Evangelical Presbyterian Church

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In 1965 the 142nd General Synod of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America, General Synod, convened at Covenant College, Lookout Mountain, Tennessee, on April 2.  On the same date and place the 29th General Synod of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church was convened.  Each of these synods carried on their work until April 6 when the two denominations were united to become the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod.  The uniting service was held at 10:00 a.m. on Tuesday, April 6, 1965, and this service was followed by sessions of the 143rd General Synod of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod.  The business of the united synods was concluded on April 8, 1965.

Paul Woolley, long-time professor of church history at the Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, wrote in his foreword to The History Behind the RPCES, 

FOREWORD Three of the liveliest of the smaller Presbyterian Churches in the United States are the children of the action of the General Council of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. in determining to demand in the fall of 1933 that the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions be dissolved. Presumably the General Council foresaw that the demand would not be honored. Probably, therefore, it expected to be the father, as it were, of at least one new Presbyterian Church. Whether it counted on triplets is dubious. Its technology was probably not that far advanced.

Population control was not a watchword in the early thirties but it has always seemed odd behavior to find the General Council crying loudly for ecumenicity and at the same time requiring the formation of at least one new Presbyterian Church and, in the event, three: the Bible Presbyterian Church, the Evangelical Presbyterian Church (now a part of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod), and the Orthodox Presbyterian Church.

This is but one indication of the fact that large Churches are generally much more closely oriented to money and power than Jesus was. It raises the question of whether an increase in the size of a Church is always a blessing. The people who are running things become tremendously interested in their authority and in the means by which they can realize their dreams. Some large corporations have found it advisable to have their divisions compete. Buick and Oldsmobile are each not entirely averse to capturing sales from the other

From Twenty Nine Years of Age to One Hundred and Forty Three Years of Age

A new church was born on this date, April 6, 1965, at ten o’clock in the morning.  Actually, it was not a new church but simply the merging of two historic Presbyterian bodies dating back to the formation of our country.  The Evangelical Presbyterian Church had come out of the stream of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America.  The Reformed Presbyterian Church, General Synod had come out of the Scottish Covenanter  heritage.  Both churches had been courting each other from 1957 to 1964 with continual contact.

Each denomination held dearly to the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, as being the inspired Word of God, without error in whole and part, the only infallible rule of faith and practice.  Each church body held to the subordinate standards of the Westminster Assembly as being a summary of the teaching of the Old and New Testaments.  They proclaimed the good news of salvation to a lost world as the only  hope of reconciliation with the holy God.  The fundamentals of historic Christianity, being only Scripture, only Christ, only grace, only faith, and only to the glory of God, were part and parcel of their belief structure.

Each church had been weathered by internal divisions in their past history.   In the case of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, they had the experience of coming out of the apostasy of the mainline Presbyterian church in the mid 1930’s, where a stand for the fundamentals of the faith translated out to being deposed by the modernists who had gained control of the church.  Then in 1938 and 1956, further issues over eschatology and Christian liberty as well as independent agencies verses synod control agencies, truth in Christian living, and questions about separation from brethren, brought into existence the Evangelical Presbyterian Church in 1961.

In the case of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, General Synod, the issue in 1833 was the relationship of the church to the civil government.  They had no problem supporting the Declaration of Independence in 1776, but the Constitution a dozen or so years later was another matter.  Should its members vote, for example, in a country which did not recognize itself as a Christian nation?  Should they serve on juries, with oaths involved? Should they serve in the armed forces?  Should exclusive psalmody be the standard of  worship services?  All these were questions which were asked, debated, and voted upon by the church.

When the two bodies met concurrently in 1965 at Covenant College, the issues had been faced squarely by godly men for eight years.  Both churches voted to merge with each other, and combining their names into  the Reformed Presbyterian Church Evangelical Synod.  What has been a church of twenty-nine years became a church of one hundred and forty-three years years of age after one meeting!

Words to Live By:  The Psalmist David proclaimed words of wisdom for all church bodies and Christians when  he wrote “BEHOLD, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!” (KJV – Psalm 143:1)

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What’s in a Name?

