Continuing Church

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A Trip Down Memory Lane

Despise not the day of small beginnings. It was on this day, October 30, in 1973 that a small group of men representing just three churches came together to form the Presbytery of Texas, soon to become part of the National Presbyterian Church on December 4, 1973. The young denomination would be renamed the Presbyterian Church in America a year later, and the Presbytery itself would be split into North Texas and South Texas on January 1, 1985. Houston Metro Presbytery would later be formed from South Texas Presbytery on January 1, 2004. The other three Presbyteries with churches in Texas—Korean Southern, Korean Southwest, and Southwest—are multi-state presbyteries, and these latter three were not formed from the original Presbytery of Texas.

Our post today focuses on the minutes of that first Stated meeting of the Presbytery of Texas:—

FIRST STATED MEETING

THE PRESBYTERY OF TEXAS

October 30, 1973

The first stated meeting of the Presbytery of Texas was held in the First Presbyterian Church of Paris, Texas, October 30, 1973. A quorum was present.  The meeting was opened with prayer by the Moderator, the Rev. Dan McCown [1924–1979]. A Welcome was given by the Pastor of the Host Church, the Rev. Eric McQuitty.  The docket was adopted.

Jimmy Stewart, a candidate for the ministry, delivered a thoughtful ser­mon on the subject “The Measureless Love of God”, using John 3:16 as a text. He was examined by the Committee on Reception of Ministers and was received in the Presbytery as such. November 18, 1973 was set as the time for his or­dination and installation as Minister of Youth for the Fifth Street Presbyterian Church of Tyler.

The Rev. John Knox Bowling of Adamsville, Texas and the Rev. Lardner W. Moore of Sherman, Texas were examined and received into the Presbytery. Both men are honorably retired. The Rev. Bill Buckner of Strawn, Texas was examin­ed. He passed the examination but was not ready to join the Presbytery until he had taken care of two obligations.

The Treasurer, Alex McKenzie, gave his report and stated the Presbytery has received $300.00 and spent $63.50.

The Moderator gave a sunmary of the progress of the Continuing Church and discussed the forthcoming meeting of the General Assembly to be held December 4th in Birmingham, Alabama.

The Oaklawn Presbyterian Church of Houston was received as a member of the Presbytery. Possible new churches and mission work was discussed and it was moved and adopted that a Home Mission chairman be appointed by the Moderator.

A commission to ordain and install James H. Stewart, composed of the following was elected: Presiding Officer, Rev. Dan McCown; Sermon, Rev. Carl Wilson; Charge to the Minister, Rev. Eric McQuitty; Charge to the Congregation Elder A. H. Burton; Prayer, Elder Jack Treloar, Raymond, Miss.

The next stated meeting of the Presbytery was set for January 29th, 1974 at the Oaklawn Presbyterian Church in Houston, the meeting to be called to order at 12:00 Noon.

The meeting was closed with prayer by Rev. Eric McQuitty.                                       ­­­­­­­­­

Dan H. McCown, Moderator

A. H. Burton, Clerk

Where are they now?
The Rev. James H. (Jimmy) Stewart was for many years a missionary in Taiwan and Hong Kong, then associate pastor of First Presbyterian Church, Jackson, MS, and now works with Evangelism Explosion.

Many of the above mentioned men have now passed on to glory. They include:
Rev. John Knox Bowling [1904-1983]
Rev. Dan McCown [1924–1979]
Rev. Eric McQuitty [1930-2009]
Rev. Lardner Moore [1922-1987]

And the churches?

Fifth Street Presbyterian Church, Tyler, TX was organized in 1954.
Oaklawn Presbyterian Church, Houston, TX was organized in 1917.
First Presbyterian Church, Paris, TX, identified in the above minutes, was unable to retain its property and identity as First Presbyterian, so the congregation joining the PCA officially became Faith Presbyterian Church and is recognized as having been organized in 1973.

