Edwin H. Rian
Submitted for the consideration of its ministers and people
We, the undersigned, Ministers of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America, feel bound, in view of certain actions of the General Assembly of 1923 and of persistent attempts to divide the church and abridge its freedom, to express our convictions in matters pertaining thereto. At the outset we affirm and declare our acceptance of the Westminster Confession of Faith, as we did at our ordinations, "as containing the system of doctrine taught in the Holy Scriptures." We sincerely hold and earnestly preach the doctrines of evangelical Christianity, in agreement with the historic testimony of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America, of which we are loyal ministers. For the maintenance of the faith of our church, the preservation of its unity, and the protection of the liberties of its ministers and people, we offer this Affirmation.
1. By its law and its history, the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America safeguards the liberty of thought and teaching of its ministers. At their ordinations they "receive and adopt the Confession of this Church, as containing the system of doctrine taught in the Holy Scriptures." This the church has always esteemed a sufficient doctrinal subscription for its ministers. Manifestly it does not require their assent to the very words of the Confession, or to all of its teachings, or to interpretations of the Confession by individuals or church courts. The Confession of Faith itself disclaims infallibility. The authors would not allow this to church councils, their own included: "All synods or councils since the apostles' times, whether general or particular, may err, and many have erred; therefore they are not to be made the rule of faith or practice, but to be used as a help in both" (Conf. XXXI, iii). The Confession also expressly asserts the liberty of Christian believers, and condemns the submission of the mind or conscience to any human authority: "God alone is lord of the conscience and hath left it free from the doctrines and commandments of men which are in anything contrary to his Word, or beside it, in matters of faith or worship. So that to believe such doctrines, or to obey such commandments out of conscience, is to betray true liberty of conscience; and the requiring of an implicit faith, and an absolute and blind obedience, is to destroy liberty of conscience, and reason also" (Conf. XX, ii).
The formal relation of American Presbyterianism to the Westminster Confession of Faith begins in the Adopting Act of 1729. This anticipated and provided for dissent by individuals from portions of the Confession. At the formation of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America, in 1788, the Westminster Confession was adopted as the creed of the church; and at the same time the church publicly declared the significance of its organization in a document which contains these words: "There are truths and forms, with respect to which men of good characters and principles may differ. And in all these they think it the duty, both of private Christians and Societies, to exercise mutual forbearance towards each other" (Declaration of Principles, v).
Of the two parts into which our church was separated from 1837 to 1870, one held that only one interpretation of certain parts of the Confession of Faith was legitimate, while the other maintained its right to dissent from this interpretation. In the Reunion of 1870 they came together on equal terms, "each recognizing the other as a sound and orthodox body." The meaning of this, as understood then and ever since, is that office-bearers in the church who maintain their liberty in the interpretation of the Confession are exercising their rights guaranteed by the terms of the Reunion.
A more recent reunion also is significant, that of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church and the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America, in 1906. This reunion was opposed by certain members of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America, on the ground that the two churches were not at one in doctrine; yet it was consummated. Thus did our church once more exemplify its historic policy of accepting theological differences within its bounds and subordinating them to recognized loyalty to Jesus Christ and united work for the kingdom of God.
With respect to the interpretation of the Scriptures the position of our church has been that common to Protestants. "The Supreme judge," says the Confession of Faith, "by whom all controversies of religion are to be determined, and all decrees of councils, opinions of ancient writers, doctrines of men, and private spirits, are to be examined, and in whose sentence we are to rest, can be no other but the Holy Spirit speaking in the Scripture" (Conf. I, x). Accordingly our church has held that the supreme guide in the interpretation of the Scriptures is not, as it is with Roman Catholics, ecclesiastical authority, but the Spirit of God, speaking to the Christian believer. Thus our church lays it upon its ministers and others to read and teach the Scriptures as the Spirit of God through His manifold ministries instructs them, and to receive all truth which from time to time He causes to break forth from the Scriptures.
There is no assertion in the Scriptures that their writers were kept "from error." The Confession of Faith does not make this assertion; and it is significant that this assertion is not to be found in the Apostles' Creed or the Nicene Creed or in any of the great Reformation confessions. The doctrine of inerrancy, intended to enhance the authority of the Scriptures, in fact impairs their supreme authority for faith and life, and weakens the testimony of the church to the power of God unto salvation through Jesus Christ. We hold that the General Assembly of 1923, in asserting that "the Holy Spirit did so inspire, guide and move the writers of Holy Scripture as to keep them from error," spoke without warrant of the Scriptures or of the Confession of Faith. We hold rather to the words of the Confession of Faith, that the Scriptures "are given by inspiration of God, to be the rule of faith and life" (Conf. I, ii).
II. While it is constitutional for any General Assembly "to bear testimony against error in doctrine," (Form of Govt. XII, v), yet such testimony is without binding authority, since the constitution of our church provides that its doctrine shall be declared only by concurrent action of the General Assembly and the presbyteries. Thus the church guards the statement of its doctrine against hasty or ill-considered action by either General Assemblies or presbyteries. From this provision of our constitution, it is evident that neither in one General Assembly nor in many, without concurrent action of the presbyteries, is there authority to declare what the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America believes and teaches; and that the assumption that any General Assembly has authoritatively declared what the church believes and teaches is groundless. A declaration by a General Assembly that any doctrine is "an essential doctrine" attempts to amend the constitution of the church in an unconstitutional manner.
III. The General Assembly of 1923, in asserting that "doctrines contrary to the standards of the Presbyterian Church" have been preached in the pulpit of the First Presbyterian Church of New York City, virtually pronounced a judgment against this church. The General Assembly did this with knowledge that the matter on which it so expressed itself was already under formal consideration in the Presbytery of New York, as is shown by the language of its action. The General Assembly acted in the case without giving hearing to the parties concerned. Thus the General Assembly did not conform to the procedure in such cases contemplated by our Book of Discipline, and, what is more serious, it in effect condemned a Christian minister without using the method of conference, patience and love enjoined on us by Jesus Christ. We object to the action of General Assembly in this case, as being out of keeping with the law and the spirit of our church.
IV. 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." On the constitutional grounds which we have before described, 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.
Furthermore, this opinion of the General Assembly attempts to commit our church to certain theories concerning the inspiration of the Bible, and the Incarnation, the Atonement, the Resurrection, and the Continuing Life and Supernatural Power of our Lord Jesus Christ. We all hold most earnestly to these great facts and doctrines; we all believe from our hearts that the writers of the Bible were inspired of God; that Jesus Christ was God manifest in the flesh; that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself, and through Him we have our redemption; that having died for our sins He rose from the dead and is our everliving Saviour; that in His earthly ministry He wrought many mighty works, and by His vicarious death and unfailing presence He is able to save to the uttermost. Some of us regard the particular theories contained in the deliverance of the General Assembly of 1923 as satisfactory explanations of these facts and doctrines. But we are united in believing that these are not the only theories allowed by the Scriptures and our standards as explanations of these facts and doctrines of our religion, and that all who hold to these facts and doctrines, whatever theories they may employ to explain them, are worthy of all confidence and fellowship.
V. We do not desire liberty to go beyond the teachings of evangelical Christianity. But we maintain that it is our constitutional right and our Christian duty within these limits to exercise liberty of thought and teaching, that we may more effectively preach the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the World.
VI. Finally, we deplore the evidences of division in our beloved church, in the face of a world so desperately in need of a united testimony to the gospel of Christ. We earnestly desire fellowship with all who like us are disciples of Jesus Christ. We hope that those to whom this Affirmation comes will believe that it is not the declaration of a theological party, but rather a sincere appeal, based on the Scriptures and our standards, for the preservation of the unity and freedom of our church, for which most earnestly we plead and pray.
