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Today’s post is by our guest author, the Rev. Philip H. Pockras, who serves as the minister of the Belle Center, Ohio, RPCNA congregation, and he has served there since 1985.  He lives about three miles from Northwood, OH and is currently the Moderator of the Synod of the RPCNA.  In addition, Phil serves as the Secretary of the Board of Corporators of Geneva College.  While his wife, Judy, and his sons, Nathaniel and Isaac, are all alumni of Geneva, Phil is a 1976 alumnus of the wonderful Miami University, in Oxford, Ohio, where he graduated with a BA in History.

Forerunner of Geneva College

genevaHall_Original_buildingWay at the top of the Great Miami River, Covenanters came to settle in the 1820s.  They came mostly from eastern Ohio and upstate New York, unlike Covenanters farther down state.  Those who’d earlier come up from South Carolina and Tennessee founded RPCNA congregations in Cincinnati, Xenia, Cedarville, and the Beechwoods near Oxford.  The newcomers were in a clearing in the woods far to the north of these places.  That’s how the settlement came to be called Northwood, Ohio, in Logan County.

They were farther away from schools back east.  In 1836, the first minister, John Black Johnston, was involved in discussion around a stove in the store in nearby Richland.  Presiding over the discussion was his brother, J. S. Johnston, the storekeeper.  The topic was the need for a school, particularly for the RP young men in the area.  There were other places for schooling in Ohio, particularly the wonderful Miami University down in Oxford, but Old School Presbyterians and Associate Reformed Presbyterians dominated.  They were good men, and a couple of them had RP pasts, but they weren’t Covenanters now!

genevaHall_Second_College_buildingJ. B. Johnston took the ball, so to speak, and ran with it. He put the idea for a “grammar school” before the Lakes Presbytery of the RPCNA in late 1847. He got their approval, and on April 20th of that year the school started up in Northwood with the name “Geneva Hall”.  Rev. Johnston had a brick building constructed, and Geneva Hall moved into the two-story, five-roomed building.  Geneva printed advertising and distributed it to papers, including those of the RP Church.  Students came, in increasing number, from nearby and from farther away.  It helped that a railroad came to the village of Belle Center, only three miles away, at around the same time Geneva Hall was opened.

The story from there on was a fairly familiar one.  There were ups and downs of enrollment and frequent changes in the faculty corps, who were mostly young ministers or young men anticipating the ministry eventually.  The RP Theological Seminary was held in the building 1849-1851.  A new girls’ school, the Geneva Female Seminary, began down the street.  Geneva Hall expanded their building to a third story and added more rooms to accommodate growth.  Several reorganizations occurred and, finally, Rev. Johnston decided he could not carry the load further.  He offered the school to the Synod of the RPCNA in 1857, and Synod accepted it, but without funding it.  Rev. Johnston left the RPC in 1858 to join the new United Presbyterian Church of North America, and Geneva Hall closed by 1861.

genevaHall_Female_Seminary_buildingIn 1865, several locals reorganized the school, hiring J. B. Johnston’s youngest brother, the Rev. Nathan Robinson Johnston, to run it.  His right-hand man, the Rev. J. L. McCartney (father of Dr. Clarence Macartney), succeeded in having freedmen come from the South for an education.  By 1872, the Hall, newly renamed “Geneva College”, was finally thriving under new President Rev. H. H. George.  It grew in size and influence there in Northwood until it moved, in 1880, to Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania, where it still is and still seeks to be “Pro Christo et Patria”, “For Christ and Country”.

The building is gone.  The area long used it as a community center but demolished it in 1941.  A memorial stone with a bronze plaque marks where it stood on Ohio 638, between Bellefontaine and Belle Center.  One can read of Geneva’s early days in W. M. Glasgow’s The Geneva Book, available digitally, or in Dr. David Carson’s Pro Christo et Patria: A History of Geneva College.

Words to Live By:
Geneva Hall/Geneva College’s longtime motto is Pro Christo et Patria, “For Christ and Country”.  J. B. Johnston and others founded Geneva to be teaching all things in the light of Christ’s Mediatorial Kingship over all things (Ephesians 1:20-23). That motto still informs Geneva’s mission, even today, as expressed through the College’s document, Foundations of Christian Education. All subjects taught, and all aspects of life, must glorify Him. As such, it forms both a high calling and a solemn responsibility before the Lord.

As the Apostle Paul has written to the Romans, “For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen.” (Romans 11:36). We, too, must seek to bring all things under Christ’s feet, including our dear nation. True patriotism involves working for our nation, our people, our culture to be in submission to Prince Messiah. What a goal to work for! Though our own beginnings may be small and in a little obscure clearing in a big woods, Christ knows them, honors them, and glorifies Himself through them. He shall put all things under His feet (1 Corinthians 15:25, Ephesians 1.22), so our efforts are by no means in vain.

