The Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) organized in 1973 when 215 churches withdrew from the Southern Presbyterian Church (Presbyterian Church, U.S. [PCUS]), charging that Southern Presbyterians “denied the deity of Jesus Christ and the inerrancy and authority of Scripture.”

The Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) organized in 1973 when 215 churches withdrew from the Southern Presbyterian Church (Presbyterian Church, U.S. [PCUS]), charging that Southern Presbyterians “denied the deity of Jesus Christ and the inerrancy and authority of Scripture.” In addition, they rejected the position of the PCUS that allowed women to be ordained as elders and ministers.

While calling itself at first the National Presbyterian Church, the new denomination was clearly a movement within the states of the old Confederacy. Its leaders were vigorous opponents of the approaching union between Northern Presbyterians and Southern Presbyterians. In announcing its birth, the PCA deliberately adopted the language and format of an address written by James Henley Thornwell in 1861 at the formation of the Presbyterian Church in the Confederate States of America. The name of the denomination was changed in 1974 to the Presbyterian Church in America.

While large and historic congregations joined the PCA in other southern states, none did in South Carolina. No congregation in the lowcountry (Charleston Presbytery) joined. Nevertheless, during the coming years the PCA had substantial growth throughout the state fueled by a vigorous program of evangelism and by theological and social conservatism. The social web that connected South Carolina Presbyterians for generations was not broken by the formation of the PCA; members of the PCA have continued to support historic Presbyterian institutions in the state such as Presbyterian College and the Presbyterian retirement homes.

Clarke, Erskine. Our Southern Zion: A History of Calvinism in the South Carolina Low Country, 1690–1990. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1996.

Smith, Frank Joseph. The History of the Presbyterian Church in America. 2d. ed. Lawrenceville, Ga.: Presbyterian Scholars Press, 1999.

Thompson, Ernest Trice. Presbyterians in the South. 3 vols. Richmond, Va.: John Knox, 1963–1973.

Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Article Title Presbyterian Church in America
  • Author Erskine Clarke
  • Website Name South Carolina Encyclopedia
  • URL http://www.scencyclopedia.org/sce/entries/presbyterian-church-in-america/
  • Access Date March 31, 2020
  • Publisher University of South Carolina, Institute for Southern Studies
  • Original Published Date June 20, 2016
  • Date of Last Update October 24, 2016