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A Personal Revival Needed

Rev. Dr. Daniel Baker [17 August 1791 - 10 December 1857]Every Christian worker should have an experience like that of Daniel Baker.

In the thirty-ninth year of his life and ministry, the twelfth year of his pastoral ministry, he felt a dryness in his soul, which was evidenced by a lack of fruitfulness in his ministry.

So he went not to the philosophers of his day, nor to the Christian counselors, nor to any self-help guru, but rather to God Himself.  Going into the woods on August 10, 1830 near his house in Savannah, Georgia, he came to a cemetery. Entering it, finding a tree near a brick tomb, he began to cry to God for revival.

Returning to his congregation, he held a congregational prayer meeting in which he requested  the members of that church to write notes for whom prayer might be especially desirable.  Forty-six notes were returned to him, all of them desiring the regeneration either of themselves or others of their families.  Dr. Baker added a note that  he might be given a love for the souls of lost men and women, with the result that there be a successful ministry in his labors for Christ.

Following up this spiritual exercise were a series of meetings, sometimes upwards to three sermons per day being preached.  The outpouring of God’s regenerating Spirit  was such that 250 individuals professed Christ as Savior and were led into God’s kingdom.  In addition, the work of grace went through the entire city of Savannah, Georgia.

That work of grace continued in other parts of Georgia, as revival swept the whole coastlands of the state. Multitudes of people came into the kingdom.  Eight of the converts became ministers of the gospel.   Dr. Baker went into full-time evangelistic work.  It would be noted that in the two years after this event, some 2500 people acknowledged Christ as Lord and Savior.

Words to live by:  It all started with a personal day of reflection and prayer.  Think about it a moment.  Could not all of us need such a day as this?  Oh, we need not find a lonely cemetery in the country, but rather some place where we would not be interrupted and could commune with the Lord God of heaven and earth.  Look at your life.  Are you satisfied that you are  having the kind of spiritual influence on your family, church, work, and society that you could be  having?  If that answer is in the negative, why not plan such a day right now, set it aside, and pray for a personal revival in your soul.

 

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[excerpted from The St. Louis Presbyterian, 31.27 (10 September 1896): 435.]

strickler_GB            Dr. Strickler was born at Strickler’s Springs, Rockbridge County, Virginia, April 25, 1840. On his father’s side he was of German descent; his great-grandfather being a Lutheran minister. On his mother’s side, (her name was Mary Brown) he belongs to that sturdy, earnest race, the Scots-Irish, who at an early date settled in the Valley of Virginia, and gave that favored land its strong leaning towards Presbyterian doctrine and polity. He was taught in the schools of the County, and at the outbreak of the Civil war was in Washington College in Lexington, Virginia. He entered the Southern Army with the College Company, who called themselves the “Liberty Hall Volunteers,” and this was a part of the 41st Virginia Regiment, and this regiment was a part of the famous “Stonewall Brigade,” receiving this name from its first commander Stonewall Jackson. The brigade was in nearly all the battles in which its famed commander took part, and always behaved with conspicuous courage and gallantry. The young soldier soon became the Captain of his company, by his gallant bearing, and popular manners. Twice was he wounded, but was soon back at his post. In a charge at the battle of Gettysburg, he was captured, and remained a prisoner in the hands of the Federals until the close of the war.

            Then he entered Washington and Lee University, where he from the first took a high stand as a student. He graduated from this Institution in 1868, the last year acting also as Tutor in the University. He at once entered Union Theological Seminary, and graduated from this School of the Prophets in 1879, with the highest distinction. He was at once licensed by his Presbytery, and being invited to Tinkling Springs one of the largest and most influential of the country churches in Virginia, he was ordained and installed pastor in the fall of 1870. [In this pastorate he was following the Rev. R.L. Dabney (1847-1852) and preceding the Rev. J.A. Preston (1883-88).]  About the same time he married Miss M.F. Moore, of one of the oldest and most respectable families of the Falling Spring’s church, near the Natural Bridge.

            Dr. Strickler remained pastor of  the Tinkling Spring Church for twelve years and a half. His reputation for vigorous and earnest preaching, clear and solid thinking, wise and faithful pastoral work, soon spread far and wide, and many calls from large and influential churches came to him. But he preferred to work at his first charge. Finally in the fall of 1882, the Central Church of Atlanta, Georgia, made such an earnest plea for his services that he yielded, and came to their church in the Spring of 1883.Hardly had he begun the work in their city before he was urgently and unanimously called to the chair of Church History in Union Theological Seminary. After a considerable struggle between his church, who fought his transfer, and the Seminary Committee, Atlanta Presbytery advised him to remain where he was; this he did with all cheerfulness and loyalty. His loving church at once began to build him a new, and a larger church.

            This was finished in 1886, and is one of the handsomest and most commodious edifices in our Southern Church. Dr. Strickler’s fine administrative abilities soon manifested themselves, not only in the thorough organizations of his own church in its individual work, but also in the impetus given the work of our Presbyterian Zion all over the city, Presbytery and State. His church at once began to plant missions in different parts of the city, and several of them are now growing working churches. Dr. Strickler’s wisdom and ability were also most conspicuous in the contest against the teaching of Evolution in Columbia Seminary. As leader of the Anti-evolution men he won decided victories in the Synods at Marietta, La Grange and Sparta. Shortly after he was elected to the chair of Theology in Columbia Seminary and to Chancellorship of the University of Georgia both of which he declined.

            In 1887 he was chosen moderator of the General Assembly of the Church which convened at Saint Louis. In this responsible and delicate position he acquitted himself most creditably and wisely. At this Assembly he was chosen chairman of the Southern Assembly’s Committee to confer with the Northern Church Committee in regard to organic union. In 1895 the Board of Directors by a unanimous vote elected Dr. Strickler to the important chair of Theology in Union Seminary, and gave him a year in which to decide the question; they at the same time promised to remove the Seminary from Hampden Sidney to Richmond the beautiful and historic capital of the State. During the winter of 1895-96, the devoted flock over which he had presided so long did everything in their power to induce him to decline this call. But a sense of duty to the Church at large impelled him to accept the call, and to ask the Presbytery to allow him to leave his church. It was a sad and solemn meeting which met for this purpose, we all felt that it was the will of the Lord calling His servant to a post for which by nature and training he was eminently fitted. Dr. Strickler preached his farewell sermon to his people on the last Sabbath in July, 1896, and will enter upon his new duties September 2, 1896.

            Then in stating the truth as it appears to him, he is always as clear as one of our mountain streams; the simplest can understand him. In the pulpit, he is, besides all this, earnest and effective. In his dealings with his people he was always kind, sympathetic, wise. In the church court he is always patient, considerate of others, but eminently wise and faithful.

