The earliest Christian church consisted of Jews in the first century who had known Jesus. It grew and spread from the Middle East to other parts of the world.  During the fourth century, the church became established as a political as well as a spiritual power under the Emperor Constantine. Theological and political disagreements, however, split the church into the western portions under the Roman Catholic Church, and the eastern portions under the Eastern Orthodox Church.

In the west, the authority of the Roman Catholic Church remained largely unquestioned until the Renaissance in the 15th century. The invention of the printing press in Germany around 1440 made it possible for common people to have access to printed materials including the Bible. This, in turn, enabled many to discover religious thinkers who had begun to question the authority of the Roman Catholic Church. One such figure, Martin Luther, a German priest and professor, started the movement known as the Protestant Reformation. Some 20 years later, a French/Swiss theologian, John Calvin, further refined the reformers’ new way of thinking about the nature of God and God’s relationship with humanity. John Knox, a Scotsman who studied with Calvin in Geneva, Switzerland, took Calvin’s teachings back to Scotland. The Presbyterian church traces its ancestry back primarily to Scotland and England.

Presbyterians have featured prominently in United States history. The first American Presbytery was organized at Philadelphia in 1706. Presbyterians in the United States have split and parts have reunited several times. Currently the largest Presbyterian denomination is the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), which has its national offices in Louisville, Ky. It was formed in 1983 as a result of reunion between the Presbyterian Church in the U.S. (PCUS), the so-called “southern branch,” and the United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. (UPCUSA), the so-called “northern branch.” Oconee Presbyterian Church is a member congregation of the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A. through the Northeast Georgia Presbytery and the Synod of the South Atlantic.

Other Presbyterian denominations include the Presbyterian Church in America, the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, and the Evangelical Covenant Order of Presbyterians. Each of these smaller denominations were formed in a split from the main denomination over theological or social issues.