The following is an excerpt from the book about the City of Atlanta, “Atlanta: A Vision for the New Millenium” by Phyllis S. Fraley. This book was prepared for the 1996 Summer Olympics. (Used with permission.)
The Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) contributes to the ethos of the Atlanta community by teaching and encouraging its members to integrate life and faith. Unlike many activist organizations that lobby local, state, and federal governments for the enactment of laws, neither the PCA nor its churches attempts to represent its members in public matters. The PCA does encourage its members to be active in political and civic organizations. Consequently, the denomination is well represented in prison ministries, adoption services, pregnancy crisis centers, disaster relief, and many other such organizations in the communities where the churches are located. The PCA does humbly petition the government, when appropriate, regarding the significant moral issues that trouble our communities and nation.
The Presbyterian Church in America also cooperates with other denominations and churches where there are common goals. One example is Quest Atlanta ’96, in which 25 denominations and some 1,500 churches are working together. Quest Atlanta ’96 is committed to unite the body of Christ to welcome the world during the Olympic Games in an effort to proclaim and demonstrate the love of God.
The PCA is one of the faster growing denominations in the United States, with over 1450 churches and missions throughout the USA and Canada. There were over 306,000 communicant and non-communicant members as of December 2000.
“Reformed” defines the doctrinal beliefs of the PCA, which holds that the purest expressions of scriptural doctrine are found in the Calvinistic creeds, particularly the Westminster Confession of Faith.
The PCA’s representative form of church government is rooted in its name — presbyterian. Local churches are governed by elders (presbyters) elected by the church members. This form of government extends through the regional presbyteries, which facilitate connectionalism, to the national General Assembly, which expresses PCA’s connectionalism and the bond of union between/among all the churches.
Most of the work of the denomination is coordinated in the PCA Office Building in Lawrenceville. That work is carried out by four program committees — Mission to the World, Mission to North America, Christian Education and Publications, and Reformed University Ministries. In addition, there is the Office of the Stated Clerk, which is responsible for the administration of the General Assembly; the PCA Foundation, which teaches more effective stewardship; and PCA Retirement & Benefits, Inc, which provides life, disability, retirement plan benefits and a relief fund for PCA pastors, lay church workers, and the staffs of PCA committees, agencies, and institutions.
The PCA moved to Atlanta in 1982 and bought its current building in Lawrenceville in 2001. Two-thirds of the PCA’s churches and members are in the Southeast, and 25 churches are located in the Atlanta metro area.
National denominational institutions located outside PCA’s headquarters include Ridge Haven, a conference center located close to Rosman, North Carolina; Covenant College, a liberal arts college with over 750 students, located at Lookout Mountain, Georgia; and Covenant Theological Seminary, in St. Louis, Missouri.
The PCA’s influence extends far beyond the walls of the local church. Through Mission to the World, about 600 foreign missionaries are working in about 60 nations. Because of the unique relationship between Mission to the World and over 30 mission agencies with which some of PCA’s missionaries are working, many people consider PCA’s influence to be far greater than its size might indicate. Further, with close to 160 chaplains in the military and in hospitals, the Gospel is proclaimed to a rather large audience around the world not reached through usual ecclesiastical channels. Because of the emphasis on education, many members of the PCA are teachers and professors at all levels of education, including large universities and quite a few theological seminaries.
Mission to North America serves PCA churches and presbyteries as they advance God’s Kingdom in North America through the development of intentional evangelism and outreach ministries.
Christian Education and Publications’ mission is to glorify God by serving the PCA in its commitment to creating disciples. It does this by teaching and training leaders and church members as well as by providing a biblically based Sunday school curriculum for all ages through its publishing house, Great Commission Publications. The Women in the Church is under the oversight and direction of the Christian Education and Publications Committee and provides seminars, retreats, and materials for women.
The Office of the Stated Clerk is under the oversight of the Administrative Committee, whose ministry is service. In addition to planning, coordinating, and arranging facilities and services for the annual meeting of the General Assembly, the ruling body made up of about 2,980 commissioners (ministers and ordained lay leaders), the Clerk’s office serves as a liaison between the General Assembly and the presbyteries and sessions, as well as other denominational bodies. Other areas of service include assisting church pulpit committees and pastors in their search for churches and overseeing corporate civil matters, the PCA Historical Center in St. Louis, and the management and operation of the Atlanta headquarters.