December 2017

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A Family Heritage of Presbyterian Ministers
by Rev. David T. Myers

Today, our focus is on a Presbyterian minister by the name of Moses Hoge. He was the grand father of Moses Drury Hoge, who is perhaps better known now.  And it is perhaps remarkable that there was a virtual family of Presbyterian ministers by the name of Hoge. What a wonderful blessing of the Lord, that one family would produce three sons, all of whom were Presbyterian ministers?

The God of the Bible is indeed sovereign and, as a result, He calls whom He will, not only to salvation, but also to service in His kingdom.  And so in this case, we simply have that God-ordained call to one family to produce sons who would in turn answer the call to gospel ministry.  And yet, there is more to it than that.  God ordinarily works through means, although he is not restricted to means.  And the means toward the God-glorifying end here was a family, all of whom were committed to gospel truths in the home, to say nothing of their Presbyterian church.

Moses Hoge, who was born on February 15, 1752 in Middletown Virginia, was a student in Culpeper County under an Associated Reformed Church minister. After a time, he entered the major conflict which was taking place in the colonies by joining the Continental Army to fight for freedom from England. Shortly after that enlistment, he left to enter Liberty Hall Academy (now Washington and Lee University) under the venerable William Graham, in 1778, graduating two years later from the Academy. In the same year, Moses Hoge became a candidate for the gospel ministry under care of the Presbytery of Hanover. Further preparation in theology took place under the tutelage  of James Waddel. Finally he was licensed in November of 1781 and ordained on December 13, 1782 at Brown’s Meeting House, in Augusta County, Virginia, near Hebron, Virginia.

Upon the resignation of Archibald Alexander, Moses Hoges was next appointed president of Hampden-Sydney College in 1807. In fact, so much was his God-given intellect appreciated that when the Synod of Virginia voted in 1812 to begin a seminary, Dr. Hoge was appointed to be its first professor. But the press of business was such that his health began to suffer. On a trip back to from the General Assembly, he died on July 5, 1820.

He and his wife Elizabeth had four sons, three of whom became pastors: the Rev. James Hoge, the Rev. John Blair Hoge, the Rev. Samuel Davies Hoge. [The fourth son, Dr. Thomas P. Hoge, became a physician]. The two sons of Rev. Samuel Davies Hoge also became ministers: the Rev. William Hoge and the Rev. Moses Drury Hoge, that latter of whom we wrote about on January 6. What a legacy! What a remarkable praise to God for His work among men!

To be sure, God’s sovereignty is such that He thrusts out laborers into His harvest field. But also true is that God uses godly parents to both teach and live Biblical principles and practices before their family. When that is done faithfully, then great expectations can be realized in their upbringing and eventual choice of life.

Words to live by:  This writer comes from a Christian home in which both sons were converted and called into the Presbyterian ministry, thus joining their father who was also a Presbyterian minister. God can wonderfully use the Christian home to call spiritual laborers into the fields white unto harvest. Concentrate on that, Christian reader. Make your home a solidly Christian home, with examples of true worship, solid education, and zealous service for Christ, taught and lived before your children. Then watch God work in the lives of your family.

For further study: The Hoge Family Papers are preserved at the Presbyterian Historical Center, in Philadelphia.

Through the Scriptures:  Hebrews 8 – 10

Through the Standards:  An affirmation and denial of church assemblies

WCF 31:3
“All synods or councils, since the Apostles’ times, whether general or particular, may err; and many have erred.  Therefore they are not to be made the rule of faith, or practice; but to be used as a help in both.”

The PCA Historical Center is grateful to have preserved a copy of Rev. Hoge’s sermons, Sermons Selected from the Manuscripts of the late Moses Hoge, D.D., which was published in Richmond, VA by N. Pollard Publisher, 1821. Conveniently, that work is also available on the Internet, here or here. (“you young kids don’t know how easy you have it. In my day. . . “)

The first page of the first sermon in the above mentioned book by Rev. Moses Hoge:

Missed the Date by a Month!

The following tract was originally a message brought by the Rev. Francis A. Schaeffer on 12 November 1944. (Which means we’re a month late in posting this!) This particular tract is one of several early messages by Francis Schaeffer, all of which were published while he was the pastor of the First Bible Presbyterian Church of St. Louis, Missouri. That pastorate began in December of 1943 and ended late in 1948. Leaving that pulpit, he then moved his family to Switzerland to begin a ministry of church planting. Our copy of this tract is from among the papers of the Rev. Albert F. Moginot, who served for several years as Rev. Schaeffer’s .

