Independent Board

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John Ulverstone Selwyn Toms
[26 October 1878 – 14 November 1973]
Excerpted from the Minutes of the Bible Presbyterian Synod, 1974, pp. 38-39.
A Memorial Resolution, #7. on the death of the Rev. U. Selwyn Toms was presented by the Rev. Morris McDonald. It was on motion adopted and reads:
RESOLUTION NO. 7

J. U. Selwyn Toms,IN MEMORIAM – REV. J. U. SELWYN TOMS
The Rev. Mr. Toms went into the Lord’s presence on November 14, 1973, in his sleep, at the age of 95. Mr. Toms was born in 1878 in South Australia. He was graduated in the class of 1908 from Princeton Seminary, a classmate and friend of the late Dr. J. Gordon Holdcroft. Upon graduation he was licensed by the West Jersey Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. On October 27, 1908 he and his wife, Ella Sparks Burt, sailed for Korea to serve at Taegu and Seoul stations. They had three children, Robert, Burton and Elaine. Rev. Burton Toms was born in Seoul, Korea, and is at present serving the Lord under the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions.

Having returned from the mission field in 1923, due to the ill health of his wife, Mr. Toms served as pastor of the Thompson Memorial Church in Pennsylvania and after four years, as pastor at the Presbyterian Church of Woodstown, N.J., on July 31, 1936, Mr. Toms felt it was necessary to withdraw from the Presbytery due to un-Presbyterian actions.

Mr. Toms was elected to the Board of the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions on May 31, 1937 and actively served until health prevented his attendance in 1966.

Mr. Toms was very strong in his stand against ecclesiastical apostasy and was active in the continuing succession to the Presbyterian Church U.S.A. He became a member of the Presbyter¬ian Church of America and was elected stated clerk for the New Jersey Presbytery. When it was no longer possible to continue in fellowship with that body, he formed part of the commission for a Bible Presbyterian Synod. The first Synod of the Bible Presbyterian Church was held in Collingswood, N.J. September 6-8, 1930, and Mr. Toms was elected its FIRST moderator, because of the all-important missionary issues included in the conflict with the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A.

For many years he served as the faithful statistician of the Bible Presbyterian Church. Mr. and Mrs. Toms made their residence In Chattanooga, Tennessee, with their son Robert. Mrs. Toms had gone to be with the Lord in November, 1971. “Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth; Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them.” – Revelation 14:13.
Mr. Toms served as a faithful member of the Kentucky-Tennessee Presbytery for many years prior to going to his higher reward.

As per the OPC Ministerial Register (2011):
John Ulverstone Selwyn Toms was born in Waller, New South Wales, Australia, on 26 October 1878.
He married Ella Burt on 10 October 1905.
Children born to their marriage included Robert, Frederick, and Marian.
He was educated at Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois, graduating there in 1905 with the A.B. degree.
He prepared for ministry at Princeton Theological Seminary, graduating in 1908 with the Th.B. degree and later returned to Princeton for the Th.M. degree, in 1924.
Rev. Toms was ordained by the Presbytery of West Jersey (PCUSA), on 2 July 1908.
From 1909-1923, he served as a evangelist in Korea under the auspices of the Board of Foreign Missions (PCUSA).
He was pastor of the Thompson Memorial Presbyterian Church (PCUSA), Brownsburg, Pennsylvania, 1924-1928.
From 1928-1936, he was pastor of the PCUSA church in Woodtown, New Jersey.
Rev. Toms was received by the Presbytery of New Jersey (Presbyterian Church of America/Orthodox Presbyterian Church, on 8 September 1936, but later withdrew to become a founding member of the Bible Presbyterian Church, on 6 September 1938.
His date of death was 14 November 1973.

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The following account comes from the pages of Christianity Today [original series, published by Samuel Craig, 1930-49], recounting something of the opposition encountered by missionaries trying to be obedient to the Scriptures and faithful to God’s call. The case had been convincingly made that their denominational board was sending modernists and even unbelievers out onto the mission field. Rather than work in that context, an Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions was begun, though almost immediately the denomination declared that involvement with this Independent Board was illegal and “unPresbyterian.” (this, despite the fact that the denomination itself had utilized independent agencies in the 19th-century.

The Rev. Henry W. Coray entered onto the mission field of China about 1935, under the auspices of the IBPFM, and labored there until the War forced he and other missionaries to return home. Stateside, Rev. Coray soon found a new calling as the organizing pastor of the Faith Orthodox Presbyterian Church of Long Beach, California, and he labored in that pulpit until 1955, when called to establish a church in San Jose. Blessed with a long life, Rev. Coray entered into his eternal reward in 2002.


The Case of Mr. Coray

On November 12, 1934, the Presbytery of Lackawanna (Synod of Pennsylvania) without process voted to erase from its roll the name of the Rev. Henry Warner Coray [23 June 1904-20 October 2002], who was at that time already serving on the field in China as a missionary of the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions (IBPFM).