            His theology is of the most orthodox type. He believes in the inspiration of the Scriptures, in the old fashioned orthodox Calvinistic type of religious thought. He has no crochets, no vagaries, no new ideal as to the cardinal truths of the word of God, and his strong loving character will impress this type of theology on all the students who come from his hand. May his bow long abide in strength. [Among his many honors and accomplishments were the Doctor of Divinity degree, conferred by Washington & Lee University in 1878, the LL.D. degree, awarded by Davidson College in 1894, a term of service as Moderator of the PCUS General Assembly in 1887, and his tenure as joint editor of The Presbyterian Quarterly.]

Bibliography:
1897
“The Nature, Value, and Special Utility of the Catechisms,” in Memorial Volume of the Westminster Assembly, 1647-1897, Containing Eleven Addresses Delivered Before the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the United States, at Charlotte, N.C., in May, 1897, in Commemoration of the Two Hundred and Fiftieth Anniversary of the Westminster Assembly, and of the Formation of the Westminster Standards (Richmond, VA: The Presbyterian Committee of Publication, 1897), pp. 115 – 138.

[Excerpt] : Teaching, by the catechetical method, has marked the history of the church almost from the beginning down to the present time. A divine warrant for it, if not requirement of it, may be found in such passages of God’s word as Deut. vi. 6, 7: “And these words which I command thee this day shall be in thine heart, and thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.” And Exodus xii. 26, 27: “And it shall come to pass that when your children shall say to you, What mean ye by this service?” (the service of the passover) “that ye shall say, It is the sacrifice of the Lord’s passover, who passed over the houses of the children of Israel in Egypt, when he smote the Egyptians, and delivered our houses.” In these instances, in order to give children the full and accurate instruction they needed about the commandments of the Lord referred to, and about the important sacrament instituted in the church in the passover, it was necessary that a number of questions should be asked and answered; and then, that the truth about these and other subjects, once learned, might not be forgotten, but kept ever fresh in the memory, and in constant and influential contact with the mind and heart, it was necessary that it should be frequently reviewed; that there should be “precept upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little and there a little.” Thus, we may say, the catechetical method of instruction was instituted at the very beginning of the Mosaic dispensation.

1902
“The Philosophy of Faith,” in The Presbyterian Quarterly, 16.2 (October 1902) 149-165.

1910

Sermons. New York, Chicago: Fleming H. Revell Co., 1910. 273 p.; 20 cm.  [available on the Web at http://catalog.hathitrust.org/api/volumes/oclc/20338521.html]

 

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Bethel’s Second Pastor, 1782 – 1789

Bethel Presbyterian Church, in Clover, South Carolina, ranks as one of the oldest churches in the PCA, having been founded in 1764. Francis D. Cummins was Bethel’s second pastor serving from 1782 – April 17, 1789 He was born in 1752 near Shippensburg, Pennsylvania. His parents were Charles Cummins and Rebecca McNickle Cummins who were from Northern Ireland. When Francis Cummins was in his 19th year, his family moved to Mecklenburg County, North Carolina. The neighboring college, then Queens Museum, afforded him the opportunity for his higher education. It was there that he graduated about the year 1776.

Francis Cummins was an active and zealous Patriot in the Revolutionary War. He was present at the reading of the Mecklenburg Declaration in 1775. After leaving college he was engaged chiefly in the business of teaching. He was for several years a preceptor at Clio Academy, a respectable German Seminary in Rowan County (now Iredell County), North Carolina. While Mr. Cummins was engaged in teaching, he studied theology under the direction of Dr. James Hall. Francis Cummins was licensed to preach the gospel by the Presbytery of Orange on December 15, 1780. During the year 1781 he preached at various places and in the spring of 1782 accepted a call from Bethel Church where he was ordained at the close of that year.

Rev. Cummins was one of the original members of South Carolina Presbytery when it was set off from Orange Presbytery in 1785. In the spring of 1788 while residing at Bethel and serving both as pastor and teacher of the youth, he was elected by the people of the York District as a member of the South Carolina Convention called to decide upon the Constitution of the United States. Although all his colleagues were for rejecting it, Rev. Cummins voted in its favor. Sometime between 1782 and 1789 Bethel Academy was organized by Rev. Cummins. The first school was built about one and a half miles north of the church. Education and religion were closely associated in the early days of the church. It was a common practice that the minister of the church also taught in the school. In 1788 the old Presbytery of South Carolina held its seventh session at Bethel. This was perhaps the first Presbytery meeting ever held at Bethel Church. Rev. Cummins was the Moderator.

Rev. Cummins was married to Sarah Davis. They were the parents of eight children. Mrs. Cummins died December 10, 1790. Rev. Cummins married the second time in October 1791 to Sarah Thompson.

After leaving Bethel Rev. Cummins was the pastor at several churches in the western part of South Carolina. In 1793 he was appointed by the Presbytery to collect facts in regard to the early history of all the churches at that time. These records were received and approved by the Presbytery.

In 1803 Rev. Cummins moved to the state of Georgia. He was the first minister to preach at Salem Presbyterian Church (formerly named Liberty Presbyterian Church), Philomath, Georgia in their new location.

Rev. Cummins was the first rector or principal of the Meson Academy, Lexington, Georgia. In 1920 Meson Academy became Oglethorpe County High School.

Rev. Cummins had a great vigor of constitution. He was an admirable scholar and a well-read theologian. He was uncommonly gifted in prayer, was vivid and clear in his conceptions, having great power of condensation in the use of language. In stature he was above the common size with broad shoulders, expanded frame, large limbs, a high forehead and a deep-toned, guttural voice.

In January 1832 he was attacked with influenza which terminated his life. He died on February 22, 1832, and is buried in the Greensboro City Cemetery, Greensboro, Georgia.

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An Injustice Which Found No Excuse

Related here is a brief account of Presbyterian missions among the Cherokee and Choctaw Indians, just prior to and immediately following the grave injustice of the Indian Removal Act of 1830. The Removal Act resulted in what is now known to history as “The Trail of Tears,” in which tribes were forcibly relocated to the West. It could be argued that the Presbyterian mission never recovered from this setback, though efforts continued, particularly in the latter part of the nineteenth century:—

In 1816, the Rev. Cyrus Kingsbury was sent out under the direction of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, to visit the destitute portions of Tennessee. After spending some months in discharging his commission, he repaired to the Cherokee country. At a full council of the Cherokees and Creeks, at which Colonel Meigs, the Indian agent, and General Andrew Jackson, in behalf of the United States Government, were present, Kingsbury proposed to the Indians his plan of missions. It was favorably entertained. The chiefs invited the establishment of mission schools, and Mr. Kingsbury, in conjunction with a representative of the tribes, was directed to seek out a fit location. The result was the selection of the mission station known thenceforth by the name of the devoted missionary “Brainerd.” This project had previously been frustrated by the War of 1812 and by the removal of key men. It was now revived under better circumstances. In 1817, additional workers came, among them the Rev. Ard Hoyt, who was for some years pastor at the Presbyterian church in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.

