The origins of the Presbyterian churches are in Calvinism.
Many branches of Presbyterianism are remnants of previous splits from larger groups.
Presbyterianism is a part of the Reformed tradition within Protestantism, which traces its origins to Britain, particularly Scotland.
Some of the splits have been due to doctrinal controversy, while some have been caused by disagreement concerning the degree to which those ordained to church office should be required to agree with the Westminster Confession of Faith, which historically serves as an important confessional document – second only to the Bible, yet directing particularities in the standardization and translation of the Bible – in Presbyterian churches.
Presbyterians place great importance upon education and lifelong learning, tempered with the knowledge that no human action can affect salvation.
Most Reformed churches that trace their history back to Scotland are either presbyterian or congregationalist in government.
In the twentieth century, some Presbyterians played an important role in the ecumenical movement, including the World Council of Churches.
A great number of Reformed churches are organized this way, but the word Presbyterian, when capitalized, is often applied uniquely to churches that trace their roots to the Church of Scotland, Presbyterian theology typically emphasizes the sovereignty of God, the authority of the Scriptures, and the necessity of grace through faith in Christ.
Presbyterian church government was ensured in Scotland by the Acts of Union in 1707, which created the Kingdom of Great Britain.
Many Presbyterian denominations have found ways of working together with other Reformed denominations and Christians of other traditions, especially in the World Communion of Reformed Churches.
Some Presbyterian churches have entered into unions with other churches, such as Congregationalists, Lutherans, Anglicans, and Methodists.
Continuous study of the scriptures, theological writings, and understanding and interpretation of church doctrine are embodied in several statements of faith and catechisms formally adopted by various branches of the church, often referred to as "subordinate standards".