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Our History

The Orthodox Presbyterian Church was founded on June 11, 1936, in the aftermath of the fundamentalist-modernist controversy, under the leadership of J. Gresham Machen (longtime professor of New Testament at Princeton Theological Seminary, who also founded Westminster Theological Seminary in 1929). With the infiltration of theological liberalism, the mainline Presbyterian Church in the USA had departed from historic Christianity, including the rejection of doctrines such as the inspiration and authority of Scripture, the virgin birth of Christ, and the substitutionary atonement. Originally calling itself the Presbyterian Church of America, the young church was forced by the threat of a lawsuit to change its name in 1939, and it adopted the name Orthodox Presbyterian Church.

In nearly eight decades since its founding, the OPC has slowly grown to over 30,000 members in over 300 churches throughout the United States and Canada. It has been vigorous in its defense and propagation of the historic Reformed faith as expressed in the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms. The church’s efforts in worldwide outreach are conducted largely through three denominational standing committees: foreign missions, home missions and church extension, and Christian education. The OPC recognizes other churches of like faith and practice and is a member of the North American Presbyterian and Reformed Council (NAPARC) and the International Conference of Reformed Churches (ICRC).

More information about the history of the OPC can be found in the booklet, What is the OPC? Several other helpful resources that describe our history are listed below.


The historian, elected by the General Assembly, oversees the denomination’s efforts to preserve her history through the collection and organization of historical documents and records. He is responsible for the organization of the denomination’s archives, the production of materials that promote a greater understanding of OPC history, and the organization of conferences to observe the denomination’s anniversaries. The Committee for the Historian, also elected by the General Assembly, provides assistance and oversight to the historian in carrying out his responsibilities.


The historian publishes a number of books which keep alive the story of the OPC. Please visit the OPC Publications Store to view and order these materials. Please contact us at for more information.

Historical Articles

Today in OPC History

Read what happened on this day in OPC history.

OPC Video

The OPC Video, released in the 90s in VHS:   Part 1    Part 2    Part 3    Part 4    Part 5    Part 6    (if playback is intermittent, try right-clicking on the link, saving it to your device and double-clicking to play)

Historian Interviews

The Committee for the Historian is pleased to present portions from transcribed interviews with Orthodox Presbyterians from the Orthodox Presbyterian Church archives. Historians Charles Dennison and John Muether conducted the interviews, which span a 25 year period. It is the Committee’s intention that the interviews not only educate concerning the history and life of the OPC, but also provide a glimpse regarding the wonderful Christ-centered servants that the Lord has blessed the OPC with since its earliest days.


© 2015 The Orthodox Presbyterian Church



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