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 It Wasn’t a Church Split But an Exodus

The high court of the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A. was on a roll. Any and all teaching elders, along with a few laypeople, who had been involved in the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions were being disciplined by the respective courts of the church. Presbyteries had convicted the men of refusing to obey the Mandate of 1934, which ordered them to cease and desist from any connection with this upstart mission board. Appeals had been made and denied from presbyteries, synods, and general assembly. Now sentences of deposition from the ministry had gone out to men like J. Gresham Machen, Charles Woodbridge, Ed Rian, Paul Woolley, H. McAllister Griffiths, Merrill McPherson, Carl McIntire, and David K Myers, suspending them from their ordinations.

One of the few supporters of the Independent Board, and one who had been on the board of the mission board himself, was the Rev. Dr. Roy Talmadge Brumbaugh, pastor of the Tacoma, Washington Presbyterian Church U.S.A. He saw what was coming, especially when the Presbytery of Olympia began to demand that all Session and Congregational records of the church be given to them. The liberals had begun to investigate the church. Dr. Brumbaugh met unofficially with his session of elders and deacons. After much discussion, the hearts and minds of the officers was to leave the denomination. On that following Sunday,  Dr. Brumbaugh led his church and most of the  five hundred members in it, directly across the alley into a large Scottish Rite Cathedral available to them to worship on August 20, 1935.

One of the people commented that “it wasn’t a church split.  It was an exodus.”  Fourteen of twenty-four ruling elders left the USA church.  Forty-nine of fifty-six deacons walked out. Twenty-three of twenty-five women society leaders left.  Eleven of thirteen Sunday School superintendents joined the new church. Every Systematic Bible Study teachers, except one, walked across the alley to the new “church” building.  Almost all of the youth, along with the Young People’s leader put their hand to the spiritual plow.  In fact, nine young people who had committed their lives to Christ’s service joined the exodus.  Oh, and most of the choir left, and five of the seven branch Sunday School missions withdrew.  It was such a division that the remnant in the Presbyterian U.S.A. church appealed to other Presbyterian local churches to send them members so that they would have a church service the following Sunday.  The church would initially be called the First Independent Church of Tacoma, Washington.  Who was this man who led them out of apostasy?

Roy Brumbaugh was born April 15, 1890 in Pipersville, Pennsylvania.  Trained at Princeton Seminary from 1916 – 1919, he had studied under the feet of men like Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield, John Davis, William Benton Green, Geerhardus Vos, Robert Dick Wilson, Caspar Wistar Hodge, Oswald  Allis, and John Gresham Machen. Ordained by the Philadelphia Presbytery in 1919, Brumbaugh was the pastor of three Presbyterian churches until he went to the First Presbyterian Church of Tacoma, Washington in 193

The church in Tacoma later became known as the First Bible Presbyterian Church, Unaffiliated. And while it joined in the later associations of the Bible Presbyterian Church of the American and International Council of Christian Churches, it eventually did join the Bible Presbyterian Synod.  In 1947, Dr. Brumbaugh was the moderator of the Tenth General Synod of the Bible Presbyterian church, which met in Tacoma that year.

Over the years, the congregation has had a unique ministry to the servicemen from various military installations, winning many of America’s finest to Christ, and leading them into the ministry.

Rev. Roy Brumbaugh went to be with the Lord on January 3, 1957.  The church is still affiliated with the Bible Presbyterian Church.

Words to live by: Unusual times call for unusual means.  While we may look back and question his independent status at that time, we can well understand the hesitancy to join immediately a new denomination. And yet others of sound faith and judgment were not hesitant, believing that one of the glories of the Presbyterian church is its connectionalism.  He was certainly used of God’s Spirit in winning countless servicemen to the gospel, and sending many on their way into gospel ministry itself.

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The following is drawn from an autobiography written by the Rev. Daniel Iverson, founding pastor of the Shenandoah Presbyterian Church in Miami, Florida. That church closed its doors some years ago, but the legacy lives on.

