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Presbyterian and Reformed Practices

Presbyterians and worship

Presbyterian worship services are characterized by the centrality of the Christian Scriptures. Bible readings and sermons that explain and apply its teachings are a central focus of each service. The Presbyterian Church (USA), the largest Presbyterian denomination in America, suggests in its constitution that the service be arranged around five actions centered on the Bible (or Word): gathering around the word, proclaiming the word, responding to the word, the sealing of the word, and bearing and following the word into the world.

Presbyterian worship services also include prayer, music, the sacraments (the Lord's Supper and baptism) and an optional offering. Worship in the Church of Scotland is guided by The Book of Common Order. {1} It has almost completed a new hymn book, Church Hymnary 4. {2} In the PC(USA), the Session determines the order of worship. The United Church of Christ (UCC) uses The Book of Worship of the United Church of Christ and The New Century Hymnal as guides to worship. {3}


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Like many Protestant churches, Presbyterians recognize only two sacraments: baptism and the Lord's Supper (or Communion).

Infants are baptized in Presbyterian and Reformed churches. "The Baptism of children witnesses to the truth that God's love claims people before they are able to respond in faith." {4} In the United Church of Christ and the Church of Scotland, baptism may be done by sprinkling, pouring or immersion, as long as water is involved. {5}

Presbyterian and Reformed churches reject the Catholic notion of transubstantiation as well as the Lutheran concept of consubstantiation, and regard communion primarily as a memorial of Christ's death. The United Church of Christ regards Communion as an act of thanksgiving, memorial, fellowship, prayer, and hope for Christ's return. {6}

Ordination of Women

Women may be ordained to the ministry in many Presbyterian churches, but not all.

In the Church of Scotland, the ordination of women was granted in 1968 after a group of six women made an impassioned plea to the General Assembly on the basis of an "increasing consensus of opinion in the churches that there is no valid theological reason against the admission of women to the ministry." {7} The first woman was ordained in 1969 in Aberdeen. However, women may not be ordained in Australia.

In the United States, women may be ordained in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and the United Church of Christ, but not in the Presbyterian Church in America or the Reformed Churches of the United States.

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  1. "Common Order." The Church of Scotland online, 2004.
  2. "Church Hymnary." The Church of Scotland online, 2004.
  3. "Worship: Orders of Worship." United Church of Christ.
  4. "Infant Baptism." Presbyterianism 101: A General Guide to the Facts About the PCUSA.
  5. "Baptism: A Practice of Faith in the United Church of Christ." "Doctrine of Baptism." Church of Scotland Panel on Doctrine Report, May 2003, Appendix A.
  6. "Holy Communion: A Practice of Faith in the United Church of Christ."
  7. "Women and the Kirk." Church of Scotland online.

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