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A Presbyterian Church in the Heart of Anglican Virginia
by David T Myers

There is an expression commonly heard yet misunderstood by mostly every citizen today in our land. It is “the separation of church and state.” Most commonly, it is interpreted as American government should not enter into Christian principles and practices ever! In my area, an individual running for office in the county found out that her opponent actually quoted some Scripture in a personal letter. Why, she reasoned in an open letter, this violated his political position, because of the separation of church and state. I trust that the readers of this website understand that when we talk about the separation of church and state, we simply mean, as our forefathers understood, there is no such entity as a state church. And yet while that is true, it was not recognized to be true until 1786 in Virginia, eleven years after the American Revolution.

When Presbyterians entered Virginia, “the Church of England (Anglican) was the official church of the Virginia colony. Overseen by the Bishop of London, the church in Virginia had the royal governor of the colony as its head. The General Assembly passed laws for the ‘suppression of vice’ and set ministers’ salaries, fixed parish boundaries, required attendance at Anglican churches, and restricted secular activities on Sundays. Heads of households paid mandatory church taxes levied by Anglican parish vestries to pay ministers, to build and repair church buildings, and to assist the needy. Anglican churchwardens reported violators of religious laws to country courts for prosecution. Formal services from the Church of England’s Book of Common Prayer were the rule in parish churches.” (Quotation from the Colonial Williamsburg Sign on the wall of the Presbyterian Meeting House)

When Presbyterians (and other religious groups) began to enter the Virginia colony over the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, at first persecution met the new faith based groups. Gradually, these “dissenters,” as they were called, were the subjects of a more tolerant attitude, in that they were allowed to practice their own convictions. However, they had to obtain licenses for themselves and their meeting houses, and continue to pay Anglican church taxes.

On June 17, 1765, a group of Presbyterians successfully petitioned the county court for permission to meet in a house in Williamsburg, Virginia. Seventeen men signed the petitions. They were mostly Williamsburg business men composed of a carpenter, blacksmith, hatter, printer/bookbinder, stay maker, cabinetmaker, wheelwright, two shoemakers and two tailors. Solid members of Williamsburg society, they dissented from the established Church of England to worship as Presbyterians.

Presbyterian ministers were hard to come by in the early days. In 1767, Presbyterians in Pennsylvania and Delaware appointed Andrew Bay and Jacob Ker to minister to their small band of Presbyterians in the town. James Waddel, a newly licensed pastor, was appointed to the town for two Sundays in 1767 by the Hanover Presbytery. Certainly Samuel Davies of nearby Hanover County helped to minister to the little band of Presbyterians.

Sustained effort to change the laws of the Colony continued to keep the issue of religious freedom in the public mind all through the American Revolution. Finally this sustained effort was essential in the change in 1786 to pass the Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom, written in 1777 by Thomas Jefferson.

Words to Live By:
If you are able to visit Williamsburg, Virginia today, you can visit the Anglican Church on the grounds which is historic to the day and age of the early beginnings of our country. Don’t forget to visit also the plain building which houses the Presbyterian Meeting House of Williamsburg, where the Word of God was preached in all its fullness by faithful men of God in the beginnings of our country.

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In the Minutes of the Thirty-third General Assembly (2005) of the Presbyterian Church in America, pp. 56-58, we find this tribute to the life and ministry of Alta Woods Presbyterian Church, Jackson, Mississippi, which was organized on this day, February 29th, in 1948, and which was merged with the Pearl Presbyterian Church of Pearl, Mississippi in 2005:—

COMMUNICATION 3 from Mississippi Valley Presbytery

Recognition of the Alta Woods Presbyterian Church 1948 – 2005

Whereas, Alta Woods Presbyterian Church was established as a congregation of the Presbyterian Church in the United States on Daniel Loop in South Jackson by Central Mississippi Presbytery on February 29, 1948 unto the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ, and

Whereas, Alta Woods sought to uphold the inerrancy and sufficiency of Holy Scripture in a time when both have been seriously challenged and she held forth freely the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ as the only way of
salvation, and

Whereas, Alta Woods under the leadership of Rev. B. I. Anderson was instrumental in the formation of the Presbytery of the Mississippi Valley in 1973 for the preservation of a Biblical church through a well trained
and Bible believing ministry, being a charter church, and

Whereas, the pastor and ruling elders of Alta Woods Presbyterian were actively engaged in the formation and establishment of the Presbyterian Church in America in 1973, being represented at the convocation of sessions on May 18, 1973 and at subsequent General Assemblies of the PCA, and

Whereas, Alta Woods directly encouraged men to pursue the gospel ministry through generous support of students, sending out many sons into the ministry of the PCA and impacting our community, country and world
with gospel zeal, and

Whereas, Alta Woods was directly responsible for the support of Rev. Al LaValley with his planting of the West Springfield Covenant Community Church in West Springfield, Massachusetts, for the support of Rev. Rodney
Collins for his planting of the Grace Presbyterian Church in Laconia, New Hampshire, for the sending of Rev. Bill Inman to Crystal, New Mexico to pastor the Navajo Indigenous Church, and for the establishment of South
India Reformed Theological Institute through the work of Dr. Tom Cherian, and

Whereas, Alta Woods nurtured a missionary vision that supported and sent missionaries who served around the world, as well as mission groups to Columbia, South America; Crystal, New Mexico and West Springfield, Massachusetts, and

