Being "Presbyterian Related"
The Presbyterian commitment to higher education can be traced back to the Protestant Reformation in 16th century Europe, and specifically to the theologian John Calvin. Trained as a lawyer, Calvin placed great emphasis on the importance of education as a vehicle for reforming the church. In addition to laying the foundation for what would eventually become the Presbyterian Church (USA), he also established the Geneva Academy in Switzerland to educate the poor in the liberal arts and sciences. The Academy would later evolve into the University of Geneva.
In the United States, the Presbyterian emphasis on higher education dates to the early 1700’s and the founding of the College of New Jersey, later to become Princeton University. Presbyterian missionaries and pastors continued to spread across the emerging nation establishing churches, schools and colleges. By the start of the Civil War, Presbyterians had founded over a fourth of all the colleges in the United States.
Today, 56 colleges and universities continue to emphasize their historical relationship with the Presbyterian Church (USA) through membership in the APCU. These institutions are, and always have been, a diverse group. However, they are bound by a shared commitment to learning, faith, and service; and by the value they place on connections to each other, the Presbyterian Church (USA), and the world—honoring the dignity and worth of every person.
This order is important.
We are schools, not churches, and our primary mission is education. Therefore, learning comes first. Nevertheless, as church-related institutions we endeavor to educate whole people for the whole world. As a result, we strive to graduate students who are not only academically well-prepared, but also spiritually and socially mature participants in the religious and civic communities of which they are a part.
We value our relationships with the Presbyterian Church (USA) and with each other. We are not, and do not wish to be, identical institutions, yet we appreciate our common connections and commitments. We benefit from our mutual relationships and are grateful for the historic and ongoing support of the Presbyterian Church (USA)—which we are committed to maintaining.
Our connection to the world is both social and environmental. We seek to serve the whole world through our service to each student. We understand ourselves to be part of a global community of teaching, learning, and inquiry. We also work to exhibit, embody and encourage environmental responsibility on our campuses and beyond. As was stated above, we strive to educate whole people for the whole world.
Our efforts to live out our commitment to learning, faith, service, and connection take place in the context of our ongoing and pervasive commitment to honor the dignity and worth of each and every person. Our schools are resources and instruments through which the Presbyterian Church (USA) serves the world as we serve each of our students in all their magnificent variety and particularity!
Adapted from a February 2013 statement by
For more information about the APCU and what it means to be "Presbyterian-related", feel free to view or download our "Being Presbyterian-Related" publication.