13) (Addendum Regarding Worship) – There used to be significant theological differences between the PCA’s and PCUSA’s theology of worship. These difference still exist on paper even though they no longer exist in practice. The PCA confesses that all of our worship should be directed only by the bible, while the PCUSA states that worship should be an amalgam of bible, culture, feeling, and tradition.



About Andrew Webb

I was converted out of paganism and the occult in 1993 and while I was initially Charismatic/Arminian in my theology, I became Reformed and Presbyterian through bible study and the influence of ministries like RC Sproul's. After teaching in local bible studies, and taking seminary courses part time, I began to feel called to the ministry in 1997. I was Ordained as an RE at Christ Covenant PCA in Hatboro, PA in 2000 and as a TE by Central Carolina Presbytery in 2001 when I was called to be the Organizing Pastor/Church Planter for Providence PCA Mission, Cross Creek PCA's church plant in Fayetteville, NC (home to Ft. Bragg and Pope Airforce Base). In 2005 when the Providence PCA Particularized I was blessed to be called by the congregation to be their Pastor
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58 Responses to 13 Differences Between the PCA and the PCUSA

  1. Kevin Davis says:

    That is largely correct. It is worth noting that the evangelical wing within the PCUSA would repudiate much of what is allowed within her precincts (related to abortion, homosexuality, universalism/pluralism, liberal higher criticism, etc.). Yet, the evangelical wing is vastly diminishing. Many have left for the EPC and more recently the Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians (ECO). My own church is in the process of leaving the PCUSA and entering ECO.

    The rationale for staying within the PCUSA has been the model of “prophetic witness,” like the OT prophets of old. But, the model of “exodus” is more realistic now. The gulf is too wide between the liberals and the evangelicals, and the moderates have capitulated (predictably) to the left. So, the exodus begins! I know that you would find ECO still too liberal (most obviously on women’s ordination), but I would encourage you to read the Theology paper at the ECO website:


    The link is at the bottom. It is remarkably strong — even the soteriology is unequivocally Reformed. These are the “essential tenets” that every elder must affirm “without hesitation.” Thus, even though we still have the Book of Confessions, we are clearly identifying what is essential to Reformed theology and practice.

    • Doug says:

      As the link to this blog article just appeared on the Layman website, this response is obviously a little late. ECO and EPC both allow women deacons/elders/pastors. You are correct point #1. ECO, as I understand it, still holds to the book of confessions so that makes point 6 still true for the ECO. EPC affirms the Westminster Confession. While we may not be as strong in it as the PCA seeks to be, the EPC seeks to adhere to the Westminster Confession. Point 13 about worship I’m not sure I understand. However, there is much debate about the RPW and proper modes of worship. The PCUSA probably doesn’t care about RPW or what proper worship is (as a whole, I realize there are “evangelical” PCUSA churches), that no matter how you understand how the Bible governs worship, there will be differences here. I hope the ECO is a good place for your church.

    • jledmiston says:

      Hi – I’m a PCUSA pastor and I would take issue with a couple of your points, especially in terms of how you paint the PCUSA. Some of your comments are not true.

  2. Michael Weaver says:

    Hi Andy. Thank you for this information. It is helpful to know the differences. This will help me to focus my preaching.

    Have a great day!


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  4. Doug says:

    Andy, point 2 seems to be one of the most significant, and most of the others are consequences to the rejection of Christ (point 8) and the rejection of scriipture (point 2). The book of confessions is also a good piont as well, but the WCF is really an affirmation of Biblical Theology. Being in the EPC, and a ruling elder that attends Presbytery meetings, I’ve seen many of the PCUSA churches embrace Reformed Theology and the WCF as they leave the PCUSA and enter the EPC. It should be noted that for many of them, it’s their first real exposure to the WCF. I’ve talked to some TE’s preparing to join the EPC that until seeking to join the EPC, they had not really read the WCF. It’s a challenge and makes it hard to make broad brush statements about the PCUSA, the EPC, ECO, and even the PCA, as you’ve alluded to. Point 9 about property owndership is a point in common with the EPC, the PCA, ECO probably, though haven’t investigated ECO on that point.

