Worth Noting ...
In 1997, David Wells, professor of Historical and Systematic Theology at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, edited a book by several Presbyterian and Reformed leaders. Reformed Theology in America opens with an introduction by George Marsden in which he reflects on the many meanings of "reformed" within American churches. In contrasting varying positions within the Reformed-Presbyterian churches, he notes, "A fundamentalist Bible Presbyterian would refuse fellowship with almost any member of the United Church of Christ." Two words immediately beg for attention: fundamentalist and fellowship. To learn why a professor at Duke University's Divinity School chose this precise example, let's take a look at Bible Presbyterian history. (David Wells, Reformed Theology in America, A History of Its Modern Development, p. I).
Notes From History Past
On June 10, 1937, the Christian Beacon newspaper, widely distributed throughout the Unites States, reported,
For the sake of fellowship in the principles for which we stand, and as a testimony to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and because of the official apostasy of the Presbyterian Church in the U.s.A.... we, a group of ministers and ruling elders, do associate ourselves together in the Bible Presbyterian Synod. [They met in Philadelphia on June 4,1937.) We are persuaded that the great battle in the world today is the faith of our fathers versus modernism, compromise. indifferentism, and worldliness. With all our hearts we throw our strength into the great task of winning lost souls to Jesus Christ by the gospel of the grace of God.
A small pamphlet, "Why A Bible Presbyterian Church," written in 1946, when the Bible Presbyterian Church was only eight years old, declared,
The Bible Presbyterian Church continues the testimony once held in the Presbyterian Church U.S.A. It was organized in 1938, after the church [General] Assembly deposed many of its true Bible preachers. These men refused to stop sending out, independently, Presbyterian missionaries true to the Bible.
Since 1938, the [Bible Presbyterian] Church has grown as an organization now having 148 ministers, with churches in 17 states across the country.
Another tract written a few years later stated, The first pages of the history of the Bible Presbyterian Church indicate its commitment to the giving of the true gospel to all men in all the world.... This church takes seriously God's command to preach the gospel to every Creature.
In 1961, the president of Highland College, a Bible Presbyterian college in Pasadena, CA, added this historical note, The Bible Presbyterian Church is just one of a number of groups which broke away from parent denominations during the decades of the '20s and '30s. There were departures from the Congregational, Northern Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian and other churches.
The reason behind all these separations was basically the same. Absolute control of the old-line denominations had been grasped by men who corrupted and largely replaced the historic Christian faith.
In the book A Brief History of the Bible Presbyterian Church (compiled by Margaret Harden in 1966), this statement appears in connection with a report from the Twenty-Seventh General Synod, the first to meet in the Cape May, NJ, Christian Admiral Hotel:
The Bible Presbyterian Church is the spiritual succession of what is today the United Presbyterian Church. It stands where the early Presbyterians stood.... It is a free church.... It is a separate church.... It is a Bible preaching church.... It is a church committed to the Reformed faith (p. lI5).
Then, in a pamphlet released in 1971, it was observed, When [this] church was formed in 1938, the word Bible was placed in front of the name Presbyterian because the fundamentalist-modernist controversy had centered around the Bible. Presbyterians have always believed that the Bible is God's Word. Chapter 1 of the Westminster Confession of Faith is devoted to this testimony. We believe the Bible is the Word of God upon the authority of God himself.
The name, therefore, Bible Presbyterian, has taken on a definite connotation in [our] country. It is both honored and scorned. It is a good name. We like it.
The Bible Presbyterian Church is a Bible preaching and evangelistic church. It has sought to nurture its members in the Reformed faith.
A May 1954 directory listed 201 Bible Presbyterian ministers, chaplains and missionaries. However, a division over issues of compromise and personality developed and in 1956 the church divided. Many of those who left eventually became part of the Presbyterian Church in America, founded in 1973.
The Westminster Standards
"Most of the Confessions of the Reformed and Lutheran Churches were composed by single authors, or by a small group of theologians.... The Confession of Faith and Catechisms of our church were drawn up by a large and illustrious assembly ... convened in Westminster, England, from July 1, 1643, to February 22, 1648. They sat in 1,163 sessions in their worthy enterprise" (A.A. Hodge, The Confession of Faith, pp. 14,15,20).
What Happened to American Presbyterianism?
It would require a much longer study than this to cover the remarkable story of America's pioneer Presbyterians. The spirit of the Calvinistic Puritans and the early missionary work of John Eliot, Thomas Mayhew, Francis Mackemie, David Brainerd, John McMillian and Marcus Whitman form a fascinating history. The first American Presbyterian Church was established in Jamaica, New York (Queens/Long Island area), in the mid-1600s. Francis Mackemie is considered the father of American Presbyterianism, establishing churches on the eastern shore of the Chesapeake Bay as early as 1683.
