“What does Associate Reformed Presbyterian mean?” Good question!
Two groups of Scots-Irish immigrants came to America around the mid 18th century seeking religious freedom. A group of covenanters broke away from the Church of Scotland over the doctrine of grace and the practice of patronage (the wealthy had undue influence in the church) and established themselves as the Associate Church. Years later, another group, the Seceders, left the Church because the king was supplanting Presbyterian church government (government by local elders) with episcopal government (government by a hierarchy of bishops). The Seceders established themselves the Reformed Church. After arriving in America, these immigrants began to discover their common ties. They eventually decided to merge and form the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church in 1782.
Like our spiritual ancestors, we believe the Bible is the Word of God. Because it is God’s word, it is infallible in all that it says, and inerrant in its original manuscripts. Its origin is divine, even though God used humans to write it. Because of its divine origin, we believe it is our only perfect standard for what we believe and how we live. In a world awash in relativism, we believe we can securely anchor our lives in the authority of God’s word.
We are reformed, because we consciously trace our spiritual lineage back to the 16th century renewal of the Church known as the Protestant Reformation. This movement celebrated a turn from authority of scripture plus tradition, and a return to the Bible alone as the locus of authority for the church and the individual Christian. On the authority of the Bible we believed we are saved by grace alone through faith alone by Christ alone to the glory of God alone.
Among many other things, we believe the Bible tells us how the church is to be governed. So we are Presbyterian, or governed by elders elected by our local congregation. We are not just governed by elders because it works, but primarily because we believe this is the system of government taught in Scripture.
As Reformed Presbyterians, we are also connectional. We view other ARP churches not so much as distinct autonomous congregations, but the same church meeting at different locations. We believe in mutual accountability and the shared joys and sorrows of the community of faith. Again, we are not connectional for pragmatic reasons alone, but because we see the principle modeled in scripture, particularly in Acts 15.
We are evangelical, because we believe in the free offer of the gospel to all people. That is, we do not believe the good news of Jesus Christ’s redemptive atoning work for us on the cross should be heard by nice, respectable “religious” people alone. We believe everyone needs to hear it. The sick need a doctor, not those who are well. We believe salvation is of the Lord and that He will save whom he will, but it is our job to tell the good news to all people and invite them to receive Christ.
We are missional, because Jesus’ last words on earth tell us to make disciples of all nations and communities, including our own. So we believe we are to be used of God to make and mature loving followers of Christ. We cannot do this alone, so we cling to his promise to be with us until the end of the age.
We are confessional, because we believe the doctrine taught in the Westminster Confession of Faith and Larger and Shorter Catechisms are accurate summaries of biblical content. Most churches claim to believe what the Bible says, but that seems to mean very different things to different traditions. Our doctrinal confessions summarize what we believe the Bible means by what it says. Our church standards are a guide for interpreting the Bible, but are never a replacement for the Bible.
We are covenantal, because we believe God works through covenants to bless his people. As his church we are under the ultimate covenant headship of Christ, through which his blessings flow to us. On a smaller scale, we believe God also works through the local covenant community, the church, and the immediate covenant community, the family. We believe it is the responsibility of Christian fathers to teach, nurture, and disciple their children. Working with their wives, they are charged to bring their children up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, for God’s promises are not only for us, but also for our children, for as many as the Lord our God will call. The primary location for spiritual instruction is the Christian home. This instruction should be supplemented by, not delegated to, the church. We believe the primary way God makes new Christians is the Christian family.
We are ecumenical, because we affirm fraternal relationships with our brothers and sisters of other traditions who share our primary allegiance to the gospel of Jesus Christ, even though we may disagree with them on secondary or tertiary matters.
We invite to enjoy the worship of our Lord in our church service, or through any of the organizations and events described in the information on our website.