  5. Matthew says:

    PCUSA reporting in here. These thirteen points are substantially correct and very well done. My one quibble is with #10, as the central authority of Louisville (Denom hq) is feeble and that of the presbyteries is growing weaker and weaker.

  6. Kevin says:

    13) (Addendum Regarding Worship) – There used to be significant theological differences between the PCA’s and PCUSA’s theology of worship.
    I Agree with this: These difference still exist on paper even though they no longer exist in practice. The PCA confesses that all of our worship should be directed only by the bible, while the PCUSA states that worship should be an amalgam of bible, culture, feeling, and tradition. I think the PCA mixed in terms of having all its worship guided by word of God

  7. Nick Johns says:

    So basically I need to stay away from PCA churches, got it.

    • Presby Guy says:

      In your case that is a good thing. Nice to have clarity in what denominations stand for as too often WE join churches for wrong reasons…like the people, like the sermons, like the fellowship…but never for belonging for similar Christian beliefs. That is why denominations like the PCUSA (I belong but for how long?) are in decline…no clarity and trying to be everything to everybody. My wife and I probably would not fit the PCA as I support her work as an elder in our church AND I do believe that God only elects and that His election is gender neutral. Otherwise, we would be all over joining the PCA.

      • Andrew Webb says:

        Hi Presby Guy, thank you for commenting. Your situation is not uncommon amongst PCUSA and is one of the reasons more theologically conservative PCUSA congregations are leaving to join the Evangelical Presbyterian Church (which allows for female ordination) than the PCA. I’m assuming that you are familiar with the EPC?

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  9. Walt A. says:

    in support of Item 6 constitutions, the version of the Westminster Confession used by the P.C.A. and other conservative denominations is doctrinaly stronger than the versions (intentional plural as there are actually 2 listed)
    in the PC(USA) Book of confessions and also the version used by the E.P.C.

    kindly note that it isn’t usually realized and appreciated that almost every U.S. Presbyterian denomination has their own version of the Westminster Confession of Faith, some have changed it more than others. My research bogged downed and stalled before i got into the United Presbyterian, Congregational and Canadian versions.
    it is inaccurate for someone to say “the” Westminster Confession without specifying which one is being referred to, but saying “our (version)” would be fine.

  10. Doug says:

    Points 2,6,7,8 seem to be the most serious differences. Point 9 is most significant when considering a shift between denominations (the EPC is similar to the PCA on this point). The rest of the points of difference are consequences mostly of 2, and of 6,7, and 8. It is encouraging to find how many of the new EPC churches are embracing “the” Westminster Confession of faith.

  11. Jon H. says:

    It is important to appreciate that the PCA has narrow standards which exclude those who understand differently (e.g. Pastors who would accept the WCF on the infallibility of scripture for teaching all thing necessary unto salvation and godliness, but don’t accept inerrancy-that the Bible is a infallible text on historical, numerical, scientific, and all other matters-would be excluded from the office of teaching elder. Infallibility is a historic doctrine, inerrancy is a modern development absent from the WCF and scripture itself). It’s numerous faults aside, the PCUSA is open to a wider range of Christian expression within the Reformed Tradition. As such it is more reflective of the Body of Christ than any of the denominations seeking to impose tight control over matters in which Christians find the Bible to be less plain and therefore have differences in understanding. The WCF holds that the Spirit is the final arbiter of these matters. Many (most?) PCA congregations find their denominational leaders to be that arbiter. As churches depart the PCUSA over lack of faithfulness to Christ, to scripture, godliness, etc, they largely avoid the PCA in favor of the EPC or building something new like ECO. The PCA should ask why Christians, in the reformed tradition, outnumbering the PCA, would largely eschew joining? Perhaps the PCA in desiring to be firmly something (e.g. A head), is failing to be the entire body.

    • Andrew Webb says:

      Hello Jon, I’d like to reply to your post, but I don’t want to misunderstand you, could you please explain what you believe to be the difference between INFALLIBLE and INERRANT?

      • Jonathan Harton says:

        Hi Andrew,

        Infallible being the WCF language based on 2 Tim 3:15-16 that the scripture are “able” (ie capable, sufficient) to work salvation. Profitable for other things, unto righteousness (v16).