That action was taken because Mr. Coray went to China to preach the gospel without the consent of the Presbytery. The permission of the Presbytery was refused, as is plain from the action taken by the Presbytery at meeting on September 26, 1934, because Mr. Coray announced his intention of going to the foreign field under the appointment of the Independent Board. On September 26th the  Presbytery had decided to notify Mr. Coray of its intention to erase his name from the roll if he left “his field to labor under this so-called Board.” It should be noted that the report of the Presbyterial Council, which was adopted by the Presbytery, was presented by the Rev. Peter K. Emmons, a member of the Board of Foreign Missions of the Presbyterian Church in the U. S. A.!

The report recited that its recommendations were made in view of the action of the General Assembly “condemning this so-called Board as a repudiation of the jurisdiction of the General Assembly and of those terms of fellowship and communion contained in the Constitution of the Presbyterian Church.”

No charges were ever filed against Mr. Coray. He served his church with distinction and left it with the blessing of those to whom he ministered. Nevertheless he was expelled from the Church without a trial! Without making a technical examination of the action of the Presbytery, which was professedly taken in accordance with Chapter VII, Section 2 (b) of the Book of Discipline, we want to make one observation. If the Presbytery wished to raise the question whether Mr. Coray had the right to do as he did, it could have filed charges against him. In that event Mr. Coray would have had an opportunity to defend his conduct and to raise the pertinent question whether the Presbytery’s command was a lawful one. It has been well said that “Henry Coray’s name was erased from the roll of his Presbytery simply because he refused to lay down the call of God at the command of men . . . Had he gone out under the official Board the same Presbytery would doubtless have banqueted in his honor. But he goes out under the Independent Board. ‘You must preach the gospel to the heathen under our auspices,’ says the Presbytery in effect, ‘or you must stay at home.’ Henry Coray went and thereby deserves lasting honor.”

[Source: CHRISTIANITY TODAY, 5.9 (February 1935): 214-215.]

Words to Live By:
It matters not what the world says. It matters not what friends and family may say. It matters not what governments, princes, armies and magistrates may say. If contrary to the very Word of God, then we must stand firm upon the Scriptures, unmoved, looking to our only Lord and God, knowing that all truth resides with Him.

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The Strange Church Trial of a Spiritual Giant.

It all happened around seventy-seven years ago.  Back in March of 1935, Dr. J. Gresham Machen was before a church court of his peers seeking to defend himself against the serious charges of denying his ordination vows, disapproval of the government and discipline of the church, advocating a rebellious defiance against the lawful authority of the church, and we could go on and on in the charges leveled against this spiritual giant.  You would think that he was guilty of the most aggravated doctrinal error or moral shortcomings.  But in reality, it came down to a single issue—that of refusing to obey the 1934 mandate of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. to cease and desist from supporting an independent board of missionaries, of which board he was the president.

The trial itself was a farce in every sense of the word.  Machen’s defense first tried to challenge certain members of the judicial commission itself as biased, seeking to have them recuse themselves, since at least two of these men had signed the theologically liberal Auburn affirmation.  That was denied.  Then the question of jurisdiction was argued, but that also was not sustained.

At the third session, upon hearing Dr. Machen declare himself “not guilty,” the Commission ruled that certain matters were out-of-bounds in the arguments of the defense case.  Those included questions which surrounded the existence of the Auburn Affirmation, signed in 1924.  They next ruled out any question concerning the nature and conduct of the official Board of Foreign Missions, which had prompted much of the problem when it gave its endorsement to the book entitled Rethinking Missions.  Further, arguments stemming from the reorganization of Princeton Seminary and the founding of Westminster Theological Seminary were also outlawed by the commission.  All of these were part and parcel of Dr. Machen’s defense, since they provided the background of the origin of the Independent Board of Presbyterian Foreign Missions.

All these rulings paled into insignificance, so to speak, however, when we consider the last ruling of the judicial commission.  It stated that the legality of the Thirty-Fourth General Assembly’s Mandate for the ministers, members, and churches to cease supporting the Independent Board and only support the official Board of Foreign Missions could not be questioned.

It was obvious that with all of these rulings, that there was only one verdict which could come forth from this judicial commission, and that was guilty.  And so on this date, March 29, 1935, the judgment of “Guilty” was rendered by this seven member Judicial Commission of the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A.   Appeals to the higher courts were in vain, and J. Gresham Machen was suspended by the church.

Words to Live By:  In whatever issue which confronts us inside or outside the church, we must remember that God is Lord alone of our conscience, with the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments the  only infallible guide of faith and life.   Let us hold to those, not fearing what man can do to us.

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A Stirring Confession of Faith

machen02On Sunday evening, March 17, 1935, Dr. J. Gresham Machen filled the pulpit of the  First Presbyterian Church of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. This time period was in the framework of being under indictment for refusing to cease and desist from the support of the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Mission, as the Mandate from the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church USA, had stated in 1934. His ordination was thus at stake. His standing in that denomination was at stake. Listen to his profession of faith given on that evening.