Solomon wrote once that “a good name is to be chosen rather than great riches.”  (Proverbs 22:1a ESV)  And while this text speaks of one’s personal name, it could also have an application to the name of a denomination.  What’s in a name, after all?  That question was the issue in February, 1939 when the Presbyterian Church of America had to be renamed, just two and one half years after taking it up in 1936.

The Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. had taken the young denomination to court over the issue of its chosen name.  That whole scene will be dealt with in a future historical devotional on April 28.  When the PCUSA won the court case, the General Assembly of the PCofA decided not to contest the lower court decision.   Calling a special meeting in the month of February, the question was simple.  What do we call ourselves now?

Many names were suggested by the teaching and ruling elders.  Some of them were: Evangelical Presbyterian Church, Presbyterian and Reformed Church  of America, North America Presbyterian Church, Presbyterian Church of Christ, Protestant Presbyterian Church of America, Seceding Presbyterian Church  of America, and this contributor’s favorite, Free Presbyterian Church of the World!  Oh yes, one other name was also suggested.  It was the Orthodox Presbyterian Church.

In the end, on this day, February 9, 1939, the name of Orthodox Presbyterian Church won over “Evangelical Presbyterian Church” by a close margin, but a winning margin. Certainly, each of the above suggested names meant something to the proponents of them, or they wouldn’t have been suggested in the first place.  The choosing of the winning name spoke volumes about the orthodox or straight, right, and true convictions which led the men and women out of the apostate Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. in the first place.  Biblical orthodoxy would be the hallmark of the continuing church, as it had been back in 1936.

The managing editor of the Presbyterian Guardian, Thomas R. Birch, said that year of 1939 in his editorial,

“You whose privilege it is to bear that name (e.g. Orthodox Presbyterian Church), bear it proudly, gladly, holding its banner high.  It is a true and a great name, a name to exult in and a name to make you humble.  It tells the world exactly what you are and where you stand in the present death-struggle between the forces of faith and the battalions of unbelief.  It proclaims to the world that here is a Presbyterian church that takes its confession of faith seriously.  At the very outset it is a name with a meaning.”

The OPC is not alone in having to find a new name. The name originally chosen in 1973 for what was to become the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) was the “National Presbyterian Church,” but seeking to avoid a conflict with the Washington, D.C. congregation of the same name, we wisely chose another name in 1974 and so came to be the PCA.

Words to Live By: Biblical orthodoxy is, sadly, in ruins in some Presbyterian denominations and churches.  Let it not be in the specific church with which you are associated as a member or a minister.  Stand for the truth of the gospel, believing Martin Luther’s words to be true, “Let goods and kindred go, This mortal life also; The body they may kill: God’s truth abideth still, His kingdom is forever.”

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On June 6 of this year, our post featured a look at the life and ministry of the Rev. Richard W. Gray, architect of the 1965 union of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, General Synod [1833-1965] and the Evangelical Presbyterian Church [1961-1965]. On the occasion of that union in 1965, Dr. Gray delivered the following sermon, titled:—

WHERE HAVE WE BEEN AND WHERE ARE WE GOING?

grayRichardWIn 1936 I was a senior in Westminster Seminary about to launch upon a cause which, to me and many others, showed great promise. I had become acquainted with this cause at Wheaton College where, with Dr. Buswell as president, I learned something of the conflict and of the gathering storms in the Presbyterian Church in the USA. It was there I was introduced to the works of Machen and I heard him speak for the first time, and came to know some of the men of this assembly.

During my first two years of seminary there was the upheaval at Westminster when the policy of “no compromise” caused the resignation of the president of the board, Dr. Clarence McCartney, and of one of the original faculty members, Dr. O.T. Allis. It was while I was in seminary that I went with a number of students and sat in the lovely, colonial, historic sanctuary of the First Presbyterian Church of Trenton. On the platform were five or six men comprising the Judicial Commission of the Presbytery of New Jersey. I heard them read out five or six indictments against J. Gresham Machen and I saw him humbly but firmly, stand and plead on each one “not guilty.” Then I saw this trial of justice become a fiasco when they refused to permit doctrinal consideration and said the only issue at stake was whether or not Dr. Machen belonged to the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions.