Henry Van Dyck wrote about this godly Presbyterian minister:
To thee plain hero of a rugged race,
We bring a meed of praise too long delayed.
Oh, who can tell how much we owe to thee
Makemie and to labors such as thine
For all that makes America the shrine
Of faith untrammeled and of conscience free?
Stand here, gray stone, and consecrate the sod
Where sleeps this brave Scotch-Irish man of God.
It is important for Presbyterians to take note of the early beginnings of Presbyterianism in Colonial America. In 1706, the first presbytery met in Philadelphia, electing Francis Mackemie moderator. A synod was formed in 1716, and the Westminster Standards were adopted in the meeting of synod in Philadelphia in 1729. A General Assembly was not organized until 1788, at which time the name "the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America" was adopted.
Although there was a mighty expansion of Presbyterian churches in the 1700s and early 1800s, it tended to be a church of the eastern, more settled area of the United States. Notable institutions of this time were William Tennent's Log College, north of Philadelphia, c. 1727, and the College of New Jersey formed in 1746, which met in the home of Jonathan Dickinson at Elizabethtown, New Jersey.
Further study, which space does not permit, will be profitable to learn of the New Side-Old Side controversy of the 1740s, then of the New School-Old School division in 1838. Questions about evangelism, missions societies, union with other churches of uncertain theology arose and involved entire presbyteries within the church.
In time came the founding of Princeton Theological Seminary in New Jersey in 1812. Dr. Archibald Alexander and Dr. Samuel Miller were the first professors.
Rev. Samuel Doak characterized the resolve of America's early Presbyterians. When he arrived in Tennessee in 1775, he proceeded to build three log structures-one to live in, one for a church and one for a school. The importance of the spiritual and the intellectual is seen in this plan.
The 1869 Church Reunion
An important date to keep in mind is 1869, with the meeting of joint assemblies in Pittsburgh, PA. That was the year of the reunion of the New School-Old School factions. Charles Hodge, the great Presbyterian theologian, opposed this reunion because the doctrinal issues were not clearly defined. This resulted in subtle, but grave, doctrinal compromise entering into the Presbyterian Church. The New School faction had turned to its own new seminaries, Auburn and Union, which began with liberal bias in their theology. The notion of going along by many moderates in the church was to have disastrous effects before long.
The Importance of 1892
The next critical year in U.S. Presbyterian Church life was 1892. Two important situations transpired. The most visible occurrence was the finding of Professor Charles Briggs of Union Seminary guilty of heresy and expelling him from the church. However, Union Seminary refused to dismiss him and he continued teaching young men who entered the pulpits of the Presbyterian Church.
A second event, not as well noticed, was a move to alter the Westminster Standards. Agitation toward this end began three years previous when 15 presbyteries overtured the general assembly to make changes in the church's doctrinal standards. In 1892, the presbyteries received instructions to vote on chapters for proposed change. Church historian Dr. Edwin Rian noted, "On the whole those who stood for revision wanted more than a modified Calvinism; they desired a liberalizing of the Confession" (Edwin Rian, The Presbyterian Conflict, p. 13). The "Briggs element" saw opportunity to broaden the Confession, in effect weakening its doctrine.
What that group did not count on, however, was the opposition of two notable Princeton Seminary professors, Francis L. Patton and B.B. Warfield. They drew a sharp line between doctrinal fidelity and doctrinal compromise, which was dramatized by the trial of Charles Briggs and his position that the Bible contained errors and his weak view on the doctrine of salvation.
It is important to note that the element seeking change did not give up and in 1903 the church Standards were indeed altered; but as Warfield wrote in 1904, "The Revised Confession is, then, a Confession which every good Calvinist will recognize at once as his own" (B.B. Warfield, Selected Shorter Writings, vol. 2, p. 409). Dr. Edwin Rian wrote concerning this, "Those who believed in a modified Calvinism and a less strict interpretation of the Bible continued their fight to revise the standards of the church" (Rian, p. 9).
The Revision of 1903
A declaratory statement was added to chapter 1Il (God's Eternal Decree) and chapter X, section 3 (Effectual Calling, namely the question of the salvation of those dying in infancy). Changes were made in chapters XVI, section 7 (Of Good Works), XXII, section 3 (Of Lawful Oaths and Vows), XXV, section 6 (Of The Church). Also, chapter XXXIV on The Holy Spirit, and chapter XXXV on The Love of God and Missions were added.
The 1910 General Assembly
It was now evident more than ever before that strong theological ferment existed in the church. Therefore, the conservatives or evangelicals took steps to strengthen the doctrinal position of the Presbyterian Church in 1910. The General Assembly affirmed belief in five doctrines as being "essential even to common Christianity," and stated that "These five articles of faith are essential and necessary. Others are equally so" (Harden, p.14).