The Shenandoah Presbyterian Church in its first twenty-four years under Daniel Iverson grew from seventeen worshipers in an old dance hall (half of them Iversons) to 1664 members with a Sunday School of 1200.  150 went into full-time Christian ministries, 4000 persons made a public profession of faith joining Shenandoah and her missions in this period, and some twenty-one churches were founded through Shenandoah and its pastor, together with its “children and grandchildren.  With the vast shift of population, seventy five years later, the Calle Ocho Church began to replant the church, “Reformed according to the Word of God” in the heart of what is now known as “Little Havana.” This autobiographical sketch in Dan Iverson’s own words best explains the miracle of Shenandoah. It is a simple answer.  Obviously, God did it!

The Work Begins: Sweating in Miami

iversondaniel01In February, 1927, Mrs. Iverson and I began to visit from home to home in the Southwest section of the city to see about prospects.  The people were in such an unsettled condition due to the collapse of the business boom and the terrible hurricane, it looked like a hopeless task. We were greeted with more or less indifference. We did not have a place to worship, and did not know where we could secure such a place; but we felt it was God’s will that we should work as though everything would work out alright, trusting Him every step of the way.

We found some people suspicious, charging that we had an ax to grind.  We found some very receptive and interested, and that most of them had heartaches they were trying to hide.  Having had some experience with people (Dan was about thirty eight years old), we felt it was our duty to penetrate the crust that hid the real self, and be of comfort and service to those in distress.

Having felt it was the time to start the church in the Shenandoah  community, I put notices in the newspapers, inviting those who were interested in establishing a Presbyterian Church to visit us in our home on a Tuesday evening in late February. About eight people attended that meeting, but only one became a member of what is now known as the Shenandoah Presbyterian Church.

After visiting for several weeks, we had interested enough folks, we thought, to jusify our finding a place of worship. There was an apartment on the corner of Southwest 20th Avenue and 12th Street that had stores on the ground floor.  We thought that was the place to begin, and tried to secure one of the stores. The owner of the building said that if we could gain the consent of those in the apartment building, we could use the store for a short time.  After four days, we had the people’s consent, but then the owner of the building decided against it. This was discouraging, for we had tried several places and met with similar rebuffs.

On Tamiami Trail and 20th Avenue there was a wooden building, now very much dilapidated, but then being used as a dance hall. It did not look to be the right thing to start a church in a Dance Hall. I found the building open, and walked in to take a look, and found it ideal as a Tabernacle.  I felt God had led me to this place. There was a little orchestra stand in the center of the building, and I knelt down behind the stand and claimed the building for God, and as I knelt and prayed, I felt God had answered my prayers.  I did every thing I could to secure this building, but failed.  Yet I felt in my heart that it would finally be ours.

I kept looking around the area and found an open air theater, now known as the Trail Auto Parts Company, that had closed its doors as a moving picture concern. I felt it was an unwise move to begin, but feeling it was imperative, I was ready to accept anything.  I secured this building for ten dollars per Sunday, and did not have the ten dollars to pay it.

That week, having  printed ten thousand invitation cards, my two boys, Dan and Ned, and my little girl Ella Lillian, went with me and assisted me in placing under the doors of 1000 homes these cards.  This interested them in the venture, and I found in family prayers they were constantly remembering this effort before God. Having given out one thousand cards, they thought everyone would respond and expected to see a large gathering on that first Sunday, March 13, 1927 at the Kew Garden Theater.