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mallardRobert Quarterman Mallard, son of Thomas and Rebecca (Burnley) Mallard, was born at Waltourville, Liberty county, on September 7, 1830. He was received into the Midway Congregational church on May 15, 1852, and graduated from the University of Georgia in 1850, before entering on his preparation for the ministry at Columbia Theological Seminary.

Then graduating from Columbia in 1855, he was licensed by Georgia Presbytery on April 14, 1855 and ordained by this same Presbytery a year later, on April 13, 1856, being installed as pastor of the Walthourville church, where he served from 1856 to 1863. Rev. Mallard next answered a call to serve as pastor of the Central Presbyterian church in Atlanta, and labored there from 1863 to 1866. He then took up the pulpit of the Prytania Street Presbyterian church in New Orleans, where he labored from 1866 until ill health forced his resignation in 1877. It was not until 1879 that he was able to return to the pastorate, answering a call to serve the Napoleon Avenue Presbyterian church, also in New Orleans, from 1879 until 1903, no long before his death on March 3, 1904.

Honors accorded Rev. Mallard during his years of ministry included having served as the Moderator of the Thirty-sixth General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church, U.S., as it met in Memphis, Tennessee, in 1896. Rev. Mallard also served as editor of the Southwestern Presbyterian from 1892 until his death in 1904. His published works were few, notably Plantation Life before Emancipation (1892) and Montevideo-Maybank (1898)

During the Civil War, Dr. Mallard was taken prisoner at Walthourville on December 14, 1865, where he was temporarily stopping, and kept with other prisoners in pens on the Ogeechee. After the fall of Savannah, he was carried into the city, and for a while imprisoned in a cotton warehouse on Bay street; was entertained for about three months at the home of Dr. Axson, as a paroled prisoner, before being finally released.

Words to Live By:

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Don’t understand the jargon in our title? Then read on:—

Two Organizations Provide Ways for the Denominations to Network
[an excerpt from a longer article by Rev. William Johnson]

When the future leaders of the PCA were still planning for their beginning, they often had contact with and encouragement from leaders in the RPCES, the OPC and the RPCNA. These contacts and continuing turmoil in the larger and liberal denominations lead to the founding of successive organizations which served all the conservative Presbyterians as ways to keep networking and building cooperation and unity. The first, the National Presbyterian and Reformed Fellowship (NPRF), was founded in 1971 and counted among its leaders Aiken Taylor of the Presbyterian Journal and Donald Graham, its first executive director. Membership was open to ministers, ruling elders, and other interested laymen. Then in 1975 NAPARC was formed, The North American Presbyterian and Reformed Council. It was a more formal organization than the NPRF in that denominations were members – initially, the RPCES, the OPC, the RPCNA, the PCA, and the CRC (Christian Reformed Church). The former group (NPRF) eventually disbanded in the early 1980’s; the latter group (NAPARC) continues still and has been joined by a few other denominations. [Note: The CRC is no longer a member denomination in NAPARC]

Representatives of the closest conservative Presbyterian Churches – the OPC, the RPCES, the RPCNA, and the PCA – continued formal and informal contacts in the later 1970s. Very few if any substantive differences separated them, although history and personality/style differences remained obstacles and all knew that with negotiated merger plans, “the devil was in the details.” A turning point was reached at Covenant College September 13-14, 1979, when representatives of the four churches’ ecumenical committees met. The PCA, being so young, had actually been urged by some at its General Assembly earlier that year not to consider any merger plan for at least five more years (1984!). When Dr. Edmund Clowney suggested on the first day that a way around this PCA reluctance would be for individual churches or even denominations to simply join the PCA, since it was by far the largest of the four bodies, the idea was seized on by Donald J. MacNair the next day and he made a proposal that the PCA consider extending such invitations in the future.

The PCA’s 8th Assembly, meeting in Savannah, GA, voted on June 17, 1980, 525 to 38, to issue those invitations. The RPCNA soon dropped out of consideration (their adherence to exclusive psalm-singing in public worship was still too much of an obstacle) and the PCA presbyteries voted by the spring of 1981 not to approve the invitation to the OPC [a narrow decision – 75% of the 25 presbyteries were needed to vote yes; only 18 approved; one of those PCA Presbyteries defeated the invitation by only 2 votes – so it could be said those 2 votes had effectively closed the door to the OPC]. The plan that came to be known as J&R [i.e., Joining & Receiving] was successfully used to enable the churches, leaders, and members of the RPCES to join and be received by the PCA during their overlapping annual meetings in June, 1982, in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The final votes were taken with these results: on June 12th, the RPCES Synod approved J&R by a vote of 322 to 90 (78+% voting in favor). Meanwhile, at some point in the spring of 1982, the point was reached where 75% of the PCA presbyteries had approved the invitation to the RPCES, thus effectively approving the reception of the RPCES. All twenty-five PCA Presbyteries voted in favor of receiving the RPCES, though not unanimously in every case. J&R was officially consummated at the opening of the PCA Assembly in Grand Rapids, June 14, 1982.

