In 1781, the Synod of New York and Philadelphia approved the creation of the first presbytery west of the Allegheny Mountains. That area, which had previously been under the jurisdiction of the Presbytery of Donegal, was called the Presbytery of Redstone and it stretched as far west as “the setting sun.” This area would eventually be known as the Synod of Pittsburgh.
As the region continued to prosper in the 1800s, the Presbytery of Ohio was established out of Redstone in 1793. The presbytery had five ministers that year who served 20 congregations west of the Monongahela River in Pennsylvania and in areas of the West Virginia panhandle and eastern Ohio. Seeing this growth, the General Assembly approved an overture to create the Synod of Pittsburgh in 1802 that consisted of the presbyteries of Redstone, Erie and Ohio.
Two more presbyteries were added to the Synod of Pittsburgh in the early 19th century, namely the Presbytery of Washington (from the Presbytery of Ohio) and the Presbytery of Allegheny (from the Presbytery of Erie). Pittsburgh Presbyterians, originally in the Presbytery of Redstone, would find themselves shifted back and forth between the Redstone and Ohio presbyteries as time passed.
In the early 1820s, a split occurred between the denomination’s congregations and out of it the Associate Reformed Synod of the West was created. In 1833, the Reformed Presbyterian Church divided, and four years later the Presbyterian Church in the United States divided into two separate denominations. Many of the churches in western Pennsylvania followed the Old School thinking, but a few New School congregations in the region formed to create the Presbytery of Pittsburgh.
In 1869, the New School and Old School merged to become the Presbyterian Church in the USA. It also created a new Presbytery of Pittsburgh that combined the New School Pittsburgh Presbytery and part of the Old School Ohio Presbytery. By 1906, the Presbyteries of Allegheny City and Pittsburgh had combined.
Pittsburgh Presbytery received another facelift in 1958 with the merger of the Presbyterian Church in the USA and the United Presbyterian Church of North America. A new presbytery in a new denomination was formed with the PCUSA and UPCNA congregations in Allegheny County coming together to form the presbytery. These included congregations of the older Pittsburgh Presbytery plus the United Presbyterians’ Monongahela Presbytery and some congregations from the Presbyteries of Redstone and Blairsville (PCUSA) and Westmoreland (UPCNA).
While change has been a big part of the history of Pittsburgh Presbytery, one recent constant has been the region’s devotion to overseas missions. The presbytery has been engaged in a partnership with the Synod of Blantyre (Africa) since 1991, which has included relationship building, education events, pastoral exchange, evangelism rallies, medical mission work and building construction. Thirty-five churches in Pittsburgh Presbytery are paired with partner churches in the Synod of Blantyre, causing deep personal friendships to grow both overseas and within the presbytery. In 2013, the partnership was expanded to include South Sudan to form a tripartite partnership where each member can share gifts with its two neighbors.
Pittsburgh Presbytery currently consists of 142 congregations and over 30,000 members, making it the largest presbytery in the Synod of the Trinity.