We advertised the Bible School hour at 9:45 A.M. I painted a sign and placed it outside the door, and opened up at 9:00 AM. There were five from our own family present,  At 9:45 there were still just five present, and that was a matter of anxiety for us all. As we were beginning with just our family at five minutes of ten, one person strolled in and asked if this was the place for the service, and wondered where the crowd was. At five minutes after ten, there were possibly ten present, and by 10:15 AM we had our first Sunday School of seventeen people divided into three classes. These classes were led by Mrs. Jennie Anderson, and for the adults  a class by Mrs. Daniel Iverson, and one by Miss Alice France.

shenandoahPCThe open air theater had a concrete floor and sunshine rules very strongly in Miami in March. It was unbearably warm and the glare very hard on the eyes. We found we were laboring under tremendous hardships. After a brief Sunday School session of the three classes, we asked the people to stay for church, and we would not keep them long.  Some people were added to the eleven o’clock service, making the attendance perhaps twenty-five or thirty. The sun was so hot that the people complained about it.  I suggested we hold a short service and someone suggested that they go home and get their parasols and come back.  I was afraid that if I let them go, they would not come back. They were so nice and kind, I gave them their wish and everyone  came back. This was just a little thing, but that was an encouraging thing, and I needed that little encouragement at what seemed to be a very dark moment in the blazing sun.

We had no hymn books, but I found a friend from my home town that was kind enough to make a couple hundred copies of three hymns. We used those hymns for a number of weeks for we had no funds with which to purchase hymn books.  During the following weeks I felt it necessary to get another place of worship, but found it impossible to secure them. So I printed one thousand more cards and with some neighbor children and my own, we placed cards under the doors again. I know we were not as welcome as we ought to have been, but I overlooked that, and went on. In spite of the handicap of a very uncomfortable place, we had a slight increase of both Bible School and Church. On these cards we suggested that people bring their parasols, and they did. We prayed earnestly that God at that time would answer the prayers for the dance hall.  Another week went by with the same disappointment and fear, but again, there was a slight increase in attendance.

Words to Live By:
When the Lord has a work to do, He prepares the way. Nothing will prevent or hinder the accomplishment of His will. It will happen in His time. Our role is to watch, and to faithfully obey, as He leads. The Gospel must be proclaimed. God will do the rest.

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A Martyr in His Missionary Zeal to Evangelize Blacks

Charles Colcock JonesWe hear much in this twenty-first century about the treatment of blacks before the Civil War.  And the fact that slavery was even allowed in any of the parts of this blessed nation is to be abhorred.  But in the midst of this condition, there were Southerners who sought to recognize the mission field to the blacks working on the plantations.

Beginning his special work as spiritual shepherd to the blacks of Liberty County, Georgia on December 2, 1832 was the Rev. Dr. Charles Colcock Jones, a member of the Midway Congregational Church.  Born on his father’s plantation in 1804, Charles Jones received his theological training under both Archibald Alexander and Samuel Miller at Princeton Seminary. Though he began as a pastor in Savannah, he soon returned to minister to the blacks as far as their souls were concerned. His congregation upon his start around the Midway Presbyterian Church some 4500 slaves. It was an organized ministry he had among them.

Three separate places of worship were built in convenient places solely for their use. Each Sabbath, Dr. Jones would travel by horseback to one of the three worship buildings.  First, a prayer meeting would ensue, led by chosen blacks themselves. Then the sermon with hymns would be led and preached by Dr. Jones.  In the afternoon, a Sunday School with catechetical instruction was instituted. Following that was a personal inquiry regarding their spiritual condition. Then blacks chosen for their gifts would make reports to the pastor regarding the weekly spiritual conduct of the workers. And finally, Dr. Jones would speak to the chosen leaders of their race regarding their encouragement and counsel. During the week, other meetings would be held at the plantations themselves, with whites and blacks together listening to the proclaimed Word of God.

jonesCatechismConcerned about this system, Dr. Jones wrote an exhortation which addressed this area.  The Presbyterian Synod of South Carolina and Georgia adopted it for their rules of all their churches and families in 1833. It stated: “Religion will tell the master that his servants are his fellow creatures, and that he has a Master in heaven to whom he shall give an account for his treatment of them. The master will be led to inquiries of this sort: In what kind of houses do I permit them to live? What clothes do I give them to wear?  What food to eat? What privileges to enjoy? In what temper and manner and proportion to their crimes are they punished?”

