Presbyterian Church(USA) Comparison Chart - Revised 2015

Comparison of Basic Beliefs and Viewpoints of Three Presbyterian Denominations: 
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) (PCUSA), Evangelical Covenant Order of Presbyterians 
(ECO), and Evangelical Presbyterian Church (EPC) 
At the request of Mid-Council leaders in the Presbyterian Church (USA) this comparison chart
has been developed. Every effort has been made to make this as accurate as possible, using the
official documents of each denomination as sources.

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  1. OK, Charles, but to quote from Larson, vs LRP: "...restatements of the Book of Order, in whatever form they are adopted, are themselves an obstruction to the same standard of constitutional governance no less than attempts to depart from mandatory provisions.” The only rational conclusion to draw from such an argument is that it is unconstitutional for a presbytery to adopt a resolution quoting the Book of Order verbatim—and that even a “perception” is sufficient to make something unconstitutional." It still seems like that's what your doing by quoting this list under PCUSA Essentials. If it walks like a duck...

    by Al Sandalow

    January 11, 2016

  2. Al, Thanks for the comment. My understanding is that the key point in rejecting a particular list of essential tenets is that we cannot substitute a summary of the confession(s) for the confession(s). That is, we don't summarize the confessions into a list and then say that we must adhere to those summaries. We are called to be faithful to the confessions. What we do in this chart is to cite the Book of Order's own list of important themes in the Book of Confessions as a guide as to where examinations might concentrate in determining adherence to the confessions. I think this is exactly what our polity calls for. Charles

    by Charles Wiley

    January 11, 2016

  3. Charles, I think this is good work and a helpful resource. I would take a bit of issue of with how you answer the “Essentials” question for the PCUSA. You essentially say ‘we don’t have a list…but here’s a list”. I don’t see the FoG itself defining the elements you list as “essentials”. I’ve been at several GS’s where overtures very specifically asked for or proposed a list of essentials and every time is was rejected. In the past few years Presbyteries who adopted their own list were told by the GAPJC they could not adopt one. So to quote a section of the FoG as though it were somehow “the PCUSA essentials” – even with your brief qualifications – seems a bit disingenuous. It’s almost like you simply don’t want to admit that, for good or bad, the PCUSA has no concrete definition of what they are. And even if they did, since any one can scruple any essential they imagine might exist before an ordaining body, it’s hard to imagine how any element could be called ‘essential’, rather than ‘recommended’. I think you say more here than the denomination has affirmed.

    by Al Sandalow

    January 9, 2016

  4. Dear Mr. Dean, That's a good question. Barry Ensign-George and I have written directly to that question in a paper entitled, "Our Challenging Way." The title communicates that the path the PCUSA has chosen is not simple, but it is faithful, I believe. You can find it at: https://www.presbyterianmission.org/ministries/theologyandworship/our-challenging-way/ Charles

    by Charles Wiley

    January 8, 2016

  5. Why is it so difficult for the denomination to declare a clear an unequivocal stand on sexuality and homosexuality in particular? What does PCUSA teach on these subjects??

    by Chip Dean

    January 8, 2016

  6. I am updating the chart to include changes to marriage. The Belhar Confession must still be acted upon by the 2016 General Assembly before it is part of the Book of Confessions.

    by Charles Wiley

    November 10, 2015

  7. When will this chart be updated? There is a new confession. The position on marriage has been ratified. And, with the chair of the Mission Agency being an openly married gay man, it is being fully embraced.

    by Bruce Sexton

    November 10, 2015

  8. The PCA does not ordain women as ministers or as elders. There has been a discussion whether women can assist a male diaconate. See this report from 2008 by the Stated Clerk of the PCA: http://wrfnet.org/resources/2008/07/report-36th-general-assembly-presbyterian-church-america

    by Charles Wiley

    September 17, 2015

  9. Thank you for the document, "Comparison of Basic Beliefs and Viewpoints of three Presbyterian Denominations. I am wondering what the stance of the PCA is on the ordination of women. I have not been able to determine that question from their website.

    by Charlene Roberson

    September 17, 2015

  10. Jeremiah 23

    by Carol B Hickman

    July 28, 2015

  11. Mateen, I tried for accuracy over the boldface answer, and I think that is the most accurate answer. Charles

    by Charles Wiley

    February 23, 2015

  12. Charles, since you all have been very direct on most all the questions deserving of "Yes" or "No" answers, shouldn't the answer in the PCUSA column on the fidelity and chastity issue start with a bold-face "No," before proceeding with the explanatory note? Logically, the answer has to be "No," the way the question is worded, it seems to me.

    by Mateen

    February 23, 2015

  13. Thanks, Charles. Got it. Pass my greetings...

    by GLEN HALLEAD

    February 13, 2015

  14. Glen, Interesting question. Yes, I am sure that the EPC and the ECO both claim rightful heritage, but they do so in different ways. The EPC, the PCA, and the ECO have all emphasized their newness in their founding, so the EPC says that their 2015 General Assembly will be their 35th. The PCA calls their 2015 GA their 43rd. The ECO speaks of having a Synod meeting only, and they have talked about the inaugural and second synod meetings, etc. The PC(USA) claims explicit continuity, so it did not re-number GA's from one upon reunion in the 80's.

    by Charles Wiley

    February 13, 2015

  15. Charles would it not be fair to say that both the EPC and the ECO also - claim continuity back to the founding of the Synod of Philadelphia in 1706. Or is this a statement that reflects they might not make that claim explicitly? Thanks for clarifying this...

