Today in Church History

December 3

Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A., Southern Presbyterian Church

On December 4, 1861, commissioners from the Southern presbyteries that had renounced the jurisdiction of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. met at First Presbyterian Church of Augusta, Georgia, and constituted the first General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the Confederate States of America.

The split was prompted by the Civil War and by the action of the previous General Assembly in May, 1861 (with only 16 southern commissioners in attendance). After eight days of debate, the Assembly passed the Gardiner Springs resolutions, which declared the obligation of the church to uphold the Union and pledged loyalty to the U.S. Constitution, in all its provisions, requirements, and principles. Southern Presbyterians considered these resolutions to be a violation of the spirituality of the church and an engagement in partisan politics.

After the war, the two branches of Northern and Southern Presbyterianism continued to coexist until their merger in 1983. That reunion was preceded by a division within the Southern Presbyterians. On December 4, 1973, 112 years to the day after the formation of the PCCSA, the first General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) convened at Briarwood Presbyterian Church in Birmingham, Alabama.

- John Muether

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