        Inerrant, see Chicago Statement 1973 (72?) affirming that scripture contains no factual errors on any subject. Essentially, inspired human authors without knowledge of certain info will not, cannot have introduced errors of fact, because they were inspired of God.

        Although the BCO doesn’t explicitly state the Chicago Statement definition, the decision to add was 1973 and this is the generally accepted position. Perhaps some think differently when they use the term, I would have equated it with infallible too, but why require the language if it means the same.

      • Jon H. says:

        Hi Andrew. Infallible being the WCF language based on 2 Tim 3:15-16 that the scriptures are “able” (ie capable, sufficient) to work salvation. Profitable for other things, unto righteousness (v16).

        Inerrant, see Chicago Statement 1973 (72?) affirming that scripture contains no factual errors on any subject. Essentially, inspired human authors without knowledge of certain info will not, cannot, have introduced errors of fact, because they were inspired of God.

        Although the BCO doesn’t explicitly state the Chicago Statement definition, the decision to add was in 1973 and this is the generally accepted position. Perhaps some think differently when they use the term, not that long ago I would have equated it with infallible too, but why require the language if it means the same.

    • Geoff says:

      “The PCA should ask why Christians, in the reformed tradition, outnumbering the PCA, would largely eschew joining?”

      I hate to be mean here. I left a PC(USA) church and went to a PCA one. Yes, I had a higher view of bibilical inerrancy than my PC(USA) church.

      I would hesitate for the PC(USA) to use the term “Reformed” just because they are Presbyterian. Maybe a lot of you eschew joining because you aren’t sufficiently Reformed or biblical, from our point of view.

      Anyway, what I’m really trying to say is we shouldn’t use numbers to determine truth or what should be done.

      • Jon H. says:

        Hi Geoff. I’d like to dispel the notion that I’m defending a denomination (the PC(USA)), I’m not. However, I have been a member of PC(USA) congregations in the past that are theologically in line with the PCA (Calvinist) and currently have departed or are discerning departing to another reformed body, but have a variety of differences. These differences can be generalized. 1) Egalitarian: men and women are viewed as equal in value and, if appropriately gifted, in church roles, including leadership. This owes to interpreting a wider read of scripture than a few key verses. Complementary roles and functions are also appreciated. 2) Scripture infallible, but not ‘inerrant’, God’s purposes in Scripture transcends human communication. e.g. in the synoptics Christ is crucified at the 3rd hour but in John’s Gospel, the crucifixtion is at the 6th hour. Who’s right? the authors must be communicating different things–God however, is not. Also, natural revelation (scientific facts) are more frequently used to help see where Scripture may be misunderstood. Both of these practices are consistent with historical Christianity (e.g. Origen and Augustine). 3) Favor unity over doctrinal non-essentials: e.g. Where disagreements arise over those things that the WCF would call less plain, there is more willingness to “forebear with one another” and “count others better than yourself”.
        There are certainly PCA congregations where PC(USA) folks of this type would be extremely comfortable, I think of Tim Keller’s congregation and similar, but the denomination as a whole appears largely unreceptive of this thinking. Truth certainly does not come from numbers, but numbers sometimes are truthful. Wisdom is needed.

      • Bill says:

        John H., your third hour/sixth hour example is not a convincing argument for errancy. First, you incorrectly claim that both references are to the crucifixion, whereas John clearly sets the sixth hour as the time of Christ’s sentencing before Pilate; something that probably happened at least an hour or two /before/ the crucifixion (given the required preparation and the time needed for the horrible, burdened walk to Golgotha).

        Second, this so-called discrepancy is easily and simply resolved by understanding that John’s gospel (written years later than the Synoptics and intended for a more universal audience) consistently uses /Roman/ time reckoning, not Jewish. Thus the sentencing is happening around 6:00 a.m. (basically the start of the Roman official’s day), while the crucifixion is happening about three hours later.

        A great many purported biblical “errors” and “discrepancies” are easily resolved if we give God the benefit of the doubt as One who is able to accurately communicate and preserve His intentions. This attitude leads us to look for solutions, wisdom, and understanding, rather than digging for “gotchas” that give us an excuse to ignore scriptures that we find inconvenient.