“My profession of faith is simply that I know nothing of the Christ proclaimed, through the Auburn Affirmation. I know nothing of a Christ who is presented to us in a human book containing errors, but know only a Christ presented in a divine book, the Bible which is true from beginning to end.  I know nothing of a Christ who possibly was and possibly was not born of a virgin, but know only a Christ who was truly conceived by the Holy Ghost and born of the Virgin Mary. I know nothing of a Christ who possibly did and possibly did not work miracles, but know only a Christ who said to the winds and the waves, with the sovereign voice of the Maker and Ruler of all nature, ‘Peace be still.’  I know nothing of a Christ who possible  did and possibly did not come out of the tomb on the first Easter morning, but know only a Christ who triumphed over sin and the grave and is living now in His glorified body until He shall come again and I shall see Him with my very eyes. I know nothing of a Christ who possibly did and possibly did not die as my substitute on the cross, but know only a Christ who took upon Himself the just punishment of my sins and died there in my stead to make it right with the holy God.”

Despite what the ecclesiastical machinery of the Presbyterian Church would do, Dr. Machen’s conviction was settled.  He ended it all by stating that he would “rather be condemned for an honest adherence to the Bible and to my solemn ordination pledge than enjoy the highest ecclesiastical honors and emoluments as the reward of dishonesty.”

Words to Live By: Can you echo the words of J. Gresham Machen today? Today the attacks continue upon both the written and living Word. Let us affirm this confession today—for the Word of God is true, though all men stand in error—until God takes us home.

For further study:
To read the full message delivered by Dr. J. Gresham Machen that Sunday evening, March 17, 1935, click here.

News coverage of the above event:

PASTOR SCORES MODERNISM AS CAUSE OF TRIAL.

Dr. J. Gresham Machen Defends Beliefs in Sermon At Church Here.

HEARING TOMORROW.

Philadelphia Minister Will Face Presbyterian Court AT Trention.

Dr. J. Gresham Machen of Philadelphia, president of the Independent Board of [sic] Presbyterian Foreign Missions, who goes on trial before a special court of the church tomorrow at Trenton, N.J., declared last night: “The Presbyterian Church is in the midst of a conflict between two irreconcilable adversaries–Christianity and Modernism.”

Speaking at the First Presbyterian Church here, Dr. Machen defended his fundamentalist beliefs and accused the Presbyterian Church of spreading “anti-Christian” propaganda.

“I cannot support this anti-Christian propaganda now being furthered by the official board of Foreign Missions of the Presbyterian Church in the United States,” he said. “I cannot place the shifting votes of general assemblies or any other human councils in place of an authority which rightly belongs only to the Word of God.

Refused to Quit Board

The General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church last year outlawed the Independent Board of Missions and ordered all ministers to resign from it within 90 days. Dr. Machen refused and was ordered to stand trial before the New Brunswick presbytery. Two hearings have been held and the third and final one is scheduled tomorrow.

Dr. Machen last night laid his troubles to “modernists” and asserted: “Christianity is taught in the Bible and the Constitution of the Church; but modernism has grown to dominate the ecclesiastical machine.”

Attacks Auburn Affirmation

Citing the Auburn Affirmation, which he said sets forth the modernist argument and is signed by 1923 ministers, Dr. Machen declared:

“The Auburn Affirmation directly attacks the doctrines of the full truthfulness of the Bible and declares that some of its basic teachings are merely theories among other possible theories and are non-essential.

“It is typical of the conditions in the church that Dr. Cordie J. Culp of New Brunswick, the presiding officer of the commission now trying me in Trenton, is a signer of the modernist document,” he said. “It is also typical that John E. Kuizenga of Princeton Seminary took the lead in the unanimous vote of the commission that all efforts of my counsel to refer to the modernist doument be barred.”

Professor at Seminary

Dr. Machen further declared he is prepared to prove that the board’s orders for him to resign are “contrary to the constitution of the church.”

“I have also offered to prove,” he said, “the Board of Foreign Missions is unfaithful to its great trust. The commission has refused to listen to my evidence or to the arguments of my counsel. Of course, I will be condemned, but I should far rather be condemned for an honest adherence to the Bible and to my solemn ordination pledge than enjoy even the highest ecclesiastical honors and emoulments [sic] as the rewards of dishonesty.”

Dr. Machen, who spoke in the absence of Dr. C. E. Macartney, is a profess of New Testament in Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia.

[excerpted from The Pittsburgh Press, 18 March 1935, page 11.]

[Note: The correction name of the organization is the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions. Too often in news coverage and elsewhere, the name was shown in error, substituting “of” in place of “for”]

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Remembering Our Fathers and Brothers:

macnair01The Rev. Donald J. MacNair
 died on this day, March 3rd, in 2001. Born in 1922 and educated at Rutgers University and Faith Theological Seminary, his first pastorate was with the BPC church in Coatesville, PA. Answering a call to serve The Covenant Presbyterian Church in St. Louis, he oversaw the relocation of that church and helped to design its new building. From 1964-1982, Rev. MacNair served as the head of National Presbyterian Missions (NPM), the church planting arm of the RPCES. While it was Dr. Edmund P. Clowney who came up with the idea of the Joining & Receiving method of merger, it was Don MacNair who was widely recognized as the architect of J&R and who worked tirelessly to bring about the reception of the RPCES into the PCA in 1982. In effect, he worked himself out of a job, since the PCA already had in place a director for its Mission to North America, NPM’s counterpart. Not one to sit around, Dr. MacNair then formed Churches Vitalized, a ministry to struggling churches. Both the Donald J. MacNair manuscript collectionand the records of Churches Vitalized are preserved at the PCA Historical Center. The latter collection is awaiting processing at this time.