1. That the Assembly appoint a committee of eleven members of whom at least three shall be ruling elders of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America who are learned in the law, said committee to be constituted by the continuance of the present committee and the appointment by the Moderator of six additional members, two of whom shall be members of the Board of Trustees of Princeton Seminary, and two of whom shall be members of the Board of Directors of Princeton Seminary, and two of whom shall be from the Church at large, with the further provision that three of the six new members of the committee shall be ministers and three of them ruling elders; that said committee proceed to confer with the Board of Trustees and the Board of Directors in obtaining such amendments to the Charter of the Seminary or such additional articles of incorporation, and preparing such ordinances or by-laws and taking such other action as they may be advised by counsel is necessary or proper to establish a single Board of Control for said Seminary, define the relationship and recognize the right of control of the General Assembly under the existing trusts, so as to assure the rights of the Presbyterian Church in the trust property and its control over the instruction of the Seminary; and to cooperate in preparing a complete plan for the educational work of the Seminary under the administration of the new Board and under the direction and control of the Assembly; that in all such conferences between said committee and said Trustees the present Board of Directors be requested to participate in an advisory capacity by the election by them for that purpose of a committee of five of their members. The enlarged committee herein authorized is hereby directed by the General Assembly to report to the next General Assembly for approval and adoption the proposed changes or additions to the Charter, and the new plan for the administration of the Seminary.
2. That pending this reorganization, the appointment of Professor J. Gresham Machen to the Chair of Apologetics and the appointment of Professor Oswald T. Allis to the Helena Chair of Semitics, be not confirmed and that the further consideration of these appointments be deferred until after the reorganization proposed in this report shall have been effected.
The following resolution was adopted unanimously:
Being convinced that the action of the General Assembly of 1929, establishing a new board of control for Princeton Theological Seminary, will inevitably make the institution conform to the present doctrinal drift of the Church and so desert the distinctive doctrinal position which it is bound by the most solemn trust obligations to maintain, we believe that immediate steps should be taken for the establishment of a new theological seminary which shall continue the policy of unswerving loyalty to the Word of God and to the Westminster Standards for which Princeton Seminary has been so long and so honorably known.
For the past six years Westminster Theological Seminary has been an institution "set for the defense and proclamation of the gospel." Its faculty have been exponents of the necessity of a militant setting forth of the doctrines of the Reformed Faith within and without the church as the bounden duty of every true Christian.
The Seminary has stood from the beginning for a vigorous prosecution of the battle against modernism in the ecclesiastical field. That was the issue on which the break occurred with the new Princeton Seminary.
The new Princeton Seminary permitted orthodox teaching in its classrooms but it discouraged in the members of the faculty the logical implications of such orthodox teaching in the presbyteries and General Assemblies and other councils of the Church. Hence certain members of the teaching staff left Princeton, and formed the nucleus of the Faculty of Westminster Seminary. From the beginning Westminster Seminary has stood for the belief that its classroom teaching is of little value unless it results in vigorously fostering a consistent program of reform in the Church.
The Seminary thus formed has prospered because it has hitherto remained true to the position which it was founded to maintain. Members of its faculty have entered vigorously into the ecclesiastical battle against modernism wherever God has put them. They have encouraged a similar attitude in the students. The consequence is that the institution has been greatly hated; but the consequence is also that it has been greatly blessed of God, and that it has the prayers and the support of those who stand in the vanguard of the evangelical forces in the Reformed churches throughout the world.
The question now is whether the Seminary shall continue in the front rank of the battle, or whether it shall lag in the rear; whether it shall continue to give a hearty God-speed to those who are consistently challenging the present modernist and indifferentist control of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A., or whether it shall, by implication at least, ask them to desist from their present activity and make their protest against modernism at best in word only and not in deed.
It is the latter policy which, we are compelled to hold, is now being advocated in the pages of Christianity Today. In view of the close connection in which this journal has always been regarded by its readers as standing with Westminster Seminary, and in view of the fact that its Editor, Dr. Samuel G. Craig, is a member of the Board of Trustees, the faculty feels compelled to bring to the attention of the Board the fact that a serious division has been introduced into the affairs of the Seminary by the present editorial policy of that paper and by the present attitude of Dr. Craig.
If this policy of Dr. Craig dominates the Seminary, the Seminary will have lost the reason for its existence. It will simply have joined the ranks of those countless institutions and movements which have been begun as protests against unbelief or heresy and then, losing their first love, have sunk by insensible degrees into the very attitude of vacillation and compromise which they were founded to oppose...
In response to this statement the Rev. Edwin H. Rian made the following motion:
In reply to the Faculty's special communication the Board declares that it is in sympathy with the aggressive stand of the Faculty in the present ecclesiastical crisis as agreeing with the purpose for which the Seminary was founded and deprecates the serious division which has been introduced into the affairs of the Seminary by the present policy and attitude of Christianity Today.
Before the vote was taken the following resolution was introduced by Dr. C. E. Macartney, not as a substitute motion but as a method to use in voting on the above motion:
RESOLVED: That in view of the grave importance of the motion now under discussion, and the absence from this stated meeting of eleven members of the Board, the question be put to a vote by ballots mailed to all members of the Board on Friday, October 25th, and that the President, Secretary, and Treasurer shall act as a Committee of Tellers, who shall announce the result of the vote to the members of the Board.
Should the vote show that a majority of the Board support the resolution by the Faculty, it is the sense of this meeting that those who have voted against the resolution should then withdraw from the Board. Likewise, that should the vote show that the majority of the Board oppose the resolution, that those constituting such majority withdraw from the Board, and leave the way clear for the continued witness of a Seminary which we believe was raised up of God as a witness to the Everlasting Gospel, and which has been so signally blessed by Him.
The Secretary of the Board is instructed to forward to all members of the Board a copy of the Faculty's resolution, the motion of Mr. Rian, and a copy of this resolution. Furthermore, that their Secretary in his communication call attention to that part of the resolution of the Faculty which declares the unalterable purpose of the majority of the Faculty to resign from the Seminary, should the Board of Trustees answer their resolution in the negative.
The Board of Trustees of Westminster Theological Seminary announces that the Seminary will go forward in accordance with the policy favored by the Faculty, which it holds to be simply the policy which the institution has followed from the beginning and on the basis of which it has made its appeal for funds.
The Board expresses its warm admiration of the manner in which those members of the Board who could not support the Faculty in the present decision have sacrificed all personal considerations by resigning from the Board in order that the institution may continue, and it expresses its high appreciation of the services which they rendered during their period of office and its sincere regret that they cannot under the circumstances continue as members of the Board.
The Board also expresses its profound sense of the loss which the institution has sustained through the resignation of Dr. Oswald T. Allis, who has rendered distinguished service of quite incalculable value as Professor of Old Testament.
With regard to the future, the Board desires to emphasize the fact that in its judgment the present changes in its membership will not bring any innovations of policy but will simply insure the continuation of exactly the same policy as that which has been followed from the beginning and on the basis of which the appeal of the institution for support has been made. It has no intention whatever of forming any official connection with organizations like the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions or the Presbyterian Constitutional Covenant Union; but the prevailing temper of its Trustees and Faculty will be to give hearty God-speed to those who are serving in the vanguard of any legitimate battle against modernism in the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A.
The Chairman of the Faculty issued this statement:
I have received through the courtesy of the newspapers a copy of the resignation of the Rev. A. A. MacRae, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Old Testament in Westminster Theological Seminary. Professor MacRae labored faithfully in this institution and we are grateful for his past services.