“The Holy Catholic Church”

Inside the front cover of this tract there is the note that this message was originally preached in St. Louis on 12 November 1944. At that time Dr. Schaeffer had been the pastor of the St. Louis church for just less than one year. St. Louis is a city with a particularly large population of Roman Catholics. In fact, the city is second only to New Orleans in the observation of Mardi Gras. So in that setting it would not be surprising to find many in a Protestant congregation who were troubled by some of the words in the Apostles’ Creed. It is a common concern and misunderstanding, one that the young pastor sought to address. Going beyond that, the tract is also a brief apologetic for a biblical faith, over against the errors of Roman Catholicism. Rev. Schaeffer begins his message with the following statement:

Of all the phrases of the Apostles’ Creed, the one which is most open to misunderstanding is: “I believe in the holy Catholic Church.” Many Protestants, feeling that in some way this portion of the Apostles’ Creed refers to the Roman Catholic Church, are ashamed to repeat it. Let us say, as we begin, that not only does “the holy Catholic Church” have no reference to Roman Catholicism, but it is the very antithesis of it.

Schaeffer then touches on the following points in examination of his topic:
• The Church Is One.
• Entrance into the Universal Church.
• The Bible.
• The Sacraments.
• Baptism.
• Confirmation.
• Penance.
• Mass.
• The Church Is Holy.
• Conclusion.

Rev. Schaeffer’s conclusion provides an excellent summary of his message:

We should repeat this portion of the Apostles’ Creed with heads held high and with the determination not to give up this name catholic, which is ours. We who are true believers are the holy Catholic Church. I am a Christian because I have put my faith in Jesus Christ and for no other reason. My friends, therefore, I am a member of the universal Church, the Church catholic.
. . . Let me say again that I do not hate or dislike the individual Romanist. I hate no man because of his creed any more than because of his race. There is no place for these things in the Christian heart. I also realize that there may be Christians in the Roman Catholic Church; but if there are, they have been saved through faith in Christ in spite of the errors of their Romanism. Perhaps there are Roman Catholics here this morning, and perhaps there is someone here that the Roman hierarchy has sent to hear what we have to say because of the ad we had in the paper yesterday. If this is so, I am glad you are here, and it is my prayer that you will put your faith in Jesus instead of any church, and thus be saved. Do no misunderstand us, we are not urging you to believe in our church to be saved. No church can save you—ours or any other. You must believe in Jesus Christ who paid all the price for your sin on the cross. Then you will have everlasting life immediately and forever. Jesus Christ Himself said in John 3:18, “He that believeth on him (on Jesus) is not condemned; but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”
For those of you who are Christians, it is my prayer for you that you go from this place with a realization that it is our task to lead the Romanist to Christ. If you leave with any other feeling, then our study this morning has been a failure. By the grace of God, realizing that no church saves, but that each individual soul must put his faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, let us be determined that we will bear a good testimony to all who are lost.

Our God Is Faithful, from Generation to Generation.

On this blog, now nearing the end of its second year, we have on numerous occasions made use of the news clippings preserved in seven scrapbooks gathered by the Rev. Henry G. Welbon. Henry had a keen eye for the value of history, and those scrapbooks contain valuable coverage of the modernist controversy of the 1930’s. Additionally, Rev. Welbon also wrote histories of two churches that he served.

welbonHenryGHenry Garner Welbon was born in Seoul, Korea on September 28, 1904. His father, Arthur Garner Welbon [1866-1928], was a missionary sent to Korea under the auspices of the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A. Upon arriving in Korea in 1900, a year later he married Sarah Harvey Nourse, a missionary nurse who had arrived on the mission field a few years earlier.

The Welbons served at several mission stations, raising a young family there on the field, until Mrs. Welbon’s declining health forced the family to return to the United States in 1919.

Up until that time, Henry had attended the Pyongyang Foreign School in Korea. He then completed his secondary education in California, before the family relocated to Maryville, Tennessee. Henry graduated from Maryville College in 1927, though he had suffered the death of his mother in 1925, and his father returned to the mission field shortly thereafter.

