Keeping in mind that any news coverage inevitably has its own slant or perspective, we present with that caveat the following newspaper reports on the close of the second General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of America [Orthodox Presbyterian Church], which met November 14-16, 1936 (two Assemblies that year!):
From the Brooklyn, N.Y. Eagle:–
Government Form For New Church Is Assembly Aim
Philadelphia, Nov. 14. — The second general assembly of the Presbyterian Church of America tabled all discussion today on interpreting its doctrinal standards and undertook to establish a form of government for the church founded here five months ago.
The assembly which adopted the historic Westminster confessions and catechisms as its doctrinal standards yesterday, tabled two motions today which would interpret the doctrines on the question of the second coming of Christ. Church leaders interpreted the action as assuring eschatological liberty within the church on the question.
The constitutional form was discussed at the afternoon session.
It became known today that the Rev. H. McAllister Griffiths of Philadelphia has resigned as a member of the church.
The Rev. Mr. Griffiths was ecclesiastical counsel for the Rev. Dr. J. Gresham Machen, first moderator of the new church, in his trials on charges of insubordination to the authority of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. Dr. Machen was suspended from the church after the general assembly upheld his conviction.
His [Griffiths’s] resignation became known when an inquiry was made from the floor why he was not attending the assembly. The Rev. Dr. J. Oliver Buswell, moderator, did not explain the reasons for his resignation. At his home the Rev. Mr. Griffiths confirmed his resignation, but said he preferred not to make any statement.
In adopting the Westminster confessions yesterday, the delegates votes against including amendments which were adopted in 1903 by the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A.
and from the Philadelphia Inquirer, November 15, 1936:—
Fundamentalists Stick Close to Law of Pre-Split Body
Tentative Rule Adopted; Griffiths-Machen Rift Mars Session
A tentative form of government closely following that of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A., from which it split last June, yesterday was adopted by the Presbyterian Church of America in the closing business session of its four-day second General Assembly.
The 100-year old constitution was accepted as the provisional working basis for the new fundamentalist order until a permanent basis can be formulated at the next assembly in Philadelphia, June 1 to 5.
In substance, the form grouped the individual churches into presbyteries, but eliminated provision for synods; arranged for the administration of local congregations and outlined requirements for admission into the denomination’s ministry.
Titles Are Guaranteed
Among major changes was a passage guaranteeing each congregation title to its property and specifically denying the “right of reversion to the Presbyterian Church of America, unless the particular church should become extinct.”
Fundamentalist clergymen pointed out that the question of property ownership was a sore point under jurisdiction of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A., and that the passage should clarify the issue. They insisted that under the old regime congregations were bereft of their “right” to hold title to church buildings and lands.
A discordant note in the closing hours of session came with the revelation of a rift between Dr. J. Gresham Machen, retired moderator, and Rev. H. McAllister Griffiths, his associate in forming the church as a protest against Presbyterian modernism.
The split between the two former leaders was learned when commissioners demanded an explanation of Dr. Griffiths’ failure to appear at any meetings of the Assembly. Reached at his home, the former editor of the Presbyterian Guardian, militant fundamentalist paper, admitted that he had sent a letter to the stated clerk of the Philadelphia Presbytery renouncing jurisdiction of that body.
“I have completely severed all connection with the Presbyterian Church of America,” declared Dr. Griffiths, who took a leading part in defending several clergymen ejected by the parent body. “I am an independent minister.”
Except to say that Dr. Griffiths had “performed great service to the church,” Dr. Machen refused comment, while Dr. J. Oliver Buswell, Jr., moderator, announced he had no intention of speaking on the matter.
Women’s Proposal Defeated
Adoption of the form of government followed by a report by the constitutional committee, headed by Rev. Ned B. Stonehouse, of Westminster Theological Seminary.
Vigorous opposition to admitting women to the board of trustees of local congregations defeated the committee’s recommendations that “other communicant members of the church may be elected trustees” in addition to elders and deacons. Several ministers who asserted that the change would make women eligible to office, murmured fervent “Thank God’s” when the proposal was defeated.
A charge that the assembly had side-stepped” the issue of pre-millennialism was made by Rev. J. U. Selwyn Toms, of Wenonah, N. J., yesterday afternoon after resolutions expressing the denomination’s attitude on the doctrine had been tabled in the morning. Dr. Toms declared the “covering up of the question will be a source of danger.”
Protest against the church’s refusal to guarantee tolerance of the doctrine was recorded in the minutes by Rev. Milo Jamison, of Los Angeles, Calif. “Nothing short of some such constitutional safeguard,” he declared, “could set at rest rumors that pre-millennialists are not welcome in the Presbyterian Church of America.”
Words to Live By:
It would be remarkable in our own day and time if the PCA, the OPC, or any of the conservative Presbyterian denominations were to merit news coverage by a major newspaper. It seems that only scandal sells. Valiant stands for righteousness and the glory of God are boring in the eyes of the world. Moreover, too few have the courage to take such stands, and so we are seen as unimportant. But by the grace of God, that will change. It is God and God alone who brings true change. Salvation belongs to the Lord, and as His people seek His face, He will yet again turn to favor His Church. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.