To understand these and subsequent events, it is necessary to understand that the history of the Presbyterian Church would, in the future, intersect permanently with the history of the Anglican Church, each time the threads of power intertwined between England and Scotland.
For example, at the beginning of the 17th century, King James VI of Scotland (1566-1625) wanted to establish an episcopal government, of the Anglican type, in the Presbyterian Church of Scotland. In 1637, James’s son, Charles I of England (1600-1649), attempted to force the Church of Scotland to use the Book of Common Prayer of the Anglican Church, sparking riots. Then the Scots, followers of Presbyterianism, sent troops to support the English Civil War (1642-1651), siding with Oliver Cromwell (1599-1658), who was a Puritan.
Over time, the Scots Confession would be supplanted by the Westminster Confession of Faith and the Larger and Smaller Catechisms, formulated by the Assembly between 1643 and 1649. In this regard, it is very important to mention the influence of the Westminster Confession of Faith on the Presbyterian Church.
In 1643, the English parliament summoned “pious, learned, and testifying divines” to meet in Westminster Abbey to give their opinion on questions of Church of England worship, doctrine, government, and discipline. Their meetings, which took place over five years, produced a confession of faith, a Larger Catechism, and a Smaller Catechism. For over three centuries, various branches of Protestantism worldwide have adopted the Westminster Confession of Faith and its catechisms as their standard of doctrine, subservient to the Bible.
Although it was made primarily for the Church of England, the Westminster Confession of Faith remains a “subordinate standard” of doctrine for the Church of Scotland. It has influenced Presbyterian churches throughout the world.
But this Confession did not prevent the tensions between the Anglican church and the dissidents that deepened more and more. English Presbyterians, Congregationalists, and Baptists all came to be known (along with others) as ” Nonconformists “since they did not conform to the 1662 Uniformity Act, which established the Church of England as the only legally sanctioned church, though all of these churches were linked together in some way through the Westminster Confession of Faith.
The differences would end in 1688 with the “ glorious revolution ” when the Church of Scotland was finally recognized. Presbyterianism would become the official Church of Scotland, while the Anglican Church would remain in England.
From there, Presbyterianism progressively expanded to other territories. In Ireland, it became the largest Protestant denomination in the country after Anglicanism, thanks to the immigration of Scots Presbyterians. During the 19th century, Presbyterianism was strongly expanded to Africa. The migration of the Scots brought Presbyterianism to Australia, New Zealand, the United States, and Canada.
But Presbyterianism had long since arrived in Colonial America. In 1644 the first Presbyterian church was established in New York. During the following decades, Presbyterian churches continued to be founded throughout the entire territory of the British colonies in America. For the historian Paul Johnson (1928), Congregationalism and Presbyterianism were the formative currents of the North American Protestant character. The Presbyterian Church also has a strong presence in Asia, in countries such as India, the territory of Hong Kong, and Taiwan.
A case peculiar to the Presbyterian church in Asia is its particular popularity in South Korea. Horace Grant Underwood (1859-1916) was a Presbyterian missionary who was key in developing Presbyterianism in Korea. Today, Presbyterian churches are the largest and by far the most influential Protestant denomination in South Korea, with close to 20,000 affiliated churches. In the Asian country, 9 million Presbyteriansform the majority of the 15 million Korean Protestants.