Whereas, Alta Woods grew to become the second largest Presbyterian Church in Jackson under the able leadership of pastors: Rev. A. N. Moffett (1948-55), Rev. B. I. Anderson (1955-85), Dr. Steve Jussely (1989-96), and Dr. Merle Messer (1996-present). She further enjoyed the dedicated leadership of associate pastors: Rev. Bill Bratley and Rev. Roger Collins, and assistant pastors: Rev. Don Craft, Rev. John Keubler, Rev. Timothy Meyer, and Rev. Judson Davis as well as many notable youth ministers and interns. Moreover Alta Woods has been blessed with many dedicated ruling elders who have guided the church and participated in presbytery and the PCA with sacrificial service and devotion, and

Whereas, under the faithful leadership of Dr. Merle Messer, Alta Woods desires to continue her ministry in union with the Pearl Presbyterian Church, of Pearl, Mississippi,

Therefore, be it resolved that the Presbytery of the Mississippi Valley give all praise to Jesus Christ as the head of the church for his mighty work in and through the Alta Woods Presbyterian congregation over the last fifty seven years and that we offer thanksgiving for her valuable role in the establishment of our presbytery and her faithful work among us for the building up of the church. Moreover, let us express our joy and extend our deepest desires for the successful union of the Alta Woods Presbyterian congregation into the Pearl Presbyterian congregation that together they might know the continued blessing of our sovereign God upon their ministry and outreach. May this united work serve to bring greater glory to Jesus Christ.

Let it further be resolved that this resolution be signed by the clerk of Mississippi Valley Presbytery and spread upon the minutes of this presbytery, and

Let it further be resolved that an official copy of this resolution be sent to the Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America to be included in the official minutes of the PCA General Assembly that all might marvel at the great work of Christ as the head of the church and might pray for his greater blessing upon the union of the Pearl and Alta Woods congregations.

To God alone be all the glory given!

Adopted by The Presbytery of the Mississippi Valley on June 7, 2005.
/s/ Roger G. Collins
Stated Clerk

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This day, January 15, in 1966 marks the death of the Rev. Flournoy Shepperson.

sheppersonSrFlournoy Shepperson was licensed and ordained in July of 1917 by the Ouchita Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church, U.S. His first pastorate was in a yoked ministry to the Presbyterian churches of Magnolia and Mt. Holly, Arkansas, serving there 1908 to 1911. Rev. Shepperson next pastored the Presbyterian church in Monticello, Arkansas from 1911 to 1920, before answering a call to serve Purity Presbyterian church in Chester, South Carolina, from 1921-1925. His last pastorate in the PCUS was with the Second Presbyterian Church of Greenville, SC, which he served from 1925 to 1940. He then withdrew from the Southern Presbyterian denomination and united with the Bible Presbyterian Synod, while his brother David remained within the PCUS. Upon leaving the PCUS, Dr. Shepperson planted a Bible Presbyterian church in Greenville with an initial congregation of 335 members. The church later took the name Augusta Street Presbyterian church, and eventually became part of the PCA, though it was dissolved in 1996. The Augusta Street church was also notable as the original location of the Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary.

shepperson_BPchurch03

Oddly, Second Presbyterian of Greenville—the church that Dr. Shepperson left—later became one of the founding churches of the PCA, in 1973, and it was not until 1982 when the Augusta Street church also joined the PCA, as part of the Joining and Receiving of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod (RPCES).

From the Memorial read at the 144th RPCES General Synod:

Dr. Shepperson was among those who very early sensed the rising tide of unbelief in his own Presbyterian denomination and took a strong stand against it. It was under his leadership that there was formed a new Presbyterian church in his own city of Greenville, South Carolina, completely separated from apostasy, which church has grown to be one of the largest and most influential churches of our Synod.

Dr. Shepperson was an able and faithful preacher of the Word of God. He possessed a sense of humor that often brightened and enlivened his messages. This he did not lose even in that period of ill health that preceded his death. Many of us can testify to the rich blessing of his ministry from our own pulpits. Those of us who knew him intimately can also testify to his deep devotion to his Lord and to the consequent blessing always experienced in fellowship with him.

We are all aware of the fact that our loss is his great gain. We know that for him to depart this earthly life was to immediately be with Christ, which is far better. We believe that he could honestly echo the words of the great apostle, “to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”

Dr. Shepperson had three sons, two of whom entered the ministry, and a daughter. Flournoy Shepperson, Jr. was ordained in the BPC and later came into the RPCES. He pastored churches in Baltimore, Washington, D.C., Pittstown, PA, Savannah, GA, Durham, NC and Tampa, FL. Dr. Shepperson’s son Sam was also ordained in the BPC and later affiliated with the PCA. He had a long pastorate in Arkansas and is now honorably retired. It was Sam who so graciously provided the news clipping and photograph of his father.

Words to Live By: The Church is blessed with many faithful pastors. Sometimes it is easy to focus on the relative few who stray in doctrine or practice, and we forget to praise God for how He works through those who remain faithful and steadfast year after year. We are engaged in a great spiritual battle, and your pastor is on the front lines. Remember to pray for him.