Also on this day, the Rev. Robert James Ostenson, one of the founding fathers of the PCA, entered his eternal reward on March 3, 2008. Born in 1922, he prepared for the ministry at Fuller Theological Seminary (BD, 1953) and was later awarded the Doctor of Divinity degree by Belhaven College in 1969. He was ordained by Mississippi Presbytery in 1953 and installed as the pastor of the Woodville and Gloster, MS churches, where he served for three years. At the time of the formation of the Presbyterian Church in America, he was serving as the pastor of Granada Presbyterian Church in Coral Gables, FL., 1965-1974. In his final pastorate, he returned to serve that church again, from 1987-1989.

ArmesJGAnd on this day, March 3, 1993, the Rev. John Galbreath Armes passed away. Born in 1918, his father was Roland K. Armes, a stalwart Presbyterian and a leader in the Bible Presbyterian Synod. John received his education at Hampden-Sydney College and Faith Theological Seminary before licensure and ordination by the Philadelphia Presbytery of the BPC. Rev. Armes served as a chaplain in the U.S. Navy, 1944-46 and was Assistant General Secretary of the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions from 1946-51. Leaving that post, he served as a foreign missionary in Kenya from 1951-1982. He was honorably retired in 1984 by the Northeast Presbytery of the PCA.

Image sources:
1. Portrait photograph of the Rev. Donald J. MacNair, from the MacNair manuscript collection.
2. Portrait photograph of the Rev. John G. Armes, from The Independent Board Bulletin, 14.1 (January 1948): 8.
All digital scans by the staff of the PCA Historical Center.

Words to Live By:
Therefore let us also, seeing we are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising shame, and hath sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1, ASV)

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Quite a Name to Live Up To

On June 19th, 1901, Dr. Philip Edward Arcularius married Miss Marie Fermine Du Buisson. The Rev. Isaac Peck, uncle of the bride, officiated, assisted by the Rev. Frederick B. Carter, rector, with the wedding taking place at St. Luke’s Church, Montclair, New Jersey.

arculariusPNearly a year later the couple joyfully welcomed their first child into the family. Philip du Buisson Arcularius was born on May 11, 1902.  Philip’s father was a successful New York City physician with a long family heritage and good social standing and his mother came from a wealthy mercantile family, equal in social standing. Marie’s grandfather was named George Washington du Buisson, so named by his father who was both a friend of General George Washington and the Marquis of Lafayette.  No doubt Philip enjoyed a comfortable childhood, but he knew some of life’s trials as well, as his mother died when he was little more than sixteen. Then just two years later, he graduated from East Orange High School and entered Yale University in 1921, graduating in 1925 with a degree in business.

We don’t know the details of his Christian faith, but at least by the time of his graduation from Yale he had decided to pursue a calling to the ministry. He attended Auburn Seminary for his first year, 1929-30, but decided to transfer from there, due to the socialism espoused by Dr. John C. Bennett and the liberalism of the Auburn faculty. He chose Princeton Theological Seminary, arriving on campus in the fall of 1930, just a year after the reorganization of Princeton and the departure of Machen, Wilson, Allis, and Van Til, who had left over that summer to start Westminster Seminary. Geerhardus Vos was still among the Princeton faculty, but already the school and its curriculum were changing.

Philip graduated from Princeton in 1932 and then stayed for a graduate year. Ordained in October of 1933 by the PCUSA Presbytery of Morris and Orange, Rev. Arcularius soon became the Stated Supply pastor for two churches in Lackawanna Presbytery, in Old Forge and Duryea, Pennsylvania.

In a brief personal testimony delivered in 1974, Rev. Arcularius stated that,

The Lackawanna Presbytery, in northeastern Pennsylvania, then a conservative body, changed rapidly in the next two years. I felt led by the Lord to take my stand on the floor of Presbytery, on a number of controversial issues, on which my conscience would not let me remain silent. I soon found that, as the pastor of the two aid-receiving churches, I was not supposed to speak out so forthrightly, but only to take my money and keep quiet! When I withdrew from the Presbytery, in April, 1936, the Wilkes-Barre Times Leader had a headline, clear across the top of page 2, “Arcularius Quits Presbytery in Free Speech Fight.” My stand, of course, was for the basic, historic doctrines of the Christian faith, as set forth in the Westminster Confession, since superceded in the old Church by “the Confession of 1967.”

