Presbyterian History

The Presbyterian church in the United States traces its ancestry back primarily to the British Isles. Presbyterians were active in the colonies particularly in the Mid-Atlantic States. Here is a brief timeline of American Presbyterian history

1630s

First Presbyterian churches organize in the colonies.

1683

Francis Makemie, the "Father of American Presbyterianism," arrives from Ireland.

1706

First presbytery in the American colonies organizes in Philadelphia.

1789

First Presbyterian General Assembly meets in Philadelphia.

1807

First African-American Presbyterian church organizes in Philadelphia.

1837

Elijah Lovejoy, minister and abolitionist publisher, dies while defending his printing press against a pro-slavery mob in Alton, Illinois.

1861

The General Assembly pledges loyalty to the Federal government. Southern commissioners withdraw and form the Presbyterian Church in the Confederate States of America.

1930

The PCUSA's constitution is amended to allow women to be ordained elders.

1956

First woman minister ordained, Margaret Towner.

1964

First African-American moderator of a General Assembly, Edler Hawkins.

1972

First female moderator of a General Assembly, Lois Stair.

1983

Two largest American Presbyterian denominations, reunite after 122 years.

1986

First Native-American woman ordained, Holly Haile Smith.

Here's a diagram (from The Presbyterian Historical Society) of the different relationships that are part of American Presbyterian history. You may click on the diagram to see a larger version.

The Presbyterian Family Connections

In 1958, the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America (the northern branch of the denominational split over slavery in 1861) merged with the United Presbyterian Church of North America (a denomination made up of Scottish Presbyterians primarily in western Pennsylvania and Ohio who were in a separate branch because of political disagreements back in Scotland) becoming the United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. (UPCUSA)

In 1983, the United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. (UPCUSA) merged with the Presbyterian Church in the United States (PCUS) (the southern branch of the denominational split over slavery in 1861) becoming the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). This is the denomination we belong to today.

For Further Study

The Presbyterian Historical Society