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The roots of the Presbyterian Church trace back to John Calvin and John Knox, two of the earliest leaders of the Reformation. Knox led the Reformation in Scotland in the 1500s and his ideas shaped what is today The Church of Scotland.
Since the Colonial period, Presbyterianism has had a strong presence in America. Reformed churches were established in the 1600s with Presbyterians shaping the religious and political life of the fledgling nation. John Witherspoon, a Presbyterian minister, was a signer of the Declaration of Independence. Presbyterians were instrumental in the movements for women’s rights, abolition of slavery and temperance. The US church today has over 2.4 million members.
The word Presbyterian takes its name from the Greek “Presbuteros” or elder, which is found numerous times in the Bible. The church is distinguished by active representational leadership of both ministers and elders (laypeople) in its government and proclaims the equality of all persons.