Presbyterians Take Closer Look at Trinity

Presbyterian churches across the nation may soon receive new guidelines to help them understand the doctrine of the Trinity.

On Saturday, the General Assembly Council of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) approved “The Trinity: God’s Love Overflowing” to be forwarded to the denomination’s next General Assembly, slated to be held in Birmingham, Ala., in June.

“I have a deep hope that this will be helpful to the church,” said the Rev. Rebecca Button Prichard, moderator of the working group that developed the report, according to the Presbyterian News Service (PNS).

The comprehensive report, which took more than five years of study and revision to complete, affirms the importance of the three-fold nature of God and reviews the doctrine of the Trinity in Presbyterian theology, worship and life.

“What the paper tries to do … is articulate how glorious this notion is that God is Trinity,” said the Rev. Charles Wiley, associate for theology in the Office of Theology and Worship, part of the Congregational Ministries Division (CMD). Wiley also was a member of the Trinity Working Group.

“God is bigger and more expansive … through this three-in-one relationship,” said Prichard, the pastor of Tustin Presbyterian Church in Tustin, Calif.

John Calvin, the founding father of Presbyterianism, described the Trinitarian theology as God having three aspects, not three names. These three aspects – Father, Son and Spirit – are never separated.

This notion is reaffirmed in the report, which states, “An action of God cannot be restricted to one of the three persons.”

“All of the acts of the triune God are indivisible. The persons of the Trinity do not work independently. Each of God’s acts is always the one work of the whole Trinity,” the report adds.

According to PNS, the report has three main parts: “Confessing God’s Overflowing Love,” summarizing the PC(USA)’s theological convictions; “Participating in God’s Overflowing Love,” showing how Christians participate in the life of God as they worship together; and “Embodying God’s Overflowing Love,” discussing the specific ways in which Christians are called to embody God’s love of God in mission and service — in the life of faith, hope and love.

The General Assembly will be asked to publish the study and have the materials ready to be distributed throughout the denomination.