These doctrinal "five points" were reaffirmed in the 1916 and 1923 General Assemblies and by this time had become closely tied to the concept of "the five points of fundamentalism" popularized by a 1909 series of booklets entitled The Fundamentals: A Testimony to the Truth, widely distributed throughout the country.
As an aside, it is interesting that the idea of doctrinal fundamentals and a theological fundamentalism are so closely tied to the Presbyterian Church. In fact, in May 1922, when the modernist Harry Emerson Fosdick preached his famous sermon, "Shall the Fundamentalists Win?" in First Presbyterian Church in New York City, he spoke about both Presbyterian and Baptist fundamentalism.
When Bible Presbyterians use this term; we are saying that we stand in the line of those who hold to the fundamentals of Bible doctrine and stand firm in our loyalty to historic Reformed doctrine.
That being the case, it follows that one who believes in and holds to fundamental doctrines will gladly fellowship with others who likewise stand for Bible truth. The unity of the people of God is a blessed Bible truth. Our Lord's prayer found in John 17, "That they all may be one," is a text of the redeemed of the Lord. The ecumenical churches seize this text and try to claim that Jesus Christ was saying all churches should be organically united-Orthodox, Protestants, Catholics and evangelicals.
Paul warned, "Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them" (Romans 16:17). "Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate" (2 Corinthians 6:17).
These five points of doctrine were declared as "essential," therefore not open to debate
"It is an essential doctrine of the Word of God and our Standards:
1 .... that the Holy Spirit did so inspire, guide and move the writers of Holy Scripture as to keep them from error. [The doctrine of the inspiration of the Bible; see 2 Timothy 3:16,2 Peter 1:21.]
2 .... that our Lord Jesus Christ was born of the virgin Mary. [The doctrine of the virgin birth; see Isaiah 7:14, Matthew 1:23.]
3 .... that Christ offered up himself a sacrifice to satisfy Divine justice and to reconcile us to God. [The doctrine of the atonement; see Romans 3:24,25 and 5:8,1 Peter 1:18, 19.]
4 .... concerning our Lord Jesus Christ, that on the third day He rose from the dead with the same body with which He suffered, with which also He ascended into heaven, and there sitteth at the right hand of His Father, making intercession. [The doctrine of the bodily resurrection; see Romans 10:9, 1 Corinthians 15:1-8.]
5 .... of the Word of God as the supreme standard of our faith that our Lord Jesus showed His power and love by working mighty miracles. This working was not contrary to nature, but superior to it." [The doctrine of supernatural miracles; see John 20:30, 31.]
Bracketed comments added by author
The Auburn Affirmation of 1923
The Church's liberal element was hard at work however. On December 26, 1923, 149 Presbyterian clergymen, met in Auburn, NY, and issued "An Affirmation" that the General Assembly was wrong to require that ministerial candidates hold to the five fundamentals. Their document declared,
The General Assembly of 1923 expressed the opinion concerning five doctrinal statements that each one "is an essential doctrine of the Word of God and our Standards." ...We are opposed to any attempt to elevate these five doctrinal statements, or any of them, to the position of tests for ordination, or for good standing in our church .... We are united in believing that these are not the only theories allowed by the Scriptures and our Standards as explanation of these facts and doctrines or our religion, and all who hold to these facts and doctrines, whatever theories they may employ to explain them, are worthy of all confidence and fellowship [emphasis added].
The Affirmationists described themselves as evangelical Christians- the true peacemakers and the real denominational loyalists who simply desired to end divisiveness in the church. Only months before, Dr. J. Gresham Machen had published Christianity and Liberalism with a declaration that theological liberalism was another gospel, another religion, but not Christianity (David Beale, In Pursuit of Purity, pp. 155, 156).
As a matter of fact ... what the liberal theologian has retained after abandoning to the enemy one Christian doctrine after another is not Christianity at all, but a religion so entirely different as to belong in a distinct category.
[We shall be interested in showing that despite the liberal use of traditional phraseology, modern liberalism not only is a different religion from Christianity but belongs in a totally different class of religion (J. Gresham Machen, Christianity and Liberalism, pp. 6-7, 1923).
General Assembly Failures and Princeton Seminary Lost
The General Assembly met in Grand Rapids, Michigan, May 1924, and elected Dr. Clarence Macartney moderator. On May 5, the Auburn Affirmation was released, the committee having gathered signatures from 1,293 ministers, revealing how far Modernism and compromise with it had advanced. The conservatives were encouraged to see one of their own elected moderator. However, the committee looking into the matter for the Assembly tabled it, partly due to an impassioned plea from a conservative committee member, Rev. Mark Matthews, who pastored the largest Presbyterian church in America at the time (First Presbyterian in Seattle, WA). As we look back, it is astonishing that the conservatives did not press the issue and deal with the Modernists. The conservatives fared no better in the 1924 General Assembly meeting.
