On Being Presbyterian… : Prezbitíeri:en

What does it mean to be a Presbyterian? I've had that question in my head for a while now. A little over a year ago I researched a thesis for sociology class at school: Christian teens are less likely to engage in at-risk behaviour. It was an interesting project, and the presentation went well, but things always get a little harder when the teacher asks, “Does anyone have any questions for Erin?”
Of course they did. And the first one was “You're Pres – Presbyterian, right? How is that different from Christian?”
I replied that it wasn't, that it was simply a particular type of Christianity. I'm not sure if I did a good job of explaining it. It seems to be a concept that a lot of people have trouble grasping. My class managed to boil it down to “All Catholics are Christians, all Christians are not Catholics. All Presbyterians are Protestant and Christian, all Protestants are Christian but not all are Presbyterian.” Fine. We could accept that. Then there were more questions: “What is it that makes Presbyterians different from other Protestants?”
“The truth is,” I shrugged, “I don't know. They came from different reform leaders at different times, and they don't all agree on gay marriage. That's really the only thing I can figure out.”
So my presentation turned out to be more of a lesson about denominations than an examination about high-risk behaviours. That was OK; I'd been prepared for that. Since our society has become so afraid of discussing Christianity, most kids my age are uninformed and curious. What I wasn't prepared for was the persistent question in my mind: how do you explain “Presbyterian”?
I tried to find out. I brought it up in a Bible study once. Everyone was very concerned that I should be educated. I now have my very own copy of the Book of Forms, innumerable pamphlets and four copies of Living Faith.
I asked my Dad. He grew up Anglican. I asked my Mom. She grew up United. And neither of them knew the Presbyterian Church's stand on gay marriage.
I took the Leader in Training course at a Presbyterian camp. One of the counsellors asked me if I knew what Presbyterians believed.
I thought about the Apostle's Creed. But other churches use that, too. And since it says, “I believe in the Holy Catholic Church,” I don't think it's about to help with my explanation.
The only thing left to do was to invent a definition myself. Not a Book of Forms definition, but something that a class of grade elevens could understand:
Pres by te ri an (prezbitíe;ri:en), someone who believes in God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit, who are both separate and the same (like the way ice, water and vapour are all H20), someone who belongs to a Protestant (i.e., Christian, but not Catholic), Presbyterian church which is governed by elders (presbyter means elder in Latin, I read that somewhere) and someone who, according to popular opinion, really enjoys music and food.
And if I'm wrong, will someone please, please correct me!