In 1936 I was preaching for one of the commissioners to the Syracuse Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the USA when Dr. Machen, Dr. Buswell, Dr. Laird and others were having their cases reviewed by that Assembly, sitting as a judicial court. It upheld the convictions of these lower courts—in effect, defrocking these men, or at least removing them from the rolls of the Presbyterian Church in the USA.

Then, I sat on that day in June in the New Century Club in Philadelphia with a group of people known as the Presbyterian Constitutional Covenant Union. There the constituting act for the Presbyterian Church of America was adopted. There stepped to the platform the young professor of philosophy from the University of Pennsylvania, Gordon H. Clark, and in “Clarkian” style he took from his pocket two 8 1/2 x 11 pages and delivered a terse but brilliant nominating speech which made J. Gresham Machen moderator of the First General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of America.

It was like standing upon a tower. There was a great vista before us. I felt as though I was a part of church history and in my bones were some of the great convictions of the Reformers and of the early Christians. But within one year I was to know something of the disillusionment and the discouragement that causes the Psalmist to cry out in the first three verses of Psalm 60. This initial group split and each side tagged the other with labels which it has taken about 25 years to wash off.

We went, some of us, to our local churches, working in store-fronts and in houses against the great odds which were now upon us, being labelled with every kind of name. In the course of two decades each of these groups broke again and we became known all over the country as “splinterers.”

“O God, thou hast cast us off.” I do not think I cried this out literally, but I am sure these were my feelings.

We had felt that the hand of God was on that movement when the Presbyterian Constitutional Covenant Union became the Presbyterian Church of America and Dr. Machen became its first Moderator. But now we felt like crying out: “O God, thou hast cast us off; thou hast scattered us, thou hast been displeased. Thou hast made the earth to tremble; thou hast broken it; heal the branches thereof; for it shaketh. Thou hast showed thy people hard things; thou hast made us to drink the wine of astonishment.”

Discouragement? Well, some of you may never known such discouragement as was experienced then. Vaguely there was still the sense of calling which is described in the next two verses, the calling and the prayer. “Thou hast given a banner to them that fear thee, that it may be displayed in the cause of truth. That thy beloved may be delivered; save with thy right hand, and hear me.” It was not much more than a gasp. Where was the banner with which we began?

Now a banner is a standard raised in warfare. We believed in 1936 that we belonged to the Church Militant. I want to say that we still belong to the Church Militant. The Lord Jesus Christ is not carrying on His work on this earth with tin soldiers. It is a life-and-death struggle.

I believe we are still in the warfare and we still have the same banner. The banner raised in the cause of truth was raised for the turth against compromise in ecclesiastical matters. We were standing for the purity of the visible church. We felt that the organized church had been instituted by our Lord Jesus Christ and it was not simply an association of convenience, or an organization that one joined because he wanted to get ahead, or even merely to give one the opportunity of preaching the gospel.

Also the banner of truth was raised against compromise culturally. We believed that Christianity was not only a fire escape from hell, so to speak, but it was a life-and-world view. We still believe this. We held this against the encroaching secularism of the day, against the deadening formalism of the church, and against the contaminating worldliness with which the church had become tainted.

Further, the banner of truth was raised against the compromise doctrinally. Many of us had come out of fundamentalism which united on five brief doctrines. We thanked God for that fundamentalism which stood in the gap and really brought us to a knowledge of Jesus Christ as our Lord and Saviour. But when we were introduced to the Westminster Standards, those documents which set forth the system of truth taught in the Word of God, we found something that satisfied our souls in depth. We felt that that also was a part of the standard and it was our calling to hold and raise this standard that God had given us—a banner for the cause of truth against compromise ecclesiastically, against compromise culturally, and against compromise doctrinally.

But you can well imagine that we did not exactly carry that banner with heads up. We were kind of disheveled looking after the reverses and the discouragements of 1937 and of the next decade. We would wait for the strange-looking stare that usually came and we wondered whether God had cast us off.