Speaking at the Moody Founder's Week Conference in 1924, Machen expressed the deep concerns of his heart this way:
Paganism has made many efforts to disrupt the Christian faith, but never a more insistent or insidious effort than it is making today. There are three possible altitudes which you may take in the present conflict. In the first place, you may stand for Christ. That is the best.
In the second place, you may stand for anti-Christian Modernism. That is next best. In the third place, you may be neutral. That is perhaps worst of all. The worst sin today is to say that you agree with the Christian faith and believe the Bible, but then make common cause with those who deny the basic facts of Christianity. (Carl Mclntire, Outside the Gate, p. 285).
Then in 1925, with the election of Dr. Charles Eerdman as moderator, one would suppose matters would finally take a better turn with a premillennialist and popular Bible conference speaker elected to the church's highest office.
Initially it looked like the Assembly had "the goods" on the liberal wing and the votes to do something about it. In a complaint about two liberal ministers who had both denied the virgin birth, the ruling was that belief in the virgin birth was essential for the Presbyterian ministry. Henry Sloane Coffin, well known Modernist, rushed to the platform and presented an emotional protest on behalf of the liberals. It was precisely at this point the Bible believers had the opportunity to take a clear, united stand against theological Modernism in the church.
Unbelievably, Moderator Eerdman, posing as a goodwill advocate, created a peace commission to "study the denomination's problems." Although no Auburn Affirmationists were appointed, the committee utterly failed to take a clear, Biblical stand in its reports to the 1926 and 1927 General Assemblies.
Following is a portion of the report to the 1926 Assembly:
Two controlling factors emerge. One is, that the Presbyterian system admits of diversity of view where the core of truth is identical. Another is, that the Church has flourished best and showed most clearly the good hand of God upon it, when it laid aside its tendencies to stress these differences, and put the emphasis on its unity of spirit.
The 1927 General Assembly repudiated the earlier doctrinal statements declaring it was wrong to "single out particular doctrines as 'essential' and binding upon all ministers" (Lefferts Loetscher, A Brief History of the Presbyterians, p. 132).
The study commission gave the liberal wing the breathing room they needed and by 1929 they were strong enough to take control of Princeton Theological Seminary, formerly a bastion of sound Biblical theology. What is important here is to note that Dr. Machen, Dr. Robert Dick Wilson, Dr. Oswald Allis and other Princeton professors left to form Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, PA. They were followed by about 50 seminarians. Among them was Carl McIntire, who went on to graduate from Westminster.
1933 and the Formation of The Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions
It will not come as a surprise even to a casual observer that the same Modernism that infected the seminaries and pulpits also crept onto the mission fields. Dr. Robert Speer, senior secretary of the Board of Foreign Missions of the Presbyterian Church, was a theological conservative, whose early writings even appear in the famous tract series of 1909, The Fundamentals: A Testimony to the Truth. However, he was willing to condone the reality that some Presbyterian missionaries held Modernist, even Marxist, views. The ferment in missions was widespread, as evidenced by the publication of the book Rethinking Missions in 1932-the work of missions officials from seven major denominations. The essence of their thinking was this: "Other religions are ways to God," and "The non-Christian religions do contain elements of instruction for us, imperfect exponents as we are of the truth..." (pp. 31,46).
"What World War I did not achieve in dampening the world-wide extension of missionary work, the war machine of the Modernists [did in laying] siege to the missionary enterprise" (Morris McDonald, A Brief Survey of Missions, p. 84).
The General Assembly met in Columbus, Ohio, in May 1933. On the docket was an overture from the Presbytery of Philadelphia concurring with other overtures regarding Modernism in the Board of Foreign Missions. The previous month, Dr. Machen had made an air tight case before the New Brunswick Presbytery, outlining the need to make serious changes in the Board.
At the General Assembly, "every conceivable parliamentary trick was used to stifle debate and stir emotions ... to loyalty to the boards of the church." As an example, in the presentation by the Missions Board, a memorial roll of deceased missionaries was solemnly read, followed by a passionate prayer, then the singing of "For All the Saints Who From Their Labors Rest." If this show of bad taste was not enough, when Dr. Speer was introduced to give his report, the Assembly moderator, Dr. McDowell, proclaimed in the following manner: "Dr. Speer ... of whom it could be said, as it was of his Master, 'In him was life and the life was the light of men'" (quoted in Christianity Today, June 1933).
Furthermore, a minority report by faithful men on the Assembly committee was not printed for the commissioners to have, as was normal practice. The General Assembly overwhelmingly approved the Missions Board. The attempt to make changes had been strangled.
For men faithful to the Bible, there was only one thing to do-form an independent mission board. On June 27, 1933, The Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions was formally organized. Dr. Machen served as president and Dr. Charles Woodbridge, missionary in Cameroon, was invited to serve as the first general secretary.
