*Adapted from the tract Who Are Cumberland Presbyterians?
by T. V. Warnick and Morris Pepper.
- Roots: We are a member of the
Presbyterian and Reformed family of churches. Our roots go back to the
Presbyterian beginnings in Switzerland and Scotland.
We came out of the old Presbyterian Church on February 4th, 1810, on
the American frontier, as the result of differences over theology, ministerial education, methods of
ministry, and the Great Revival of 1800.
- Is there any difference between the
Cumberland Presbyterian Church and other Presbyterian or Reformed
denominations? Yes. We have a distinct accent, life, and
ministry; and though similar, we differ from the Christian Reformed
Church, Presbyterian Church USA, the Reformed Church of America, the
Presbyterian Church of America, the Associate Reformed Presbyterian
Church, and other like denominations.
- What is Presbyterian?
The word actually refers to a form of church government more than to a
theology. We are Presbyterian in government rather than Congregational
or Episcopal. Our units of government are: session, presbytery, synod,
and general assembly. We are a connectional Church, related on all
levels. As congregations we are related to the whole.
- What role do women play in the Cumberland
Presbyterian Church? Women are active in all areas of our
denominational ministry. In 1889. we were the first presbyterian or
reformed body to ordain women for the ministry. We also regularly
ordain women as church officers.
- How big is the Cumberland Presbyterian
Church today? We are a denomination with less than 100,000
members, serving in 19 states, with a concentration of congregations in
Kentucky and Tennessee. We also have congregations in Hong Kong,
Colombia, Japan, and Brazil. We have around 800 congregations. The
majority of our churches are of small or medium membership. Only a few
of our churches have over a thousand members. The denomination, though
small, has become a vital, creative, outreaching, and loyal steward of
its mission. We maintain a program far out of proportion to our size.
- What are the educational requirements for
Cumberland Presbyterian ministry? We hold and insist upon
adherence to a high standard of education for ministers. For most this
means a degree from a fully accredited seminary. Careful exemptions are
made for practical purposes and these persons must complete our Program
of Alternate Studies through Memphis Theological Seminary.
- What happened in 1906? Many
Cumberland Presbyterians still view the events of 1906 with ill will.
In 1902 the Presbyterian Church USA made changes to their Confession
of Faith which many Cumberland Presbyterians believed for all
practical purposes eliminated the differences between the PCUSA and the
Cumberland Presbyterian Church. This spawned a reunion movement within
At the time, the Cumberland Presbyterian Church was the
third largest presbyterian body in North America and was rapidly
growing. If we had continued to grow at the pre-1906 rate we would have
been the largest presbyterian body by about 1920.
The concept of
reunification became popular within the Cumberland Presbyterian Church
but it was not without significant resistance. When the final vote on
reunion took place in 1906, the Cumberland Presbyterian Church voted by
presbytery. This means that small presbyteries with as few as a
half dozen churches and a few score congregants were weighted the same
as large presbyteries with a hundred or more churches and tens of
thousands of congregants. When the results were tallied, a majority of
Cumberland Presbyterian presbyteries voted to reunite with the
Presbyterian Church USA.
However, several of the largest presbyteries,
representing an overwhelming majority of Cumberland Presbyterians,
voted against the union. Because of the voting method, the pro-union
party carried the day. A sizable portion of the 1906 General Assembly
took action to continue our identity as Cumberland Presbyterians.
The hard feelings at the time came not from the vote on reunion but
from the protracted struggle in the civil courts that followed. As
congregations tried to maintain their Cumberland Presbyterian identity
they found themselves in court against elements of the Presbyterian
Church USA. Most Cumberland Presbyterian institutions,
publications, boards, and agencies became the property of the
Presbyterian Church USA.
the Tennessee state Supreme Court ruled on the side of Cumberland
Presbyterians. A long rebuilding period followed. Eventually, the
Presbyterian Church USA issued an official apology to the Cumberland
you did not find the information you are seeking we invite you to
explore the links below. Our bookstore also offers
a number of excellent resources to help you investigate the Cumberland
Click here for more information about our
Click here for more
information about our polity.
Click here for our
Navigate our site with the links to the left.