The policy of Westminster Theological Seminary has been to carry on the traditions of loyalty to the Bible and the Reformed Faith which characterized the old Princeton Theological Seminary prior to its reorganization in 1929. There has been no change in this policy, and I regret that Professor MacRae no longer finds himself able to continue in accord with it
His resignation follows a suggestion, made by certain persons, that Westminster Theological Seminary add to its faculty three members and to its Board of Trustees ten members, all of whom should be premillennialists. Such a basis has never been employed in the selection of members of the faculty or of trustees of Westminster Seminary. There is liberty on this point within the doctrinal standards of the Seminary and there have always been premillennialists on the Seminary's faculty and Board of Trustees. The sole basis for the selection of faculty members, however, is scholarship which gives the promise of contributing to the training of men utterly loyal to the Bible, the infallible Word of God, as set forth in the Westminster Standards. I trust that this basis of selection will never be changed.
The Seminary recognizes to the full the tremendous evils of intemperance. Its only concern is to proclaim the teaching of the Bible on this, as on all other questions. The Biblical teaching against intemperance is very emphatic but the Bible does not permit of a teaching which would make our Lord's example sinful.
The Seminary stands in the great tradition of Charles Hodge, B. B. Warfield, Robert Dick Wilson and J. Gresham Machen. Nothing will be allowed to move it from its loyalty to the Word of God.
R. B. Kuiper,
Chairman of the Faculty,
Westminster Theological Seminary.
The students also came to the defense of the seminary:
We, the students of Westminster Theological Seminary, regret the resignation of Dr. Allan A. MacRae, who has been one of our honored instructors. We are at a loss to understand the charges included in his letter of resignation, made public in the press. The following statement was unanimously approved at a called meeting of the student body:
1. Westminster Seminary has not been taken over by "a small alien group without American Presbyterian background." All members of the faculty are in perfect accord with the Presbyterian faith as represented by Hodge, Warfield, and Machen; in fact, this was the reason for their appointment to the faculty.
2. Since the faculty has always been united in its teaching of the Presbyterian or Reformed Faith, it is absurd to charge that an "alien group" has tried to "enforce their own peculiar notions by crushing the broad evangelical point of view which in its earliest years made the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. a great reformed church." We emphatically assert that Westminster Seminary has consistently sought to teach only that which is set forth in the Word of God.
We wish to express publicly our high regard for the sound, biblical scholarship of the faculty. We rejoice in the humility with which they teach us, and in the freedom of interpretation they allow within the bounds of "the noble traditions which were once characteristic of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A."
3. The attack on "Modern Dispensationalism" was led by Dr. O. T. Allis, for many years teacher at Princeton Seminary and one of the founders of Westminster, who could not possibly have belonged to the alleged "alien group." This attack has never been intended as an attack on "Premillennialism."
4. We hope that no one will be misled by the assertion that "practically every member of the faculty has entered upon a vigorous defense of an asserted right to use intoxicating liquorsa defense occasioned by the fact that certain faculty members themselves use intoxicants." We as students can honestly assert that the faculty has neither taught nor practiced anything out of accord with the historic Presbyterian position as based on the Word of God.
5. Dr. MacRae claims that only the "Premillennial" view of the Second Coming of Christ is biblical. This claim it is his privilege to make, since historically there has been granted the right to hold different interpretations of the events connected with the Second Coming of Christ among Bible-believing Christians in the American Presbyterian tradition. However, we do object to his intimation that certain of his colleagues who hold to another view do not strive to expound the Scriptures in a faithful and scholarly fashion.
It is our earnest prayer that all who love the Word of Christ and His Kingdom will give heed to this statement, and that the witness of Westminster Seminary may continue faithful to its foundation principles and may rise to new heights of influence, all to the honor and glory of God.
Pres. Student Association.
Edw. Heerema, Chm.,
April 26, 1937
That the Stated Clerk be directed to prepare and send to the Presbyteries for their action the following overture:
The Categorical Question on the Plan of Union:
Do you approve of the Union of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. and the United Presbyterian Church of North America on the following basis:
(a) On the basis of the terms and provisions of the Plan of Union recommended to the respective General Assemblies of the said Churches, and herewith submitted by the General Assembly.
(b) The Union shall be effected upon the doctrinal basis of the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments as the supreme standard, acknowledged as the inspired Word of God, the only infallible rule of faith and practice; and upon the subordinate standards of the Westminster Confession of Faith together with the amendments adopted in 1903 by the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A.; and the Larger and Shorter Catechisms; all of which subordinate standards are recognized as agreeable to and founded upon the Scriptures.
(c) On the basis of the provisional Form of Government, the provisional Book of Discipline, and the provisional Directory for Worship, herewith submitted.
Pursuant to this action by the General Assembly, the Presbyteries of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. are asked to express their approval or disapproval of this Overture, by giving a direct affirmative or negative answer thereto. In accordance with the provisions of Form of Government chapter MV "Of Amendments," this Overture shall not be obligatory on the Church, unless it shall be approved in writing by two-thirds of all the Presbyteries and agreed to and enacted by the General Assembly next ensuing and the written votes of the Presbyteries shall be returned to the General Assembly.
It is further ordered that the Stated Clerk of the Assembly shall transmit this Overture to the Presbyteries of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. only if and when the General Assembly of the United Presbyterian Church of North America has ordered the submission of this Overture, entitled, "The Categorical Question on the Plan of Union," to its constituent Presbyteries, asking them to express their approval or disapproval of this Overture by giving a direct affirmative or negative answer thereto, in accordance with the Constitution of said Church applicable in this connection.
The General Convention of the Protestant Episcopal Church meeting in Cincinnati in October, 1937, made request of the Presiding Bishop that he convey to the authorities of the Presbyterian Church the following Resolution and Message:
I take pleasure therefore in presenting to you this information with the hope that it may have favorable action by the General Assembly of your Church. The Resolution reads as follows:
1. The General Convention of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the U.S. of A., acting with full realization of the significance of its proposal, hereby invites the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. to join with it in accepting the following declaration:
"The two churches, one in the faith of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Word of God, recognizing the Holy Scriptures as the supreme rule of faith, accepting the two sacraments ordained by Christ, and believing that the visible unity of Christ's Church is the will of God, hereby formally declare their purpose to achieve organic union between their respective churches."
Upon the basis of these arguments it is hoped that the two Churches will take immediate steps toward the framing of plans whereby this end may be achieved.
With prayers for God's blessing upon the efforts made in His name toward the union of His Church on earth, I am,
(Signed) James De Wolfe Perry,
Whereas, One hundred and ninety-five Presbyteries have taken action on an Overture looking to organic union between the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. and the Presbyterian Church in the U.S., therefore, be it
Resolved, 1. That this Assembly has for many years stood ready and is now ready to enter into negotiations with a view to organic union with the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.
Resolved, 2. That this matter be committed to the General Assembly's Committee on Church Cooperation and Union, with instructions to enter into negotiations with the Presbyterian Church in the U. S. through a Committee appointed by the General Assembly of that Church, if it should deem it advisable to do so.
Resolved, 3. That these resolutionstogether with the Overture, be telegraphed to the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S. in session at Birmingham, Alabama.