With his health breaking from twenty-four, seven work on their behalf, Dr. Jones spent two years teaching Church History and Polity at Columbia Seminary. But after that time, he returned to his spiritual work among the blacks for ten more years. In 1863, he went to his heavenly home, where color lines do not count among the saints.

Words to live by:  Our Lord said once during His earthly ministry, “What will it profit a man if he should gain the whole world and lose his own soul?” (KJV – Mark 8:36)  The welfare of the soul comes first in the eyes of the consecrated Christian. Charles Jones recognized this.  And to that, even at the detriment of his own health, he worked himself to death on their behalf.  When the Christian church, even the Presbyterian church, is ready to do everything it can do to reach the souls of the people in the neighborhood of their congregations, then we will have that spiritual awakening which is so desperately needed in our blessed land. O Lord, give us consecrated workers for the soul of America.



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Sharing  Faith by Word and Deed

John WanamakerEveryone has heard of the name John Wanamaker, especially those in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. That is where this retail giant began his department stores at the beginning of the Civil War in 1861.  But everyone may not know that John Wanamaker was a devout Presbyterian who shared his wealth and his Christian faith by word and deed.

Born on this day July 11, 1838, he began to work as an errand boy and shopkeeper’s helper.  At age 18, he became a Christian and began to attend Sunday School and church.  His congregation was Bethany Presbyterian church in Philadelphia.  In fact, at twenty-five, he was ordained as a ruling elder in the church.

He had some ideas which were unorthodox in the retail marketing field.  Using four principles, which were honesty, a fixed price for goods, a money back guarantee, and happy contented employees, he thought (and thought rightly) that customers would come. Workers were given free medical care, free education, recreational facilities, pensions, and profit-sharing plans. No wonder that unions could not get a foothold in his stores.

As his businesses grew with more and more stores in more than one city, he began to give large portions of his wealth to religious and moral causes.  The Young Man’s Christian Association and the Sunday School movement were among those receiving large support. He said once “I cannot too greatly emphasize the importance and value of Bible study — more important than ever before in these days of uncertainties, when men and women are apt to decide questions from the standpoint of expediency rather than the eternal principles laid down by God Himself.”

Words to Live By: 
When you consider that last sentence, about Bible study, we might think this was some recent quote, rather than something from the late 1800′s.  But a faith and life lived in the light of God’s Word–the Bible–makes everything relevant to every age.  Bible study still has its place in every believer’s life walk.  Buy a faithful Bible study, like the Reformation Study Bible, and get a good biblical commentary, like Matthew Henry’s, and (oh yes) a notebook to record the things that God impresses upon your heart and mind through His Word, then follow everything up with prayers of adoration, confession, thanksgiving, and supplications (A.C.T.S), and you will be able to decide questions from the standpoint of God’s will for your life.

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This Day in Presbyterian History:

A Secular Analysis of Marriage and Divorce

Time Magazine in its October 17, 1927 issue had an article on how Presbyterians view  the grounds of divorce.  Listen to its report:  “Presbyterian rules have held that only desertion and adultery are legitimate grounds of divorce.  In this, Presbyterians have been more liberal than most Christian denominations. Most admit only adultery as a divorce cause. A Presbyterian minister might properly marry a divorce[d person, but] only if the person were the innocent derelict of discretion to judge marital innocence. Amiable pew-holders occasionally have tried to strain his [the pastor’s] good will.”

As usual, when the secular press tries to understand church matters, they usually err in that matter. The Presbyterian “rule” on the grounds of adultery is none other than the teaching of the Westminster Confession of Faith, chapter 24, sections 5 and 6. It was treated back on the October 8, “Through the Standards” section. It can hardly be interpreted as being “more liberal,” seeing that this creedal standard was formalized in the early seventeenth century.  Presbyterians find a specifically defined allowance for divorce in the texts of both Matthew 19:8-9 and 1 Corinthians 7:12-16. The part about the “amiable pew-holders occasionally have tried to strain his good will” is true. The only word this writer would dispute in that quote is the word “occasionally.”