But look at what has happened in the years since, and how God has blessed:
When the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) began, just a small handful of churches left the mother church to form the new Texas Presbytery.
There are now 92 PCA churches in the State of Texas. Of these
14 are in Houston Metro Presbytery
16 are in Korean Southern Presbytery
1 are in Korean Southwest Presbytery
38 are in North Texas Presbytery
21 are in South Texas Presbytery, and
2 are in Southwest Presbytery

Words to Live By:
Clearly the Lord has blessed as His Word has been faithfully proclaimed.

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Time to Move for a New Church

The evidence was already in, in fact, it was well in.  All of the efforts of the conservatives in the Southern Presbyterian Church (Presbyterian Church U.S.) had failed to stop the tide of liberalism in that once great church.  So after the last General Assembly in 1971, something had to be done.

Gathering together in Atlanta, Georgia, on July 15, 1971, a group of conservative Presbyterians met to discuss the situation.  Realizing that some key elders were not present, they met two weeks later on July 30th at the Airport Hilton in Atlanta, Georgia. This was a meeting which was filled with talk to the heavenly Father as well as to those of like precious faith. They met all together and then in small groups.

By the morning of the next day, some statements were presented to the group.  They were as follows:  “A plan for the continuation of a Presbyterian Church loyal to Scripture and the Reformed faith: 1. To create a climate of opinion favorable to the continuation of conservative presbyteries and churches loyal to Scripture and the Reformed Faith, by promoting as strong an image as possible of such loyalty through actions taken by synods, presbyteries, and congregations. 2. To identify presbyteries and congregations willing to take such a stand.  And 3. To accept the inevitability of division in the PCUS and to move now toward a continuing body of congregations and presbyteries loyal to Scripture and the Westminster Standards.

This intent was breathed in prayer in, in the discussion towards it, and breathed out in prayer at the conclusion of it.  Men who had been through the battle to return the PCUS to the faith of the fathers wept at the very prospect of the future.  And when the vote came in favor of the three points, there were no high fives, or shouts of victory, but rather silence, as one of the men there said, a heavy silence of profound sadness.  They were not merely leaving the southern church.  The southern church had left them and their ordained convictions for a mess of liberal pottage, as Cain had done much earlier in his life.

A timetable was then worked out followed by the organization of a Steering Committee.  The plans were set in motion for a Continuing Church, which in time was named the Presbyterian Church in America.

Words to Live By: 
Thank God for men and women with a firm conviction of the historic Christian faith.  Praise God for Christian leaders who refused to compromise the truth of the gospel for a mixture of theological error.  We need men and women like these in every age, for the Christian church to march on and be the appointed means to bring the gospel to every creature.  Be a part of your local church if it is holding faithfully to the faith once delivered unto the saints.

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Rights of Particular Churches in Relation to the Denomination and its Courts.

This day, October 30, marks the anniversary of the organizational meeting of the Mid-Atlantic Presbytery (PCA). As you will remember, the denomination itself did not meet in General Assembly until December 4-7 of 1973. However, several Presbyteries were formed in advance of the official founding of the denomination. The first of these, as evidenced by its name, was the Vanguard Presbytery, organized on September 7, 1972. The churches comprising Vanguard Presbytery eventually merged into other Presbyteries and Vanguard was dissolved in March of 1977. In addition to Vanguard, there were another thirteen Presbyteries organized in advance of the official founding of the PCA. Mid-Atlantic Presbytery was the last to organize prior to the First General Assembly

1.    Warrior – 13 February 1973
2.    Gulf Coast – 10 April 1973
3.    Westminster – 10 April 1973
4.    Central Georgia – 30 May 1973
5.    North Georgia – 2 June 1973 [dissolved by division and continued by Metro Atlanta Presbytery]
6.    Southern Florida – 4 Jun3 1973
7.    Covenant – 18 June 1973
8.    Calvary – 1 July 1973
9.    Grace – 17 July 1973
10.  Mississippi Valley – 19 July 1973
11.  Texas – 31 July 1973 – [dissolved by division and continued by North Texas Presbytery]
12.  Evangel – 5 August 1973
13.  Mid-Atlantic – 30 October 1973 – [dissolved by division and continued by James River Presbytery]