In the following year the mission to the Choctaws began, of which Rev. Kingsbury was invited to take charge. The laborers among the Cherokees were increased in number by the addition of laymenAbijah Conger, John Vaill, and John Talmage, along with their respective families, and all from New Jersey. The removal of the tribes to the region beyond the Mississippi, though sorely opposed to their own desires, had already commenced; and in the latter part of November, 1817, Alfred Finney and Cephas Washburn set out on their journey, through a wilderness rendered almost impassable by flooded swamps and overflowing creeks, from Brainerd to Eliot in Arkansas.

The laborers in the mission field at Brainerd were for the most part connected with the Presbytery of Union, in East Tennessee. Robert Glen was a licentiate, Christopher Bradshaw a candidate, and “Father” Hoyt a member of it. The meetings of the Presbytery were to them “refreshing seasons.” Especially was this the case at the present juncture. “The Lord had recently poured out His Spirit in many parts of this Presbytery, and the friends of Zion” were “looking up with rejoicing.” The Presbytery had six young men under its care as candidates for the ministry, most of them, doubtless, the pupils of Anderson.

The missionaries were visited and cheered, among others, by members of the Presbytery and missionaries sent out by the Assembly. Saunders and Moderwell visited them on their tour. Erastus Root from Georgia, and Vinal and Chapman, sent out by the United Foreign Mission Society at New York on an exploring tour among the Indians west of the Mississippi, called upon them. Numerous and refreshing were these repeated visits from members or ministers of Presbyterian churches throughout the land. But a special interest was taken in the progress of the mission by the churches of Tennessee. In 1819, Isaac Anderson, Matthew Donald, and William Eagleton (of Kingston) were the visiting committee of the Presbytery, and signed the report of the examination of the mission schools.

From year to year the reports were generally favorable. In 1822 the large establishment at Brainerd was divided, and its members distributed abroad throughout the bounds of the tribe. In the following year nearly one hundred persons gave evidence of hopeful conversion, and at Willstown a church “on the Presbyterian model,” consisting of nine converted Cherokees, was organized on October 10th, and connected with Union Presbytery. Already in September of the same year the churches at Brainerd, Carmel, and Hightower had been received, so that on the list of the Presbytery were four churches within the limits of the Cherokee mission. The number was increased by the organization of another church at Candy’s Creek in the following year.

But already the plan was formed which was to result in disaster to the mission by the removal of the Cherokees beyond the Mississippi. Georgia took the lead in the harsh and cruel measures by which this plan was carried out. The missionaries were indignant and disheartened at the perfidy which violated repeated and most solemn treaties. They saw their own labors interrupted; they saw those whom they had been encouraged to hope would soon be brought to embrace the gospel, outraged and alienated by an injustice which found no excuse but in the sophistry of unscrupulous avarice, while the prospects of future success for the mission were becoming more dark and gloomy continually.

Still, they did not remit their efforts. Amid sad discouragements they labored on. Portions of the tribe were from time to time depairingly forsaking their old hunting grounds and their fathers’ graves for new homes in the distant wilderness. Yet, till actual violence was offered, and by the arrest of their persons the resolute purpose to effect a forcible removal of the Cherokees became too obvious to be longer questioned they remained faithful to their work. But from 1829 to 1835 the odious project was pushed forward to its disastrous results. Yet for nearly twenty years the Cherokee mission, largely sustained by the sympathy of the Presbyterian Church in Tennessee, presented a noble example of self-denying Christian effort,the more striking when contrasted with the greed and injustice of men who viewed the native tribes only in the light of their own mercenary projects.

[The above account is excerpted, with some editing, from E. H. Gillett’s very readable History of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America. (1864), Vol. II, pp. 320-323.]

Words to Live By:
There are perhaps no easy answers when faced with such situations. One thing is clear, the Church is tasked by her Lord with the charge of proclaiming the Gospel, irrespective of opposition.  “Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.” (Acts 4:19b-20). Pray that we might be spared such trials, but if they come, may we be found faithful to the One who bought us with His own blood.

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Teaching a Nation’s Leaders

Considered by many to have been the foremost educator in the South, Moses Waddell was of Irish parentage and was born in Rowan (now Iredell) county, North Carolina, on July 29th, 1770. He received his academic education at a school which was opened in the neighborhood under the name of Clio’s Nursery. For four years, beginning at the age of fourteen, he was engaged as a teacher (1784-1788) at various places in North Carolina and Georgia.

Leaving his employment as a teacher, he enrolled as a student at the Hampden-Sydney College, graduating there in 1791. The next year he was licensed to preach by the Hanover Presbytery, of Virginia, on May 12, 1792.

About 1793, Waddell opened his first school in Columbia county, Georgia, then another in 1801,  in Vienna, Abbeville District, South Carolina. He remained in that work until 1804, when he removed to Willington, six miles south of Vienna, and it was at Willington where he founded the famous Willington Academy. It was common for Presbyterian pastors to maintain an academy, in part for the extra income, and in part because they could thus guide the moral, religious and intellectual education of the children of their parish.

All of these schools were designed as preparatory schools, utilizing a classical education model. As the fame of the Willington Academy grew, it came to be called the “Eton in the woods”. To give one example of the school’s rigor, students were required to memorize, translate and recite some 250 lines of Greek or Latin every night. A Willington graduate, South Carolina governor George McDuffie, held the record, having once recited over 2200 lines of the poet Horace.

In 1818, Waddell was elected President of what was then Franklin College, later to become the University of Georgia. However, he did not actually step into the duties of this office until May, 1819. While serving as an educator, he also labored as a pastor, founding the Presbyterian Church in Athens, Georgia in 1820. During his tenure at the University, the school prospered greatly, and he continued here as President until 1829. Resigning his post, he returned to Willington. For forty-five years he had labored as a teacher. His labors as a pastor continued another six or seven years more, and the Rev. Dr. Moses Waddell’s life drew to a close on July 21, 1840.

Dr. James McLeod provides the following account of Dr. Waddell as a teacher:

“The boys called him ‘Old Moses,’ and while he believed in corporal punishment, he never spanked in a passion, and it finally evolved that he did this only upon a verdict of a peer jury of students. He never spanked for a deficient lesson but chiefly for defects in morals or actions that had to be punished.

“He was a cheerful man even playful in his disposition. He maintained a personal interest in each boy. He had a wry sense of humor. When boys on second floor dumped water on him as he went in a door, he said nothing, but later raised an umbrella as he went in the door to the delight of the boys.

