Today in OPC History

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February 9

Orthodox Presbyterian Church

Meeting in Philadelphia on February 9, 1939, the Fifth General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of America changed the name of the church to the Orthodox Presbyterian Church.

Threatened by a lawsuit by the Presbyterian Church in the USA, the church determined that it lacked the financial resources necessary to sustain the legal challenge to its name. Commissioners to that Assembly chose the new name after a vigorous, twelve-hour debate. Among the names considered were the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, the Presbyterian and Reformed Church of America, the North American Presbyterian Church, the American Presbyterian Church, the Presbyterian Church of Christ, the Protestant Presbyterian Church of America, the Seceding Presbyterian Church (of America), the Free Presbyterian Church of America, and the True Presbyterian Church of the World. A young pastor from Cincinnati, the Rev. Everett C. DeVelde, suggested that the name "Orthodox Presbyterian Church" would serve clearly to distinguish the new church from the group it had left two-and-a-half years earlier.

Historian Mark Noll interpreted the debate in this way: "In the end sentiment was divided nearly equally between the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, with only lesser support for names retaining the word 'America.' By one vote 'Orthodox' prevailed over 'Evangelical,' and so it has remained to this day. Most significantly, the new name indicated a new perspective. No longer would the denomination aspire to be the Presbyterian Church of America."

Picture: Everett DeVelde

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