What’s a Presbyterian?

The word “Presbyterian” comes from a Greek word, used in the Bible, that means “elder.” In our name, it represents our conviction that God calls everyone into service and leadership – and that our pastors work alongside the people of the church to listen for God and make decisions together.

University Presbyterian Church is a congregation of a particular branch of presbyterianism, the Presbyterian Church (USA). The PC(USA) is a denomination that has roots in the 16th century Protestant Reformation, particularly in the work of Swiss theologian John Calvin. The history of our denomination is that we have repeatedly affirmed God’s authority over all of creation — and God’s love for us, regardless of whatever mistakes we’ve made.

Today, the PC(USA) works alongside friends and partners all over the world to respond to God’s generous grace: with worship, discipleship, fellowship, and by putting our hands and feet in the service of Christ and all creation. As it says in the PC(USA) Brief Statement of Faith:

“In gratitude to God, empowered by the Spirit,
we strive to serve Christ in our daily tasks
and to live holy and joyful lives,
even as we watch for God’s new heaven and new earth,
praying, ‘Come, Lord Jesus!’”

University Presbyterian Church Austin

What does “Striving for Inclusivity” mean?

The “Inclusivity” part means that everybody is welcome. We believe that God loves the diversity of creation, and so we seek to include everybody — regardless of race, culture, sexual orientation, gender expression, or socioeconomic status — in every ministry of our church. We join the Presbyterian Church (USA) in particularly celebrating the gifts of women and LGBTQIA+ persons in our programming and our leadership, and seek to craft liturgy and community that reflects this conviction. 

The “Striving” part means that we’re a work in progress. No congregation fully embodies God’s diverse creation, and we recognize that we have work yet to do. To that end, we have partnered with both More Light Presbyterians, and the Covenant Network of Presbyterians, to help us equip ourselves to become a church that reflects the breadth of God’s welcome. In the meantime, if you’re wondering: Can I be welcome at UPC? Can I serve at UPC? Can I be married at UPC? Let’s be clear: yes, yes, yes!

What does UPC believe about the Bible?

We believe that the Bible is one of the most important ways that God tells us about who we are — and whose we are. Sunday worship prominently centers on readings from scripture. Sunday school classes regularly engage with the words of sacred texts. Part of our identity as a people of God comes from a desire regularly to dive deep into the waters of scripture, to search for meaning, and, hopefully, to be found. Week in and week out, scripture is our love language: the story of how much God loves all of creation, and every one of us.

However, scripture is still a story written and edited and translated by human hands, which means that we take the Bible seriously, but rarely literally. Part of our practice is the deep tradition of “using scripture to interpret scripture,” which means that sometimes we have to ask hard questions when a passage doesn’t fit with the big picture of God’s love. That’s okay. We like hard questions. And you’ll find here a community of folks who aren’t afraid to wrestle, because the love that holds us together is so strong.

What does it mean to be a member of UPC?

The worship and ministries of UPC are open to anyone. If you’d like to join us for worship, or come alongside us in service, or take one of our Sunday school classes, we would love to have you. After you get to know us a bit, if you get a sense that UPC is a church home you’d like to commit to, we’d invite you to consider formally placing membership.

There’s no exclusive content, or behind-the-scenes access — although members do have the opportunity to vote in our period congregational meetings, and may be nominated to serve as officers of the church. Mostly, membership simply means that you’ve decided to come alongside us on our faith journey together, and that you’d like to contribute to our shared ministry — with prayer, with time, with volunteer energy, with monetary gifts, or with whatever you have. If you think that our family might be a good home for you, we’d love to hear from you!