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From Trash to Treasure.

tenney_samuel_millsPresbyterian pastors love to rummage through old books. Browsing through a used bookstore in Houston, Texas, in 1902, the Rev. Samuel Mills Tenney noticed a bound stack of papers set aside in a corner of the store. His curiosity piqued, he asked the store owner and found that the papers were going to be thrown out. Glad to be relieved of what he considered trash, the owner gave the pile of papers to Rev. Tenney, who then carried his prize home for closer inspection.

Back in his study, Rev. Tenney dusted off the papers and began to examine them closer. To his great surprise, he found these were class notes and other papers from around 1845 which had once belonged to Robert Lewis Dabney, from when Dabney was a student in Seminary. Dabney, as most know, went on to become one of the leading theologians of the old Southern Presbyterian Church. “Is this the way our Church treats her great men?,” Tenney asked himself.

This “chance” discovery became the inspiration that led Rev. Tenney to a lifelong obsession to preserve the history of his denomination. His 1902 discovery then led to his founding the Presbyterian Historical Society of the Synod of Texas, which later came to be located in Texarkana. Working without other support, Tenney spent the next twenty-five years gathering an impressive collection of records and memorabilia.

Then in 1926, when the 66th General Assembly of the PCUS met in Pensacola, Florida, that Assembly voted to establish a denominational archives, utilizing Rev. Tenney’s collection as the core of their new archives. The next year, the archives was given its official name, operating as the Historical Foundation of the Presbyterian and Reformed Churches. Relocation of the archival collections from Texarkana to denominational property in Montreat, North Carolina followed shortly thereafter.

Rev. Tenney continued as director of the Historical Foundation until his death on December 23, 1939.

When the PCUS merged with the United Presbyterian Church, U.S.A. in 1983, the merged denomination now had two archives, the other being the Presbyterian Historical Society, located in Philadelphia. Both institutions continued on, operated by the Presbyterian Church (USA), until early in 21st century, when the decision was made to close the Montreat location. So ended a great cultural institution. The major collections of the old Historical Foundation were relocated to Philadelphia, while arrangements were made to house the congregational history collections at Columbia Theological Seminary, in Decatur, Georgia.

When the Presbyterian Church in America was founded in 1973, there were subsequent discussions about housing our denominational records and archival collections at Montreat, under a cooperative agreement. Thankfully that arrangement was never realized. Instead, in 1984, Dr. Morton Smith, then Stated Clerk of the PCA, stood before the Twelfth General Assembly and made his case for a PCA Archives. The Assembly approved his motion. This was at a point when the PCA still did not have central denominational offices for its agencies, and so Dr. Will Barker, then president of Covenant Theological Seminary, offered free space for the Archives in the Seminary’s library. We’ve been there ever since, though we’re rapidly outgrowing our current facility.

Words to Live By:
There are a number of reasons why a denomination needs to maintain its own archive. But far and away, the most important is that these records stand as a testimony to what the Lord has done in our midst. I like to think of the Historical Center as a “Hall of Testimonies,”— witnesses to the reality of the Gospel and the fact that Jesus Christ changes lives.

He hath made His wonderful works to be remembered.” — (Psalm 111:4a, KJV)

“One generation shall praise thy works to another, and shall declare thy mighty acts.” — (Psalm 145:4, KJV)

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schaeffer02On December 5, 1973, the second day of the first General Assembly was underway for the National Presbyterian Church. In fact, it was on this second day of that General Assembly that the original name of the denomination was chosen. A year later the young denomination voted to change its name, choosing the name Presbyterian Church in America.

Shortly after the formation of the Presbyterian Church in America, Dr. Francis A. Schaeffer composed the following thoughts in observance of that event. Notable in his mind was the contrast between the divisions of the 1930’s and the 1970’s and the manner in which each of these divisions had been conducted. Dr. Schaeffer’s message, titled “A Step Forward”, was subsequently published in THE PRESBYTERIAN JOURNAL, 6 March 1974, pages 7-8.

Photo source: Picture taken from the February 1973 issue of One in Christ, the Bulletin of the National Presbyterian and Reformed Fellowship.

“A STEP FORWARD”

The formation of the National Presbyterian Church is a step forward in the Lord’s work in our chaotic age!

As a life-long Presbyterian and now a minister of the Reformed Presbyterian Church Evangelical Synod, I have had a deep interest in the Presbyterian Church US since my days at Hampden-Sydney College in Virginia, from which I graduated in 1935.

Even at that time it was evident that Union Theological Seminary in Richmond, Va., was a source of liberalism in the pulpits of the PCUS. Through the years I have seen no sign that the situation is improving.

To me, practicing the principle of the purity of the visible Church is a part of the command of the word of God. In the PCUS, good men have tried unsuccessfully to practice this principle by combating clearly false teachings at the center of Christian truth. These include the older rationalistic liberalism and the new neo-orthodox, existential liberalism. After having failed to bring purity into the Church, they chose the only way to be obedient–they practiced the principle in reverse and withdrew.

Thirty-eight years ago such a division occurred in the Northern Presbyterian Church. Those in the Presbyterian Church US have showed more than long patience in their efforts to bring improvements in their Church from within. However, the formation of the National Presbyterian Church should not be seen as the ending but a beginning.