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  13. Robert M Walker says:

    Very interesting and of a wider application. I see much of this reflected in the Free Church of Scotland, evangelical, and the Church of Scotland, broad or liberal. Sometimes it is good to set out our stand and invite people to choose. Better this than the mush of pretence which flattens distinctives.

    Robert M Walker
    Free Church of Scotland, Bishopbriggs

  14. Andrew Webb says:

    Jon, thank you for your reply. You appear to be confusing sufficient and infallible. Infallible literally means “absolutely trustworthy” or “incapable of error.” Inerrant on the other hand means “free from error.” Both words point to the idea that the bible, because it is the inspired word of God, who is Himself incapable of error, does not contain any falsehoods in anything it teaches.

    Far from being a modern doctrine, one can find plenty of examples of the doctrine of inerrancy in the writings of Reformed Scholars going back to the 16th century but I hope that just two examples in the Princeton tradition (if you want more I can give them) should show that American Presbyterianism at one time emphasized and taught that the scriptures were free from error:

    “In this section we affirm that the Scriptures as they were written are absolutely infallible and inerrant, that they have come to us essentially pure, and that they should be translated into the common vernacular.”
    (A.A. Hodge, commentary on the WCF, 1869)

    “The true definition of inspiration, then, is, such a divine influence upon the minds of the sacred writers as rendered them exempt from error, both in regard to the ideas and words.” (Archibald Alexander, 1836)

    Regarding the phrase you use “in the Reformed tradition,” I wonder what this phrase means in regard to the PCUSA? Certainly it doesn’t refer to Reformed Soteriology or Calvinism in particular, neither of which are taught or held by the PCUSA. Neither does it refer to Confessionally Reformed nor does it has reference to Reformed Worship, in fact I’m striving to find any way in which the PCUSA is still Reformed. Does, “in the Reformed tradition” mean was originally a Reformed denomination? I ask because I find that people who are looking for Reformed evangelical theology (which admittedly is a tiny part of the Christian world) do seek out the PCA, whereas I’ve never bumped into anyone who joined a PCUSA church because they were looking for Calvinism or Reformed theology. In fact, the people I know who sought out PCUSA churches did so either because they had a traditional (ancestral) connection or because they were theologically liberal Christians or both.

    • Jon H. says:

      Thanks for replying. Your post is generating conversation in many places, which I’m glad to see. I agree with your understanding of inerrant, “does not contain any error in all that it teaches”. We might disagree on what is taught. I believe that the meaning of infallible has changed since the 1600s and that the original understanding is “incapable of falling-in it’s purpose, always effective”. “Sufficient” or “necessary and sufficient” seem the correct understanding of what is meant by “able” in 2 Tim 3:15, a necessary and sufficient thing cannot fail.

      The Chicago Statement claims more than this and as such dissuades discussion of textual differences and disagreements of fact in the Bible. It is unfortunate that scholars use the word “error” to mean ‘a difference’ where most use “error” to mean a fallacy. Hence, I know many with reformed theology (Calvinists) that will not consider PCA churches because of the positions drawing from the Chicago Statement. The PCA is unwelcoming in this regard.

      “Reformed tradition” is a blanket term that used to cover most Protestant churches. I understand this to mean that a basic reformed theology is espoused (5 solas), agreement that the historic confessions (WCF, Heidelberg, Scots, Helvetic) are reliable articulations of the Christian faith (but subordinate to scripture). This is increasingly untrue in the PC(USA) and the denomination should consider dropping this language, but it remains true for many (fewer every day) PCUSA congregations.

      You’ve not encountered enough people. In my travels, I’ve been led to both PCA and PC(USA) congregations and theological concerns have been quite important. I find myself distressed over the divisions that exist for what I see as trivial reasons and believe this is counter to what the Bible teaches, it certainly grieves the Holy Spirit.