Some of the ministers who suffered the tyranny of the Presbyterian denominational machine
J. Gresham Machen, NJ
Merrill T. MacPherson, PA
Carl McIntire, NJ
H. McAllister Griffiths, PA
J. Oliver Buswell, IL
Edwin H. Rian, PA
Harold S. Laird, DE
Charles Woodbridge, PA
Roy T. Brumbaugh, WA
Paul Woolley, PA
Let goods and kindred go,
This mortal life also;
The body they may kill;
God's truth abideth still,
His Kingdom is forever.
(Marlin Luther, "A Might Fortress Is Our God")
The Mandate of 1934
In 1934, with the Modernists in almost complete control of the church, they unleashed their fury against those who had become part of or supported the new missions board. This new agency was a threat to the denominational board and support for that board was waning. The 146th Assembly, meeting in May in Cleveland, Ohio, wasted little time in issuing a Mandate. Higher powers within the denomination could not ignore the unrest in the churches over the much publicized finding of Modernism that existed within the missionary force. Bible believers had lost confidence in the denominational missions board. Church officials were incensed at the "end run" in establishing an independent missions board that was beyond their control.
The General Assembly Mandate ordered the men to either leave that independent mission board or discontinue supporting it on pain of being brought to trial for rebellion.
Unbelievably, here were men who were under threat of being declared in violation of their ordination vows, while rank Modernists were given free reign within the church, the seminaries, and in the missionary force! There never was a clearer Biblical issue calling for Godly men to take a stand and separate. Come out from among them!
Dr. Machen said he could not support the official board and still be true to the Bible and that to obey the order of the General Assembly substituted human authority over the authority of the Word of God. The Presbyterian Church immediately moved, through its various presbyteries, to place Godly ministers on trial.
As the General Assembly met in 1936, a terrible drama had played out. Eight men, who by all standards were Godly and theologically sound, had been hounded out of the church. The religion editor of The Boston Evening Transcript, a Unitarian, said of the deposing of Dr. Machen:
Out of the historic issue of fundamentalism, which began about 1920 in the Northern Baptist churches but has continued unabated among a minority in the Presbyterian Church in the USA....he emerges in death [written upon the death of Machen on January 1. 19371 as the theologian and crusader, as learned and valiant a spiritual warrior as the Protestant church has produced in modern times....
June 11. 1936. marked the formation of the Presbyterian Church of America. with Dr. Machen in the office of moderator. In short order. the Presbyterian Church in the USA went to court to have the name of the new group declared illegal because it was a similar name to that of their church. On February 9. 1939. at a specially called meeting. the new church body. having lost the case. took the name Orthodox Presbyterian Church.
When the General Assembly met in June 1937 there was unrest within the new church body. It had to do with positions regarding the kind of agencies the church would support (independent vs. denominational). various millennial views. and matters of Christian liberty
(e.g. the use of intoxicating beverages by Christians). During that June 1937 meeting. 14 ministers and three elders withdrew.
Establishment of the Bible Presbyterian Church
The St. James Hotel in Philadelphia was the scene of the June 4. 1937, meeting of ministers and elders who vowed to make a fresh start with clear positions on the issues that had plagued the meetings of the former church body. "Articles of Association of the Bible Presbyterian Fellowship" were drawn up and signed by those present. It read in part:
For the sake of fellowship in the principles for which we stand. and as a testimony to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and because of the official apostasy of the Presbyterian Church in the USA.... we. a group of ministers and ruling elders, do associate ourselves together in the Bible Presbyterian Synod" (Harden. p. 61).
The next month, on July 31, the formation of Faith Theological Seminary in Wilmington. DE. was announced. In 1953, the Seminary moved to a new site in Elkins Park, near Philadelphia, PA. It prospered under the leadership of the renowned Old Testament scholar Dr. Allan A. MacRae.
Excerpt from the Sunday morning message by the Rev. Carl McIntire, October 1, 1933, Collingswood, NJ, Presbyterian Church
The bugle's call to battle is a specific call.... This message proclaims the whole counsel of God; accepts the whole Bible as God's infallible Word; and is inseparable from indisputable events of history. the birth of Jesus Christ of the Virgin Mary, His sinless life, His death upon the cross, His bodily resurrection from the grave, His ascension into heaven; and, furthermore inseparable from the future fact of His visible return to this earth. This message centers in the Cross: It is Christ Crucified! Without this message men go to hell: with it they are delivered from the wrath to come into the liberty, the privileges. and the inheritance of the sons of God. ("A Certain Trumpet," 1 Corinthians 14:6)
The First General Synod
By March 1938, the Collingswood. NJ. Presbyterian Church, taken to court by the Presbyterian Church in the USA. lost its case in civil court and was required to give up its valuable property. Under the leadership of the Rev. Carl McIntire, who came to the pulpit of the Collingswood Church on October I. 1933, a little over two years after his ordination, a wooden tabernacle was built nearby. This was that congregation's place of worship and where the First General Synod of the Bible Presbyterian Church was held from September 6-8. 1938. Thirty-nine ministers and 11 elders were present, representing seven different presbyteries. J. Oliver Buswell served as convener. J.U. Selwyn Toms was elected moderator and H. McAllister Griffiths served as stated clerk. Strong support for the ministry of The Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions was endorsed at the Synod.