“His strength seems to have been to analyze the boys accurately, then demanded accordingly. He was not a man who used sentiment to escape facing the laziness of adolescence. He demanded. They groaned, they gave, they griped, they worshiped him later. There was a chestnut tree outside the Doctor’s study window that the boys remembered watching as they waited to see the Doctor if they had done anything wrong. Others would climb it to see if anyone was punished by him.

“Dr. Smith, the president of Princeton College, was quoted as saying that he received no students from any school in the United States who stood better examinations than those of Dr. Waddel.”

As a pastor, Alfred Nevin notes that “he was pious, zealous, and well versed in theology generally. His style of preaching was plain, simple, earnest. He addressed himself much more to the understanding than to the imagination or passions. As a teacher he stands almost unrivaled.”

Words to Live By:
In The Great Doctor Waddell, by Dr. James McLeod, the author provides a compilation of the students educated under Waddell. The list includes two Vice-Presidents, three Secretaries of State, three Secretaries of War, one Assistant Secretary of War, one US Attorney-general, Ministers to France, Spain and Russia, one US Supreme Court Justice, eleven governors, seven US Senators, thirty two members of the US House of Representatives, twenty two judges, eight college presidents, seventeen editors of newspapers or authors, five members of the Confederate Congress, two bishops, three Brigadier-generals, and one authentic Christian martyr.

In light of which, this might be a good time to review again the words of Dr. R. B. Kuiper, posted here this past July 15th:

“God has seen fit to reveal Himself to man in two books—the Bible, the book of special revelation, and nature and history, the book of general revelation. Now it is the duty of the organized Church to teach men the content of the former of these books, while it is the special task of the school to open the latter. To be sure, the two may not be separated. Truth can hardly be dealt with so mechanically. After all, truth is one because God is one. Truth is organic. And only he who has learned to understand the Bible can really know history and nature. Yet the distinction is a valid one. The Church can hardly be expected to teach the intricacies of mathematics, physics, astronomy, or the history of the Balkans. Nor does any one demand of the school that it preach the gospel. But Church and school together must declare the whole of God’s revealed truth.”

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With sincere apologies, I must record a correction. The fact is that the local court case was ruled unanimously in favor of the Hull Memorial and Eastern Heights churches. My thanks to Rev. Todd Allen for his gracious correction.

 

On April 17, 1966, because of extreme liberal trends in their parent church, two Savannah Presbyterian churches, Hull Memorial and Eastern Heights, led by their pastors Clifford Brewton and Todd Allen, voted to sever all ties with the Presbyterian Church U. S. denomination. This Action resulted in the Presbytery attempting to take control of the property, and a court case, settled first by a local jury that ruled unanimously in favor of the two congregations. Rev. Todd Allen comments that:

“Savannah Presbytery then appealed to the Georgia Supreme Court who approved the Jury decision unanimously in favor of the two congregations. The case was then appealed to the United States Supreme Court who remanded the case back to the Georgia Supreme Court giving neutral principles of law for that court to use in adjudicating the case. The Georgia Supreme applied the neutral principle enunciated by the United States Supreme Court and by a  unanimous  decision awarded the two local churches their church properties. The presbytery again appealed to the United States Supreme Court. The Supreme Court declined to hear the case and that ended litigation after 3 ½ years of litigation in January of 1970. It should be noted that all court decisions were unanimous.”

The Savannah court case was an unprecedented, history-making event that overturned nearly 100 years of inequitable law practices in the United States and changed the way the civil courts in the future could deal with church property disputes. The case caused major church denominations to study their administration, relations, and rules relating to their connection with local church congregations. The specific and immediate effect of the case was a means for a somewhat peaceful withdrawal in 1973—with their properties—of some 250 churches from the Presbyterian Church U. S.  The case was a crucial element in the success of the Continuing Church movement that resulted in the formation of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA).

The significance of the historic event was, at least in that immediate historical context, that no longer could church tribunals exercise property takeover tactics to force compliance to certain disputed doctrines, or for any other reason the denomination may choose: Ended was the practice of stealing church property in the name of organized religion. This case liberated those local churches in the PCUS from denominational tyranny.

The heart of the Supreme Court ruling in the Savannah case was in favor of what are termed neutral principles of law, as opposed to the civil court being guided or even ruled by the doctrines (including bylaws and constitution) of the denomination.

During the time that the property issue continued to be debated and was sent to the Georgia Supreme Court, Pastor Brewton accepted an appointment as an aide to Governor Lester Maddox, resigned the pastorate at Hull Memorial, and moved to Atlanta. Meanwhile Pastor Todd Allen was at the forefront in the property struggle through the Georgia Supreme Court, which ruled for the local churches, and the case then went onward to the U. S. Supreme Court. Allen also was a leader in organizing Vanguard Presbytery in 1972, a new presbytery established for churches withdrawing from the PCUS, thus providing them a Presbytery to join while awaiting the formation of the new denomination.

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Prayer in Times of Apostasy

This is a rare bit of early Westminster Seminary history, located in an old issue of THE REFORMED PRESBYTERIAN ADVOCATE, dated June 1937.  Not three months following the death of J. Gresham Machen, the annual Day of Prayer was held on the Westminster campus in March of 1937. Arrangements had been made to have the Rev. John Cavitt Blackburn [1889-1959] present as the main speaker at the event.

Blackburn is interesting on several levels. His mother was Annie Williams Girardeau, one of the daughters of the Rev. Dr. John L. Girardeau. [His father, George A. Blackburn, authored The Life Work of John L. Girardeau, D.D., LL.DJohn Cavitt Blackburn was educated at Columbia Theological Seminary, 1914-1918, back when the Seminary was still located in Columbia, SC. John also became quite the bibliophile. He had a significant library, built in part upon the libraries of his father and grandfather, and which collection later became a significant early addition to the library at Reformed Theological Seminary, Jackson, MS, by way of a donation from Blackburn’s widow. Rev. Blackburn’s library was apparently sizable enough that duplicates and other items even made their way to the Buswell Library at Covenant Theological Seminary.

It is also interesting to note Blackburn’s presence as indicative of a connection between Westminster Seminary and the Southern Presbyterian Church.  To engage in a bit of speculation, the invitation to have Rev. Blackburn speak at the annual Day of Prayer would have been extended months prior, certainly well before Machen’s death, and perhaps even by Dr. Machen himself. Without troubling ourselves to access Machen’s correspondence to confirm that idea, we do know that Dr. Machen had presented his lectures on the virgin birth of Christ at Columbia Theological Seminary, in Decatur, Georgia. These were the Thomas Smyth Lectures for 1927, and during that time, Rev. Blackburn pastored a church just twenty-some miles away. He could easily have attended those lectures. Lastly, Machen’s father served for a time as one of the trustees at the Seminary. So in light of those connections, it is entirely possible that Machen might have known Rev. Blackburn for many years prior to 1937.

