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date: 17 August 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter primarily analyzes the history of American Presbyterian polity from the eighteenth to twenty-first centuries, but it also gives some attention to Presbyterian polity outside the United States. It examines the Adopting Act of 1729 along with various denominational disputes and schisms. Presbyterianism was greatly affected by the First and Second Great Awakenings, which led to polarization. The schism between New Side and Old Side Presbyterians was the result of differing attitudes to conversion and issue of creedal assent. Presbyterians relationship with the Congregationalists also led to a weakening of Presbyterian polity and to differing attitudes toward evangelism. In 1837, Presbyterians split into Old School and New School parties, and thereafter Presbyterians became more reflective about their polity. The relationship between polity and theology has been a source of tension for Presbyterians, and in the twentieth century, polity was in the ascendency in American mainline Presbyterianism. Several significant twentieth-century PCUSA events reveal the dominance of polity and the resulting fracturing of American Presbyterianism.

Keywords: Adopting Act, Westminster Confession of Faith, Old School, New School, J. Gresham Machen, Angela Davis, Mansfield Kaseman, National Presbyterian Church of Mexico

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