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Today in OPC History

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October 23

Robert Marsden

On October 23, 1960 Robert S. Marsden, at age 55, collapsed and died of a heart attack as he was rising to sing a hymn in Sunday school at the Calvary OPC, Middletown, PA. He had attended Princeton Theological Seminary, left there with J. Gresham Machen, and was in the first graduating class at Westminster. He became pastor of the Middletown Presbyterian Church (USA) in 1930 and led the exodus from that congregation and the formation of the Calvary OPC in 1936. In 1938 he became General Secretary for Home and Foreign Missions for the denomination and served in that capacity during the lean years of the Depression and the challenges of World War II. In 1947 he became the Executive Secretary of Westminster Theological Seminary. He was known for his shrewd business skills and helped place the seminary on a firm financial basis. He also served in many leadership roles in the denomination including as the chair of the (Trinity) Hymnal Committee.

Robert Marsden exemplified the ideal of the educated clergyman. He read prodigiously, had a remarkable memory, and was very widely informed. He was a great believer in the principle that ministers ought to include novels in their reading as a way of enhancing their preaching and understanding of others. He himself was known as an accomplished preacher. His address on the twentieth anniversary of the OPC can be found on this site.

He was also known for his self-confidence and for not being shy about his knowledge or abilities. Once among a gathering of OPC friends he announced that he could name the ten best preachers in the denomination. Mary Carson Kuschke, who was always as sharp as anyone in the room, responded immediately: “Tell us Bob, who are the other nine?”

Editor's Note: We thank Dr. George M. Marsden for contributing today's entry on his father.

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