But it would be far better if the Christian church would ramp up its teaching on Christian marriage. That is what needs to be the focus from the pulpit, in the Sunday School rooms, on marriage retreats, and in the counseling room. This retired pastor preached  a yearly marriage series on Sunday mornings every Lord’s Day between Mother’s Day and Father’s Day during his 38 year ministry. Each year, attention was given in the Christian education curriculum to some aspect of married life. Sometimes this discussion occurred during Sunday School and sometimes during a weekday study. Weekend marriage retreats were also planned and held regularly.  And most importantly, there was a firm policy that the pastor would not officiate at a marriage without the couple having first attended several sessions of required biblical counseling.

Far better to get the facts on the grounds of divorce, not from the secular main-line media, but from the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments.

Words to live by: The statistics of divorce are much too high for our evangelical and Reformed churches. We need to be more faithful to our marriage covenants, made not only to God, but also to our spouses.

Through the Scriptures:  Matthew 8 – 11

Through the Standards:  Union with Christ, and Christians

For further study :
PCA position paper on divorce and remarriage (1992).

WCF 26:1
“All saints, that are united to Jesus Christ their Head, by His Spirit, and by faith, have fellowship with Him in His grace, sufferings, death, resurrection, and glory: and, being united to one another in love, they have communion in each other’s gifts and graces, and are obliged to the performance of such duties, public and private, as do conduce to their mutual good, both in the inward and outward man.”

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This Day in Presbyterian History:

 It Wasn’t a Church Split But an Exodus

The high court of the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A. was on a roll. Any and all teaching elders, including some laypeople, who had been involved in the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions were being disciplined by the respective courts of the church. Presbyteries had convicted the men of refusing to obey the Mandate of 1934, which ordered them to cease and desist from any connection with this upstart mission board. Appeals had been made and denied from presbyteries, synods, and general assembly. Now sentences of deposition from the ministry had gone out to men like J. Gresham Machen, Charles Woodbridge, Ed Rian, Paul Woolley, H. McAllister Griffiths, Merrill McPherson, Carl McIntire, and David K Myers, suspending them from their ordinations.

One of the few supporters of the Independent Board, and one who had been on the board of the mission board himself, was the Rev. Dr. Roy Talmadge Brumbaugh, pastor of the Tacoma, Washington Presbyterian Church U.S.A.   He saw what was coming, especially when the Presbytery of Olympia began to demand that all Session and Congregational records of the church be given to them.  The liberals had begun to investigate the church.  Dr. Brumbaugh met unofficially with his session of elders and deacons.  After much discussion, the hearts and minds of the officers was to leave the denomination.  On that following Sunday,  Dr. Brumbaugh led his church and most of the  five hundred members in it, directly across the alley into a large Scottish Rite Cathedral available to them to worship on August 20, 1935.

One of the people commented that “it wasn’t a church split.  It was an exodus.”  Fourteen of twenty-four ruling elders left the USA church.  Forty-nine of fifty-six deacons walked out.  Twenty-three of twenty-five women society leaders left.  Eleven of thirteen Sunday School superintendents joined the new church.  Every Systematic Bible Study teachers, except one, walked across the alley to the new “church” building.  Almost all of the youth, along with the Young People’s leader put their hand to the spiritual plow.  In fact, nine young people who had committed their lives to Christ’s service joined the exodus.  Oh, and most of the choir left, and five of the seven branch Sunday School missions withdrew.  It was such a division that the remnant in the Presbyterian U.S.A. church appealed to other Presbyterian local churches to send them members so that they would have a church service the following Sunday.  The church would initially be called the First Independent Church of Tacoma, Washington.  Who was this man who led them out of apostasy?