Pursuing a call to the ministry, Henry entered Princeton Theological Seminary in 1927 and was there during those turbulent years that witnessed the reorganization of Princeton and which in turn led to the formation of Westminster Theological Seminary. Henry was one of those that left Princeton to complete his education at Westminster, graduating there in 1931. He was licensed just before graduation and ordained in September of 1931 by the Philadelphia Presbytery (PCUSA), being installed in what some term a “yoked” pastorate, serving both the Head of Christiana PCUSA church in Newark, Delaware and the Pencader Presbyterian Church in Glasgow, Delaware. Now settled as a pastor, he married his dear wife Dorothy the following June of 1932.

Following his convictions, Rev. Welbon led his congregations to take a stand for the gospel, though it meant the loss of their respective buildings. This was in 1936, and Rev. Welbon became one of the founding ministers of the Presbyterian Church of America [later renamed as the Orthodox Presbyterian Church]. Then in 1938, he was among those who left the PCofA to form the Bible Presbyterian Church, with Rev. Welbon serving the BP congregation in Newark, DE until 1942.

Our own records do not tell how he spent the years between 1942 and 1946, but in post-war years, his facility with the Korean language became important to the U.S. government. The government eventually wanted to relocate him to Korea, but wise friends there urged him not to take that appointment. Wise advice indeed, in the late 1940’s. Later in life, Rev. Welbon returned to missions, serving first as a teacher in Japan, 1966-69, and then as pastor of the Presbyterian Church of Boatswain Bay, Grand Caymans, 1969-71. Thereafter, he was honorably retired as a member of the Delmarva Presbytery of the RPCES.

In the closing years of his life, and after the death of his beloved wife Dorothy, Rev. Welbon got on a train in the Spring of 1999 and left his home in Tucson, Arizona to travel across the country to research his family history. This had been a life-long project, and he hoped to finally locate some of the last necessary bits of information. St. Louis was one stop in his journey, and I was honored to meet him at that time. He continued on to Washington, D.C. to complete his research and then returned home to finish writing his family history. Completing that work, he took it to the publisher and died the very next day, on December 11, 1999.

Words to Live By:
Arthur and Sarah Welbon had six children, two of whom died in Korea while still quite young. They lived their lives in service to our Lord, as did their son Henry. Time does not permit us to search out the lives of their other children, but of the surviving children, one of Henry’s sisters, Mary, was the ancester—the great-grandmother—of Gabriel Fluhrer, a graduate of Greenville Seminary who served for a time at Second Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Greenville, and who now serves as an associate pastor at the ARPC’s First Presbyterian Church in Columbia, South Carolina. And as Rev. Fluhrer himself once said, as he reflected on his family’s heritage,

“Praise God for His covenant faithfulness to generation after generation.” 

Rev. Welbon authored four books, of which the first two are currently preserved at the PCA Historical Center:

A History of Head of Christiana Church. (1933).
A History of Pencader Presbyterian Church,. (1936).
A History of Christian Education in Delaware. (Univ. of Delaware, M.A. thesis, 1937).
A History and Genealogy of a Welbon Family which Came from Lincolnshire, England to Detroit, Michigan in 1854. (1999).

[with gentle humor, it’s hard not to notice, that when Rev. Welbon found a title he liked, he stuck with it!]

The grave site of the Rev. Henry G. Welbon can be viewed here.

 

 

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STUDIES IN THE WESTMINSTER SHORTER CATECHISM
by Rev. Leonard T. Van Horn

Q. 40. What did God at first reveal to man for the rule of his obedience?

A. The rule which God at first revealed to man for his obedience, was the moral law.

Scripture References: Rom. 2:14,15; Rom. 10:5.

Questions:

1. How many laws has God given to man?

God gave to his people the moral law, which is still in force today, and ceremonial and judicial laws. These last two, as given to the Jews, have ceased to have any binding force under the Christian economy.

2. Is the moral law a rule of obedience to both believer and non-believer?

Yes the moral law is a rule of obedience to both. Our Confession teaches, “The moral law doth for ever bind all, as well justified persons as others, to the obedience thereof.” (Chapter 21, Section V)

3. Can a man be saved by keeping the moral law?

No, a man is only saved by grace through faith. In addition, it would be impossible for man to keep the moral law perfectly.

4. If man cannot be saved by it, and yet is still bound by it, of what use is it?

The use of the moral law is that it is a “schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.” (Gal. 3:24). The word “schoolmaster” is the idea of training and discipline in the passage cited. A pertinent passage here is I Tim. 1 :8.