But then the encouragements began to come. As the Psalmist said, “God hath spoken in his holiness; I will rejoice.” I remember about ten years ago in the midst of some of these discouragements trying to convince myself that I could take a pulpit in the United Presbyterian Church about a year or two before the union with the Presbyterian Church USA, was to be consummated. It was a large pulpit and a rather influential one. I did my best to convince myself that I could take this. But somehow or other I could not quite give up on the calling that I felt God had given to me to raise this banner and to display it in the cause of truth.

I was still convinced, as I am sure many of you were, even though I did not feel it, that God had spoken in His Holiness and I clung to the promises by performances. Some encouragements began to appear. When I had a pastorate in southern Jersey just across the river from Wilmington I became acquainted with some of the brethren from whom I had been separated for ten or fifteen years. We began to work together on The Witness and the National Missions Reporter, which later became the Evangelical Presbyterian Reporter with basically the format of The Witness. That was an encouragement in the right direction.

Then the Columbus Synod occurred, and what was to be known as the Evangelical Presbyterian Church took form. Several men of that Synod went to Houston, Kentucky, to a little group known as The Reformed Presbyterian Church in North America. They said, “You know, we believe the same things you do. Cannot we get together?” I was not part of it then. They, too, had had their discouragements. Their difficulties had come before, and I think none of the older Reformed Presbyterian men would deny that discouragement had set in.

So now channels began to open. The next year some of us who had no ecclesiastical home and who had become somewhat discouraged and disillusioned, went to Coulterville, where we observed the Evangelical Presbyterian and Reformed Presbyterian Churches discussing union. It was only a year later that we were a part of the Reformed Presbyterian Church. And now, praise God, we are a part of the united church.

Although during the last five years there have been many dark days as far as this union is concerned, during the preceding 25 years there were even darker days, God gave His encouragement, we kept working and praying, and here we are.

I feel today the way I felt in 1936, when I thought I was about to launch upon a crusade with great promise. Before us at this synod there stretches the vista of large opportunity. It is the feeling one gets as he looks from the tower of Covenant College across vistas that include seven states.

But as we look out over this beautiful territory, we also see an enemy ensconced in his fortified city and we ask, “Who will bring me into the strong city, who will lead me into Edom?” You know, I think we can look at the strong city of Presbyterianism with the powerful enemy within its borders, and we can do so with a certain confident expectation regarding the future. A few weeks ago I received a phone call from a prominent conservative layman in the Presbyterian Church of the USA. He said, “I suppose you’ve seen the write-up in Time magazine about the change in the Creed. Last July I was in Princeton and I heard Dr. Dowey say the Westminster Confession of Faith was the death of theology.”

Then he made this statement to me: “You know 20 years ago they said to us that the conservative strategy should be one of co-existence and cooperation, but where has it gotten us?” I agreed that that would have been a great strategy if the hierarchy had “bought” it. The devil may allow the conservatives to win some tactical victories but certainly no strategic victories. He is certainly not surrendering the source of ministerial supply to any conservatives in that church or any other church if he can help it. Then he continued: “If you can do anything to arouse the conservatives in our denomination to reconsider this question I wish you would do it.”

In preparation for this Synod I wrote several men asking them to assess the situation in Presbyterianism today. A friend of mine who was a part of this movement in 1936 and now has one of the large Presbyterian pulpits in this country wrote. Listen to his note of discouragement. “Blake and Company are riding two horses. They speak of union with others, Episcopal, United Church, and so forth, but at the same time the unforgiveable sin is to buck the machine and not to be 100 percent Presbyterian. 100 percent Presbyterian means to give your all to the denominational program prepared by the professionals. At the same time they are making it easier for anyone to come under the flag of Presbyterianism by offering us a variety of creeds and statements. So you pay your money and take your choice. We can offer anybody anything in the way of a creed in our church. . .”

“The Presbyterian Church, North, is run by professionals who can make us poor preachers look silly when it comes to maneuvering. Note how they so slickly turned Pittsburgh Seminary from the one source of conservative-producing ministers to one of the most scholarly, radical institutions we have. Princeton is by far more conservative than Pittsburgh. They just faked us right out of our buildings.”

He is just utterly discouraged. He says, “I must admit I have not any positive thoughts about your united denomination. I can only point out the weaknesses of the situation in which I find myself, and hope they can be avoided.”