Rev. Arcularius continued,

Under the leadership of the late Rev. Dr. J. Gresham Machen, I became one of 33 Presbyterian ministers who stood with him, to form the Presbyterian Church of America, in 1936. One year later, I participated in the founding of the Bible Presbyterian Church. In that testimony to the Christian faith, I have been most happy to remain. Twice I was elected Moderator of the Presbytery of New Jersey; and also served as the Vice-Moderator of the Bible Presbyterian Synod. I have been a member of the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions since May 31, 1937, on its Executive Committee since 1956.

In 1953, Rev. Arcularius began a ministry known as Friends of Israel Testimony to Christ, based in Lakewood, New Jersey. He remained with this ministry until his death on February 8, 1985.

Words to Live By: A life of privilege often leads to moral compromise. Raised in wealth, it is difficult to do without it, and corners are cut to maintain the lifestyle. But it doesn’t always turn out that way. Many people of wealth and privilege have recognized the greater worth of the kingdom of God. In some cases they have literally given up everything to follow Jesus. In other cases, they have used their wealth effectively and sacrificially for the sake of the Gospel. God has blessed most of us in this nation with relatively great wealth. Everything that we have is from His hand. How are we using that which He has provided? How are we living up to our God-given name, as followers of Christ?

Image source: Photo of Philip duBuisson Arcularius found as part of an article by Rev. Arcularius, which appeared in The Independent Board Bulletin, 8.4 (April 1942): 3.

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Time and Again, God Triumphs Over Our Sin

Attempts to reform the Mission Board of the Presbyterian Church, USA were led in part by some of the faculty and board members at Westminster Theological Seminary. When those efforts failed, it was on June 27th in 1933 that the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions (IBPFM) was organized and on October 17, 1933, its constitution was adopted and officers were elected: Rev. J. Gresham Machen serving as president, Rev. Merrill T. MacPherson as vice president, Rev. H. McAllister Griffiths as secretary, and Murray Forrest Thompson, Esq. as treasurer. The General Assembly of 1934 had put the issue rather bluntly, declaring that members of the IBPFM either were to resign or else face church discipline for violation of their ordination vows.

As new evidence kept coming forward, concerning continued modernism in the Board of Foreign Mission, more and more people made the decision to begin supporting the IBPFM. This support of the new board so worried the denomination that it became a major issue at the next general assembly held in Cleveland, Ohio, in May 1934. For one, remember that this was taking place during the depression, and charitable funds were especially tight. That reason is not offered to excuse what happened next, but it does help to explain it. Perhaps it was not surprising then that the 1934 General Assembly adopted a deliverance that stated that every member of the church was required by the constitution to support the missionary program of the church, comparable to the way that each member must take part in the Lord’s Supper.

The Assembly then mandated that each Presbytery was to take action against any of its members who were also members of the IBPFM. Thus the deliverance became known as “The Mandate” and in typical Presbyterian fashion, the consequences of that action unfolded slowly. Over the course of the following two years, about a dozen men and one woman were charged, tried and cast out of the Church. On March 29, 1935, Dr. J. Gresham was declared guilty and suspended from the ministry of the PCUSA, on March 29, 1935. His trial was a travesty, with all doctrinal evidence prohibited by the court. Dr. Roy T. Brumbaugh was tried in absentia. It was a sad conclusion to this chapter in the history of the Church, but one which led to new beginnings. As some of the old Puritans used to say, “God never removes one blessing, but what He gives a greater.”

Pictured below is a letter from the Rev. Walter Vail Watson, in which he mentions his discussions with Dr. Machen and sketches out what must have been some of the first outlines of the later formation of the IBPFM:—

IBPFM_origins
Next, (and I realize this may be more difficult to read), is the text of the press release issued by Dr. Machen upon the official formation of the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions, on October 17, 1933:—

ibpfm_press_release

 

 

A Prayer for Our Times:
Lord, give us honest, godly leaders who will do what is right, regardless of the cost to themselves. Give us leaders who, in all humility, fear You and who thus fear no man. And may we be a humble, repentant people capable of following such leaders, seeking Your glory in all that we say and do.

Images: The documents pictured above are from the J. Oliver Buswell, Jr. Manuscript Collection, preserved at the  PCA Historical Center.

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A Casualty of D-Day

The following account comes from THE INDEPENDENT BOARD BULLETIN, Vol. 10, no. 10 (October 1944): 4-7. This was (and is) the newsletter of the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions.

FAITHFUL UNTO DEATH

dieffenbacherAJIn the falling of the Reverend Arthur Johnston Dieffenbacher on the battlefields of Normandy, July 5, 1944, the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions has lost its first and one of its best missionaries by death. Few details are known even at this writing but in Arthur Dieffenbacher’s passing his family, the Board, China and a host of friends have sustained a very great loss; yet we know that God’s people should view all things from the standpoint of eternity and therefore we can rest assured that God Who knows all things “doeth all things well.”