5. How does the law bring men to Christ?

The law brings men to Christ by convincing men of sin and of convincing them of its consequences if it is not atoned for and forgiven. It also awakens them to their need of a Saviour for that sin. ‘

6. After a man is saved is the law of any further use?

The law is a perpetual reminder of the will of God for His creatures. For the Believer it is intended as a rule of life and conduct which is absolute and unchanging. See Rom. 7:6,12; Titus 2:11,12.

“O HOW I LOVE THY LAW!”

The above declaration is one of the richest fruits of grace that a redeemed soul might have for in it there is the most important connection between the love for his Maker and being obedient to the same Maker. There is nothing incompatible between love and obedience and the Law of God is a wonderful motivator towards each of them.

In our Catechism, as we begin a study of the laws of God, it is important that we have the correct perspective between the law of God and the fact that we are sinners saved by grace. It has been said many times that we are sinners saved by grace but we are still sinners! The sinner therefore has shortcomings, so many times goes the road of sin rather than the road of obedience to Him. And if it were not for the law of God the road of sin would be taken many more times than it is. For the law of God has some very important duties, duties for which we should be praying.

There is the duty of instructing the believer. There is a way of lite that is well-pleasing to God and the believer is instructing in this way of life by the law of God. Paul states in I Cor. 9:21 that he is “in the law to Christ” and that he delights in that law after the inward man. He delights in it as he reads it, is instructed by it, follows it by grace.

There is the duty of humbling the believer. The law of God causes the believer to recognize his shortcomings tor it is a rule against whose measurement the believer so many times comes short. As the believer sees his shortcomings, and grieves over his shortcomings, he begins to be humble under the rule of the Almighty, Sovereign God and thereby gets into right relationship with his Maker, through his enabling grace.

There is the duty of causing the believer to apply to the Lord Jesus Christ for the ever-necessary sanctifying Spirit. The power at the victorious life comes from the Lord Jesus Christ through the indwelling presence and power of His Holy Spirit, enabling the Believer more and more to die unto sin and to live unto righteousness.

Do we love His law? Even better, do we really love Lawgiver? If we do we will recognize that there is no holiness where there is not subjection to the commandments of our Lord. And where there is .subjection to the commandments there is delight, (Psalm 119:35),

Published By: THE SHIELD and SWORD, INC.
Vol. 3 No. 40 (April, 1964)
Rev. Leonard T. Van Horn, Editor

It is commonly noted that there were four main organizations that were formative of the Presbyterian Church in America :
1. Concerned Presbyterians, a layman’s group led by ruling elders;
2. Presbyterian Churchmen United, an organization for pastors;
3. The Presbyterian Journal, a magazine begun in 1942; and
4. The Presbyterian Evangelistic Fellowship, a ministry focused on revival.
The Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson, MS should probably be added to that list, given that some sixty-three of the PCA’s founding fathers had graduated from RTS, even though the school had only just been organized as recently as 1964.

But to our point, the publications issued by the first two of the above groups can now be accessed online at the PCA Historical Center’s web site.

Following the late 1964 organization of Concerned Presbyterians (good evidence that it was the ruling elders who were leading the movement for renewal in the Church!), an organization specifically for pastors was later formed in 1969 under the title Presbyterian Churchmen United. Contactthe newsletter issued by this group, first appeared in May of 1970. Then, just prior to the formation of the Presbyterian Church in America (in December of 1973), the group accordingly published their closing issue in September, 1973.

With the posting of these two newsletters, all can now read of those days, the concerns, the challenges, their hopes and the Lord’s blessings.

These were the days of small beginnings! Our God has been and always remains faithful! May He be praised. May we be found faithful to His covenant and obedient to His Word.

Click the cover image below to view the contents and to access issues of Contact :

While searching out a question today for a patron of the PCA Historical Center, I came across this letter to the editor of CHRISTIANITY TODAY [the new series, for a change!] In this letter, Ned B. Stonehouse, professor at Westminster Theological Seminary and biographer of Dr. J. Gresham Machen, writes to offer a corrective to a statement in a previous issue of the magazine.

MACARTNEY AND MACHEN
[Christianity Today 6.5 (8 December 1961): 16 [240].]

Please permit a brief footnote to G. Hall Todd’s attractive review of the new autobiography of Clarence E. Macartney (Oct. 13 issue). The book should be widely read because of its firsthand report of the doctrinal controversies of the twenties and thirties as well as for many other features to which the reviewer draws attention.