It would be tragic if the National Presbyterian Church made the same mistakes which were made in the Presbyterian Church in the North. True brethren who have not felt led by the Lord to leave the PCUS should be treated with dignity and a loving beauty. There are two reasons for this:

Observable Love

First, Jesus taught that the mark of the Christian is the observable love shown among all true believers. Second, by keeping the lines open to these men–not as a stratagem but as loving obedience to Christ’s commands–the National Presbyterian Church will continue to offer a viable alternative. In the days ahead, the pressures will increase through the further growth of liberal control and the almost certain coming union with the United Presbyterian Church USA. I pray that mistakes made years ago in the North will not be repeated today.

The vision of the National Presbyterian Church should not end here. We must keep our distinctives as to the Reformed position, which we believe are true to the Scripture, and it should be natural to have close contacts with other true Presbyterian bodies. The chasm should not be at the point of our distinctives; it should be between Bible-believing Christians and those who have given up loyalty to the Scripture.

Two things are happening simultaneously now: The first is a resurgency for Christian truth. Going back to the 1930’s in the United States, the larger historic denominations were largely lost to the liberals, but three were not: The Lutheran Church-Missiouri Synod, the Christian Reformed Church, and the Southern Baptists. Thirty-five years later, these three denominations are now grappling with the same issues, all of which are rooted in the question of the authority of Scripture.

The Missouri Synod under the leadership of courageous men seems to have won its battle. The Southern Baptist Church now finds itself in the same position as the Presbyterian Church US in the 1930’s. That is, the churchmen are largely faithful, but the seminaries are infiltrated with liberalism.

One may hope and pray that the Baptists will stir themselves before it is too late. If the Baptists practice the principle of the purity of the visible Church in the direction the Missouri Synod has gone, then they may not have to travel the unhappy route of withdrawal as had to be done in the Southern Presbyterian Church.

Doors and Bridges

The National Presbyterian Church stands at a place of significance if the doors are kept open on one side to the true believers in the Presbyterian Church, and bridges are built toward those struggling for the same cause in other groups. However, at this time the question is not the formation merely of an organization; it is the establishment of a true Church.

The failure of those who separated from the Presbyterian Church USA during the 1930’s extended beyond the loss of contact with those true Christians who stayed in the Church; it extended to the attempted organizational expression. The International Council of Christian Churches gave such hope in its beginning, failed because of its harshness; it did not express or practice that mark of the Christian, the observable love among all true Christians.

There the question now is whether 35 years are enough to expunge this mistake so that another organization is viable at this time. The leaders in the National Presbyterian Church should consciously try to establish contacts with those who are true to the Scripture and committed to the practice of the purity of the visible Church in whatever groups they may be. Certainly groups in other countries would be interested in such contacts.

The second important occurrence now is the obverse, unhappy side of the first. At the same time we take heart from the formation of the National Presbyterian Church and events in the Lutheran Church-Missiouri Synod, we recognize a most distressing trend is developing: In much of evangelicalism regard for Scripture is weakening.

It is my observation that ecclesiastical latitudinarianism leads to cooperative latitudinarianism, and this tends to lead to doctrinal deviation, especially in regard to Scripture.

For example, think of the change at Fuller Theological Seminary. In a paper read at Wheaton College a few years ago, Professor Daniel Fuller defined “non-revelational matters” in the Scripture as those which are “capable of being checked out by human investigation, that is, knowable by what eye can see and ear can hear.” He added that the Bible contains “the non-revelational areas of science and history.”

This kind of thinking is not limited to one seminary. The battleground on the modern scene is whether the Bible is completely authoritative where it touches history and the cosmos, or only where it touches religious matters. It is difficult to see any basic difference between this and neo-orthodox existential theology.

The divergence in evangelical groups centers especially in the first half of Genesis, which is often considered to be parable rather than space-time history. The weakening among evangelicals is not limited to the United States; it is present in other parts of the world as well.

In England, preference tends to be given for general revelation over special revelation, so that science has the last voice. This is different in expression, but not in position, from that being developed theologically by Professor Fuller and those in the United States who are one with him.

If Christ does not come back within the next few years, I could visualize the possibility of a new alignment. Those standing for the total authority of all Scripture and for the principle of the practice of the purity of the visible Church would draw together and away from relativism, which surrounds us in the total culture and which has infiltrated the Church.

In such a setting, the National Presbyterian Church may in God’s providence be a central factor if it exhibits and practices God’s holiness in life and doctrine, and simultaneously exhibits and practices God’s love toward all true Christians in whatever groups they are.

I am thankful for the formation of the National Presbyterian Church and I pray no small or provincial vision for it.

 

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Present at the Founding, Now Standing Before Our Lord.

In years past we have written several times on this date of the founding of the PCA. There were 223 pastors present at the founding of the denomination in 1973, first named the National Presbyterian Church. A year later the young denomination took its permanent name, the Presbyterian Church in America. By the grace of God, the majority of these 223 founding fathers are still with us, and many of them still labor in pulpit ministry. Sadly, some sixty of them have passed away. And we would not overlook the role played by those founding fathers were were ruling elders, though regrettably, their names are not so easily gathered. All these took their stand for the Scriptures, the Reformed faith, and the great Commission. As the Lord enabled them, so we praise Him for how He worked through them. 

Provided here without further comment is a list of those teaching elders who were present at the founding of the PCA, but who have now gone on to their eternal reward. Their life dates and their Presbytery membership at the time of their death are also noted. I think this list is up to date, but if I have missed any names, please forgive the omission and inform me so I can make the correction. Also, if you have a close connection to the family of any of these men, I would love to hear from you.

Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints.

Albert, Basil Pierce [1929-2006], Tennessee Valley Presbytery

Allen, Howard Spivey [1921-2000], Covenant

Anderson, Bertil Ivar, [1918-2001], Mississippi Valley

Armfield, Joseph H., Jr. [1909-1989], Central Carolina

Baker, John Lewis [1930-2013], Eastern Carolina

Baldwin, John Persons [1925-1991], Philadelphia

Barnes, Kenneth Lee [1911-2009], Palmetto

Benchoff, W. Henry [1915-1984], Calvary

Bowling, John Knox [1904-1983], Texas

Broomall, Wick [1902-1976], Central Georgia

Clelland, John Paul [1907-1993], Southeast Alabama

Cook, Thomas Allen [1917-2012], Gulfstream

DeRuiter, Peter [1900-1977], Grace

DeYoung, Adrian E. [1914-1977], Evangel

Dunkerley, Donald Austin [1936-1999], Gulf Coast

Elder, M. (Monroe) Timothy [1934-2012], Gulf Coast

Esty, Donald Roy [1923-2001], Southwest

Everett, Joseph Walker, Jr., D.D. [1918-1974], Calvary

Flaxman, Russell George [1920-1994], James River

Fowler, Guy N. [1922-1988], Palmetto

Giddens, William E., Jr. [1915-2000], Evangel

Graham, Donald Carson [1910-2002], Southern Florida

Hamby, Oliver Newton [1914-1995], Evangel

Hill, William E., Jr. [1907-1983], New River

Hobson, Kemp J. [1896-1984], Tennessee Valley

Hoolsema, Thomas [1910-1999], South Texas

Hoyt, Samuel Browne, Jr. [1922-2000], Fellowship

Hulse, Doyle A. [1913-1991], Southern Florida

Jackson, Erskine Lewis [1908-2002], Mississippi Valley

Korn, Robert Charles 1932-2002], Palmetto

Lacey, Thomas Edward [1934-1994], Mississippi Valley

Lyons, James Lloyd [1929-2011], Evangel

Manning, Frederick Easley, Jr. [1927-2012], Tennessee Valley

McCown, Dan H. [1924-1979], Texas

McIlwaine, William A. [1893-1985], (Presbytery not noted)

McNutt, Charles W. [1917-1996], New River

McQuitty, Eric [1930-2009], Louisiana

Miller, Harry Norval, Jr. [1931-2013], Metro Atlanta

Moore, James E. [1906-1989], Covenant

Murphy, Christopher Douglas Fred [1927-2009], Central Carolina

Ostenson, Robert James [1922-2008], Southern Florida

Patterson, Donald B. [1923-1998], Mississippi Valley

Pino, Virgil [1921-2003]. Warrior

Plowden, Charles M., Jr. [1909-1988], Palmetto

Priddy, James Gordon [1923-1994], Fellowship

Rose, William H., Jr. [1921-2000], Covenant

Ross, Jack S. [1934-1990], Central Georgia

Rufus, Billy E. [1934-2004], Western Carolina

Scott, Jack B. [1928-2011], Mississippi Valley

Smith, Frank Edward [1914-1993], Northeast

Stennis, Julian [1923-2002], Warrior

Sulc, Daniel David [1929-2013], Western Carolina

Taylor, G. Aiken [1920-1984], Western Carolinas

Taylor, George Henry, Jr. [1910-1987], Louisiana

Thompson, John R., Sr. [1928-2006], Palmetto

Toms, Russell David [1920-2001], Southwest Florida

Umbreit, A. Dale [1924-1988], Central Georgia

Van Horn, Leonard Thomas [1920-2005], Evangel

West, Vernon N. [1921-2008], Fellowship

Wilson, Charles Leonard [1943-2011], Palmetto

Yeargan, Charles B. [1912-1992], Western Carolina

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Under this date, November 17, 1859 and in preface to the Memorial volume for the Rev. Dr. Jacob Jones Janeway [pictured at right], prepared by Janeway’s son Thomas, there is this brief recollection of the deceased pastor, written by the Rev. W.M. Engles, who was for so long associated with the publishing efforts of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. There is much here that can be gleaned on the conduct of the Christian life, particularly for those in leadership:

 
PHILADELPHIA, November 17, 1859.

REV. THOMAS L. JANEWAY, D. D.—

MY DEAR BROTHER :—

J.J. JanewayI am gratified to learn that you have in preparation a memorial of your late excellent father. One who accomplished a pilgrimage of four-score years with a purity of purpose and conduct which defied censoriousness, and who, through a long ministerial career, exhibited so much steadfastness and singleness of mind, is worthy of being held in everlasting remembrance.

My first introduction to your father was at an interesting period of my life, when I received a license to preach the gospel as a probationer, from the Presbytery of Philadelphia, and from that time to the close of his life, I was honoured by his friendship.  Although much his inferior in age, acquirements, and position, I was irresistibly attached to him by those condescending and genial attentions, which many in his situation would have withheld, but which were nevertheless peculiarly grateful to a young man who needed wise counsel, in just entering upon the duties and dangers of public life. The pleasant intercourse thus initiated was never interrupted. In visiting him as a friend I uniformly found him kind, frank and cordial, and in soliciting his advice I had always reason to admire his great practical wisdom.

