Presbyterians in Kentucky

My family is in many ways shaped by Kentucky Presbyterianism. My dad’s paternal grandfather was born-and-raised in central Kentucky in a family that’d been presbyterian for generations. My dad’s maternal grandfather was a Mennonite from Lancaster who became a Presbyterian while serving in Edward O. Guerrant’s Society of Soul Winners.

My great grandfathers knew each other as students at Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary. They were both ordained by Kentucky presbyteries of the Southern Presbyterian church before spending their careers as overseas missionaries of their denomination.

One of my historical interests is trying to understand the world these men came from. To that end, I’ve been reading Kentucky Presbyterians (1983) by Louis Weeks.

His introduction is helpful in setting the stage:

The complex relationships and diversity of interests among Kentucky Presbyterians seemingly would preclude any schema that at once remained true to the facts and provided insight into the nature of the denominations.

If Presbyterians eschewed revivals, for example, they also employed revivals throughout most of their history.

If they embodied drives for temperance and Sabbatarianism, they also included distillers and employers of Sunday laborers among their number; many Presbyterians also worked on Sunday.

If hosts of Kentucky Shakers and Christians (Disciples of Christ) came from the Presbyterians, many others joined Reformed communions from Baptist or Catholic backgrounds.

Thus the Presbyterians in Kentucky would apparently defy classification.