One of the leaders of the Southern Presbyterian Church wrote, “My statement to you uniting men would go along these lines. American Presbyterianism is in a state of sharp decline. The optimism of the late ’30’s over the revival of doctrinal consciousness due to the neo-orthodox movement has proved unfounded, for the rejection of Biblical infallibility by the Barthian group has had the inevitable effect of further unsettling the theological picture.

“The toboggan can be clearly seen in the north. It is not yet in evidence in the south, but a drift of increasing proportions may be easily detected. Conservatives in the southern church at this time are fighting only a holding action. They have the Presbyterian Journal as their rallying point and in this they are truly fortunate, but they lack a consistently conservative seminary which is a major and most lamentable weakness. They should be able to stave off efforts to effect union with the UP-USA body, for the constitutional requirement that mergers must receive an affirmative vote of 3/4ths of the Presbyteries is still adequate safeguard.

“There is a great need on the American scene for a sturdy, conservative Presbyterian denomination. The union of the EPC and the RPC is an important step in achieving this. If next the OPC can be brought to join forces, a truly impressive denomination would resutl. Numerically they would form a pretty good network of churches across the country. Separatist movements usually carry in themselves the seeds of further division as shown again in the days of 1936. The new denomination has learned these lessons it may be hoped.

“If the OPC should come along, too, there would be adequate number of experienced men with balanced judgment to keep the denomination on a sound course, one to encourage steady growth by local progress in attracting to the new church our Presbyterian groups seeking a happy spiritual home.

“To assist” (and I think this is a very important paragraph) “this last suggested development to occur the new denomination should follow a statesman-like policy toward the USA and the Southern church. They might well feel that their role in the south should be to testify without derogating. Criticisms that have to be made in faithfulness to Scripture could be offered in an evident spirit of loving concern, in sorrow not condemnation. It might be indicated that the line of separation that sometimes has to be drawn is often very difficult to decide upon, one man’s conscience not having received the same education as another’s, and Biblical interpretation on the issue of separation not standing out sharply and obviously clearly.”

So you see from these statements. and I think they are typical of the feelings of conservatives in the north and the south, that they are looking at us with somewhat envious eyes, and we must conduct ourselves with proper demeanor. If we ask humbly: “Who will bring me into the strong city? Who will lead me into Edom?” we will be able to reply: “Wilt not thou, O God, which hadst cast us off? and thou, O God, which didst not go out with our armies? Give us help from trouble, for vain is the help of man. Through God we shall gather strength: for he it is that shall tread down our enemies.”

I wonder what it was for which we were not prepared in 1936 that in the providence of God we may be prepared for in 1965 in order to seize the very same opportunity? I think we ought to ponder this question. One thing is that we must rely more upon the sovereign God. This reliance would cause us to carry on the battle in a different manner.

As one of the brethren of this Synod wrote me, “We should avoid the way in which we used to set forth the negative.” I was tremendously impressed by a statement in Phillips’ Your God Is Too Small in which he said that if you set forth the positive clearly and firmly and with conviction, the negative will automatically be there. But we must also exercise our responsibility, and whenever you hold to the Sovereignty of God, you are bound to hold to human responsibility.

If we are relying upon the sovereign God in prayer, then we are raising the banner in the great battle for the truth and exercising our responsibility. And I repeat that on this banner are these three distinctives: We must display the banner of truth against compromise ecclesiastically—standing for the purity of the visible church and yet paradoxically holding equally strongly to the communion of the saints which is fellowship with all believers, personally, individually, regardless of the organization ecclesiastically in which they find themselves.

We must display the banner of truth against compromise culturally, holding to the Christian life and world view, clinging tenaciously to the antithesis, while at the same time paradoxically utilizing Common Grace.

We must hold fast in our displaying of the banner of truth over against doctrinal compromise and I think this is our greatest need. Some of you other men feel the same, that we must cling to the system of truth set forth in the Westminster Standards. We are thanking God for the fundamentalism that brought us to Christ, but we are Presbyterians and we must hold to this system of truth which we believe is truly Scriptural and satisfying. It meets the enemy on many fronts.