Though he was a pastor for over thirty years, to my knowledge, this is the only surviving example of a sermon by Rev. Blackburn.

PRAYER IN TIMES OF APOSTASY.
by the Rev. John C. Blackburn
[excerpted from The Reformed Presbyterian Advocate, 71.6 (June 1937): 90-96, and a reprint from an earlier issue of The Presbyterian Guardian 4.3 (15 May 1937): 40-42.]

This article is a summary of an address delivered at the annual Day of Prayer at Westminster Theological Seminary last March. Mr. Blackburn is a minister of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.

The effectual prayer of a righteous man availeth much. Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain; and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit.” (James 5:16-18).

This text on prayer is chosen as appropriate to a day of prayer. It is evidently the intention of the Holy Spirit to teach more than one truth about prayer in this passage. But it shall be our purpose, today, to draw from it instruction as to what is our duty and encouragement in prayer in the present evil hour. The inspired writer sets before us Elijah, the well-known prophet of the Old Testament, “a righteous man,” whose prayers of imprecation and intercession are cited with approval as an illustration of the kind of prayer which “availeth much”—in an evil day. If we are to profit by the implicit truth of this text we will have to develop it in the light of its historical background.

The Times of Elijah

No historical era can be viewed as an age apart from the times that precede it. The evil days of Ahab were such as they were largely through predetermining causes. His reign was a sequence of a varied series of sins that reached an inevitable climax of wickedness in his reign.

To Solomon must be charged the policy that opened the door in Israel to alien evils. His “outlandish” wives influenced him into the adoption of an “inclusive policy” through which the worship of false gods was tolerated along with the worship of Jehovah. This liberal attitude brought from Jehovah the charge: “They have forsaken me, and have worshipped Ashtoreth the goddess of the Zidonians, Chemosh the god of Ammon.”

Jeroboam the First inaugurated a policy of the boldest expediency. His program called for an alteration of the Mosaic constitution. He changed the spiritual leadership of his kingdom. “He made priests from among all the people, which were not of the sons of Levi.” “He ordained a feast for the children of Israel.” “He made houses of high places.” “All of which he had devised.” Moreover he reintroduced into Israel, as an amicable gesture to the neighboring kingdom of Egypt, the idolatrous worship of the golden calf—the Heliopolitan deity, Mnevis.

Through five regencies—Nadab, Baasha, Elah, Zimri and Omri—the conventional, court-sponsored religion of the Northern Kingdom flowed with increasing corruption. Against each of these kings, without exception, can be found the condemning words of the sacred chronicler of Israel: “He did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord, and walked in the way of Jeroboam, and in his sin wherewith he made Israel to sin.”

But it is in the reign of Ahab, the son of Omri, the seventh king of Israel, that the departure from Jehovah’s law reaches a fullness of iniquity that insures judgment, for “there was none like unto Ahab which did sell himself to do that which was evil in the sight of the Lord.”

It will be enlightening to examine the nature of the sins of that administration which provoked the righteous indignation of Elijah and brought forth the call for the rod of Jehovah’s displeasure upon His people and His land.

One sin of Ahab was sacrificing his own spiritual interests and that of his kingdom for lust. The law of Jehovah forbade matrimony with the heathen as an unholy alliance. Ahab showed his lack of principle and disregard of the commandments of the Lord by marrying Jezebel, a daughter of Ethbaal, high priest of Astarte, a cousin of Dido of Virgil’s Aeneid. This “lust match” quickly eventuated in the apotheosis of lust throughout the Northern Kingdom. The worship of Ashtoreth became court religion, the libidinous orgies of Tyre and Sidon were celebrated in Israel, and the morals of the populace degenerated and dissipated under the seductive influence of these lascivious rites.

Another sin of Ahab’s was his practice of tolerance in religion—a kind of broad-churchism, without a limit. The innovations and vanities of Jeroboam and his successors were accepted and practiced on the grounds of antiquity, tradition, and custom, while the ancient law of Sinai was made of none effect through local and temporal expediency. To please the Zidonians, Tyrians and Baal-serving apostates in his kingdom, he built a temple for Baal in his capital, Samaria. For the survivors of the old Canaanitish race, “he did very abominably in following idols, according to all that the Amorites did.” Thus he conciliated all men with his liberal and inclusive policy, and affronted Jehovah with his contempt of His holy commandments.

The crowning sin of Ahab was his effort to silence godly protest and warning of judgment by Jehovah’s prophets, and his attempt to exterminate by martyrdom the witnesses for truth. The price of protest was high in those days. The little minority that refused to be broad “wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented; . . . they wandered in deserts, and in mountains and in dens and caves of the earth.”

Such were the days of Elijah, days that try the souls of the righteous and force them to fervent prayer: Unscrupulous despots enthroned in power, the patrons of false religion; the masses subserviently acquiescent in the betrayal and abandonment of the true faith; truth spurned, trodden underfoot, and the righteous being persecuted from the face of the earth.

Elijah’s Imprecation

Jehovah will not leave Himself without witness. Abruptly, unannounced, there appears a prophet of Jehovah, Elijah the Tishbite, of the sojourners of Gilead, with the disturbing announcement to Ahab: “As the Lord, the God of Israel, liveth, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word.” And he disappears as mysteriously as he appears. There, in hiding at Chereth, “he prayed earnestly that it might not rain.”

Was it right so to pray—in a land where rain and life are synonymous—where drought means famine, starvation, death? Evidently Elijah, a righteous man, thought so, for he prayed earnestly to that end. Evidently Jehovah sanctioned it for it was answered in kind. Is it right so to pray? James, under the guidance of the Spirit, is citing this instance of Elijah’s imprecation, not only as an illustration of the prophet’s prevalence in prayer, but as an inspiration for New Testament saints so to pray. And thus the Reformed Church has taught, prayed, and sung in Psalm. We cannot deny the righteousness of such a prayer, under the New Covenant, without falling into the error of a dual morality, under the Old and the New Covenant. God’s honor may be thus vindicated, His purposes furthered. Israel’s spiritual and material interests could be thus promoted. The virulency of sin warranted such drastic measures and the obduracy of sin merited such severity. The ends justified the means.

But why did the prophet make this particular prayer for the stopping of the rain from heaven? Because it would prove to Israel that God’s hand was in this judgment, that “He sealest up the hand of every man; that all men may know his work.” Because such a judgment would be the fulfilling of the prophecies of the Law, of drought as punishment for apostasy. Because the withholding of rain would convert that which they worshipped as a symbol of Baal—the sun—-into an intolerable curse. Therefore Elijah, Jehovah’s lonely witness in his generation, “a main subject to like passions as we are,” with zeal for Jehovah’s sovereignty, with righteous indignation against wickedness, with a longing for the salvation of Israel, “prayed earnestly that it might not rain; and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months.”