Arthur Dieffenbacher was born in Titusville, Pa., April 29, 1909; and thus was but a little over thirty-five years of age when the Lord called him home. His early years were spent at Erie, Pa. where he was graduated from high school at the early age of fifteen. Two years of college work at Erie followed, and two years later in 1927 he was graduated from Grove City College. In 1931 he finished his theological education at Dallas Theological Seminary, with a Master’s degree in his possession and also credit toward a post-graduate Doctor’s degree. He had proved himself precocious during his school days, but he was also in advance of his years in the things of the Lord, his deep interest in these things showing itself, for instance, in his spending the first night of his college life away from home in a prayer meeting with a group which was destined to aid him greatly to the clear insight into God’s word which his later years so fully exhibited.

In September, 1932, Mr. Dieffenbacher was appointed a missionary of the China Inland Mission and in company with his intimate friend John Stam, who himself was destined to become a martyr, soon left for China. There, after language study and a brief period of work in Changteh, Hunan Province, he met in 1934 Miss Junia White, daughter of Dr. Hugh W. White, editor of The China Fundamentalist. Miss White and he were soon engaged, but because of illness and other causes they were not married until June 1938, joining at about the same time also and with the good wishes of the China Inland Mission, the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions with the principles and purposes of which both were in full sympathy.

dieffenbacherMrMrs_1940All the years spent in China were filled with adventure which included a flight from Chinese communists in 1935; and the summer of 1938 saw battles raging all around Kuling where Miss White and Mr. Dieffenbacher had been married. Indeed China had been engaged for a whole year then in the war which was to engulf eventually so many lands and was, for Arthur Dieffenbacher, to end so tragically upon the battlefields of Nor­mandy. On their way from Kuling this young bride and groom had to pass through the battle zone, just behind the fighting lines, but God gave them protection and enabled Arthur even then to point a sore-wounded and dying Chinese lad, a soldier, to Christ as the Lamb of God who was slain for our sins.

This trip led to Harbin, Manchuria, the “Manchukuo” of the Japa­nese, where two years of happy, fruitful work ensued, years which saw the beginning of what despite the hardness of the soil of that great cos­mopolitan city might have developed into a much greater work had it not been for the tyranny of Japan and the war which was so soon to bring to an end so much Christian work both in the Japanese empire and in China. In the testings of those years in regard to Shinto and the Japanese demands upon Christians Arthur and his wife remained faithful.

In the summer of 1940, after eight years in China, Mr. Dieffenbacher returned to America with his wife on furlough. There on June 19, 1941, a little daughter, Sara Junia, was born. As war conditions were gradually spreading it was thought that Mr. Dieffenbacher ought to return alone to Manchuria and so passport and passage were obtained but ere he could sail the events of December 7, 1941, compelled all such plans to be abandoned for the time being, and as it proved in Arthur’s case, forever.

In America Mr. Dieffenbacher proved to be a good and effective mis­sionary speaker. He also rendered efficient aid at his Board’s headquarters in Philadelphia. Later he held a brief pastorate in the Bible Presbyterian Church of Cincinnati, Ohio. But when the American Council of Christian Churches obtained for its member Churches a quota of Army chaplaincies, Mr. Dieffenbacher applied for a chaplaincy and was appointed and joined the Army on July 18, 1943.

In the Army Arthur Dieffenbacher won recognition for two things. For one, he took with his men, for example, the whole system of training including the dangerous and difficult “infiltration” course and other things which were not required of chaplains, but which he did that by all means he might win some. This ambition to win men to Christ was the second notable trait of which we speak. Indeed it showed itself not alone while he was in the Army but also throughout all his life. He always preached to convince, convert and win. On his way to England with his unit he with two other God-fearing chaplains, won eighty-four men to Christ. A brief letter home, mentioning this asked, “Isn’t that great?” Truly it was great and not merely in the opinion of his friends, we believe, but also in the sight of the Lord. Some of his friends are praying that from among those eighty-four after the war some may volunteer to take Arthur Dieffenbacher’s place in China. God is able to bring such things to pass.

The time from April to June 24, 1944, was spent in England. There, too, Arthur Dieffenbacher was constantly on the search for souls and also for that which would bring inspiration to his men and to his family and friends at home. Some of the poems he found and sent home testify at once to his love for good poetry and for the things of the spirit, especially for the things of the Lord. He believed thoroughly that he was in God’s will. He longed to see his wife and child and mother again but assured them that “no good thing would the Lord withhold from them that walk uprightly.” He rejoiced in full houses of soldiers to whom to preach the Gospel of salvation. He was often tired after a long day of duties done, but preached and lived that we are “More than Conquerors” through Christ. With it all he learned to sew on buttons and patches and to wash his own clothes and his good humor bubbled over into his letters when he said, “Oh, boy, you should see the result!” Up at the front large at­tendances at services were the rule, men searching for help, for strength, for God, as they faced the foe. Perhaps a premonition was felt of what was to come. He wrote, “There are so many chances of getting hurt in war or in peace that which one affects you is by God’s permission. Hence I don’t worry, but take all reasonable precautions and trust the rest to God. His will is best and His protection sufficient.” On July 3, he wondered how they would celebrate the Fourth, and knew not that on the morrow of that day he would celebrate humbly but joyfully in the Presence of God. When killed by German artillery fire his body was recovered by his senior chaplain, Chaplain Blitch, and later an impressive funeral service was held.

