Who We Are
We are 48 churches in 7 counties of upstate New York, roughly following the source watersheds of the Susquehanna and Delaware rivers inside New York State. We are east and south of the Finger Lakes region and on the western fringe of the Catskill mountains. Our southern border is the Pennsylvania-New York border, our northern border is less than a half-hour outside Syracuse and our northeast corner is less than one hour outside the capitol at Albany. We are a 'small church' Presbytery with fewer than 6000 members total, none of our congregations is over 500 strong.
The Presbytery of Susquehanna Valley was founded January 19, 1965 as a merger of Binghamton Presbytery and Susquehanna Presbytery (itself a recent merger of Otsego Presbytery and Delaware Presbytery) following the 1958 merger of the two parent denominations - the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America (PCUSA) and the United Presbyterian Church of North America (UPCNA). A further denominational union in 1983 did not merge or rename the Presbytery.
There is, in another Presbyterian denomination, another Susquehanna Valley Presbytery, located in Pennsylvania - formed in 1985 by the Presbyterian Church in America - a breakoff from the Presbyterian Church in the United States in the years before the 1983 reunion. There was also a Susquehanna Presbytery in Pennsylvania in the 1800's.
"The Presbytery of Susquehanna Valley lives to serve and encourage congregations as we together seek to be faithful to our calling in Jesus Christ."
A Brief History of the Presbyterian Church in this Country
Presbyterianism in a wide sense is the system of church government by representative assemblies called presbyteries, as distinct from government by bishops (episcopal system), or by congregations (congregationalism). A Presbytery consists of all the Ministers (Teaching Elders) and congregations represented by Ruling Elders in a geographic area. There are an equal number of these two kinds of elders who have voice and vote in every Presbytery - seeking to preserve parity between 'clergy' and 'laity.' In its strict sense, Presbyterianism is the name given to one of the groups of ecclesiastical bodies that represent the features of Protestantism emphasized by French lawyer John Calvin (1509-1564), whose writings crystallized much of the Reformed thinking that came before him. The most important standards of orthodox Presbyterianism are the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms of 1647. The chief distinctive features set forth in the Westminster declarations of belief are Presbyterian church government, Calvinistic theology, and absence of prescribed forms of worship. Presbyterians trace their history to the 16th century and the Protestant Reformation.
Presbyterians were among the earliest Reformed immigrants to America. They settled up and down the east coast, and began to push westward into the American wilderness, founding congregations as early as the 1630s. In 1706, eight Presbyterian ministers met in Philadelphia and formed the Presbytery of Philadelphia, the first Presbyterian presbytery in the New World. The clergy assumed the freedom to organize, and the right to worship, preach and teach, and to administer the sacraments. Growing population and immigration caused the Presbytery to organize the Synod of Philadelphia in 1716. While at first heavily dependent on the Presbyterians of Scotland and Northern Ireland, the church in this country began to develop its own indigenous leadership and educational, mission, and charitable institutions, as well as to experience its first internal conflicts.
Presbyterians were only one of the reformed denominations that dominated American colonial life at the time of the Revolutionary War. Presbyterians participated in the writing of state and national constitutions. Reformed views of God's sovereignty and of human sinfulness moved the new nation toward checks and balances and separation of powers. Independence forced adjustment in church as well as government structures. In the 1788, the Synod met in Philadelphia to form the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America (PCUSA). They adopted a constitution including a form of government, a directory of worship, subscription to the Westminster Confession and the Larger and Shorter Catechisms. In 1789, the General Assembly held its first meeting in Philadelphia.
In the early years of the 1800s, the church carried on revivals and organized congregations, presbyteries, and synods wherever they went, emphasizing the connectional nature of the church. Presbyterians helped to shape voluntary societies to encourage educational, missionary, evangelical, and reforming work. As the church began to realize that these functions were corporate in nature and as the century proceeded, it formed its own boards and agencies to address these needs at home and abroad. Mission to Native Americans, African Americans, and populations all over the world became a hallmark of the church.
The nineteenth century was also characterized by disagreement and division over theology, governance, and reform -- particularly slavery. The century saw the formation of additional denominations, such as the Cumberland Presbyterian Church and the United Presbyterian Church of North America. When the country could not reconcile the issue of slavery and the federal union, the southern Presbyterians split from the PCUSA, forming the PCCSA in 1861, which became the Presbyterian Church in the United States.
The themes of the late nineteenth and all of the twentieth century are many. To be Presbyterian is to be ecumenical, and the church participated in the many organizations such as the Alliance of the Reformed Churches throughout the World holding the Presbyterian System, the Federal Council of Churches and its successor, the National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA, and the Consultation on Church Union succeeded by Churches Uniting in Christ. This era also saw an amazing growth and decline of foreign mission work and controversy and division over worship and the confessions. Women's issues, civil rights and other social justice issues, and service to diverse congregations, including Korean Americans, were also significant in the life of the church. Reorganization and loss of membership characterized this period as well.
The Presbyterian church in the United States has split and parts have reunited several times. Currently the largest group is the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), which has its national offices in Louisville, KY. It was formed in 1983 as a result of reunion between the Presbyterian Church in the U.S. (PCUS), the "southern stream," and the United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. (UPCUSA), the "northern stream." The UPCUSA was formed by the merger (1958) of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America, descending from the Philadelphia presbytery of 1706, and the United Presbyterian Church of North America, which had been constituted (1858) by a union of two older churches. Other Presbyterian churches in the North America include: the Presbyterian Church in America, the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, the Evangelical Covenant Order of Presbyterians (ECO) and the Presbyterian Church of Canada.