Work began on constructing a Form of Government and Book of Discipline. The committee consisted of J.U. Selwyn Toms, H. McAllister Griffiths and Carl McIntire.
The format of the meetings of synod was set in the Third General Synod, held October 22-24.1940.
The three-day session [was] devoted almost exclusively to Christian fellowship, testimonies, prayer and lengthy devotional periods. Only the most necessary business was transacted (Harden, p. 65).
Present day synods are times of serious church business coupled with messages, devotionals, prayer times, and panel presentations on current issues.
Agencies Formed to Carry Out the Work of Christ
During these exciting years and the years to follow, a number of independent agencies and two church councils were established to carry on the work of Christ.
A Christian newspaper that was having considerable effect within the churches began circulation on February 13, 1936. Dr. Carl McIntire was the editor of the Christian Beacon, which continued publication for over 50 years.
In September 1941, the American Council of Christian Churches (ACCC) was formed on the principle of the fundamentals of the faith and the importance of purity in ecclesiastical associations. The confounding church bodies were the Bible Presbyterian Church and the Bible Protestant Church. From the first, a clear denunciation of the apostasy was made. The initial meeting took place in New York City. By the next spring, the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) was formed. They refused to denounce the apostasy within the church and their attitude was that the Bible places a larger emphasis upon cooperation than upon separation. Men could be in association with Modernists in their church bodies and still be members in good standing of the NAE.
From August 11-19, 1948, the International Council of Christian Churches was formed in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, meeting in the English Reformed Church. It was established for "fellowship and co-operation on the part of Bible believing churches for the proclamation of the gospel.. .." In 1950, the Federal Council of Churches, a church body dominated by Modernists, reorganized itself into the National Council of Churches. However, they continued with the same social gospel emphasis and doctrinal laxity as the old body.
The Evening Rest Bible Presbyterian Home was established in Delanco, NJ, in 1948. The Rev. Clarence Laman was the director. Ten years later, a Bible Presbyterian Home was founded in Lakeland, FL, where Morris McDonald served as a chaplain from 1964 to 1971.
A college in California opened for classes in September 1950 under the leadership of Dr. Clyde J. Kennedy to train young people. Highland College was located in Pasadena, and was faithful as one of the Bible Presbyterian independent agencies. Dr. Kennedy was a '36 graduate of Princeton Theological Seminary, but left the mainline Presbyterian Church over its growing theological liberalism. Highland College grew rapidly in the years 1952-1954, under the direction of Dr. Robert G. Rayburn. He went on to found Covenant College and Seminary in St. Louis, MO, following the church division in 1956.
The first broadcast of the 20th Century Reformation Hour was heard in 1955. Dr. Carl McIntire went on to gain more than 600 station outlets for his radio ministry and later developed a TV program.
In June 1955, The Independent Board for Presbyterian Home Missions was formed for the purpose of assisting in the building of new Bible Presbyterian churches. A study was made and it was learned that 54 percent of the Bible Presbyterian churches had at one time received Home Board support in one form or another. Dr. Lynn Gray Gordon served as its general secretary from 1962 until he was recruited to head the IBPFM in Philadelphia. The Home Board office was in Collingswood, NJ, where Dr. Morris McDonald served as general secretary from 1979 to 1984. He oversaw the planting and establishment of a new church in Lebanon, PA, during that time,as well as traveled and ministered in many Bible Presbyterian churches.
Although Shelton College existed as a Christian educational institution long before 1950, its move from New York City to Ringwood, NJ, in 1954, marked its importance as a Christian college for Bible Presbyterians. It first operated as the National Bible Institute (NBI) where many fine missionaries received their training (its founding dates back to 1885). William Borden was one such missionary trainee. Dr. Don Shelton headed the NBL When the school became a college in 1950, it was named in Dr. Shelton's honor. When]. Oliver Buswell left the presidency of Wheaton College, he was asked to take that position at Shelton College.
In the mid-'60s, Shelton moved to Cape May, NJ, then to Cape Canaveral, FL, in 1971. This latter move took place following the 1970 opening of a Bible Conference ministry at the Freedom Center Hotel in Cape Canaveral. Many of our present ministers, elders, and missionaries were trained at Highland College and Shelton College. Both colleges have ceased operations, however.
In 1959, a program for Bible Presbyterian youth was established under the name 20th Century Overcomers. Its design was to recruit and build the future leadership of the church, helping them to become strong in the Word of God, have a zeal for lost souls, and to prepare to step into positions of leadership.