The Presbytery of New Brunswick respectfully overtures the General Assembly of 1933,
1. To take care to elect to positions on the Board of Foreign Missions only persons who are fully aware of the danger in which the Church stands and who are determined to insist upon such verities as the full truthfulness of Scripture, the virgin birth of our Lord, His substitutionary death as a sacrifice to satisfy Divine justice, His bodily resurrection and His miracles, as being essential to the Word of God and our Standards and as being necessary to the message which every missionary under our Church shall proclaim,
2. To instruct the Board of Foreign Missions that no one who denies the absolute necessity of acceptance of such verities by every candidate for the ministry can possibly be regarded as competent to occupy the position of Candidate Secretary,
3. To instruct the Board of Foreign Missions to take care lest, by the wording of the application blanks for information from candidates and from those who are asked to express opinions about them, or in any other way, the impression be produced that tolerance of opposing views or ability to progress in spiritual truth, or the like, is more important than an unswerving faithfulness in the proclamation of the gospel as it is contained in the Word of God and an utter unwillingness to make common cause with any other gospel whether it goes under the name of Christ or not,
4. To warn the Board of the great danger that lurks in union enterprises at home as well as abroad, in view of the widespread error in our day.
On the other hand, if any minister, elder, deacon, or communicant decides to remain in the denomination, while they have a right to work for any changes in doctrine, in government or in work which they desire, they must work for these changes in harmony with the constitutional procedure; and while they are so working for them, they must be loyal to the doctrine, government and work of the Church as embodied in the local Church and in the Boards and Agencies of the General Assembly. The Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. stands for liberty, but it must not be forgotten that it is liberty within the law and within loyalty.
Among the duties which chapter XXVI, section II, of the Form of Government assigns to the General Council is "to consider between annual meetings of the General Assembly cases of serious embarrassment or emergency concerning the benevolent and missionary work of the Church, and to provide direct relief." In view of this Constitutional requirement, the General Council has been compelled to take official notice of the action of certain ministers and laymen of the Presbyterian Church in organizing within the denomination an "Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions." This Board has been incorporated under the laws of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania with Officers, Members, Executive Committee, General Secretary, Constitution and By-Laws. Its purpose according to the charter, and a pamphlet being circulated by the Board throughout the Church, is to commission and send out missionaries, to establish mission stations, and to divert the missionary offerings of our churches from the Board of Foreign Missions of our Church to the Independent Board.
The organization of such a Board by officers and laymen of our Church to operate in precisely the same sphere which the General Assembly has assigned to its own Board of Foreign Missions, without the sanction of the Supreme Judicatory and entirely independent of its authority and jurisdiction, inevitably raises questions of great seriousness and importance to the members, the officers, and the judicatories of the entire Church. The unconstitutionality of such a Board, the particular action which presbyteries and sessions should adopt with reference to its officers and members, the source of responsibility under the Constitution for the conduct of the missionary work of the Church, and the extent of the control which the Church has over its judicatories and churches in the matter of their gifts to benevolent causes, are some of these questions which must be answered to insure the future peace and prosperity of the Church, and unity of effort in the great task of evangelizing the world.
The General Council has reached the unanimous opinion that there are two effective ways by which it can discharge its constitutional responsibilities "to provide direct methods of relief' in the existing situation. These are, (1) A Brief Summary of the action of the last General Assembly with reference to its endorsement of the Board of Foreign Missions; (2) A careful study of certain Constitutional questions relating to the missionary work of the Presbyterian Church under the following heads: I. The Authority of the Constitution of the Presbyterian Church; II. The Authority which the Constitution vests in the several judicatories of the Presbyterian Church; III. The Authority vested in the Constitution to conduct the missionary operations of the Church; IV. The Constitutional Authority of the Church over its missionary offerings. This Summary and Study are to be found in the pages which immediately follow and are respectfully submitted to the General Assembly for its information and guidance.
1. Missionary offerings are one of the ordinances enjoined in a particular church by the Constitution of the Presbyterian Church. The successive provisions of the Confession of Faith, the Form of Government, and the Directory for Worship, which have already been noted, make these missionary offerings just as really a part of the instituted worship of the Church as are prayer, preaching the Word of God, or the sacraments. A church member or an individual church that will not give to promote the officially authorized missionary program of the Presbyterian Church is in exactly the same position with reference to the Constitution of the Church as a church member or an individual church that would refuse to take part in the celebration of the Lord's Supper or any of the prescribed ordinances of the denomination as set forth in chapter VII of the Form of Government.
2. In designating missionary offerings as an ordinance, the Constitution of the Presbyterian Church specifically enjoins all church judicatories, all church officers, and all individual churches to guide, direct, and make effectual through the authorized agencies of the Church the missionary offerings of all church members to the same extent as they are enjoined to perform the same office with reference to any other ordinance of the Church.
3. The missionary offerings of the Presbyterian Church must be restricted in their apportionment and distribution to those Boards created and maintained by the General Assembly for the spread of the Gospel, unless an expressed approval is granted by the judicatories of the Church to assign a portion of such offerings to other objects.
4. The General Assembly by virtue of its power to interpret authoritatively the Constitution and to superintend the concerns of the whole Church has consistently throughout its entire history defined with particularity the obligation of all those affiliated with the Church to fulfill all Constitutional provisions with reference to missionary offerings, and to support the authorized missionary work of the denomination in proportion to the ability of each.
5. The missionary offerings of the individual members of a particular Presbyterian church when made in connection with the worship of the congregation, or through any of the societies or organizations of the local church, are by the provisions of the Constitution under the jurisdiction of the denomination, and cannot be appropriated by any judicatory in whole or in part to any agency organized in antagonism to, or in rivalry with, any one or more of the authorized Boards of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America.
The Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions is not an organization in the Presbytery of Philadelphia, or in the Synod of Pennsylvania, or in the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A.
The term "Presbyterian" refers to church polity and, by extension, to doctrine. Its use is not confined to any church or to any part of the world. There are a large number of churches in our own country using the term, as for example, the Presbyterian Church in the U.S., the United Presbyterian Church, the Cumberland Presbyterian Church (Colored), the Reformed Presbyterian Church, General Synod, and the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Synod. Further, the name "Presbyterian" is widely used by independent institutions organized for charitable and other purposes throughout the world.
The Independent Board was formed for the purpose of sending out missionaries who would propagate the Presbyterian doctrine and organize, as opportunity might be afforded, churches along the lines of Presbyterian polity.
It is not of importance to the Independent Board whether its missionaries are members of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. or not. What does matter, and matter tremendously, is that its missionaries and its members should be wholeheartedly in accord with Presbyterian doctrine, and believers in a Presbyterian system of church polity.
The Independent Board neither has, nor desires to have, any official relationship to the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A.
The Presbyterian Church in the United States of America, in its solemn belief that, "there is no other way of salvation than that revealed in the Gospel" and, "that Christ hath commissioned His Church to go into all the world and make disciples of all nations," has consistently maintained throughout its entire history that as a Church, it is required and is admirably formed by its Constitution to become a great missionary society, and that specific provisions incorporated in said Constitution afford the best means for securing harmony of sentiment and unity of action on the part of its entire membership in the supreme task of extending the Kingdom of Christ throughout the whole earth.
In chapter XXXV of the Confession of Faith, therefore, and in repeated deliverances of the General Assembly, the truth is clearly set forth that the Presbyterian Church in its nature and organization is a missionary society whose object is to aid in the conversion of the world to Christ, and that every member of the Presbyterian Church is a member of the said society, and obligated by virtue of his membership, to contribute by his prayers, gifts and personal efforts, toward the accomplishments of this object. Further, Chapters XII and XVIII of the Form of Government, commit the responsibility for the superintendence and direction of the Presbyterian Church as a missionary society solely to the General Assembly to discharge in any way it may deem proper and efficient.
In the assumption of this responsibility, the General Assembly in the first fifty years of its existence, designated certain interdenominational and independent or voluntary societies as accredited agencies through which the missionary work of the denomination was to be accomplished. Finally, almost one hundred years ago, when many years of actual experience had clearly demonstrated the inefficacy of such agencies under a Presbyterian form of government, the General Assembly reached the decision, the constitutionality of which was never questioned, that all the missionary work of the Presbyterian Church should be conducted by Boards or Agencies of the General Assembly, except for certain interdenominational work which in its judgment the Presbyterian Church could not undertake alone, and which the General Assembly itself would, therefore, agree to approve in specific deliverances.
