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Why did Presbyterian Church split?

The Historical Reasons for the Presbyterian Church Schism in the 1800s

The Presbyterian Church saw a schism in the early 1800s which played a significant role in the spread of Protestant denominations across the United States. This schism was caused by doctrinal differences, leading to two distinct groups of Presbyterians: the Old School Presbyterians and the New School Presbyterians.

The Old School Presbyterians held a more conservative view of theology. They believed in strict adherence to the Westminster Confession, which was the doctrinal statement of the Presbyterian Church. They also opposed any form of ministerial education outside of the church, believing that the church itself was the only source of spiritual knowledge.

The New School Presbyterians, on the other hand, held a more progressive view of theology. They believed that the church should be open to new ideas and that ministers should be educated outside of the church. They also sought to make the Presbyterian Church more inclusive, allowing for the ordination of women and African-Americans.

These two groups clashed over their differences in opinion and, after much debate and disagreement, the schism was eventually declared in 1837. The Old School Presbyterians continued to adhere to the Westminster Confession and remained traditional in their beliefs, while the New School Presbyterians sought to make the church more progressive and open to new ideas.

The schism in the Presbyterian Church allowed for the establishment of two distinct branches of the Presbyterian denomination throughout the United States. It also served as an example of how differences in opinion can lead to the spread of diverse denominations and allowed for the development of new and progressive ideas within the Protestant faith.

Examining the Conflict that Caused the Presbyterian Church to Split

The Presbyterian Church is one of the oldest Christian denominations worldwide, and it has experienced much growth and change over the years. However, in the late 19th century, the church split due to a conflict between two different doctrinal stances. The conflict that caused the Presbyterian Church to split arose from a disagreement between Old School and New School Presbyterians.

The Old School Presbyterians were conservative and held to traditional beliefs. They wanted the church to maintain its orthodox doctrine, such as rejecting any form of interdenominational fellowship. The New School Presbyterians, on the other hand, were more progressive and wanted the church to accept more modern beliefs and practices. They argued that the church should reach out to the wider public and become more open to interdenominational fellowship.

The conflict between the two sides came to a head in 1837, when the Old School Presbyterians proposed a “Plan of Reunion” in order to settle the dispute. This plan would have allowed for the formation of a union between the two sides and would have allowed both to continue to practice according to their own beliefs. However, the New School Presbyterians refused to accept the plan, claiming that it was too restrictive. As a result, the Presbyterian Church split into two separate factions.

The Old School and New School Presbyterians eventually reunited in 1983, following decades of reconciliation efforts. Today, the Presbyterian Church is once again united, and it has grown to be one of the largest religious denominations in the United States. While the conflict that caused the Presbyterian Church to split was a difficult experience, it ultimately worked out for the best, as it allowed the church to become more open and progressive, while still maintaining its traditional values.

Looking at the Different Perspectives Behind the Presbyterian Church Division in the 19th Century

The Presbyterian Church’s division in the 19th century was an event that would shape the Church for generations to come. While there were several different perspectives at play during the period, each of them had their own unique view on the issue of ecclesiastical authority. Let’s take a quick look at the different perspectives that were in play.

First, there were the Old School Presbyterians, who believed in a strict adherence to traditional Calvinist teachings. They rejected the authority of outside institutions, instead relying on the Bible as the sole source of faith and doctrine. This faction was anti-ecumenical and sought to uphold traditional Presbyterian authority as the only valid form of Church governance.

Second, the New School Presbyterians embraced a more open attitude towards religious pluralism. They accepted the authority of outside institutions and sought to create a more unified Church, even if it meant sacrificing some of the traditional Presbyterian teachings. This faction was pro-ecumenical and sought to bring the Church into a more unified whole.

Finally, there were those who sought middle ground between the two factions. They sought to maintain a Presbyterian identity, but also to remain open to the changing values and beliefs of the time. This perspective sought to create a Church that was both traditional and modern, one that could adapt to the changing times while still retaining its core values.

The Presbyterian Church’s 19th century division was a complex and controversial event. Each of the different perspectives had its own unique view on the issue of ecclesiastical authority. While the Old School Presbyterians sought to uphold traditional authority, the New School Presbyterians embraced a more open view of religious pluralism. Ultimately, those who sought a middle ground between the two factions helped to create a Church that could both honor its roots and continue to adapt to the changing world of the 19th century.


The split in the Presbyterian Church ultimately occurred due to a combination of different theological perspectives on the nature of the Trinity, the authority of Scripture, and the practice of communion. It is ultimately a testament to the importance of theological debate and discourse in the Church, as well as the importance of unity and compromise. Ultimately, the split in the Presbyterian Church served to create two distinct branches of the Church that remain in existence to this day.