“Faithful unto death” are words which characterized the whole life of Arthur Dieffenbacher. The realization of that fact brings an added meas­ure of consolation to his mother, Mrs. Mildred J. Dieffenbacher, to his wife and will, in time, to his little three-year-old daughter as she comes to understand what her father was and what he did. It brings consolation also to The Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions and to all his friends. But as Arthur Dieffenbacher himself would have been the first to say, all he was and did he owed to Christ in whom he was called, chosen and empowered and made faithful till that day when surely he heard the welcome “well done, good and faithful servant, enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.”

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Keeping in mind that newspapers were little different then than now, subject to the same human foibles*, nonetheless the following coverage of the modernist controversy and the resulting denominational split is interesting, as it offers some different perspectives on what a division means to those involved.

[*There are two errors mainly in the text below, both of which will be noted in brackets in their first appearance.]

This article is from a Wilmington, DE newspaper, dated June 29, 1936, and is found preserved in one of seven scrapbooks gathered by the Rev. Henry G. Welbon, covering the modernist controversy in the years 1935-1939. The photographs have been added and were not part of the original article.

familiesdivided

Dissension with all the heartaches and strained loyalties that civil war brings, is definitely wedged in the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A.

Where it will lead and the effect of the wedge, no one knows.

But this much is already evident in the Presbytery of New Castle, which embraced Delaware and parts of Maryland: families are divided, parents against children, husbands against wives, and friend with friend.

This is a time when members of congregations are torn between loyalty to their established church, when men are being accused of dogmatism, heresy, apostasy and free will.

Out of the seething cauldron has been born a new church, the Presbyterian Church in [sic; should be “of”] America, in contrast to the old Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A.

The nature of the wedge that is lodged in the church of the U.S.A. today is itself controversial.

Question Not Doctrinal

Those who are remaining loyal say the split is on a church constitutional question and among the loyalists are both fundamentalists and modernists.

“The matter now and never has been a controversy between ‘fundamentalists’ and ‘modernists’ the general council of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. states.

It is a question the general council states, of whether ministers shall disobey the established constitution of a church and agree to the will of the majority.

The secessionists–all fundamentalists–say the differences are based upon doctrinal questions and liberty of conscience.

In any case, the immediate cause of the secession and the controversy has been the Independent Board of [sic; should be “for”] Presbyterian Foreign Missions, a board with no official connection with the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A.

The leading personality in the Independent Board of Presbyterian Foreign Missions has been the Rev. Dr. J. Gresham Machen of the Presbytery of New Brunswick, N.J.

Four Judicatories in Church

For those not familiar with Presbyterian Church government, it should be explained that the judicatory and administrative bodies of the church are: First, the session, composed of representatives of a congregation, governing the church; second, the Presbytery governing a group of sessions in a district; third, the synod, a group of Presbyteries and fourth, the General Assembly which is the national ruling body of the Presbyterian Church which also is the supreme court and lawmaking body of the entire church.

Also as part of the story of the Independent Board of Presbyterian Foreign Missions is Pearl Buck, a missionary in China, whom it was charged was too much a modernist.

Dr. Machen Heads Movement

machen02Though she resigned, the charges persisted from the militant fundamentalists of the Presbyterian Church against the alleged modernism in the foreign mission groups. In 1933, Dr. Machen introduced into the Presbytery of New Brunswick a proposed resolution to be presented to General Assembly relating to what he called “modernism” in the Presbyterian Board of Foreign Missions.

A large majority of the Presbytery of New Brunswick refused to send this resolution to General Assembly but similar resolutions did reach General Assembly in 1933. The assembly received it and Dr. Machen was heard by the committee to which the resolutions had been presented for consideration.

By a vote of 43 to 2, the committee reported unfavorably and expressed its confidence in the Board of Foreign Missions and by a nearly unanimous vote, the General Assembly approved the report of this committee.

But Dr. Machen did not pause there. Accepting neither the views of the committee nor the “judgment of the General Assembly,” he was influential in the establishment of the Independent Board of Presbyterian Foreign Missions, incorporated in December of 1933, with Dr. Machen as president. It is not a recognized body of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A., being just what its name indicates, “independent.”

H. S. Laird Member of Board

lairdhsTo this board came the Rev. Harold S. Laird, pastor of the First and Central Presbyterian Church of Wilmington, an ardent fundamentalist.

But before he joined the independent board, he consulted with his session. He did not join against their counsel.

Another point, not widely known, is that Mr. Laird during his pastorate at First and Central Presbyterian Church never solicited for the Independent Board of Presbyterian Foreign Missions.

“It was only after much earnest prayer and careful consideration,” he said, “that I came to the conviction that this movement was of God, and being thus convinced, I agreed to throw what little influence I have in the church to the lifting high of this standard. This was my primary motive in allowing myself to be elected a member of the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions.

