Do the Presbyterians Believe Drinking Alcohol Is a Sin?

by Julia Lai
Presbyterians don't believe drinking alcohol in moderation is a sin.

Presbyterians don't believe drinking alcohol in moderation is a sin.

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Contemporary Presbyterians do not believe drinking alcohol is a sin, although it is hardly considered to be a virtue, either. The relationship between Presbyterianism and alcohol in the United States has been marked by a period of strict abstinence, followed by a gradual acceptance of moderate drinking in the early 1980s. While most Presbyterian churches accept moderate drinking, the current Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America constitution advises that, “it is altogether wise and proper that Christians refrain from the use, sale and manufacture of alcoholic beverages."

Wine Versus Grape Juice in Presbyterian Churches

In many Christian ceremonies such as the communion service, wine is traditionally used to signify a blessing or conclude a ritual. Along with Baptists and Methodists, Presbyterians have long substituted grape juice for this particular ceremony. However, while many Presbyterians refrain from the use of alcohol in church, some drink it in their daily lives.

Abstinence and Prohibition

Presbyterians have historically been against the consumption of alcohol. During the 1920s in the United States, a branch of the Presbyterian church known as "The New School" joined with other conservative religious groups and actively campaigned to outlaw the legal public consumption of alcohol. This campaign was undertaken, in part, out of concern for the poor of the community. Prohibition, also known as the 18th Amendment, passed on January 16, 1920 and remained in effect until its repeal in 1933.

Joining of Churches and Loosening of Restrictions

The contemporary Presbyterian Church is the result of a 1983 merger between two very similairly named branches: The United Presbyterian Church in the United States of America, or UPCUSA, and the Presbyterian Church in the United States, or PCUS. The UPCUSA forbade its members to indulge in alcohol until the 1983 merger. The merger occurred in part to increase the strength of the church by increasing its overall membership. The constitution adopted by the newly formed Presbyterian Church allows Presbyterians to drink in moderation.

Not a Sin

Because the Bible does not expressly forbid the consumption of alcohol, The Presbyterian Church does not consider drinking moderate amounts of alcohol to be classified as a sin. However, reaching a state of drunkenness is frowned upon, and is vigorously discouraged among practicing Presbyterians.

About the Author

Julia Lai is a frequent contributor to Los Angeles-based arts and literature publications. She graduated from University of California, Los Angeles with a bachelor's degree in history and has been writing professionally since 2008.

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