It always appeared to me that your father never betrayed the variableness of a merely impulsive man; he acted from fixed principle, and habitually did what he had, in this way, settled to be right; so that under any supposable circumstances it might readily be foreseen how he would act.  This naturally inspired confidence in him as a perfectly conscientious and reliable man.  I have seen him in various positions, many of which were calculated to try his temper and test the stability of his principles, and I cannot now recall a single instance in which his course of procedure was not precisely in accordance with the high Christian character which he had so consistently maintained.  While he was earnest and tenacious in enforcing his own opinions, he could bear to be opposed and even defeated, without undue irritation, a grace, which it has often appeared to me, ministers were particularly slow in acquiring.

In his habits, your father was an example to younger ministers for his system and punctuality. He was systematic in his studies, his pastoral visitations, and even in his exercise for health; and in regard to punctuality he was seldom absent from appointments, perhaps I should say, never without sufficient cause.  This is my conviction from long intimacy with him as a co-presbyter.

As a theologian he was exact in his knowledge, and according to my notions, unmistakably sound in his views of divine truth.  The system which he honestly professed, he tenaciously held and boldly defended at a period of the church’s history, when novelties in doctrine were fashionable and “the good old way” was held up to ridicule as an effete and antiquated theology.  What he wrote and published on theological subjects was clear, and cogent, and well worthy of preservation. In the pulpit, while he displayed little of the rhetorician or poet, he was always in earnest, and had “ well beaten oil” to afford light to those who waited in the sanctuary.

To all these and other traits of personal and ministerial character you have, no doubt, much better and more definite testimony than I can offer.  Towards the close of your father’s life, when his robust frame began to give way to disease, and his well-ordered mind gave some tokens of a failure of its powers, I had several interviews with him, during which he expressed a confident hope in the “ sure covenant,” and manifested the same earnest zeal for the truth which he had ever done.

A character so uniform as was his, and a life so steady, regular and chastened, may furnish few remarkable incidents to impart zest to a biography; but in their whole tenor there was so much beauty and loveliness, that none could have known Dr. Janeway without being persuaded that he was an eminently good and holy man, and in the higher traits of character a model.  A life so well spent, in which so little was squandered, is just such an one as death could only interfere with, in order to perpetuate it in more genial climes,

Yours most truly,

W.M. ENGLES.

 

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Our Primary Author!—On his Birthday, No Less!

myersDavidT02Seventy-five years ago, on this day, October 7, 1940, out on the wind-swept plains of Lemmon, South Dakota, David T. Myers was born—the fourth and youngest child of Rev. David K. Myers and his wife Anne.  Rev. Myers was riding the rural preaching circuit at the time, preaching to and pastoring as many as fifteen small prairie churches in the newly formed Bible Presbyterian Church.  There is little recorded of the Myers’ family life of this time, other than one story that the Myers children were known to say, especially during blizzard season, “Now, let us pray for Daddy if he be stuck!”  Certainly this was a product of the faithfulness of young David’s mother, Anne, whose “determination, steadfast support, and unfailing labors in the church and home with her prayers,” recalled Rev. Myers years later, allowed him to “go far in ‘them thar’ hills for the gold of precious souls who turned to Christ by evangelistic means to receive the Gospel.”

[Note: David’s father, the Rev. David K. Myers, wrote an autobiography titled Preaching on the Plains. For information on how to order a copy of this most interesting autobiography, click here. The table of contents, and later, several sample chapters, were posted here.]

Without a doubt, David Myers’ early life was cocooned in the message and work of the Gospel.  He must have breathed it in, along with the crisp northern wind, and been animated by its strength and power in the time before even his first memory.  When David was a boy of three, Rev. Myers took on a new calling as a chaplain in the U.S. Army.  There followed numerous different postings, including a most memorable three years at the Army chaplaincy in post-World War II Germany, at the infamous Nazi concentration camp—Dachau.

It was in Dachau that mankind’s depravity and desperate need for a Savior was seared onto David’s consciousness.  At the impressionable age of eight to ten years old, David would wander the camp of horror in those first years of the American occupation, even before the full extent of the Holocaust was known to the world.  He saw bones in the dirt, human ashes in the ovens, and a gruesome hanging tree, ropes still swinging.  David later wrote of the “breathtaking cruelty” that was apparent throughout Dachau.  He would recall one instance “walking through a shower room with bars of soap, sprinkler heads, drains in the floor, except everything was wooden, including the bars of soap. This was a gas chamber, and I can remember hurrying out of there when one of my older friends with me then mentioned it as that.”  All of this impressed upon the boy with indelible force the inescapable “sinful depravity of man” and his need for the Gospel.

It was to that Gospel calling that David would turn as he returned to America and entered his formative years of study, eventually completing his masters of divinity degree at Faith Seminary in Elkins Park, Pennsylvania, where his father had taken up a professorship (later, David would add a doctoral degree from Covenant Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri).  Then, in 1966, he and his new bride, Carolyn, began what would stretch to nearly fifty years of faithful and continuous Gospel ministry—pastoring five different Presbyterian churches, serving as an “honorary chaplain” at the U.S. Army War College, and engaging in numerous scholarly work, popular writing, and public engagement ministries.