Particularly gratifying in my judgment is Macartney’s evaluation of the character and witness of J. Gresham Machen which may serve to correct certain persistent distortions. Yet one statement of Macartney’s in this context is highly disturbing. It is that after Macartney offered to act as Machen’s counsel before the Permanent Judicial Commission in 1936, Machen declined, “saying that if I defended him, he might be acquitted, and that was not what he wanted” (p. 189). The full correspondence is available to myself and shows that at this point Macartney’s memory failed him. In a letter of about 1200 words Machen, while expressing deep gratitude for the offer, declined on the ground that he felt that his counsel, who would be his spokesman in connection with the subsequent appraisal of the trial regardless of the outcome, had to be a person who would “represent my view in the most thorough-going way,” which, to Machen’s distress, Macartney did not do.

At this time indeed (May 9, 1936), after many years of struggle for reformation from within, Machen had come to believe that the denomination was apostate and he longed for a separation. Nevertheless, as this letter also emphasizes, Machen’s sense of obligation to fulfill his ministerial vows was such that he could not condone the evil involved in his anticipated condemnation even though it might become the occasion of good. In his own words in the letter, “But I cannot acquiesce in that evil for a moment, and therefore I am adopting every legitimate means of presenting my case even before the Modernist Permanent Judicial Commis-sion.”

NED B. STONEHOUSE
Westminster Theological Seminary
Philadelphia, Pa.

All Glory to the One Who Saved Us.

Yesterday we asked the question “Can we find a sermon by Francis Herron for this date? As it turns out, the answer was “No”. The Rev. Francis Herron was born on June 28, 1774 and he died on December 6, 1860. And to read the history books, he was greatly esteemed by his contemporaries and is remembered by many to this day, yet he published few works (see the list below)), and I could find only one actual sermon that was published.

But listen to what Dr. McKinney, editor of The Presbyterian Banner, said of him :

Dr. Herron was a man of note, unbounded in his hospitalitie, abundant in labors, and wielded an influence such as no other man exerted in this community among all classes of citizens, and among all denominations of Christians. His public spirit, and the wisdom of his counsels, were acknowledged by all. His integrity of character and purity of motive were doubted by none. His sermons were scriptural, doctrinal, practical, and pungent; full of the marrow of the Gospel, and delivered with convincing earnestness. As a pastor he was deeply interested in the welfare of his flock. He trained a most efficient eldership, and taught his people both from the pulpit and by his own example, the pressing claims of Christian benevolence, so that his church ranks with the most liberal [i.e., as in giving freely] in the land. Missionary operations in the West found in him a warm friend, and an earnest advocate. And the Western Foreign Missionary Society, from which our Foreign Missionary Board sprang, and from the beginning of which the Board should date its origin, received his hearty and effective co-operation. Foreign Missions and missionaries had a prominent place in his large and honest heart.
For many years he was an active Trustee of Jefferson College. And the Western Theological Seminary, with its Professors and students, was from its origin, a subject of heart-felt and prayerful solicitude. In the darkest hour he never yielded to despair, but always spoke the cheering word, opened the liberal hand, and rallied his own people to the rescue. And in the day of its final success, none rejoiced more heartily than he. He loved young men, especially candidates for the   holy ministry. No worthy student of theology ever went to him for advice or assistance, without receiving it.

Words to Live By:
It seems to me that the clear lesson, as we look at the life of Francis Herron, is that the character of a pastor speaks far more effectively and convincingly than what he may say or write. That he wrote so little and yet was so highly esteemed and well-remembered only serves to underscore that fact. So too for the rest of us: the world will probably not remember what most of us have said or done, but the testimony of our lives in Christ—the reality of our trust in our living Savior—will have an abiding effect on the lives we have touched. And isn’t that appropriate, that our lives should give all glory to our Lord Jesus Christ, and not to ourselves? We would not have it any other way.

For more on the life of Rev. Francis Herron, see the post by my friend Barry Waugh, at his blog Presbyterians of the Past.

A chronological bibliography for Rev. Francis Herron—
1835
“The duty and reasons of Christian diligence” in The Presbyterian Preacher [Pittsburgh], 1835. Pp. 145-160.

1839
An address delivered in the First Presbyterian Church on the Sabbath evening of January 27, 1839 to the young men of the city of Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh, E.B. Fisher, 1839. 10 p.