From the very day of the prophet’s prediction the drought began. As the fields began to wither, anxious eyes scanned the western sky for signs of rain. The summer passed and the harvest was shriveled and meagre. The early and the latter rain had failed. The sowing of the spring that followed sprouted only to die away for lack of moisture. The trees on the high ridges shed their seared leaves. The burned and blighted fruit of the orchards was prematurely dropped. There were no sheaves in the garner, no wine in the vat, no oil from the press. The third summer came upon a land parched and powdered. The fountains had ceased to flow. The deep wells were dry. The cisterns were empty. Gaunt famine stalked through the land taking its toll of scrawny-handed children, sunken-eyed women, and hollow-cheeked men. Overhead the sky was brazed to the incantations of the priests of Baal. Israel was perishing from off the face of their land.

And Elijah prayed on. Such is the perverseness of depraved human nature, such the hardness of the natural heart, such the obduracy of willful sinners, that they must be brought to the very gates of death before they can be turned about. God’s opportunity comes in extremity. At the moment of national ruin Jehovah’s spokesman stepped into the scene again. Out from his hiding at Chereth, out from his biding at Zerephath, came the prophet.

Elijah’s Intercession  

“And he prayed again and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit.”

“Art thou he that troubleth Israel?” was the astonished and indignant salutation of Ahab. “I have not troubled Israel; but thou and thy father’s house,” is Elijah’s resentful rejoinder. Out of the variance came a challenge to battle: “Send and gather to me all Israel unto Mount Carmel, and the prophets of Baal four hundred which eat at Jezebel’s table.” Forth rode the couriers with the royal summons. The issue was: live, or die.

Beautiful, suitable in location, was Carmel, a median ground between Jehovah’s land and Baal’s strand. Northward rose the forest-clad slopes of Lebanon. Westward lay the blue waters of the Great Sea, dotted with the purple-sailed argosies of a maritime people. Beneath the mountain and beside the sea nestled the teeming marts of Tyre and Sidon. This was Baal’s land. Eastward and southward stretched the plain of Jezreel, walled about with rolling mountains, Gilboa, Tabor, Ebal and Gerizim. On this plain, in the shadow of those mountains, the heroes of the faith had turned back the armies of the aliens, not by many but by few. This was Jehovah’s land.

From a vantage point of Carmel Elijah saw the assembling of Israel. From near and far, from mountain and plain, from village and town, o’er highway and byway, converged a motley multitude of pilgrims, gathering to the battle of the gods.

At the early hour of dawn, Elijah stands before the throng and opens the controversy. “How long ‘halt ye between two opinions? If Jehovah be God follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.” It was an urge for decision, a call for division, on an ancient fundamental; “Jehovah thy God is a jealous God,” and, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” Jehovah’s prophet was forcing an issue; he was fighting the most dangerous enemy of pure religion; half-heartedness, two-facedness, dual allegiance. “And the people answered him not a word.” Shameful silence! Some were convicted, some were abashed, some afraid, some defiant. None answered. Craven dumbness! How disgraceful is muteness when right and wrong join strife.

“Then said Elijah unto the people, I, even I only, remain a prophet of Jehovah; but Baal’s prophets are four hundred and fifty men. Let them therefore give us two bullocks; and let them choose one bullock for themselves, and cut it m pieces, and lay in on wood, and put no fire under and call ye on the name of your gods, and I will call on the name of Jehovah: and the god that answereth by fire let him be God.” The minority party stands face to face with the majority.. The odds are four hundred to one. No, four hundred to Two! Four hundred priests without God against a prophet and his God. And the ordeal is by fire. The advantage is Baal’s, for he is the fire-god, and the sun is his flame. Let not man, but Heaven decide.

Up from the purple hills of Bashan rose the auriflamme [oriflamme] of day. It filled the valleys ‘with a crimson flood, and drenched the plain of Magiddo into a prophetic Alceldama. Down bowed the votaries of Baal. Then rising up, they circled their altar with rhythmic dance. Higher and higher climbed the sun, faster and faster the priests did prance. Louder and louder rang their cries. Immovable and silent remained the skies. “Oh, Baal, hear us!” They leaped upon the altar. They cut themselves with knives. Leaping, sweating, bleeding, screaming, they fell exhausted. “There was neither voice, nor any to answer, nor any that regarded.” Their efforts were futile, their prayers unanswered, their heaven silent, their god was impotent! False!!

It came to pass at the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice—blessed hour!—that Elijah said unto all the people, “Come near unto me.” Gracious invitation of a God of grace! And Elijah built an altar, of twelve stones in the name of Jehovah. He put the wood in order, placed the sacrifice, drenched the offering, altar, ground, with water. Then he came near and said, “Lord God of Abraham, Isaac and of Israel, let it be known this day that thou art God in Israel, and that I am thy servant, and that I have done all these things at thy word.

Hear me, O Lord, hear me, that this people may know that thou art the Lord God and that thou hast turned their heart back again.”

Then the fire fell, hissing, crackling, blinding. It burned the burnt-offering, the wood, the stone, the dust, the water. Down fell the people on their faces. A mighty shout shook the mountain wall—Jehovah he is God! Jehovah he is God!!

Jehovah acclaimed: sin must be judged. Red ran the brook Kishon with the blood of Baal’s priests that day.

Sin removed, the blessing comes. While the king went up to eat and drink, the prophet went up to pray. Seven times he interceded before a cloud appeared. Faith’s ear had caught the sound of rain, now the eye of faith beholds the showers. “Haste!” said the prophet to the king, “that the rain stop thee not.” In the meanwhile the heavens were black with clouds and wind, and there was a great rain—and the earth brought forth her fruit. “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.”

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Our text for today is taken from The Souvenir Book of the General Assemblies, Atlanta, Georgia, May 14-25, 1913, pp. 11ff. This was a work compiled from the occasion when three Presbyterian denominations all met in their separate General Assemblies in Atlanta in May of 1913. The entire work can be found at http://dlg.galileo.usg.edu/georgiabooks/pdfs/gb5189.pdf

At the close of the American Revolution, the entire area of the State of Georgia was embraced within the Presbytery of South Carolina. On November 3, 1796, the region west of the Savannah River was organized into a separatte jurisdiction known as the Presbytery of Hopewell. The first meeting of the new Presbytery was held at Liberty Church, in Wilkes County, Georgia, on March 4, 1797, and the opening sesrmon was preached by the Rev. John Springer, a noted pioneer evangelist.

