We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. -- 1 John 1:3
What Does it Mean that East Main is a Presbyterian Church?
It means that we are people whose roots are in the Reformed Tradition, a branch of the Protestant Reformation that developed mainly in Switzerland in the 16th century. In terms of core beliefs, Presbyterians have long emphasized the sovereignty of God, Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, and the authority of the Bible as the main source for learning the truth about who God is and how God calls people to live.
"Presbyterian" also refers to the way we organize ourselves to make decisions. Unlike hierarchical churches in which decisions are made mainly by leaders who are appointed for the congregation, or congregational churches in which each person has a vote, in Presbyterian churches the congregation elects leaders called elders to a board called the Session which makes or delegates decisions about the church's life and ministry. At East Main, five elders are elected each year to serve for a term of three years. Ordained ministers must be called (approved) by the entire congregation, while other staff members are approved by the Session.
In the United States today, there are a number of Presbyterian denominations. East Main is a part of ECO: A Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians which is the newest Presbyterian denomination founded in January 2012. Since East Main's founding in 1879, it has been affiliated with four denominations -- all Presbyterian. The first two changes occurred when two Presbyterian denominations merged. The last change occurred in 2013 when the East Main congregation approved the recommendation of the Session to leave the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) denomination and become a part of the ECO: A Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians.
ECO - East Main Church's Denomination
After a lengthy period of study, prayer and discernment in 2013, East Main changed its denominational affiliation to a newly formed church body called ECO: A Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians. The founders of ECO explained that four descriptive words emerged when they were searching and praying for a name for this new denomination, namely:
- Covenant - reminds us that God initiated a relationship with us that then connects us to each other.
- Order - conveys commitment to live life together around a common theological core.
- Evangelical - directs us to be witnesses to the hope of the gospel, engaged in our culture and planting missional communities.
- Presbyterian - describes our style of government, but even more it describes our continuity with a larger, global family of faith.
Listed below are several documents and videos pertaining to this new denomination. East Main members, prospective members and visitors are encouraged to learn about ECO's distinguishing characteristics. Additional information is available at the ECO website.
CREEDS, CONFESSIONS AND CATECHISMS
Additional information about ECO Confessional Standards is available on pages 6-7 in the "ECO Essential Tenets and Confessional Standards" document available here.
Background information on East Main's change from the Presbyterian Church (USA) denomination, referred to as PC(USA), to ECO: Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians is available here.