First Church is affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (USA), the largest Presbyterian denomination in America with approximately 2.3 million members in 11,000 congregations. The PCUSA has struggled in the past several decades with dramatic membership loss, internal conflict over beliefs and morality, and a growing disconnect between the national bureaucracy and local congregations. The Session of First Church has taken a clear stand with other churches within the denomination who are seeking to preserve the historic faith and values as expressed in our Constitution. In addition, the pastoral staff have been active in renewal movements within the denomination (including the Fellowship PCUSA).
The Presbyterian Church traces its roots to the Protestant Reformation, nearly 500 years ago. Reformers Martin Luther, John Calvin and John Knox helped Christians to rediscover forgotten biblical truths including, most importantly, “Salvation by Faith Alone.” Special emphases of Presbyterian and Reformed theology include:
- Predestination (or God’s Initiative) — the conviction that no one turns to Christ in faith unless the Holy Spirit has taken the initiative to soften the heart and lead a person to believe.
- The Priesthood of All Believers — the conviction that all Christians are equally precious in the sight of God, have equal access to the Word and Spirit, and are equally called to serve the Lord in His Church.
- Eternal Security — once a person has truly become a Christian (been “born again” or “born from above,” in the words of Jesus in John chapter 3), they can never lose their salvation.
The Presbyterian form of church government was originated in Scotland in the late 16th century. It is based on the principle of representative democracy — a pattern of self-government that pre-dated and had a tremendous influence on the Founding Fathers of the United States.Each congregation elects Elders (the Greek word for Elder is “Presbyter,” from which we derive our name); those Elders have the authority to lead and direct the entire ministry of the church. Pastors and Elders together form the Session, the local church’s governing body. A separate board of officers, known as Deacons (from the Greek word for servant), provide practical help and ministry to the congregation and community, under the direction of the Session.The national structure of the Presbyterian Church includes four levels of government: the local church’s Session, the Presbytery (a regional body of churches), the Synod and the national General Assembly. First Presbyterian Church of Bonita Springs is a member of Peace River Presbytery and the Synod of the South Atlantic.