      • Andrew Webb says:

        Hi Jon,

        Thank you for your reply. Being an Old Schooler, I spend much of my time reading the Puritans, including many of the Westminster divines. I find that their view of scripture is my view of scripture, namely that it is inerrant and the result of what is today called “Plenary Verbal Inspiration.” Throughout their writings they speak of scripture as being without error in all that it teaches, and that includes history, they also view it as being ENTIRELY the word of God, not a mixture of the Word of God and the Words of Men. I’ll cite a few of them to illustrate what I mean:

        I. The following citations are taken from Thomas Vincent, Westminster Divine, and are from his “The Shorter Catechism of the Westminster Assembly Explained and Proved from Scripture”

        “QUESTION 2: How do you prove the word in the Scriptures to be the word of God?

        …In the Scriptures there is consistency between the Old Testament and the New; between the types and figures under the law, and the things typified and prefigured under the gospel—between the prophecies of the Scriptures and, and the fulfilling of those prophecies. There is in the Scriptures a harmony or agreement of precepts, and a harmony or agreement of histories, and a harmony or agreement of design. Wherefore, since the Scriptures were written by so many several men, in so many several ages, and different places, and yet agreeing so well in their writings, that no irreconcilable difference is to be found in them, it is evident that they were all acted by the same Spirit of God; and therefore, that the Scriptures are the word of God.

        4. Because of the high mysteries which are revealed in the Scriptures. We read, in the Scriptures, of the trinity of persons in the Godhead, the incarnation of the Son of God, the mystical union of Christ and his members. These, and other like mysteries, were beyond the reach of the most wise and learned men to invent, much more beyond the reach of unlearned fishermen, by whom they were revealed; whence it is evident that they spoke not their own words, but what they were taught by the immediate inspiration of the Spirit.

        5. Because of the antiquity of the Scriptures. They were written, in part, before any other writings of men, and they contain a history of the most ancient things,namely, the creation of the old world, the flood, and the like. Such ancient things are there revealed as none but God knew; and God must be the author of them.”

        “QUESTION 4: Are Christians to believe nothing as a point of faith, but what the Scriptures teach?

        ANSWER: No; because no other book in the world is of divine authority but the Scriptures, and therefore not absolutely infallible.”

        QUESTION 6: Are we bound to nothing in point of practice, but what is required in the Scriptures?
        ANSWER: No, because the laws and commandments of God in the Scriptures are so exceedingly large and extensive, that they reach both the inward and outer man, and whole behavior, so that nothing is lawful for us to do, except it be directly or consequentially prescribed in the Word.”

        The following are from Thomas Watson, who was widely acknowledged to be the the foremost and clearest Puritan expositor of the doctrines contained in the Westminster Standards:

        “Because the Old and New Testament are the foundation of all religion. If their divinity cannot be proved, the foundation on which we build our faith is gone. I shall therefore endeavour to prove this great truth, that the Scriptures are the very word of God. I wonder whence the Scriptures should come, if not from God. Bad men could not be the authors of it. Would their minds be employed in inditing such holy
        lines? Would they declare so fiercely against sin? Good men could not be the authors of it. Could they write in such a strain? Nor could it stand with their grace to counterfeit God’s name, and put, Thus saith the Lord, to a book of their own devising? Nor could any angel in heaven be the author of it, because the angels pry and search into the abyss of gospel mysteries, I Pet 1:12, which implies their nescience of some parts of Scripture; and sure they cannot be the authors of that book which they themselves do not fully understand. … So that it is evident, the pedigree of Scripture is sacred, and it could come from none but God himself. … No human histories extant reach further than Noah’s flood: but the holy Scripture relates matters of fact that have been from the beginning of the world; it writes of things before time.”
        Watson’s initial point above can be directly applied to the PCUSA – once confidence in the Divine origin of all of the Scriptures was lost, doctrine and practice became a matter of preference and men and women began to find the teachings of scripture they did not agree with to be “in error” and not the Word of God. This led systematically to a willingness to embrace more and more errors, including but not limited to support for:

        Anti-Calvinistic Additions
        No Fault Divorce

        So that by the time my wife and I began attending Falls Church PCUSA in the early 1990s the Senior Pastor was a strong supporter of Abortion on Demand, the Assistant Pastor was an open homosexual who often brought his “partner” up in sermons and addresses (sometimes literally bringing him up to the front as well), and the majority of sermon time was spent attacking fundamentalists and debunking supernaturalism and the bible. The first sermon we heard there concerned why we now know the Virgin Mary was in fact not a Virgin and that Jesus was not literally the Son of God. None of this doctrine was not considered shocking nor out of accord with the general beliefs of the denomination. In fact the pastor in question was considered a pillar of the presbytery.