Upon reaching this decision, the General Assembly immediately declared that the Presbyterian Church could best contribute to the great task of evangelizing the world through Boards created by the General Assembly, which are responsible to it alone, which are under its advice, review and absolute control, and which are required to exercise their sound discretion and judgment in deciding upon and in conducting the business entrusted to them.
From the day when that decision was made until the present hour, the General Assembly has endeavored scrupulously and faithfully to discharge the great responsibility thus laid upon it, in the unwavering and unvarying conviction that nothing further is needed to impart unity and vigor of effort to the missionary work of the whole Presbyterian Church, than the honest adherence to, and the loyal support of, those specific provisions governing that work which are set forth in the Constitution to which all persons consent when they become members of the Church, and which all church officers profess sincerely to receive, adopt and approve when they assume their office.
In emphasizing this responsibility of all church members and church officers under the Constitution, to engage actively in the spread of the Gospel through the officially designated Boards and Agencies of the Church, the General Assembly would most emphatically state that there is no arbitrary abridgement of personal liberty in the requirement of this duty of all who have affiliated themselves with the Presbyterian Church. As the judicatory of jurisdiction in all matters relating to missionary operations, it has never presumed to interfere with the rights or preferences of individual members to give their money or efforts to such missionary objects as they may choose.
On the contrary, it has always maintained that the right to control the property of the members of the Church, to assess the amount of their contributions, or to prescribe how they shall dispose of their money, is utterly foreign to the spirit of Presbyterianism. Every contribution on the part of an individual member of the Church must be purely voluntary. In fact, the Presbyterian Church itself is a voluntary association. All of its members voluntarily associate themselves with the Church, and maintain their affiliation with it no longer than they voluntarily choose to do so. All that they do for its support, therefore, is a voluntary donation, an there is no power which can compel them to contribute to any ecclesiastical object to which they are not willing to give.
In maintaining, however, this personal freedom of individual members, in their contributions to the Church, the General Assembly has never recognized any inconsistency in asserting with equal force, that there is a definite and sacred obligation on the part of every member of the Presbyterian Church to contribute to those objects designated by the authorized judicatory of the denomination. When a church is organized under a written Constitution, which contains prescribed provisions as to giving for benevolent purposes, every member is in duty bound to observe those provisions with the same fidelity and care as he is bound to believe in Christ and to keep His commandments according to the doctrinal provisions set forth in that same Constitution.
Therefore, when the General Assembly, in accordance with specific provisions of the Constitution of the Church which empower it so to do, declares that it is the purpose of the Presbyterian Church to secure the proclamation of the Gospel in a prescribed way, by means of Boards and Agencies, which are created, controlled and maintained by it, then it is the definite obligation and sacred duty of each individual who is affiliated with any of its churches or judicatories to support those Boards and Agencies to the utmost of his ability. Certainly, if the Constitution declares that it is the duty of the General Assembly, which represents in one body all the particular churches of the denomination, to act in such matters, it must naturally follow that it is the duty of all those who compose those churches to unite in the action. There is, therefore no abridgement of personal liberty when the Presbyterian Church demands of its members who have voluntarily attached themselves to it, and are thereby under its Constitution, to honor, sustain and extend the Church of their choice in the manner the Constitution itself prescribes.
This General Assembly has carefully reviewed the foregoing principles, specifically set forth in the Constitution of the Presbyterian Church, for the purpose of explaining the only remedy which appears to be applicable to a certain distressing and deplorable situation which during the past year has arisen within its jurisdiction, and which is revealed in a certain pamphlet being circulated throughout the Church, entitled "The Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign MissionsA Statement as to its Organization and Program."
It is definitely stated in this pamphlet to which the names of certain ministers and laymen of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America are appended, that an Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions, with officers, members, executive committee, general secretary, constitution and by-laws, and an established office in the city of Philadelphia, has been organized, and incorporated under the laws of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, which is not responsible to the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America, or to any other ecclesiastical body, and whose purpose among other things is to commission and send out missionaries, to establish mission stations, and to seek "to encourage Presbyterian churches and individuals to support this Board," (see charter of "The Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions," Article 3, d), which will thereby divert the missionary offerings of our churches from the channels which the Presbyterian Church has made for them.
Such an attempt on the part of Presbyterian ministers and laymen, to exercise ecclesiastical and administrative functions without the sanction of the General Assembly, and in the precise sphere of missionary operations officially assigned by that judicatory to its own Board of Foreign Missions, is not only an usurpation of authority, but also a repudiation of the jurisdiction of the General Assembly, and of those terms of fellowship and communion contained in the Constitution of the Presbyterian Church which all solemnly and faithfully promised to observe when they assumed membership or office in the Church.
No organic body, whether it be a nation or a church, organized under a constitutional form of government, as is the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America, can tolerate such a defiance of lawful authority on the part of any of its constituents. Therefore, the General Assembly, as the supreme judicatory of the Presbyterian Church, must insist that all those who have affiliated themselves with the Presbyterian Church and desire to remain in its fellowship, must be held strictly accountable to the agreements and the covenants which they have made with it and with each other. To admit of any other alternative would inevitably mean that similar independent movements prompted by the same disloyal and divisive spirit could be organized within individual churches, presbyteries and synods, throughout the entire denomination, creating eventually such anarchy and chaos as would be absolutely fatal to that law and order which has been the glory and strength of the Presbyterian Church from the very beginning of its existence.
In view of the principles herein set forth, the General Assembly would issue the following directions to its officers and judicatories:
1. That "The Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions" be and is hereby directed to desist forthwith from exercising any ecclesiastical or administrative functions, including the soliciting of funds, within the Synods, the Presbyteries, the particular churches and the mission stations of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America.
2. That all ministers and laymen affiliated with the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America, who are officers, trustees or members of "The Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions," be officially notified by this General Assembly through its Stated Clerk, that they must immediately upon the receipt of such notification sever their connection with this Board, and that refusal to do so and a continuance of their relationship to the said Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions, exercising ecclesiastical and administrative functions in contravention of the authority of the General Assembly, will be considered a disorderly and disloyal act on their part and subject them to the discipline of the Church.
3. That the Presbyteries having in their membership ministers or laymen who are officers, trustees or members of "The Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions," be officially notified and directed by this General Assembly through its Stated Clerk to ascertain from said ministers and laymen within ninety days of the receipt of such notice as to whether they have complied with the above direction of the General Assembly, and in case of refusal, failure to respond or non-compliance on the part of these persons, to institute, or cause to be instituted, promptly such disciplinary action as is set forth in the Book of Discipline.
4. That each Presbytery be and hereby is instructed to inform the ministers and sessions of the particular churches under its jurisdiction that it is the primary responsibility and privilege of all those affiliated with the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America to sustain to the full measure of their ability those Boards and Agencies which the General Assembly under its Constitutional authority has established and approved for the extension of the Kingdom of Christ at home and abroad.
The General Assembly profoundly deplores the existence of a situation within the Church which compels it to issue directions which may possibly result in the censure of certain persons affiliated with the Church. It firmly believes, however, that only by the issuance of such directions, can it be faithful to the solemn obligations committed to its sole jurisdiction by the Constitution of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America.