Words to Live By: 
Someone in seminary once commented that if Presbyterians had a soup, it would be “Split Pea.”  That has been the sad commentary for far too long.  Of course, we are not talking about just occasions when, with respect to apostate Presbyterianism, it was better for the sake of the gospel and our children, to let our feet do the voting and leave.  But when Bible-believing Presbyterians cannot join together for reasons far inferior to the truths of the gospel, then there is an occasion to weep. Let us pray for biblical union of all far-flung Presbyterian bodies.  Let us work for biblical union of our “split peas.”   And then let us come with a united biblical witness before an increasing secular society.
Psalm 133:1 “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in  unity!” (ESV)

J&R01NPRF = National Presbyterian and Reformed Fellowship
NAPARC = North American Presbyterian and Reformed Council
OPC = Orthodox Presbyterian Church [1936-ongoing]
PCA = Presbyterian Church in America [1973-ongoing]
RPCES = Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod [1965-1982]
RPCNA = Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America [1833-ongoing]

 

Pictured at left, one of three booklets issued in conjunction with the Joining and Receiving effort.

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Ideas & Actions Have Consequences

On this day, August 15th, in 1861, a group of pastors and ruling elders met in Atlanta to plan the division of a new denomination, splitting off from the Old School wing of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America. Strictly speaking, the Southern Old School men did not divide over the matter of slavery. Rather, their point of division was the Gardiner Spring Resolutions. What follows is an account of how that division came about, written by the Rev. Moses D. Hoge, and found as chapter 22 in the volume, Presbyterians: A Popular Narrative… (1892):—

In May, 1861, the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America (Old School), which met in Philadelphia, adopted a paper in reference to the Civil War, which begun the month before. This paper became known as the Spring Resolutions, after the Rev. Gardiner Spring, pastor of the Brick Church in New York and the minister who brought these resolutions to the floor of that General Assembly. Three times these resolutions were put before the Assembly, and twice they failed of vote, but with some changes, passed on the third presentation. With the adoption of the Spring Resolutions, the Assembly undertook to decide for its whole constituency, North and South, a question upon which the most eminent statesmen had been divided in opinion from the time of the formation of the Constitution, namely, whether the ultimate sovereignty, the jus summi imperii, resided in the people as a mass, or in the people as they were originally formed into colonies and afterward into States.

Presbyterians in the South believed that this deliverance, whether true or otherwise, was one which the Church was not authorized to make, and that, in so doing, she had transcended her sphere and usurped the duties of the state. Their views upon this subject found expression in a quarter which relieves them of all suspicion of coming from an interested party. A protest against this action was presented by the venerable Charles Hodge, D.D., of Princeton Theological Seminary, and fifty-seven others who were members of that Assembly.

In this protest it was asserted, “that the paper adopted by the Assembly does decide the political question just stated, in our judgment, is undeniable. It not only asserts the loyalty of this body to the Constitution and the Union, but it promises in the name of all the churches and ministers whom it represents, to do all that in them lies to strengthen, uphold and encourage the Federal Government. It is, however, a notorious fact that many of our ministers and members conscientiously believe that the allegiance of the citizens of this country is primarily due to the States to which they respectively belong, and that, therefore, whenever any State renounces its connection with the United States, and its allegiance to the Constitution, the citizens of that State are bound by the laws of God to continue loyal to their State, and obedient to its laws. The paper adopted virtually declares, on the other hand, that the allegiance of the citizen is due to the United States, anything in the Constitution or laws of the several States to the contrary notwithstanding. The General Assembly in thus deciding a political question, and in making that decision practically a condition of Church membership, has, in our judgment, violated the Constitution of the Church, and usurped the prerogative of its Divine Master.”

Presbyterians in the South, coinciding in this view of the case, concluded that a separation from the General Assembly aforesaid was imperatively demanded, not in the spirit of schism, but for the sake of peace, and for the protection of the liberty with which Christ had made them free.

After the adoption of the Gardiner Spring Resolutions in May of 1861, Presbytery after Presbytery in the Southern States, feeling that by that act they had been exscinded, withdrew from the jurisdiction of the Assembly that had transcended its sphere and decided political questions. A conference of ministers and elders was held in Atlanta on August 15-17, 1861, and in response to a call thus issued the Assembly met.