        But this is always the case, once denominations reverse the correct order and stand in judgment of scripture instead of being ruled and guided by it alone, that denomination will eventually become simply a loudspeaker for all the fallen presuppositions of natural men, “not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God”.

  15. bob says:

    PCUSA also has a constitutional Book of Order. The Book of Confession is a reference for thought & meditation on tough decisions.

  16. Earl says:

    I believe by and large there is truth in this though most is severely over simplified. There are a couple of them that I don’t feel are accurate. The PCA is an evangelical/conservative Presbtyerian church while being believing in a reformed theology. PCUSA is a more liberal Presbyterian church believing in reformed theology and that the Church is ever reforming. Bob or Jim Robinson could address it much better than I.

    • Andrew Webb says:

      Earl, just out of interest, in what practical ways do you see the PCUSA “believing in reformed theology”? I ask, because personally I can’t think of any. They certainly don’t hold to anything in the TULIP acrostic of Reformed Theology. In fact a 2011 PCUSA survey found that 59% of PCUSA pastors DON’T agree with the statement, “Only followers of Jesus Christ can be saved.” So most PCUSA pastors don’t agree with basic Christian soteriology, much less Reformed theology.

    • Wesley says:

      PCUSA Reformed theology? Serious ?

  17. Hugh P. Taylor says:

    Andrew, I have some other differences between the PCUSA and the PCA:
    The PCUSA gets very involved in political and social issues, ready to boycott anything. The PCA General Assembly is very peaseful.
    The PCUSA churches use the “politically correct” NRSV Bible. The PCA uses other versions, mainly the NIV.
    The PCUSA churches use the Glory To God Hymnal. I think PCA churches use other hymnals.

  18. Can’t see a “contact” link so responding on this open forum. I much appreciated this article and used it and its language for a similar piece on the differences between the Free Church of Scotland and the Church of Scotland on my blog: http://presbyterianplodder.blogspot.co.uk/

    I really should have asked permission first. I hope that you can give it retrospectively. Isn’t plagiarism the sincerest form of flattery? I did acknowledge the source and your name, but apologise that I did not clear it with you first.

    The similarities of the PCUSA and the COS are remarkable, as are the similarities between the PCA and the FCS. I myself served for a short time in the OPC and think of the FCS as an OPC/PCA hybrid with Gaelic thrown in.

  19. Andrew Webb says:

    No problem at all Robert.

  20. Bruce Snyder says:

    Useful descriptions and comparison, objective and without any judgemental connotations. Good job!
    Bruce C. Snyder
    Member/ Stephen Minister/Choir Member/Sunday School Teacher
    Manassas Presbyterian Church
    Presbyterian Church USA

  21. Rev. Michael Costigan says:

    What are the belief systems in place for, and the teaching of :”The Baptism of the Holy Spirit ? as promised by John the Baptist and also by Jesus Christ in the Scriptures that are held by PCA and PCUSA ???

  22. Rev. Michael Costigan says:

    I see a lot of Scriptural confusion in the writings of Sproul, and in the teachings of John MacArthur…are they PCA ? Obviously they don’t have the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, so why do they insist on trying to discuss it and then to dismiss it ?
    Rev. Ron Phillips operated as an ordained Minister and Pastor for many years,and finally received this Baptism of Jesus Christ, and now he has done a complete 180, as he received the ‘big visit’ from Christ (who is the Baptiser in the Holy Ghost). I have it so I know it’s real. I feel sorry for those in high places who don’t have it, and I believe because they feel cheated, decide to come against it. Remember the great men and women of God who do operate under this great and powerful Baptism…L.Somerall, M. Hickey,
    J. Lake, S. Wigglesworth, O. Roberts, G. Whitefield, Bounds and Bosworth, to name a few, before we cast it down also. Thank you…and please comment.