Recognizing that it is both the right and the duty of a Presbytery to claim and exercise jurisdiction over all of its members, as well for their protection as for their correction, the Presbytery of Philadelphia finds itself obliged to take cognizance of and make solemn protest against the action of the Presbytery of New Brunswick in claiming jurisdiction and exercising discipline over Rev. Dr. J. Gresham Machen, subsequently to his reception by the Presbytery of Philadelphia on March 5, 1934. The Presbytery of Philadelphia holds that the said Dr. Machen, having been received by the Presbytery of Philadelphia, is subject to its own immediate jurisdiction. The Presbytery of Philadelphia therefore respectfully memorializes the Synod of New Jersey to reverse the above mentioned actions of the Presbytery of New Brunswick with reference to Dr. Machen and to declare them a nullity for the reason that the Presbytery of New Brunswick is without jurisdiction.
This defendant, through his counsel, respectfully and solemnly protests against the ruling of this Commission commencing, "The following matters" etc., for these reasons:
(1) Because the matter of the signing of the document called the Auburn Affirmation, may have an important bearing upon the matters alleged against this defendant, and can not in fairness and justice, be ruled out, even before evidence has been offered to show it is heretical and what that connection and bearing is.
(2) Because in paragraph 2 of its ruling, the Commission deprives this defendant of the right to reply concerning the truth of the charges made against him. In charge 3 and in charge 6, question 145, in the Larger Catechism is included. Under this question is set forth "giving false evidence." If this defendant is accused of giving false evidence he certainly by every consideration of fairness, justice and order, should be given the right to show that what he has said is not false but true.
(3) Because paragraph 3 of the ruling of the commission also deprives this defendant of the right to show that in matters of which he stands accused he has not offended against the Word of God, by reasons of the fact that he has spoken nothing but the truth.
(4) Because paragraph 4 of the ruling of the Commission amounts to a decision in advance not to determine whether this defendant has actually violated the law of the church as charged, but to hold him guilty even before hearing evidence or argument. No man is bound to obey an unconstitutional law. The decrees of synods and councils, one of which is the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A., are to be received only "if consonant to the Word of God." (Confession of Faith, chapter 31, section 2.) If this defendant is charged, (as he is charged), with not obeying an administrative order of the General Assembly, then he has the right to prove that the order is an illegal order. In charge 5 this defendant is accused of "rebellion against your superiors in the church and their lawful counsels, commands, and corrections, contrary to the Word of God, and to the rules and regulations of this church, founded thereupon." This charge places squarely upon the prosecution the burden of proving that the "counsels, commands and corrections" against which this defendant is alleged to be in rebellion, are lawful. The prosecution has already expressly agreed to assume this burden. By approving the charges and specifications as presented, this Commission has thus bound itself to listen to proof of the legality of the actions of the 146th General Assembly, and, in consequence, also to listen to the contention of this defendant that action was not lawful. Inasmuch as the guilt of this defendant depends wholly upon whether the commands of the General Assembly are lawful commands, it is plain that the Commission refuses in advance to listen to the only possible case of the defense in answer to the charges and specifications as drawn. In view of this fact, it is difficult to see just what further function the defense will have in these proceedings.
(5) Because in declaring that this Commission "cannot sit in judgment upon the acts or deliverances of a superior judicatory" and that such deliverances "stand," this Commission accepts as conclusive the action of the 146th General Assembly; therefore, it has determined in advance the guilt of this defendant, since the 146th General Assembly has declared that refusal to obey its action "will be considered a disorderly and disloyal act." Therefore, in ruling as it has, this Commission has accepted the guilt of this defendant as a fact already determined by a superior judicatory, in judgment upon which it cannot sit.
This conclusion, the defense maintains, is contrary to the Confession of Faith chapter 31, section 3, "All synods or councils since the apostles' times, whether general or particular, may err, and many have erred; therefore they are not to be made the rule of faith or practice, but to be used as a help in both."
(6) Because the Confession of Faith says, in chapter 20, section 2, "God alone is Lord of the conscience, and hath left it free from the doctrines and commandments of men which are in any thing contrary to His Word, or beside it, in matters of faith or worship. So that to believe such doctrines, or to obey such commandments out of conscience, is to betray true liberty and conscience, and the requiring of an implicit faith, and an absolute and blind obedience, is to destroy liberty of conscience, and reason also."
If God alone is Lord of the conscience, and if a man is not bound to obey the commandments of men contrary to the Word of God, then if a man is accused it is his constitutional right to plead before the courts of his church that the commandment is contrary to the Word of God, and his plea ought to be heard because the constitution of his church gives him the right to disobey in such a case, for if the commandment is contrary to the Word of God he is no offender and should not be regarded as such.
(7) Since the ruling of this Commission has eliminated everything material to this case, we believe it has prejudiced the right of this defendant to make objection to testimony, to cross-examine witnesses, and has prejudiced the rights of this defendant in all subsequent proceedings. Respectfully submitted, counsel for the defendant.
Mr. Blackstone said:
It is my firm intention to support the Boards and Agencies of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. in so far as they themselves in their whole policy are loyal to the Constitution of the Church and the Word of God.
I wish it were possible for me in good conscience to say that I believe the present Board of Foreign Missions as now constituted to be wholly loyal to the constitution of the Church and the Word of God. With the evidence that I now have I cannot conscientiously affirm that I believe this Board to be wholly loyal to the constitution and the Word of God. However, my mind is open to receive any new facts and should I become convinced that this Board is wholly loyal to the Presbyterian Standards and the Word of God, I will give it my hearty and enthusiastic support
Following are the recommendations of the Commission:
1. "Putting away falsehood, speak ye truth, each one with his neighbor; for we are members one of another. Let no disintegrating speech proceed out of your mouth, but such as is good for building up, as the need may be, that it may give grace to them that hear. And grieve not the Holy Spirit of God in whom we were sealed unto the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamor, and railing be put away from you, with all malice; and be ye kind one to another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, even as God also in Christ forgave you."
2. Conduct all sessions of Presbytery with decorum and Christian courtesy that becometh brethren who sit and deliberate in a court of Jesus Christ. "Let all things be done decently and in order."
3. Refrain from running to the public press and making a public scandal of your differences; and henceforth discipline according to the book those who persistently and disloyally continue the practice. Whether by enforcement of rules respecting private sessions or in some other effective manner, every effort should be made to prevent perverted accounts of Presbytery's affairs from being given to the press.
4. Discourage all caucuses and any other associations organized for political purposes to force through the Presbytery the will of this group or that group; and trust more in the Holy Spirit dwelling in the body of believers and making His will known in the corporate life of the Church. If any groups of ministers or elders persist in such political trickery they should be disciplined according to the book for inciting to schism in the body of Christ.
5. Respect the rights of minorities and see that they are represented in places of trust on committees and in the higher courts of the church. The light of truth has many colors in its spectrum and needs them all under the fusing power of the Holy Spirit. Institute forthwith the principle of rotary representation in Synod and General Assembly whereby churches as a general rule shall be represented in turn. This principle shall apply both to ministers and lay commissioners. The local church should be given the privilege of nominating the elder candidate or commissioner.
6. Create, if not already existing, a general council after the pattern laid down in the Constitution of our Church. This should absorb the functions now exercised by any executive or business committee.
7. Dignify the sacred office of the ministry by allowing ample time to elapse between licensure and ordination; pass a rule providing that the service of ordination shall always be held in the church to which the licentiate has been called, exception to the rule to be made only by a three-fourths vote of Presbytery; pass a further rule to prohibit licensure and ordination to take place at the same meeting of Presbytery. In the examination of candidates for licensure or ordination the right of all members to ask any pertinent questions of the candidate that tend to satisfy Presbytery as to the qualifications of the candidate for the Gospel ministry in the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A., shall be sustained.