After a short stint in Alberta, Canada, David and Carolyn moved to Lincoln, Nebraska to plant a new church work in the Bible Presbyterian denomination.  God blessed their efforts and as that church grew, David’s ministry expanded in the community.  In 1974, it was reported by the local press that David had begun, and was serving as President, the Nebraska Association for Christian Action.  “It is the aim of this organization to bring to bear the Word of God on vital social and political issues, and to engage in Christian witness and action in public affairs,” David said at the time.  The organization fulfilled its mission during those years as it testified regularly before the state legislature and advocated on many issues of public concern.

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With the birth of a new, reformed Presbyterian denomination in America, the PCA, David transitioned his ministry into a new denominational home.  Both the work he began in Lincoln, and the subsequent work begun in Omaha, remain faithful congregations—with fruitful church offspring of their own—in the PCA.  During this time, David and Carolyn welcomed into their lives and ministry their only child, daughter Ann Margaret.

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In 1986, having seeded the cornfields of Nebraska with a flourishing reformed Presbyterianism, David accepted a call east and left his beloved Nebraska Cornhuskers for the hills of Pennsylvania.  There, for the next twenty years, he would pastor two PCA congregations, one in Pittsburgh and one in Carlisle.  While in Pennsylvania, David’s fascination with American history, and particularly the period of the Civil War, reached new heights.  He began a ministry of research and writing connecting the deep Christian spirituality of that era to the on-the-ground living history of battlefields and memorials across the Pennsylvania countryside.  His personal tours through the Gettysburg National Park became renown among Christian tourists seeking to learn the specific Christian stories of the war.  As always, David never took off his pastoral cap, using history to illuminate again, the power of the Gospel of Christ.  His books [Stonewall Jackson: The Spiritual Side and The Boy Major of the Confederacy] on the era do the same.

In 2004, David retired from his period of formal ministry in the PCA, but he has never retired from the ministry of the Gospel.  David soon took up a key post as an “honorary chaplain” at the U.S. Army Chapel at the Carlisle Barracks, a part of the Army War College.   In this way, David brought his ministry full circle from those early years as an “Army brat” witnessing the horrible depravity of man while his father ministered in the chaplaincy in Dachau.  David served as a faithful teacher and occasional pastor at the Chapel, ministering to some of the U.S. Army’s top brass as they moved through postings at the War College.

David’s characteristic wry humor found one of its keenest expressions during his time at the Chapel.  He is known to remark: “It is the most perfect church I have known.  If you don’t like the congregation, they leave every year, and if you don’t like the chaplain, he leaves every other year!”  But beyond humor, David has continued his life’s work, bringing the light of the Gospel to everyone around him.  For example, in 2012, Col. Randall Cheeseborough, the chairman of the War College’s department of academic affairs, told one publication that he and his wife kept returning again and again to hear David’s teaching: “It was so Scripture based, it was a wonderful experience.  It’s good for me to see an older man’s faithfulness and dedication.  He’s just a wonderful role model.”  Another member of the brass, Col. Bill Barko told the same publication: “More than about any single person, David has been a huge spiritual influence on our community.”

Readers of this blog certainly have known and experienced these same truths.  In 2010, David floated to the PCA Historical Center the idea of a daily devotion tied to events in Presbyterian history.  Others, including director Wayne Sparkman, thought it was a fine idea, but were concerned about content production.  Thus, David’s project was given the green light, but on one condition: that he write an entire year’s worth of daily devotionals before the project would launch.  David eagerly accepted the challenge and for the next two years, wrote what would become the first 365 of this project’s devotionals.  To date, This Day in Presbyterian History has produced over 1,300 daily devotionals from Presbyterian history, is read by thousands around the globe, and has been cited by many other publications both scholarly and popular.

And so, on his seventy-fifth birthday, we are honored to wish our founder a hearty “Happy Birthday!” with his own, well deserved chapter in this collection recounting God’s abounding grace and saving mercies as they have been deposited in one branch of his Church.  David’s faithful life and work have, without a doubt, testified to the truth that there is a Savior, and that he is Jesus Christ, our Lord.  David and Carolyn continue to live in the hills of Pennsylvania, in the village of Boiling Springs, and he can still be seen, from time to time, leading fellow Christians and history buffs around the Gettysburg battlefield, recounting stories of faith in the most trying of times.  His daughter Ann lives in Kansas with her husband Caleb, and David’s five grandsons.

Our post today comes by way of family members grateful for his legacy of faith.

 

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A Highly Religious Man with Strong Presbyterian Beliefs

We might more readily suggest any number of men and ministers of whom this title might describe.  But when it is known that this description was given to a man, indeed a minister, by the name of Richard Denton in the early sixteen  hundreds residing in Long Island, New York, most, if not all of our readers might reply with at statement like “I never  heard of  him.”  And yet, he established the first Presbyterian church in the colonies.

Richard Denton was born in 1603 in Yorkshire, England.  Educated at Cambridge in 1623, he ministered in Halifax, England for some years in the parish of Owran.  Emigrating to Connecticut, he worked first with the famous preacher Cotton Mather.  The latter said of him that “Rev. Denton was a highly religious man with strong Presbyterian views.  He was a small man with only one eye, but in the pulpit he could sway a congregation like he was nine feet tall.”