    • Dan says:

      Sproul is PCA; MacArthur is decidedly not. I’m pretty sure he’s some sort of Baptist. I’m not 100% sure what the rest of your comment means.

    • Andrew says:

      M. Hickey? You mean Marilyn? Yikes. Is she still sending “anointed prayer cloths” in return for donations to her TV ministry?

      The “Baptism of the Spirit” is dubious at best, given the antics of TV Pentecostals on the U.S.A.

      I’ll go with 5 Point Calvinism ANY day.

    • Peggy says:

      All that have received Jesus ABSOLUTELY need the Baptism of the Holy Spirit!
      There is no other way to have an empowered walk with the Lord.
      The Holy Spirit is the orphaned member of the Holy Trinity today in this final church age of Laodicea. There is no way we can have “church” without Him. He must be invited and He must lead the meetings.If not, we have only gathered for a social meeting.

      Believers will not “make it” (avoid the heavy deception coming into play) in these end times that we are in right now without the Baptism of the Holy Spirit!! He is Jesus’ gift to believers. Believers are the “church.” They are portable churches moving about the earth to impact this Babylon System (based on power, money, and sex) for the Kingdom of God. Jesus has commanded us to do this.

  23. ron schmidt says:

    27 years ago I tried to attend PCUSA, but found little about God and the Bible. After a year of feeling that I was wasting my time, I left looking for a church more Bible based. I found EPC and never looked back.

  24. Thank you SO much for this! Attended a PCA church (despite your 13 differences) today only to find it had sold-out to the hipster-evangelism style of church entertainment. Meanwhile, the progressive PCUSA churches in town are MUCH more traditional, and MUCH more reflective of the type of social order shake-down that Jesus engaged in… There is something transient about churches that claim a suspender-snapping orthodoxy based on misogyny and the standard litany of Tea Party issues. As a son of evangelical missionaries, I grew up in a religiously diverse country that was regularly raped by Israel. You mention two things in particular about the PCUSA that I really like:

    (1) this quote by Rev. Randall K. Bush who stated recently: “As of this point, the Gospel of Jesus Christ has been preached to all the corners of the world, so knock it off…. Once the evangelical notion of the church can be turned down for a moment, the wisdom of other faiths can finally speak.” Reminds me a lot of this, from President Daniel Bliss’ speech when the cornerstone of College Hall was dedicated at the Syrian Protestant College (now American University of Beirut) in 1871: “This college is for all conditions and classes of men without regard to color, nationality, race or religion. A man, white, black, or yellow, Christian, Jew, Mohammedan or heathen, may enter and enjoy all the advantages of this institution for three, four or eight years; and go out believing in one God, in many gods, or in no God. But it will be impossible for anyone to continue with us long without knowing what we believe to be the truth and our reasons for that belief.” That, my friends, is real evangelism.

    (2) “The PCUSA, on the other hand, routinely takes stands on a host of political issues ranging from immigration to increased funding for public schools to condemning big tobacco to divestment from Israel.” Good! I noticed that even your beloved PCA has rallied to the support of Gazan believers in the wake of Israel’s latest US-sponsored terrorism. Would that they followed PCUSA’s brave initiative and supported liberty and justice for ALL Palestinians, regardless of their confessional particulars… PCA’s affinity for the likes of Rushdoony and his present-day neocon ilk suggest that it is more likely to gaze with cow-eyed fondness upon fascist, apartheid Israel’s military machismo, rather than condemn it…

  25. PCA onceuponatime says:

    There’s a lot of hating on PCUSA, and the truth is significantly more nuanced; particularly about how the PCUSA has had so many churches leaving. While the pastors do indeed have to commit to teaching the sanctioned doctrine, there is clearly theological divisions that have caused a number of PCA churches to leave. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?

    I also think we need to be convicted by Christs prayer for us: 21 I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me.

  26. James says:

    Great article. Thanks for clearing up some of the differences for me, I would’ve been devastated to accidentally have taken my family to a PCA church, we’re trying to teach our children that hate is evil.