1841
Introductory lecture to the second course, delivered before the Wirt Institute, November 12th, 1840. Pittsburgh, Printed by A. Jaynes, 1841. 16 p.

herronFrancis_portrait1862Death of Francis Herron

Francis Herron, D.D.Can we find a sermon by Francis Herron for this day?

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The First General Assembly of the National Presbyterian Church (i.e., the PCA

Rev. C. Darby FultonAs the newly formed denomination met that December in 1973, there was much to do and little time in which to accomplish it. The opening of the General Assembly had begun on the previous day, December 4th, at 7:30 PM with a time of worship and an opening address delivered by ruling elder W. Jack Williamson. That address was titled “To God Be the Glory”.

The first full day of work for the Assembly began the next day, on December 5th. Committees for the various church agencies began meeting at 8:30 AM and following lunch, another time of worship was set aside. The Rev. C. Darby Fulton preached from Philippians 3:7-14, on “The Excellency of the Knowledge of Christ”.

The rest of that afternoon was spent in discussion and adoption of constitutional documents [the Westminster Standards and the Book of Church Orer]. After dinner, the Assembly met yet again for worship, with the service under the direction of the Rev. Kennedy Smartt, then pastor of the Presbyterian church in Hopewell, Virginia. The Rev. Tim Fortner, of Hazelhurst, Missouri, led in prayer. The Rev. Sidney Anderson of Swannanoa, North Carolina, read the Scripture, and Dr. O. Palmer Robertson, professor at Westminster Theological Seminary, preached a sermon entitled “The National Presbyterian Church and the Faith Once Delivered,” taking Jude 3 as his text.

After the time of worship and before recessing for the evening, the Assembly continued its work on constitutional documents by adopting the first ten chapters of the Book of Church Order. The Assembly then recessed with prayer by the Rev. Todd Allen, pastor of the Eastern Heights Presbyterian church of Savannah, Georgia.

Words to live by:
That second day of business was full and busy for the Assembly, but note how not just once but twice they met for times of worship during the day. I am reminded of Martin Luther’s statement, “I have so much to do today that I must spend the first three hours in prayer.” There is more truth in that statement than most of us are willing to admit, and certainly more than most of us are willing to live up to. But that first General Assembly of the PCA recognized their priorities and their need to completely and utterly rely upon the Lord in all their deliberations.

If you haven’t been living according to this pattern, then I urge you, test the Lord—try Him and see—put Him first each morning with a time of prayer and devotional Scripture reading. It doesn’t have to be long, perhaps just five or ten minutes if you can’t spare a half-hour. But I have every confidence that you will begin to see a marked improvement, first in your relationship with the Lord, and then in your relationships with family, friends, and  work.

Where are they now?

This day, December 4, in 1973, marks the formation of the Presbyterian Church in America, as the denomination’s first General Assembly met in Birminham, Alabama, December 4-7 at the Briarwood Presbyterian Church.

Some years ago I compiled a list of all the churches that have ever been a part of the PCA. (I think I got them all!) Perhaps we can talk more about that larger list another day, but for now we want to look at a select portion of that list. The obvious starting point for such a list would be the founding churches of the PCA, and those founding churches are the subject of our post today. Working from the Minutes of the PCA’s First General Assembly, we find there were 273 churches that can be called the founding churches of the Presbyterian Church in America.

Of these 273 churches, 182 of them are still in the PCA (though technically, two of those had merged with other churches). Three left for other Presbyterian denominations. One of our founding churches, First Presbyterian of Hueytown, Alabama, left to join the OPC in 1991. The Jackson Street Prebyterian Church of Alexandria, Louisiana (now Grace Presbyterian), joined the EPC in 1997. And Progressive Presbyterian Church, Princeton, North Carolina, joined the Associate Reformed denomination, also in 1997. Over the years, another 16 of the founding churches have left to independency.

Regrettably, 23 of the founding churches have dissolved. Closer study needs to be done to determine the reasons, whether they were small rural churches or whether other problems brought about their closing. Then the final category is for now one of mystery, and more research needs to be done with this group. Here the record is simply unclear for 41 of the founding churches. Most likely these churches were dissolved or perhaps left to independency, yet without proper notation of their action on the roll books. We might find even find in one or two instances that the church is still in the PCA, but its status is obscured by a change of name or location. (I have already discovered one such discrepancy.) In all, those 23 closures and 41 “uncertains” total 64 founding churches effectively lost to the PCA. Nothing is forever in this poor world.