When religious controversies, like which church government the  congregations should follow, threatened to disrupt the Connecticut group, Denton and a group of families moved to what is now Hempstead, Long Island, New York.  He settled there in a large Dutch colony.  Because there were some English settlers also there, that was enough for a congregation to be organized.

Back in those early days, his salary came from every inhabitant of the area.  In fact, you could be fined for not attending worship, and that fine was aggravated each week to a higher level for succeeding absences.  The church he began, today called Christ Presbyterian Church, was so successful with Rev. Denton in its pulpit, that Dutch people began to attend it as well.

On August 5, 1657, a letter was written by two Dutch settlers to the Classis of Amsterdam, saying: “At Hempstead, about seven leagues from here, there lives some Independents.  There are also many of our church, and some Presbyterians.  They have a Presbyterian preacher, Richard Denton, a pious, godly and learned man, who is in agreement with our church in everything.  The Independents of this place listen attentively to  his sermons; but when he began to baptize the children of (Dutch) parents who were not members of the church, they rushed out of the church.”

As time went on, the salary of Rev. Denton began to be collected sporadically by the citizens.  As a result, he planned to go back to England.  After all, he did have a large family of seven children. And it was said that his wife was sickly in constitution.  Another letter was written two months later on October 22 in which the same two writers stated, “Mr. Richard Denton, who is sound in faith, of a friendly disposition, and beloved by all, cannot be induced to remain, although we have earnestly tried to do this in various ways.”  They were not successful, and he returned to England.  He died in 1662.

Words to live by: The date of the presence of Presbyterians boggles our minds and hearts.  Since that time, countless servants of the gospel have labored in difficult fields where money has been tight.  The New Testament more than once urges the members in the pews to share all good things, including remuneration, with those who teach them the Word.

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The Westward Expansion of Presbyterianism

As Presbyterians, all Presbyterian history is our history. Those who have gone before, regardless of their denomination, have had an effect and have left a testimony which affects the work of ministry today. Whether they sowed the good seed of the Gospel or whether they turned their hand from the plow, we today work that same soil. The faithful proclamation of the Gospel will always be difficult, but what others have done before us can and does affect the work today. Thus the importance of history–to know the work done before and to build upon that work in the wisest ways.

mcmillanJohnThe Presbytery of Redstone was an historic PCUSA Presbytery, the first court of that denomination west of the Allegheny mountains. The organization of this Presbytery marked the beginning of the Church’s occupation of the great valley of the Mississippi. The field actually occupied was, geographically, the key to the great westward expansion. This was the section of the country extending from the base of the mountains westward to Fort Pitt and the Forks of the Wheeling, comprising the southwestern region of Pennsylvania, together with an adjoining section of West Virginia. It can rightly be said that it was from this Presbytery that the PCUSA began to expand across the nation until at last it reached the Pacific ocean.

Pictured at right, the Rev. John McMillan, one of the leading ministers in the Presbytery of Redstone.

The Presbytery of Redstone was organized on May 16th, 1781, by the Synod of New York and Philadelphia, in answer to a request from missionaries who were then serving west of the Alleghenies.  1781 was the closing year of the Revolutionary War and the Presbytery was formed but a month before the surrender of British forces at Yorktown.

After the division of what was termed the Old Synod inn 1788, the Presbytery of Redstone formed part of the Synod of Virginia, up until 1802, at which time the Synod of Pittsburgh was formed. With rapid growth, the Presbytery then divided in 1793 to create the Presbytery of Ohio. A later division in 1830 created the Presbytery of Blairsville.

The men who formed this Presbytery were Scotch-Irish settlers who were used to hardships and wilderness life, yet who were also resolute in their Reformed faith. The pastors numbered among the first members of Redstone were all well-educated men, most of whom had graduated from Princeton College. “Taken collectively, they were a body of well disciplined, orthodox and devoted ministers.” Among them, Thaddeus Dod, James Dunlap, Thomas Marquis, Elisha McCurdy, John McMillan, Joseph Patterson, and James Power. Among Redstone’s first ruling elders, many were notable men in business, government, and education.

Cumulatively, their influence was such that in most of the churches of western Pennsylvania, and in many churches throughout the western States in later years, a large part of the effective membership of those churches consisted of the descendants of those first ministers and elders whose names are found in the early records of the Presbytery of Redstone.

A history of the Presbytery was published in 1854, under the title of Old Redstone. And in 1878, the minutes of the Presbytery up to that point were gathered together in a published volume of over 400 pages. In 1881 the Presbytery held a centennial celebration, an occasion held jointly with some of the surrounding PCUSA Presbyteries of Pittsburgh, Washington, Blairsville and West Virginia.

There are actually a good number of published histories for Presbyteries in both the PCUS (aka, Southern Presbyterian Church, 1861-1983) and the PCUSA [1789-1958]. By comparison, we have preserved at the PCA Historical Center a few brief sketches that have been written for some of the PCA presbyteries. But the PCA is still a young denomination and I am sure that more such work will be done in the coming years. Off-hand I don’t know of any histories that may have been written for OPC or ARP presbyteries, outside of larger denominational histories.

Something to Consider:
For all the practical value of church history, at the root of it all, we value our history as a record of what God has done in our midst. The history of the Church in all its parts is a testimony to our risen Lord who has redeemed us and who has employed us in His kingdom, to His greater glory.

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