    • Andy Webb says:

      Thank you for your kind words James, as for me and my household we are trying to teach our children the gospel, the old one where people get saved by repenting and turning from sin and believing in the Lord Jesus Christ, not the “new and culturally improved gospel”. A fellow named Paul, who saw the risen Lord Jesus, had this to say about new gospels that minimize sin and speak of other ways of getting to heaven apart from faith alone in Christ alone:

      “I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.” (Gal. 3:6-9)

  27. brian says:

    Here’s a simple way to understand the differences between the two: The PCA holds to God’s Word as authoritative and inerrant, while the PCUSA does not.

  28. Ann says:

    Shouldn’t one capitalize the title of a book, especially the Bible?

    • It is not necessary to capitalize the word bible. The whole of Koine Greek in the New Testament was written in lower case. Capitalizing certain worspds is cultural thing somewhat peculiar the the language of Great Britain

  29. Dr. Kenneth Currier says:

    Thank you for this site and summary explanation of the differences between the the PCA and the PCUSA. I have wanted more clarity of my Presbyterian faith and mission that I have held for all my 64 years. This site was very helpful in reassuring my personal beliefs and relationship with God and Christ resemble little of the PCA theology and I thank God that I am in the right place: the PCUSA and its “liberal” theology (or so you say). God bless the whole world! No exceptions.

    • Peggy says:

      Before feeling so sure that you are in the “right place,” I would compare the tenets of PCUSA with what the Word of God says. I would read the Word personally cover to cover, preferably in a condensed time span such as in 90 days. Ask the Holy Spirit to open the Scriptures to you. Then see what happens. The Word of God is our rightful and only TRUE COMPASS.

      Please remember that Heaven is a real place and Hell is a real place. We cannot afford to play “Russian Roulette” with something so important as where we will spend eternity. Our spirits are eternal and will live forever in one of two places. They are entirely opposite places.

      If you want to study more on the reality of hell, please see Bill Wiese’s book “23 Minutes in Hell.” His other books are excellent, too. You may also search him on Youtube to see eye-opening videos. By the way there are MANY in these end times that are having these experiences. Bill Wiese supports all of his writings with Scripture, tons of relevant Scripture.

      We all need DISCERNMENT, and we cannot acquire that without PERSONAL time with God daily as well as daily washing in the Word of God. I recommend high doses of the Word as stated above as a personal “kick-start.” This is a fantastic exercise that will change your life. It is not meant to permanently replace personal Bible Study, however.

      High doses of “The Word” is the anti-venom needed to begin to cure our snake-bit selves, society, and world.

  30. Minnie says:

    The PCUSA has gone to hell in a handbasket. It is no longer a Christian denomination.

  31. Roger Thailand says:

    So basically the PSCUSA is a satanic organization. Please dont call yourselves “Christian” if you give into the abominations of homosexuality, murder of babies and reject the inerrant word of God. False teachings.

  32. Joan says:

    It is unfortunate that the governance of PCUSA leans and seems to be driven in its agenda by the progressive stances of society. Where are the issues and needs to bring God driven views of these social political issues. There is an imbalance of who is authorized to vote for positions making it to the heights of the governance level. There seems to be no concern with the grand exodus and perhaps a real zeal to be rid of the more conservative ideas and positions. Strange that worship of our God has so many slants attributed to the way. Jesus points the way and it is just too much to see babies destroyed full term because all of a sudden “choice”. Why don’t mothers chose to give their babies away… some say if they have the child they couldn’t give it away…. but they destroy it instead. What did Mose’s mom do? What did Mary and Josephdo? What did the mother chose when the king’s resolution was to cut the baby in half? Are these not ideas versus making overatures? Some issues need contemplation with God’s writings. Too directional stances surely are destroying a denomination and perhaps an ethical oriented nation.

  33. Ben says:

    It’s sad to see that there is still no resolution of different voices in the Reformed Church (history). Having experienced and served in many denominations I have found there is no denomination that is perfect, theologically homogenous and certainly without all prejudice, so I have stopped putting my confidence in any denomination even the one I am a TE.

  34. Alexander N. Landeza says:

    Thank you for posting this article, i belong to General Assembly of Presbyterian Church of the Philippines. Im a minister, can request a copy if this article? Thank you.

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