8. Develop, perfect and trust more a strong Vacancy and Supply Committee that will watch over your vacant pulpits and counsel pastoral committees (this for Philadelphia). (For Chester:) Strengthen your Vacancy and Supply Committee so that it can and will watch over your vacant pulpits and counsel pastoral committees.
9. Now that our pension system operates so satisfactorily, the General Assembly and the four Boards having adopted a rule fixing seventy years as the age of retirement, Presbytery should seriously consider the adoption of a similar rule.
10. The Commission has been profoundly moved by the vision of tremendous opportunity in this metropolitan area of our Church and nation. We are mindful of the outstanding leadership given to our great church for so many generations from the Philadelphia area, the place of our beginnings. It is not primarily with the purpose of healing division, but with the ardent desire to see the great needs of the metropolitan area met, the glorious opportunities realized, and the Philadelphia center reclaim its rightful place in the leadership of our church that we make the following suggestions; entertain with open minds and prayerful hearts the proposal that the problem is so vast it demands and ought to command the resources of every individual Christian in this region. From this situation has sprung the suggestion for the realignment of the Presbyteries in this region, and the formation of a metropolitan presbytery. In connection with which suggestion a committee of Synod has already been appointed. Most parties are agreed that some such realignment will eventually be consummated. When all the facts are considered, we are forced to the conclusion that such a metropolitan presbytery would enable the Presbyterian forces in a much more adequate way to cope with the Kingdom task in this strategic center.
11. The Commission requests that special meetings of the Presbyteries be called, at which time the Commission will present this program for consideration and appropriate action.
12. Following the meetings of the Presbyteries transmit in writing to every minister and elder in the Presbyteries of Philadelphia and Chester this program, requesting their full cooperation in making it effective in both letter and spirit.
A. The policy and program of the Church should be determined by ministers in full time service of the Church and their associated elders. It is significant that the Scottish and the Australian Presbyterian churches limit the voting and office holding membership of the Presbyteries to the pastors of its churches and those executives, and teachers of its accredited Theological Colleges, whom the General Assembly appoints as voting members in the Presbyteries.
B. A change in our constitution making it mandatory on the Presbytery in receiving as a candidate for licensure or ordination a graduate of a Theological School or Seminary not under the care of our Assembly, or a minister seeking membership by transfer from another denomination, to arrest the process and refer the question to the Synod's Committee on Licensure for recommendation. If Synod's Committee recommends that the applicant be not licensed or ordained, or received, Presbytery can proceed with the process only on a two-thirds vote.
The Presbytery of Philadelphia respectfully overtures the General Assembly of 1936, 1. To take care to elect to the Board of Christian Education only persons who are aware of the danger in which the Church stands of losing its historic Christian witness, and who are determined to insist upon such verities as the full truthfulness of Scripture, the virgin birth of our Lord, His substitutionary death as a sacrifice to satisfy Divine justice, His bodily resurrection and His miracles as being essential to the system of doctrine to which the Presbyterian Church is committed by its Constitution, 2. To instruct the Board of Christian Education that no one who denies the absolute necessity of such loyalty to the Bible, and to the Confession of Faith shall serve on its staff, 3. To instruct the Board of Christian Education to publish only literature that is true to the historic witness of the Church, and to cease the publication of literature that departs from this witness, 4. To instruct the Board of Christian Education to cease cooperation with organizations or individuals that show by their publications or other activities that they are not insisting upon the full truthfulness of the Bible and upon the other evangelical verities.
I. In order to continue what we believe to be the true spiritual succession of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A., which we hold to have been abandoned by the present organization of that body, and to make clear to all the world that we have no connection with the organization bearing that name, we, a company of ministers and ruling elders, having been removed from that organization in contravention (as we believe) of its constitution, or having severed our connection with that organization, of hereby solemnly declaring that we do sever our connection with it, or coming as ministers or ruling elders from other ecclesiastical bodies holding the Reformed Faith, do hereby associate ourselves together with all Christian people who do and will adhere to us, in a body to be known and styled as the Presbyterian Church of America.
II. We, a company of ministers and ruling elders, do hereby in our own name, in the name of those who have adhered to us, and by the warrant and authority of the Lord Jesus Christ, constitute ourselves a General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of America.
III. We do solemnly declare (1) that the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament are the Word of God, the only infallible rule of faith and practice, (2) that the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms contain the system of doctrine taught in the Holy Scriptures, and (3) that we subscribe to and maintain the principles of Presbyterian church government as being founded upon and agreeable to the Word of God.
All persons, before they shall be ordained or received as ministers or ruling elders or deacons, shall subscribe to the foregoing statement.
The Committee shall take as the basis of its consideration the particular form of the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms which appear in the Constitution of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A., 1934 edition. The committee shall have the power to recommend the elimination, from that form of these Standards, of the changes made in the year of our Lord 1903, but it shall not have power to recommend any other changes. The committee shall also have power to recommend what relation this church shall bear to the Declaratory Statement of 1903.
1. All particular churches now connected with the Presbyterian Church of America, and all particular churches which shall hereafter exist under its jurisdiction shall be entitled to hold, own and enjoy their own local properties, without any right of reversion to the Presbyterian Church of America whatsoever, save as is hereinafter provided.
2. The property of any particular church shall revert to the Presbyterian Church of America only if, as and when the said particular church shall become extinct. Dissolution of a particular church by any judicatory, or any other form of ecclesiastical action shall not be deemed as making a particular church extinct within the meaning of this act.
3. This act shall not be construed as limiting or abrogating the right of the judicatories of this church to exercise all constitutional and proper authority over the particular churches as spiritual bodies.
4. This act shall be deemed to possess, upon its adoption by this Assembly, full constitutional force and effect.
Part of the contentions of the Presbyterian Church in the USA, in the name suit are as follows:
By reason of the similarity between the name of the plaintiff church, to wit, "Presbyterian Church in the United States of America," and the name adopted by the defendant church, to wit, "Presbyterian Church of America," the said names will appear together in all church, business, city and telephone directories, whereby the public and the members of both plaintiff and defendant churches as well, will be likely to confuse the churches, offices, and agencies of the one church with those of the other. Telegraph, cable, postal and express agencies will be misled in the delivery of messages, letters and merchandise.
The similarity of names complained of will, and is intended to, cause confusion and uncertainty, and will, and is intended to, mislead the public and injure the plaintiff church and its work pecuniarily and otherwise. The acts done and threatened to be done by and on behalf of the defendant church are unfair and contrary to the principles of equity and good conscience and violate the rights of the plaintiff church in and to the use of its name and terminology not only in the State of Pennsylvania, but in all the states and territorial possessions of the United States and in foreign countries.
It is impracticable and impossible for the plaintiff church to recover in damages what it has suffered and is likely to suffer from the aforesaid acts done and threatened to be done by and on behalf of the defendant church. The plaintiff church is powerless to prevent the resulting injury to its property and enterprises, or to avoid the resulting loss in donations and financial support which may be diverted from it, which injuries are immediate, continuous and irreparable, and incapable of computation or estimate.
Part of the judge's ruling in the name suit is as follows:
1. The Presbyterian Church in the United States of America by long usage, ancient reputation, and general knowledge has a property right to its name which shall not be interfered with or disturbed. The defendant church bearing the name "Presbyterian Church of America" has adopted a name so similar to that of the plaintiff as to be confusing and thereby hamper and impair the work of the plaintiff church, interfere with its orderly procedure and disturb the sources of support in its field of activity.
2. The Presbyterian Church of America...and all persons associated with them as members and officers of the defendant church, an unincorporated religious society, are enjoined from using or employing the name of "Presbyterian Church of America," or any other name of like import, or that is similar to or imitative of or a contractive of the name Presbyterian Church of the U.S.A., or the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America, or ever doing any act or thing calculated or designed to mislead the public or the members of the plaintiff church.