At the same time we recognize that this system of truth has something in common with every other Christian system of truth as long as it holds to the infallibility of Holy Scripture and the supernatural doctrines of the Apostles’ Creed. We are Presbyterians in the providence of God and also by conviction. We must not be ashamed of this and if Infant Baptism is the only reason we are Presbyterians we are holding to Presbyterianism for a meager reason. The stronger reasons for being Presbyterian are for the teaching concerning the great doctrines of grace summarized in the five points of Calvinism, and the doctrine of the Covenant of Grace, as well as the Presbyterian form of government.

Who will bring me into the strong city? Who will lead me into Edom the camp of the enemy? Wilt not thou, O God, which hadst cast us off, and thou, O God, which didst not go out with our armies? Give us help from trouble; for vain is the help of man. Through God we shall gather strength; for He is is that shall tread down our enemies.”

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This Day in Presbyterian History:

What a Novel Idea!

This contributor has been involved in several church plants himself as well as participating in Presbytery church planting efforts in the Presbyterian Church in America.  So when a mission church, or for that matter, an organized church begins anew in a new building, there can be no better beginning service than that of a prayer meeting.   And yet that is exactly what happened in West Chester, Pennsylvania on August 29, 1956.  Moving into a new structure for their smaller congregation, the first service was a prayer meeting.

And to be sure, united prayer before the Sovereign God was needed for that Pennsylvania congregation. For that very same year, the national denomination of the Bible Presbyterian Church had a sizeable schism which could very easily have weakened what God’s Spirit  had already been accomplished in this city and church.  But God was faithful in giving wisdom to the congregation, enabling them to stay independent of the whole issue for a while.

The church had begun in 1938 as a core group of faithful and committed Christians left the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A. over the apostasy in that once great church.  Beginning with just a nucleus of Christians, they were able to begin a church role of thirteen members, with help from pulpit supplies from Faith Theological Seminary.  They began as the Independent Church of West Chester.  One year later, they affiliated with the Bible Presbyterian Church.  Faithful pastors proclaimed the whole counsel of God and the church grew.  Evangelistic outreach was begun in the town, and people began to respond to the gospel.

Eventually, they affiliated with the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, which became the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod. Since 1982, they became a congregation of the Presbyterian Church in America.

Their allegiance to the Bible as God’s Word, inspired, inerrant, and infallible, remains the same since they began as a local church of Jesus Christ.

Words to live by:  There is a slogan which American business have often used, sometimes even painted  on the shell of a building, which said, “Build it, and they will come.”  That probably isn’t always the case, so it is more of a hope than anything else.  But in the framework of God’s church,  with the faithful proclamation of the Scriptures, the everlasting gospel, coupled with the sovereign God,  it is true, as this local church in West Chester Pennsylvania has experienced in the almost 75 years of its witness.  Praise  God for faithful churches, true to the faith once delivered unto the saints.

Through the Scriptures:  1 Chronicles 24 – 26

Through the Standards: Lawful and unlawful subjects of prayer    

WLC 184 — “For what things are we to pray?
A.   We are to pray for all things tending to the glory of God, the welfare of the church, our own or others, good; but not for anything that is unlawful.”

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This Day in Presbyterian History:

Transitional Presbytery Organized 

Someone came up with the bright idea for sure.  Why not set up a transitional presbytery for conservative Presbyterian churches who are in the process of leaving the liberal Presbyterian Church in the United States of America to join temporarily, until they decide property issues and denominational choice?

And so it was on June 20, 2007, in response to a suggestion by the conservative churches in the Wineskin organization itself, that the Evangelical Presbyterian Church (EPC) voted overwhelmingly at their General Assembly to set up a New Wineskin Transitional Presbytery, to aid the varying time schedules of those churches in the PCUSA in joining it.

This new non-geographical transition presbytery was to have a five-year history to it, designed to come to a close on July 1, 2012.  At that time, all the churches in it were to make decisions about  joining the EPC, or have the opportunity to decide otherwise.  While the time has now been extended to December 31, 2013, in the light of the 2011 decision by the PCUSA General Assembly and presbyteries  to allow homosexual clergy into  church ministry, this methodology has brought many new congregations into the Evangelical Presbyterian Church.  From July 2010 to May 2011, twenty-six former Presbyterian Church in the USA were received into the Evangelical Presbyterian Church.  And that number is expected to grow.