    by Glen Hallead

    February 13, 2015

  16. The PCA is not included simply because there is no current pattern of PCUSA congregations considering the PCA. As for growth, I'd be curious to see the latest stats. I know the PCA was growing for a long stretch, but it was my understanding that it had slowed down. Growth is always an interesting stat, because it shows something is happening--further analysis always needs to be done to see precisely what is happening.

    by Charles Wiley

    January 16, 2015

  17. You should add the PCA denomination to the comparison list - after all it is growing!

    by Bud

    January 16, 2015

  18. You're most welcome, Julie.

    by Charles Wiley

    January 7, 2015

  19. Charles, Thanks so much! I appreciate your clarification.

    by Julie Throne

    January 7, 2015

  20. Thanks for your comment, Dana Gilmour. I appreciate the depth of your conviction. One of the points of "Our Challenging Way" is that the church is always negotiating competing commitments. The question for the PCUSA is how to be faithful to Jesus Christ in its sexual ethics, its marriage practices, and in its life as a faith community. It seems like you're suggesting that traditional (at least in terms of the last couple of centuries) marriage is an essential of the church. As for Landon Whitsett's remark on sola scriptura, two things: 1) I don't think he meant what you think he meant. 2) regardless, Landon was not speaking for the church in that remark. We must be faithful to the gospel. Abandoning faithfulness is not an option. Charles

    by Charles Wiley

    January 4, 2015

  21. 1. Let me apologize for being a little too strident regarding Office of Theology and Worship; they've historically done great unbiased work with clarity and reasonably balanced study. 2. I would recommend all read, re-read and then discern the depth of their paper: Our Challenging Way: Faithfulness, Sex, Ordination, and Marriage", corrected, 11/6/14. Briefly, it addresses the marriage amendment: "...As a denomination, we regard it equally faithful to teach and practice the marriage of two people without regard to their gender...Can a denomination do this? Denominations...build...polity structures...to sustain members of the denominations...embodying the Christian faith, which means that denominations have to choose what matters...No denomination can be built on complete diversity on everything...it is not possible to live all these ways at once." 3. In 2010, the vice-moderator of the GA declared "Sola Scriptura is dead..." Given the disconnect between polity and the declarations of the GA which highly values political correctness, just what does the PC(USA) really stand for in 2015? Is it any wonder the PC(USA) lost 3 churches and 2000 members A WEEK in 2013?

    by Dana Gilmour

    January 4, 2015

  22. Julie, My apologies. Those two pages were left out by accident. I am emailing it directly to you, and the download will be updated on this page as soon as possible. Charles

    by Charles Wiley

    December 31, 2014

  23. In the chart, under the PCUSA's section for "essential tenets," it states "that chapter is attached." It is not. I assume that you mean F-2 of the book of order, but am not sure.

    by Julie Throne

    December 30, 2014

  24. Dana Gilmour, I'm sorry this document disappointed you. I am curious which version you're referring to. One in wide distribution does note sources, but they refer to one person's views or actions here, or another group's statement there, but then compares those to the ECO or EPC's official statements. That is an unbalanced comparison. Our comparison chart attempts to correct this imbalance by using parallel statements from each denomination. Doesn't that seem fair? Charles

    by Charles Wiley

    December 6, 2014

  25. Alan, I was out of the office on med leave when you left your comment. Sorry to be slow to respond. I appreciate your suggestion, but I doubt we'd find much cooperation at this point. Unlike many of the other charts floating out there, we have tried to only use faithful summaries of official documents in this piece. Send me an email on the ones you think we might not have gotten just right. We're trying to be as fair as we know how to be. Charles

    by Charles Wiley

    December 6, 2014

  26. This document is an appalling, slanted re-write of the previous document. It contains NONE of the explanatory footnotes that document how what the BOO or judicial decisions vary from actual practice and preaching in the PC(USA). Extremely self-serving. Expected better from Theology and Worship. Additionally, the treatise on the 'way Forward" mentions May actions at the Church of Scotland GA--but omits the strong stand of 21 May Session V on marriage is between one man and one woman. 369 to 189 (There were 2 formal dissents: Rev Alistair Cook and Rev John T. Mann

    by dana gilmour

    December 6, 2014

  27. Nicely done. There are only a few minor places where I think the other two denominations might take exception or expand the summary of their beliefs. Personally, I would send it to them and ask them to comment or edit the section that applies to them. Then I would write an introductory paragraph stating that this had been done. It would make it the most credible source out there. This will also separate our way of interacting with the way they have practiced in the recent past. I like it when we are the ones who are 'squeaky clean' and up front. Just a suggestion.

    by Alan Adams

    November 4, 2014

  28. Manuel, Thank you for the encouragement.

    by Charles Wiley

    May 23, 2014

  29. A must have in every congregation's Sunday School and Cathequisms. :)

    by Manuel Silva-Esterrich

    May 23, 2014

  30. Thanks so much, Don. Someone else pointed this out to us last week, and I will revise and have it up this week. Not quite sure how that mistake got in there. Charles

    by Charles Wiley

    May 5, 2014

  31. Just so you know...I notice that in the revised comparative chart of the 3 denominations, the ordination question to candidates regarding the scriptures for the PCUSA, omitted are the words 'in the Church universal, and God's Word to you.'

    by Don Barkley

    May 5, 2014