A Church Divides
A serious breach in the Bible Presbyterian Church occurred in 1956. The issues had to do with the kind of agencies the church would have-synod-controlled vs. independent agencies. Also, there was a desire for greater latitude in the area of cooperation-a less rigid separation. Finally, there were personality conflicts, some resenting the strong, outspoken leadership of Dr. Carl McIntire. The church was affected by the departure of many ministers, elders, missionaries and churches. The two groups came to be known as the Columbus Synod (their 1956 synod met in Columbus, OH) and the Collingswood Synod (this synod met in Collingswood, NJ).
Some of those who left stayed independent, but many later joined the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), which was founded in 1973 in Birmingham, AL.
If one were to step back to 1953, and sit in on the meetings of the ACCC in Los Angeles, CA, one might pick up on murmurings and discontent on the part of some of the leaders within the Bible Presbyterian Church. Then in 1954, the Synod met in Greenville, SC, where more discontent was evident. The clerk of that synod reported 208 ministers and 84 churches on the rolls of the various presbyteries across the United States. More than a million dollars had been received in contributions by the various Bible Presbyterian agencies. In that assembly a memorial service was conducted for the Rev. Dr. Thomas A. Lambie, veteran missionary under the IBPFM.
Roots of bitterness began to surface at the 18th General Synod meeting in St. Louis, MO, held June 2-8, 1955. There was agitation over the question of synod-controlled agencies and the operation of the ACCe. "The actions of the Synod embarked the Bible Presbyterian Church in a new direction and increased spheres of activity to be conducted by synod-controlled agencies" (Harden, p. 93).
When the General Synod again met in St. Louis, MO, April 5-11, 1956, "at the call of the moderator," Dr. Oliver Buswell, further erosion of confidence was all too apparent. The Synod proceeded to withdraw from the ACCC and the ICCC. Further, it refused to approve the IBPFM, Faith Theological Seminary, Highland and Shelton Colleges, and the Christian Beacon. It voted to establish a synod-controlled college and seminary, and an official church publication.
Later in 1956, a pro re nata meeting was called to meet in Columbus, OH. That meeting took place November 28-30 and those who left changed the name of their group to the "Evangelical Presbyterian Church." Nine years later this group united with the Reformed Presbyterian Church in North America, taking the name, "The Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod."
In the meantime, those who wanted to remain as Bible Presbyterians, holding to the original intent of the founders, met for a 20th General Synod in Collingswood, NJ, November 23-27, 1956.,On hand were 64 voting commissioners and 24 corresponding members. Dr. Carl Mclntire was elected moderator and Dr. John Janbaz served as vice moderator. Dr. A. Franklin Faucette was elected stated clerk. Standing firm can be costly, as these men learned, but God is faithful.
A History of Struggle
The Bible Presbyterian Church was founded out of the crucible of adversity. The IBPFM was hated by the mainline Presbyterian Church. They could not bear to have any organization around they could not control.
Those who stood for the Word of God paid a price to found and nourish this church body. It truly was a witness "For the Word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ" (Revelation 1:9).
Within church bodies there seems to be the inevitable movement toward tighter ecclesiastical control. When men have suffered at the hands of church dictators, they are loathe to return to the old, denominational controls and oversight.
This church was founded to grant as much freedom as possible for churches and its agencies to function as they are led by Scripture and the direction of the Holy Spirit.
The new constitution inserted a paragraph that would forever protect the property rights of individual churches. Under the old system, the denomination controlled all property, so that if a congregation wanted to leave for Biblical reasons, they lost their property. Many congregations indeed lost all for Christ.
The Confession of '67
The Presbyterian Church, U.S.A., adopted a new Confession of Faith in 1967, the climax of theological liberalism that plagued this church body. The old Confession was placed alongside other creedal statements, as "part of the history of the church"-in other words, a relic to be viewed as one might look upon a museum piece.
The new Confession incorporated at the highest official level the tenets of the 1923 Auburn Affirmation. "The Confession of '67 is the rejection of the teaching of this Confession that the Bible is the 'Word of God' and 'the infallible truth."'(Christianity Today, December 3, 1965).
As a result, we see a church today that has lost 40% of its members, ordains men and women to the ministry who openly declare they do not believe Jesus was born of a virgin or even that He is God. Church leaders now openly endorse the view that there may be many ways to heaven, that Jesus Christ is only one of the ways of salvation. A constitutional crises continues to mount as church after church has declared they will not obey the "chastity and fidelity" provision passed by the General Assembly. These churches engage in ordaining gays and lesbians to the eldership and performing "gay commitment ceremonies"-all in defiance of church prohibitions against this. Yet nothing is done. Meanwhile, candidates for the ministry who take a clear stand on the Bible are viewed as suspect and are often passed over or harassed by church officials.