Accordingly, ninety-three ministers and ruling elders, representing forty-seven Presbyteries, duly commissioned for that purpose, met in the city of Augusta, Georgia, on the 4th of December, 1861, and integrated in one body. The first act after the organization of that memorable Assembly was to designate a name for the now separated Church, and to declare its form and belief.

Something to Ponder:
The North/South division of the Old School Presbyterians did not happen in an historical vacuum. That brief comment above, “…feeling that by that act they had been exscinded,…” is an intriguing key. Could it be that the division of 1861 happened in part because of the division of 1837? In the division of 1837, the Old School Presbyterians unwittingly established a precedent when they exscinded four Synods which were predominantly New School. In making this observation, I am not arguing that they were right or wrong, but simply that ideas and actions have consequences. The overt exclusion of four Synods in 1837 was still a recent memory in 1861, and in that light it seems a more reasonable suspicion that now it was the Southern churches which were being excluded, whether overtly or not.

Our actions have consequences. Once you do something, it becomes easier to repeat that action. This is how habits are formed. This is how we learn. And this can be either good or bad. On the positive side of things, skills and abilities can be tuned to a fine pitch; all manner of tasks can be mastered. But, by allowing a first transgression, we can also become quite adept at sin. Instead, let us fear God and hate evil. Like Joseph, turn from sin at its first appearance, and run! Or, to return to our story, imagine how things might have turned out, had that first slave ship been refused access to our shores? What sort of nation would we be if a different precedent had been set from the start? We can’t undo history, but we can find forgiveness and mercy in Christ as our Lord and Savior.

[excerpted from Presbyterians: A Popular Narrative of their Origin, Progress, Doctrines, and Achievements, by Rev. Geo. P. Hays, D.D., LL.D. New York: J. A. Hill & Co., Publishers, 1892, pp. 483-486.]

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Today we are pleased to present a guest post submitted by Kathy Stegall, daughter of the Rev. D. Howard Elliott.

D. Howard Elliott: June 8, 1915 – January 1, 2001

elliottDH_WinifredDelber Howard Elliott was born on June 8, 1915 in Winchester, Kansas where his father, Delber Harvey Elliott, was the pastor of the local congregation of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America. As his father was called to various ministries, Howard spent his growing-up years in Topeka, KS and Pittsburgh, PA. After graduation from Geneva College it became apparent that he felt a strong call to the gospel ministry and thus went on to the Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary, graduating in 1940. Soon after he married Winifred Coleman and together they took up his first pastorate back in Winchester, Kansas, the congregation of his baptism.

Pictured at right, Howard and Winifred in Winchester, in 1940.

Elliott pastored RPCNA congregations in Winchester, Beaver Falls, PA, and Topeka, KS. In addition to pastoral and denominational duties, Elliott volunteered as a lobbyist for the Christian Amendment Movement, was the RPCNA representative to the National Association of Evangelicals, and served on the Geneva College Board of Trustees. Elliott was clerk of the RPCNA Synod for many years and elected as moderator in 1972. After his retirement in 1980 he  returned to Winchester again to serve in a new way as a layperson. Elliott died at their Winchester home on January 1, 2001.

elliott_mr_mrs_dhThese brief facts and even the awards and recognitions he received along the way do not begin to tell the story of Dr. Elliott’s greatest contribution to Christ’s Kingdom—his exemplary pastor’s heart. He always served with hard work and discipline, yet with the greatest tenderness and kindness towards all. Along with faithfully preaching and teaching God’s Word twice each week on Sundays along with many other presentations and meetings, he endeared himself to his communities by loving his women, his wife and four daughters, hanging out with the guys at the neighborhood gas station, making thousands of visits to the homes of his church families, driving the church Sabbath School Bus, on call as a police chaplain, or playing endless games of softball during annual Daily Vacation Bible Schools and Sabbath School picnics, always undergirded by faithful family and personal Bible study and prayer. His attentiveness to his flock was intense as he noted each week who was absent from worship, who was sick, who needed encouragement or counsel, who had a significant family or work event; and a relevant response always followed. Organization, planning, consistent hard work and methodical devotion characterized his pastoral mission. He led with the intelligence and creativity of a  CEO, yet with the humility and compassion of a shepherd. As a result those in his congregations trusted and loved him in return. Each congregation viewed his leaving for the next step in his life with disappointment yet confident in God’s sovereign goodness, just as they had been faithfully taught.

Pictured above, Howard and Winifred, in 1995.

Words to Live By:
In 1980 Dr. Elliott chose 1 Thess. 4:11-12 as his theme for retirement  “…make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.” Soon after he accomplished a life-long dream by building with his own hands a home for Winifred and himself in which he lived out his days.

Additional Sources:
Some further record of Rev. Elliott’s life and ministry can be found in Covenanter Ministers, 1930-1963, by Alvin W. Smith, pp. 71-72.

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