The Third General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of America has received an overture from the Presbytery of Philadelphia relative to the general subject of Christian Life and Conduct, and especially to the subject of the use of intoxicating beverages. The Assembly would make answer as follows:
(1) We believe that the Westminster Standards speak with adequacy and force upon these subjects in the Confession of Faith, chapter XX, LC. Questions 122-148, and S.C. 63-81: and in particular in the following passages.
C[onf]. XX. 2, 3
"God alone is Lord of the Conscience, and hath left it free from the doctrines and commandments of men which are in anything contrary to his Word, or beside it, in matters of Faith or worship. So that to believe such commandments out of conscience, is to betray true liberty of Conscience, and the requiring of an implicit faith, and an absolute and blind obedience, is to destroy liberty of conscience, and reason also.
"They who upon pretence of Christian liberty do practice any sin, or cherish any lust, do thereby destroy the end of Christian Liberty; which is, that, being delivered out of the hands of our enemies, we might serve the Lord without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him, all the days of our life."
Larger Catechism, Answer to question 136
"The sins forbidden in the sixth Commandment are...all excessive passions, distracting cares, immoderate use of meat, drink, labor and recreation; provoking words: oppressions, quarreling, striking, wounding, and whatsoever else tends to the destruction of the life of any."
Answer to question 139
"The sins forbidden in the seventh Commandment, besides the neglect of the duties required, are...idleness, gluttony, drunkenness, unchaste company, lascivious songs, books, pictures, dancing, stage-plays; and all other provocations to or acts of uncleanness either in ourselves or others."
(2) We do not feel that any situation has actually arisen within the Presbyterian Church of America, which calls for further statement.
WHEREAS there are certain members of The Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions, including the President and Vice-President, whose practice in church government is that of Independency rather than of Presbyterianism, and who are therefore out of accord with the provisions of its charter and in particular with the following provisions:
III (a) The Corporation is formed for the purpose of establishing and conducting truly Biblical missions among all nations, in clear opposition to all forms of belief or practice which are contrary to the Bible or are indifferent to the necessity of acceptance of the doctrine that the Bible contains. Being convinced that the Confession of Faith and Catechisms of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A., in the form which they possessed in 1933, contain the system of doctrine taught in the Bible, the Corporation is to encourage the work of all missionaries who shall truly believe and cordially love and therefore endeavor to propagate and defend, in its genuineness, simplicity and fulness, that system of religious belief and practice which is now set forth in the Confession of Faith and Catechisms of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A., and which is involved in the fundamental principles of Presbyterian Church government; and thus to perpetuate and extend the influence of true evangelical piety and gospel order.
III (b) It is to act as an agency to receive and disburse funds to be used for foreign mission work which is true to the Bible and to the system of doctrine contained in the Westminster Confession of Faith and to the fundamental principles of Presbyterian church government.
III (c) It is to provide a Board under which missionaries who are true to the Bible and to the system of doctrine contained in the Westminster Confession of Faith and to the fundamental principles of Presbyterian church government can serve without compromise with any form of unbelief.
WHEREAS each member of the Board has subscribed to the following pledge:
"I hereby solemnly declare in the presence of God and of this Board (1) that I believe the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the Word of God, the only infallible rule of faith and practice, (2) that I sincerely receive and adopt the Confession of Faith of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A., in the form which it possessed in 1933, as containing the system of doctrine taught in the Holy Scriptures, (3) that, approving the Charter of The Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions, I will faithfully endeavor to carry into effect the articles and provisions of said Charter and to promote the great design of the Board," thus indicating his approval of the foregoing provisions of the Charter: NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that The Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions
(1) re-affirms its loyalty to the provisions of its Charter;
(2) rejects the Independent form of church government as contrary to its Charter;
(3) calls upon its members whose practice is not in accord with the principles of Presbyterian church government either forthwith to bring their practice into accord with the principles set forth in the Charter of the Board by ceasing to practice Independency thus fulfilling their pledge "to promote the great design of the Board," or to terminate their membership in The Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions.
I HEREBY ALSO GIVE FORMAL NOTICE that if, as and when the above resolution is passed, I shall request the Board to undertake an investigation of the doctrinal soundness of certain members.
When the board failed to pass this resolution eight members resigned and issued this letter:
To the Rev. Harold S. Laird:
Dear Mr. Laird:
In view of the decision of the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions refusing to condemn independency in church government and to uphold its charter provisions favoring Presbyterian church government we believe that the usefulness of the Independent Board as an agency to promote the object for which it was founded, the conduct of truly Presbyterian foreign missions, is at an end.
We, therefore, present our resignation from the Board, effective immediately, Mr. Thompson also resigning as treasurer and Mr. Woolley as secretary.
Ned B. Stonehouse,
Edwin H. Rian,
Murray F. Thompson,
Mary W. Stewart,
Mrs. Mildred Berry,
Mrs. J. B. Griggs.
WHEREAS your committee feels that the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions as it is now constituted is out of accord with the provisions of its charter and not consistent with the fundamental principles of Presbyterian Church government which are held by the Presbyterian Church of America, as evidenced by the fact that the practice of certain members of the Independent Board of Presbyterian Foreign Missions, including the President and Vice-President, in matters of church government is that of Independency rather than Presbyterianism, which practice was virtually endorsed by the majority on the Independent Board when, at its meeting May 31, 1937, said majority refused to insist that its members bring their practice into accord with the principles of true Presbyterian Church government, or else resign from said Board; and as further evidenced by the resignation from the Board of the following members, Mrs. J. B. Griggs, Miss Marguerite Montgomery, Mrs. A. L Berry, Miss Mary W. Stewart, the Rev. Paul Woolley, the Rev. Ned B. Stonehouse, the Rev. Edwin H. Rian, and Murray F. Thompson, whose resignation reads as follows:
"In view of the decision of the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions refusing to condemn Independency in church government and to uphold its charter provisions favoring Presbyterian church government, we believe that the usefulness of the Independent Board as an agency to promote the object for which it was founded, the conduct of truly Presbyterian Foreign Missions, is at an end.
"We therefore present our resignations from the Board effective immediately.
The General Secretary of the Board, the Rev. Charles J. Woodbridge, has resigned for the same reasons.
THEREFORE be it resolved that this General Assembly does not find itself able any longer to recommend the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions as an agency for the propagation of the Gospel as set forth in the Westminster Standards.
The objects of the League of Faith as stated in its constitution are as follows:
1. To maintain loyalty to the Bible as the Word of God in opposition to denials of its full truthfulness.
2. To maintain the Reformed or Calvinistic system of doctrine as it is set forth in the Confession of Faith of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. as it appears in 1931 in opposition to all plans of church union which could either break down that system or relegate it to a secondary place.
3. To oppose changes in the historic formula of creed subscription required of candidates for the ministry and the eldership.
4. To oppose the attack made by the document commonly called the "Auburn Affirmation" upon the doctrinal pronouncement of the General Assembly of 1923, and to insist, in opposition to that affirmation, that the full truth of the Scriptures, the Virgin Birth of Christ, the Substitutionary Atonement, the bodily Resurrection and Miracles of our Lord are essential doctrines of the Word of God and our Standards.
5. To warn men everywhere that salvation is to be obtained not by human merit or human effort to please God, but only through the redeeming work of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ as He is offered to us in the Gospel.
6. To encourage the vigorous defense and joyous propagation of the Gospel in its fullness as it is set forth in the Westminster Confession of Faith on the basis of Holy Scripture.
 Reprinted from a copy received by William Garrison Hunter II, October 29, 1934.
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