The term ‘Presbyterianism’ refers to both the organisation and the general characteristics of churches in the Reformed theological tradition governed through a hierarchy of councils from local congregations (session, consistory, or parish council) to regional (presbytery or synod) and national courts (synod or general assembly). For regional and national bodies, elders and ordained ministers are appointed in equal numbers. Deacons are frequently responsible for matters of finance and property, and often for relief of the poor.

The theological tradition traces its origins to the 16th-century reformations in Zurich, Geneva, Strasbourg, France, the United Provinces (Holland), and Scotland. It was influenced by Martin Luther (1483–1546) but is particularly associated with John Calvin (1509–1564) and his Institutes of the Christian Religion. In 17th-century Britain, Reformed Christianity came to ...

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