Mr. Springer was the first Presbyterian minister to be ordained in Georgia. He opened a school at Walnut Hill, where he taught the great Jesse Mercer, who afterwards founded Mercer University; and he also numbered among his pupils the illustrious John Forsyth, who negotiated with Ferdinand VII of Spain for the purchase of Florida. Liberty Church no longer exists as an organization by this name, but it survives in the Church at Woodstock, an organization into which it was merged. It was located nine miles west of the town of Washington, in the neighborhood of War Hill, where the Tory power in Upper Georgie was overthrown by a Presbyterian elder, Colonel Andrew Pickens, in the famous Revolutionary battle of Kettle Creek.

One of the Presbyters at this first meeting of the Hopewell Presbytery was Dr. Moses Waddell. At Mount Carmel, near Appling, Georgia, this pioneer educator opened an academy which became historic. Here he taught John C. Calhoun, of South Carolina, afterwards Vice-President of the United States; and William H. Crawford, a distinguished statesman, who, while a candidate for the highest office in the nations’s gift, was stricken with paralysis, a misfortune which alone prevented him from reaching the White House. Mr. Crawford was Secretary of the Treasury in the Monroe Cabinet and Minister to France during the First Empire; and the great Napoleon once said of him that he was the only man at the French Court to whom he ever felt constrained to bow. The Emperor’s reception of Mr. Crawford constitutes one of the most dramatic incidents in our diplomatic annals. Dr. Waddell also taught Hugh Swinton Legare, a Secretary of the Navy, in the Tyler Cabinet; George McDuffie, of South Carolina, an orator second only to the great Calhoun; and George R. Gilmer, afterwards Governor of this State. On account of Dr. Waddell’s prestige as an educator he was called to preside over the University of Georgia, the oldest State University in America, founded in 1785.

Rev. John Newton, another Presbyter whose name appears on the minutes of the first meeting of Hopewell, organized near Lexington what is probably the oldest Church in the Synod of Georgia—Beth-salem. Dr James Stacy, the accredited historian of the PCUS, inclines to this opinion. Beth-salem still survives in the Presbyterian Church at Lexington.

In the course of time the Presbytery of Hopewell was subdivided into smaller units as population became more dense; and finally, at Macon, in the fall of 1845, these various Presbyteries were organized into an ecclesiastical body known as the Synod of Georgia.

Words to Live By:
The Excellency of Brotherly Unity—Psalm 133

A Song of Ascents, of David.

Behold, how good and how pleasant it is
For brothers to dwell together in unity!

It is like the precious oil upon the head,
Coming down upon the beard,
Even Aaron’s beard,
Coming down upon the edge of his robes.

It is like the dew of Hermon
Coming down upon the mountains of Zion;
For there the Lord commanded the blessing— life forever.

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Moving Day

Thomas Goulding, George Howe, Aaron Leland, Benjamin Morgan Palmer, James Henry Thornwell, William S. Plumer, Joseph R Wilson, John L. Giarardeau, Charles Colcock Jones, Francis R. Beattie — if you live outside the southern states of this great land, you may not have any recognition of these men and their important place in God’s kingdom.   But if you reside within the southern states, these are the worthies of the cross associated with Columbia Theological Seminary, and the southern visible church.

» Pictured at right, Dr. John L. Girardeau [1825-1898] »

It was on April 1, 1824, that the Presbytery of Southern Carolina began the first steps to organize a theological seminary to serve the entire Southeastern part of the country.  Up to this date, there were only four Presbyterian seminaries in operation, namely, Andover in Massachusetts, New Brunswick in New Jersey, Princeton, also in New Jersey, and Auburn in New York.  The new seminary, known later as Columbia, began in Lexington, Georgia with one professor (Thomas Goulding) and five students.  Later, the theological school was moved to Columbia, South Carolina, with two teachers (Goulding, and Thomas Howe) and six students.  Two of the six became foreign missionaries.  Between that year of 1830 and 1910, the membership of the Presbyterian Church, U.S. (aka, Southern) rose from 10,000 members to 70,000 members.  And the seven hundred and fifty candidates of the gospel ministry who went through those hallowed halls would minister to that remarkable3 growth of the visible church.

Then in the second decade of the twentieth century, there was a geographic shift in the population of the southeastern United States, such that Atlanta, Georgia became the unofficial capital of that area.  In response, Columbia Theological Seminary began a $250,000 endowment campaign on February 10, 1925 as part of a strategic plan to relocate the Seminary, from the city which gave it its name, to Decatur, Georgia, just outside Atlanta. That move was accomplished in the year of 1930. Today, Columbia Seminary is one of ten seminaries of the Presbyterian Church U.S.A.

« To the left: This building—designed by Robert Mills—was the chapel of Columbia Theological Seminary when the seminary was located in Columbia, South Carolina. Mills had designed the building as the carriage house for the Ainsley Hall mansion. The chapel building was relocated to the property of Winthrop College in 1936. [photograph by Barry Waugh, 18 July 2006]

Statistical trivia: Among the founding fathers of the PCA, the overwhelming majority of these pastors were educated at Columbia Theological Seminary:

5 — Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary, 1929, 1939, 1942, 1953
2 — Biblical Seminary, 1961, 1963
83 – Columbia Theological Seminary, 1934-1970
2 — Dallas Theological Seminary, 1937, 1941
3 — Erskine Theological Seminary, 1953, 1966
2 — Faith Theological Seminary, 1948, 1955
3 — Fuller Theological Seminary, 1953, 56, 59
2 — Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, 1953, 1970
1 — Grace Theological Seminary, 1970
2 — Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary, 1942, 1955
1 — New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, 1965
1 — Northwestern Evangelical Seminary, 1938
1 — Pittsburgh-Xenia Theological Seminary, 1951
2 — Princeton Theological Seminary, 1928, 1954
1 — Reformed Episcopal Seminary, 1952
35 – Reformed Theological Seminary, Jackson, MS 1969-1973 [RTS opened its doors in the fall of 1966]
1 — Seabury-Western Theological Seminary, 1957
1 — Toronto Bible College 1948
14 – Union Theological Seminary, Richmond, VA, 1919-1968
15 – Westminster Theological Seminary, 1929-1972
1 — WTNC, 1934
1 — Wheaton College, 1939 [James R. Graham, D.D.]

Words to Live By: Statistics say that the average American family will move every seven years of his life and work.  Of course, there are always exceptions to this rule, and you reader might say that you have lived in the same location all of your life!  But whether you move or stay in one location, Christ describes us as the salt of the earth and the light of the world.  As salt, we are to flavor our circumstances in life as well as restrain the corruption which is all around us in varying degrees.  As light, we are to shine forth the rays of the gospel, especially to reveal the sinfulness of our culture, for the world is in spiritual darkness.  As Christians remember their calling, there will bloom wherever they are planted, whether they move frequently or remain in one location all of their lives.