As these Presbyteries and their churches organized, they met as Presbyteries of “The Continuing Presbyterian Church,” that being the working name of the new denomination prior to its official organization. What follows are a few highlights from the Minutes of the organizational meeting of the Mid-Atlantic Presbytery:—

WHEREAS, we, the undersigned, are agreed that the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are the Word of God, the only infallible rule of faith and practice; and,

WHEREAS, we are agreed that the Westminster Confession of Faith (in the edition published in 1973 by the Steering Committee for a Continuing Presbyterian Church) and the Westminster Larger and Shorter Catechisms set forth the system of doctrine taught in the Holy Scriptures; and

WHEREAS, we are agreed that the mission of the Church has been given her by the Lord Jesus Christ, the Head of the Church, and is to make disciples of all nations and to teach them all things whatsoever He has commanded; and,

WHEREAS, The Book of Church Order (in the revised 1933 edition published in 1973 by the Steering Committee for a Continuing Presbyterian Church) sets forth a reasonable and practical formulary for church organization (although we do not regard the quota of three ministers necessary for a quorum of presbytery to be in effect until there are at least four minister members of our presbytery); and,

WHEREAS, the appended statement “Rights of Particular Churches in Relation to the Denomination and Its Courts” is adopted by us as setting forth priniciples of Presbyterian government essential to our agreement, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED,

1.    That we, the undersigned, to covenant together to form an association to be known as Mid-Atlantic Presbytery; and,
2.    That this association shall have as its purpose to perpetuate the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ as it is proclaimed in the Scriptures and declared in the Westminster standards; and,
3.    That we, the undersigned, met in Hopewell, Virginia at 11:00 A.M. on October 30, 1973.

mid-atlantic_1973

Rights of Particular Churches in Relation to the Denomination and its Courts.
a. The corporation of a particular church, through its duly elected trustees or corporation officers, (or, if unincorporated, through those who are entitled to represent the particular church in matters related to real property) shall have sold title to its real property, and shall be sole owner of any equity it may have in any real estate. No superior court, as such, shall have any claim whatsoever upon any real property or any equity in any real estate, or any fund or property of any kind by or belonging to any particular church, or any board, society, committee, Sunday School, class or branch thereof. The superior courts of the church may receive monies or properties from a local church only by free and voluntary action of the latter.

b. All particular churches shall be entitled to hold, own, and enjoy their own local properties, without any right of revision whatsoever to any presbytery, synod, or any other courts hereafter created, its trustees or other— officers.

c. The provisions of this chapter are to be construed as a solemn covenant whereby the Church as a whole promises never to attempt to secure possession of the property of any congregation against its will, whether or not such congregation remains within or chooses to withdraw from its body. All officers and courts of the Church are hereby prohibited from making any such attempt. The intent of the provisions of this section are unamendable and irrevocable.

d. Particular churches need remain in association with Presbytery, synod, or any other courts hereafter created, only so long as they themselves so desire. The relationship is voluntary, based only upon mutual love and confidence, and is in no sense to be maintained by the exercise of any kind of force or coercion whatsoever. A particular church may withdraw from its presbytery, synod, or any other court hereafter created, at any time for reasons which seem to it sufficient, by orderly ballot at a legal meeting of its congregation or corporation. A simple majority of those present and voting shall decide the issue.
———

With some further changes, the principles of the above text was subsequently incorporated into the Book of Church Order of the Presbyterian Church in America, as part of BCO Chapter 25.

A Question to Ponder:
While the above provision is a wise one, can you offer a Scriptural defense for this provision? (I’m seeking wiser minds here)

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