Understandably, the UPUSA, seeing many of their congregations depart to the EPC, brought accusation of what amounted to “sheep-stealing” against the EPC.  But the latter rebutted their charges that they are only responding to legitimate requests for church fellowship from interested churches.  No evidence was ever brought forward to justify the charges of the UPUSA.

The Evangelical Presbyterian Church, which began in 1981, continues to grow numerically from all these joining churches.  And the Transitional Presbytery organized back in 2007 was a way for departing churches to “catch their spiritual breadth,” and fully access the mutual expectations, before committing to a momentous move of affiliation.  It was a brilliant idea.

Words to Live By:  It was Solomon who first observed in Proverbs 15:22 that “Without consultation, plans are frustrated, But with many counselors they succeed.” (NAS)   In times like these, especially in the church world, the consultation of other presbyters or elders, teaching and ruling, bring plans to fruition instead of frustration.  Don’t be afraid to contact your Session or Presbytery for help in times of need.

Through the Scriptures: 1 Kings 17 – 19

Through the Standards: Uses of moral law agree with the gospel

WCF 19:7
“Neither are the forementioned uses of the law contrary to the grace of the Gospel, but do sweetly comply with it; the Spirit of Christ subduing and enabling the will of man to do that freely, and cheerfully, which the will of God, revealed in the law, requires to be done.”

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This Day in Presbyterian History:

Two Churches Merge into One Church

On April 12, 2009, two Presbyterian churches became one in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.  One of the two was the historic Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church, which had been meeting and ministering in and to that area for sixty years under the dynamic leadership of Dr. D. James Kennedy.  The other was no small congregation, but a newer one, to be sure, which had as their meeting place a theater under the ministerial leadership of the Rev. Tullian Tchividjian, a grandson of evangelist Billy Graham.  One church belonged to the Presbyterian Church in America.  The other church was connected with the Evangelical Presbyterian Church.  One church was set in the traditional worship style, with a second service being contemporary in style of worship.  The other church was set in the contemporary style of worship.

Both of them had to vote in the affirmative for this union to take place.  And they did vote that way.  The second church  by their affirmative, voted to leave the Evangelical Presbyterian Church and join the Presbyterian Church in America.   After the vote to merge, the call then went to Tullian Tchividjian to become the senior pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church.  He was installed on May 10, 2009.

Rev. Tchividjian is a testament to God’s sovereign and saving grace himself.  Despite being the grandson of the most famous evangelist in twentieth century America, he grew up a rebel.  Thrown out of his home and dropping out of high school when he was sixteen, he, by his own admission, gave himself over to a life of debauchery.  Five years in the drug culture of South Florida, he  began to see that there was more to life than the one he was living.  When the woman who later became his wife began to show an interest in spiritual things, he began to see the change in  his own life as well.  As he put it in the World Magazine July 16, 2011 issue, “the things I used to hate I started to love, and the things I used to love I started to hate.”  Returning to the education field, he received a degree in philosophy from college, and went to Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, Florida.  Graduating from there, he went into the Lord’s work, planting a new church a few miles north of Coral Ridge Presbyterian.  It was this church which merged into the Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church.

Words to Live By:  God sovereign grace never lets go of His elect, even when we try to leave the God of the Bible behind in our rush to get what the world has to offer.  The sooner we realize that truth, the better off we will be in  our lives.

Through the Scriptures: Psalms 4 – 6

Through the Standards:  Proof texts of Free Will:

Deuteronomy 30:19

“I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse.  So choose live in order that you may live, you and your descendants.” (NASV)

Ecclesiastes 7:29

“Behold, I have found only this, that God made men upright, but they have sought out many devices.” (NASV)

Ephesians 2:1 – 3

“And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience.  Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.”  (NASV)

 Colossians 1:13

 “For He delivered us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son.” (NASV)

1 John 3:2

“Beloved, now we are the children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we shall be.  We know that, if He should appear, we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him just as He is.” (NASV)

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