“It is from this board that I was ordered to resign. I believe the board is of God and I also believe that my call to membership on that board was of God. Under such circumstances, how can I resign? Shall I obey man rather than God?”

Taking note of this independent board and that ministers and elders were prominent in its membership, the General Assembly directed that all ministers and laymen affiliated with the board sever their connections with the organization.

Those who declined to obey this direction were ordered tried by their Presbyteries. A number were found guilty and either rebuked or suspended.

Mr. Laird tried before the Presbytery of New Castle, protested that his affiliation with the independent board had been guided by his conscience and that in refusing to sever his connection, he was placing the word of God above the courts of man.

Rebuked, But Not Suspended.

Mr. Laird, however, was found guilty, with one dissenting vote in his favor. He was ordered rebuked but allowed to remain [in] his pulpit.

But Mr. Laird continued in the membership of the independent board. The Presbytery recently suspended him from the ministry–an act regarded as illegal by Mr. Laird who immediately renounced the authority of the Presbytery.

Words to Live By
Unity is a precious thing, to be cultivated and prized. But Christian unity must be centered on the saving Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. Where we have that unity, it is glorious. Without Jesus Christ as our Cornerstone, there can be no Church.

Luke 12:49-53 (ESV)
49 “I came to cast fire on the earth, and would that it were already kindled!
50 I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how great is my distress until it is accomplished!
51 Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.
52 For from now on in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three.
53 They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”

Psalm 133 (KJV)
1 Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!
2 It is like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron’s beard: that went down to the skirts of his garments;
3 As the dew of Hermon, and as the dew that descended upon the mountains of Zion: for there the Lord commanded the blessing, even life for evermore.

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Sad Schism Among the Saints

They were united in their conviction over the apostasy of the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A.  A number of the teaching and ruling elders had suffered over expulsion from the rolls of the visible church.  Others had lost church buildings, manses, and pensions.  But in God’s providence, they had gathered in great rejoicing to begin a new church faithful to the Scriptures, the Reformed faith, and the gospel of Jesus Christ.  They were one in coming out of the apostasy, but it was not too long before the members of the Presbyterian Church of America were divided over other issues.  It was at the third General Assembly of the P.C.A. in Philadelphia, as reported by the June 26th, 1937 Presbyterian Guardian, that these divisive issues came to the floor of the assembly.

The first one dealt with the issue of Independency versus ecclesiastical Presbyterianism within the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions.  Obviously, since 1933 at its organization, this mission board had not been affiliated with any denomination.  It was independent of it.  Independent agencies had always had a place within the American Presbyterian Church.  But now with the advent of the Presbyterian Church of America, the majority of the elders desired that a Presbyterian affiliation be adhered to again.  When Dr. J. Gresham Machen was voted off as president of the Independent Board, his place was filled by an Independent Presbyterian, with no affiliation with the new Presbyterian Church of America.  Further, the vice-president’s position was also filled by an individual who was independent of any ecclesiastical relationship to Presbyterianism.  Many members, including the General Secretary, Rev. Charles Woodbridge, resigned from the Independent Board.

The commissioners to the Third General Assembly, meeting in Philadelphia at the Spruce Street Baptist Church, overwhelmingly voted that the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions was no longer to be an agency for foreign missions by the Presbyterian Church of America.  By that same margin, they voted to endorse a new Committee on Foreign Missions by the P.C.A.

The second issue dealt with whether total abstinence from alcoholic beverages was to be the position of the church.  While it was acknowledged that the greater number of delegates to the assembly abstained from alcohol, yet they were  hesitant to make it a rule for the church, but instead leave it as a matter of Christian liberty to its membership.  This position was especially difficult for pastors in the middle west of the country who were fighting the saloon trade in western towns.  Given the national issue then in the country over the temperance issue, it was thought that this would have been a wise decision.  But again the Assembly refused by a wide margin to make total abstinence the only true principle of temperance.

It is interesting that Westminster Theological Seminary, soon after this assembly, stated to its students, that “to avoid any misconception by the public, a rule is established forbidding all beverage use of alcoholic liquors upon the grounds and in the buildings of the seminary.”

At the end of this assembly, those who  had been in the minority on both of these issues, gathered to begin what became the Bible Presbyterian church. (See June 4) What had been a united front before the watching world became two smaller church bodies of Presbyterians.

Words to Live By:   It may be easy to look back from some later date and see the “right thing” to do.  But it is obvious that there were unfounded rumors of wild drinking parties on Westminster Seminary grounds as well as  a general lack of understanding by some elders of the challenges facing pastors of western churches.  To be sure, the guiding wisdom of a J. Gresham Machen was missing from the assembly, with his entrance into the heavenly kingdom earlier that year.  But all elders, both teaching and ruling elders, are to filled with the Spirit. They should live humbly in day to day reliance upon His enabling power, wisdom and guidance. Then, working within the framework of love, deal wisely with others who differ from them in points of contention. Let us learn to do this in our own circles.

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