It is interesting to look at those 273 founding churches state by state, and the following list shows the breakdown, The last column in this list shows how many PCA churches and missions now operate in each of those states, so as to show subsequent growth in each state.

State Then Now
Alabama 50 110
Arkansas 2 11
Florida 19 154
Georgia 17 143
Kentucky 2 14
Louisiana 6 17
Maryland 1 57
Mississippi 89 117
North Carolina 13 112
South Carolina 35 109
Tennessee 11 75
Texas 4 92
Virginia 12 101
West Virginia 3 10
None 9

Note that last group, “None,” in the list above. That should be understood as “unaffiliated with any Presbytery at the time of joining the PCA”. If you know anything about Presbyterianism, you’ll recognize what an odd thing it was to have churches admitted to the PCA, yet without being on the roll of a given Presbytery. Surely this was a temporary arrangment, but the story of those 9 churches could be interesting.

Mississippi, Alabama, and South Carolina were numerically the three strongest States for the PCA at its founding. Between those three States, the roles are now reversed, with South Carolina having the greatest growth in PCA churches, followed by Alabama and then Mississippi. Ironically, in six States–Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia–the PCUS maintained a stronger hold on churches and few PCUS churches left in 1973 to join the PCA. However, since that time the PCA has seen strong growth in these same States. The States of Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, and West Virginia have remained difficult terrain for church planting and PCA growth there has been slow.

Then looking at the list of founding churches as grouped by the 16 founding presbyteries, we have the following:

Calvary [SC] – 35 churches

Central Georgia – 11

Covenant [AR; MS; TN] – 13

Evangel [AL] – 25

Gold Coast [FL] – 12

Grace [LA; MS] – 31

Gulf Coast [FL; LA] – 8

Mid-Atlantic [MD; NC; VA] – 7

Mississippi Valley [LA; MS] – 52

None – 9

North Georgia – 3

Tennessee Valley – 5

Texas – 4

Vanguard [AL; GA; KY; NC WV]; – 13

Warrior [AL] – 22

Western Carolinas [NC] – 5

Westminster [NC; TN; VA] – 10

Calvary, Grace and Mississippi Valley Presbyteries were, by their size, among the more influential of the newly formed PCA Presbyteries. Covenant, then with just 13 churches, is today perhaps the largest of the 81 PCA Presbyteries.

One interesting story worth following up would be that of First Presbyterian Church, Brookhaven, MS, in Grace Presbytery, and the only church in that Presbytery that lost its property upon leaving the PCUS. By the kind providence of God, most of these founding churches were able to keep their property, but were there others in other Presbyteries that also lost their property at that time, as a result of joining the PCA?

And of course we can expect there might be an interest in which were the oldest of these founding PCA churches? The ten oldest, all still in the PCA to this day, are as follows:

1. 1764 – Bethel Presbyterian Church, Clover, SC [Calvary]

2. 1775 – Lebanon Presbyterian Church, Winnsboro, SC [Calvary]

3. 1786 – Bethany Presbyterian Church, Greensboro, GA [Central Georgia]

4. 1808 – Hopewell Presbyterian Church, Rock Hill, SC [Calvary]

5. 1812 – Salem Presbyterian Church, Blair, SC [Calvary]

6. 1812 – Meadow Creek Presbyterian Church, Greenville, TN [Westminster]

7. 1819 – Kanawha Salines Presbyterian Church, Malden, WV [Vanguard]

8. 1820 – Friendship Presbyterian Church, Laurens, SC [Calvary]

9. 1820 – First Presbyterian Church, Greenville, AL [Evangel]

10. 1821 – Lebanon Presbyterian Church, Abbeville, SC [Calvary]

Other churches have joined the PCA since 1973, and the list above is not exactly the same as the list for the ten oldest churches in the PCA today. Top honor, incidentally, goes to Fairfield Presbyterian Church, in Fairton, New Jersey, organized in 1680.

On the other end of the spectrum, there were thirteen of the founding churches that had been organized in 1973, in the months just prior to the formation of the denomination. 3 of these were in Evangel Presbytery and 3 were in Westminster Presbytery. Another 9 of the founding churches were still quite young, having been organized in the 1960’s. Many of these were located in Florida.

And to conclude, while some 55% of the PCA remains weighted in the South, clearly the momentum is moving to expand out across the nation with the glorious Gospel of salvation in Jesus Christ alone. In all this work may our Lord God— and He alone—be glorified.

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