Presbyterianism is a form of Christian church organization based on administration by a hierarchy of courts composed of clerical and lay presbyters. Holding a position between episcopacy (government by bishops) and Congregationalism (government by local congregation), Presbyterianism sought a return to the early practice of appointed elders as described in the New Testament. By the mid-16th century, Presbyterian sentiment was strong in England and Scotland. The Church of Scotland, founded in 1557 under the leadership of John Knox, is the only Presbyterian state church established by law; however, it maintains the traditional independence from the state. Presbyterians were to be found in most of the English colonies of North America. Through the efforts of Francis Makemie , a missionary from Ireland (1683), the first presbytery in America was formed at Philadelphia in 1706; a synod was constituted in 1716.
Catholic Encyclopedia article on historical Presbyterianism.
A Wikipedia article on the history and characteristics of the Presbyterian church and a chart of the evolution of the different Presbyterian denominations in the US.
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