A Church Rebuilds
In 1963, a Bible conference ministry was started in Cape May, NJ, with the purchase of the Christian Admiral Hotel and later several other buildings, including the Congress Hall and Windsor Hotel. This follows an earlier Bible Presbyterian Bible Conference in Harvey Cedars, NJ.
Several congresses of the lCCC met in the lovely facilities of the Christian Admiral Hotel and auditorium. Delegates came representing churches from countries all around the globe. Several thousand attended the ten-day congresses.
A program of relief and aid was erected through the ICCC. In 1961, the Rev. James Shaw was appointed as executive secretary of ICR, International Christian Relief. Tons of food, medical supplies, and clothing were shipped abroad.
During the 1970s and 1980s, the Bible Presbyterian Church continued to build and add new churches. The missionary enterprise was one of the special blessings God gave our church. In the fortieth anniversary year of the IBPFM (1973), operating from its spacious headquarters at 246 West Walnut Lane in Philadelphia, PA, 15 mission fields were listed. Among the faithful missionaries already in glory were: The Albert Dodds (China, Taiwan), Dr. Thomas Lambie (Holy Land), Rev. Roman Mazierski (England), Dr. Paul Moore (Cameroon), the Kenneth Allens (Africa), Miss Louisa Lee (India), and Dr. Sarah Hosman (Arabian Peninsula).
The various mission fields at that time were: Africa, Arabia, Bolivia, Brazil, Cameroon, Chile, China (Taiwan), Europe, the Holy Land, Guatemala, Japan, Korea, India, Peru, and Singapore. Dr. Gordon Holdcroft served as the Board president from 1950 to 1972, at which time Dr. Lynn Gray Gordon became president. Presently, Dr. ---------------- is president and Rev. Keith Coleman is the executive director.
A Church Falters-Further Division
The 48th General Synod held in 1984 saw a further sad parting of ways as Dr. Carl Mclntire led 16 other commissioners to walk out and hold separate synod meetings at another location. Although this group represented only a small percentage of the churches, Dr. Mcintire claimed this was the true synod, Efforts at reconciliation proved fruitless and the majority continued the work of the church until there were apologies and a reuniting in the synod of 2001, meeting in Tacoma, WA.
In 1983-1984, several Bible Presbyterian missionaries were faced with the dilemma of chOOSing to declare unreserved support for the lCCC or they would not be returned to their fields of service abroad under the IBPFM. The compromise within certain church bodies of the ICCC in various countries overseas was well documented (and later publically admitted) so a partition took place with the Raymond Carlsons (Africa), Judith Collins (Africa), and the Irwin Steeles (South America) resigning from The Independent Board. A number of board members either reSigned or were not reelected to their positions on the board.
In view of this development, the Presbyterian Missionary Union was formed in a meeting of Bible Presbyterian ministers, elders, and missionaries on January 15-16, 1985, in Media, PA. Dr. G. Thomas Proctor was elected president and Dr. Morris McDonald was asked to serve as the missions coordinator. A Missions Council of 20 was elected to serve. The ministry of PMU was seen as that of supporting the work of missions abroad and church planting at home.
Over the years, God blessed in assisting ministries overseas, sending forth missionaries, and assisting churches at home. Bibles and theological books were shipped to 15 countries overseas, valued at over $300,000. The Missions Banner became a monthly missions and church update newsletter.
The end of July 2002, Dr. Morris McDonald retired from his position as PMU's field representative and the Missions Council appointed Dr. Len Pine to fill that post. The headquarters was then moved from Palm Harbor, FL, to Grand Island, NY.
Over the past decade and a half, these agencies, among others, have gained approval by the synod: Fundamental Presbyterian Publications (Charlotte, NC), Cohen University and Theological Seminary (Los Angeles, CA), and Western Reformed Seminary (Tacoma, WA).
Western Reformed Seminary opened for classes in October 1983 in facilities in the Bible Presbyterian Church of Tacoma, WA. Dr. John Battle assumed the office of president.
A first for the Bible Presbyterian Church was the 2003 meeting of the General Synod in Canada. The Synod accepted an invitation from the Bible Presbyterian Church of Edmonton, Alberta, to host the 67th Synod meeting.
A Testimony For Christ Continues
Whether one were to visit the Bible Presbyterian Church in Glendale, CA, in Charlotte, NC, in Grand Island, NY, in Olympia, WA, in Cincinnati, OH, or in Lakeland, FL, one can not help but be impressed with a common dedication to the same standards, doctrine, and vision. Our church was founded with the word Bible in its name to emphasize the importance of getting back to the Bible and of standing firm for the Word of God.
Ours is a confessional church, holding to the Westminster Standards as our subordinate standards. The Bible is our only rule of faith and practice. With John, the Apostle, we echo this familiar testimony to Christ, "For the Word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ" (Revelation 1:9).