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Two Cases that Came Before the Supreme Court.

When the Presbyterian Church in America was formed in 1973, most of the churches leaving the old denomination were able to keep their property. Off-hand, I know of only one church that lost its property. Moreover, these churches did not have to pay exit fees. This was a great providence of God in allowing the faster initial growth of the new denomination, and the legal basis for this provision came as a result of the  work of two churches in Georgia. Savannah, GA pastors Clifford Brewton and Todd Allen, together with their respective Sessions and congregations, had the decade before fought the matter through the civil courts, all the way to the Supreme Court, and so paved the way for the 274 churches that would later form the PCA. 

 

WHO OWNS YOUR CHURCH PROPERTY? A JURIST SPEAKS
Reprinted from Contact: Newsletter of the Presbyterian Churchmen United, Number 6 (January 1971)

(NOTE: The following address by Judge Leon F. Hendricks was delivered at a rally sponsored by the Presbyterian Churchmen United, and held at the First Presbyterian Church of Jackson, Mississippi.)

The question is simple. The answer is difficult and complicated.

Before an answer is attempted there are other questions that arise.

Is a congregation of the Presbyterian Church, U. S. in reality the true legal owners of the church property or does it legally belong to Presbytery, Synod, or to the General Assembly of the denomination known as the Presbytenan Church in the United States?

Ultimately, the question is whether a majority of the members of a local Presbytenan church may withdraw from the Presbyterian Church in the United States and take wIth them the title, use and control of the church property.

The United States Supreme Court in the case of Watson vs. Jones, 13 Wall 679, 20 L Ed. 666, decided in the year 1871, classified the questions concerning the right of property held by religious bodies under three headings.

Most of our local Presbyterian churches would fall in the third category, to-wit:

“Where the property is not subject to any expressed trust and is held by a congregation, whose church government is hierarchIal or connectional in nature.”

The Presbyterian Church, U. S. is representative in government. Some of our civil courts have put our Church in the same class as Catholic, Episcopal and Methodist, whose government is hierarchial or connectional in nature. For this reason these civil courts have held that the property of a congregation is subject to an implied trust in favor of the General Church. The Supreme Court of Florida and South Carolina have so held and one or two local congregations in these states lost their property when they withdrew from the General Church.

The Supreme Court of Mississippi has never had before it a case involving a congregatIon of the Presbyterian Church, U.S.

Prior to January 19, 1970 it would have been the opinion of many lawyers:

(1) “That if a Presbyterian Church is incorporated under the laws of Mississippi, as some churches now are, legal ownershIp is in the entity known as the First Presbyterian Church of Jackson, for an example;

(2) “That the legal title is in the Corporation but the Corporation holds title in trust for and on behalf of the Congregation which may be identified in case of division, by the governing body of the Presbyterian Church in the United States. The trust extends to an implied prohibition against diversion to uses not approved by the Presbyterian Church or foreign to its doctrines;

(3) “That ownership is in the Corporation. Control is in the Congregation, but identity is not determined by a majority of the members and the control is limited by and subject to the government of the Presbyterian Church in the United Church in the United States;

(4) “That a majority of the members of the local church cannot withdraw from the Presbyterian Church in the United States and take with the church properties without the consent of the general Church.” In my opinion the Presbytery could give that consent under the provisions of our Book of Church Order.

Now, what happened on January 19, 1970? The two Savannah Presbyterian Churches finally won the legal battle for their local church property. The Supreme Court of the United States refused by a vote to again hear the appeal of Presbyterian Church in the United States against the Savannah churches on the ground that no substantial federal question had been raised by the parent Church’s appeal. By this action the decision of the Supreme Court of Georgia, rendered on April 14, 1969, became final. Thus, The Hull Memorial and the Eastern Heights Churches of Savannah were awarded their property and the legal title was declared to be in the local congregations.

In 1966 two churches withdrew from the Presterian Church, U. S. The Presbytery of Savannah and the general church intervened and attempted to take the property of each of the churches. The trial court of Georgia decided in favor of the local churches and on appeal the Supreme Court of Georgia affrmed. On petition the Supreme Court of the U. S. took jurisdiction and reversed on the grounds that the Georgia Courts decided the controversy on ecclesiastical law which the Civil Courts could not do under the first and fourteenth amendments, and sent the cases back to the Supreme Court of Georgia for further proceeding not inconsistent with the decision of the U. S. Supreme Court. The Supreme Court of Georgia then adopted the “Neutral principle” approach and found the legal title in the local churches and awarded them their respective properties. So this ended the matter.

Hence, it is the judgment of many that in any future case involving local property of a congregation in the Presbyterian Church in the United States, a State Civil Court cannot apply the implied trust theory. This would violate the decision in the Savannah cases, and also the holding in the Maryland Church of God case.

This conclusion is reached because there is no ecclesistical law in the Presbyterian Church, U. S., which binds the local church property to any superior tribunal. Our Book of Church Order gives the control of local church property to the local congregation. It can buy, sell and mortgage such property. The only case where a superior ecclesiastical tribunal has anything to do with local church property is when a church ceases to exist and no disposition has been made of its property. Then and only then the property shall be transferred to The Presbytery. This has always been the historic position of The Presbyterian Church, U. S. This position may now be enforced in a civil court.

It is hoped and believed that the other states, as Georgia did, will adopt the “Neutral principles of law” approach; which means legal and equitable principles of ownership are studied and applied to a factual sItuation, such as, Where is the title vested? Who paid for the property? Who has the use and control since the church was built? Who controls the membership? Who has the authority to buy, sell or mortgage the property?

The State Courts will find that for most local Presbyterian Churches the answer will be the local congregations.

The State Courts may also now consider special state statutes govern:ng church property. We have a good one in Mississippi. which is Section 5350 of the Code of 1942.

When a church is organized under it the section provides that the church “shall be a distinct and independent society” and that its property “shall not be divested out of the same, or encumbered, except by a deed, deed of trust, or mortgage, duly executed under the authority of a resolution adopted by a majority vote of the members present at a meeting duly called by that purpose, at which meeting at least twenty percent (20%) of the members in good standing of such organized society must be present.” If your church is not incorporated under the provisions of that section I suggest that it be done. The procedure is simple.

Who Owns Your Church Property? At this time, it is my opinion that the local congregation does. The General Church recognizes this. Because it intervened in the Savannah cases, and one or two overtures were offered at the Memphis, 1970, General Assembly to change the Book of Church Order as to property so as to give control to The Presbytery. Thus our Higher Court realizes the force of the Georgia cases and the Maryland case. Careful watch will have to be made of the aforesaid overtures.

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