Roy Brumbaugh was born April 15, 1890 in Pipersville, Pennsylvania.   Trained at Princeton Seminary from 1916 – 1919, he had studied under the feet of men like Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield, John Davis, William Benton Green, Geerhardus Vos, Robert Dick Wilson, Caspar Wistar Hodge, Oswald  Allis, and John Gresham Machen.  Ordained by the Philadelphia Presbytery in 1919, Brumbaugh was the pastor of three Presbyterian churches until he went to the First Presbyterian Church of Tacoma, Washington in 193

The church in Tacoma later became known as the First Bible Presbyterian Church, Unaffiliated. And while it joined in the later associations of the Bible Presbyterian Church of the American and International Council of Christian Churches, it eventually did join the Bible Presbyterian Synod.  In 1947, Dr. Brumbaugh was the moderator of the Tenth General Synod of the Bible Presbyterian church, which met in Tacoma that year.

Over the years, the congregation has had a unique ministry to the servicemen from various military installations, winning many of America’s finest to Christ, and leading them into the ministry.

Rev. Roy Brumbaugh went to be with the Lord on January 3, 1957.  The church is still affiliated with the Bible Presbyterian Church.

Words to live by: Unusual times call for unusual means.  While we may look back and question his independent status at that time, we can well understand the hesitancy to join immediately a new denomination.  And yet others of sound faith and judgment were not hesitant, believing that one of the glories of the Presbyterian church is its connectionalism.  He was certainly used of God’s Spirit in winning countless servicemen to the gospel, and sending many on their way into gospel ministry itself.

Through the Scriptures: Jeremiah 50 – 52

Through the Standards:  Object of worship

WCF 21:2
“Religious worship is to be given to God, the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; and to Him alone; not to angels, saints, or any other creature: and since the fall, not without a Mediator; nor in the mediation of any other but of Christ alone.”

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This Day in Presbyterian History:  

Sharing  Faith by Word and Deed

Everyone has heard of the name John Wanamaker, especially those in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. That is where this retail giant began his department stores at the beginning of the Civil War in 1861.  But everyone may not know that John Wanamaker was a devout Presbyterian who shared his wealth and his Christian faith by word and deed.

Born on this day July 11, 1838, he began to work as an errand boy and shopkeeper’s helper.  At age 18, he became a Christian and began to attend Sunday School and church.  His congregation was Bethany Presbyterian church in Philadelphia.  In fact, at twenty-five, he was ordained as a ruling elder in the church.

He had some ideas which were unorthodox in the retail marketing field.  Using four principles, which were honesty, a fixed price for goods, a money back guarantee, and happy contented employees, he thought (and thought rightly) that customers would come. Workers were given free medical care, free education, recreational facilities, pensions, and profit-sharing plans. No wonder that unions could not get a foothold in his stores.

As his businesses grew with more and more stores in more than one city, he began to give large portions of his wealth to religious and moral causes.  The Young Man’s Christian Association and the Sunday School movement were among those receiving large support. He said once “I cannot too greatly emphasize the important and value of Bible study — more important than ever before in these days of uncertainties, when men and women are apt to decide questions from the standpoint of expediency rather than the eternal principles laid down by God Himself.

Words to Live By: 
When you consider the last sentence about Bible study, we might think that he had made it in the current year in which we find ourselves instead of back in the late 1800’s.  But a faith and life lived in the light of God’s Word the Bible makes everything relevant to every age.  Bible study still has its place in every believer’s life walk.  Buy a faithful Bible study, like the Reformation Study Bible, with a good biblical commentary, like Matthew Henry, and (oh yes) a notebook to record what the Spirit reveals to you through His Word, follow everything up with prayers of adoration, confession, thanksgiving, and supplications (A.C.T.S), and you will be able to decide questions from the standpoint of God Himself.

Through the Scriptures:  Isaiah 13 – 15

Through the Standards: The manner of sanctifying the Lord’s Day according to the Catechisms

WLC 117 — “How is the sabbath or the Lord’s day to be sanctified?
A.  The sabbath or Lord’s Day is to be sanctified by an holy resting all the day, not only from such works as are at all times sinful, but even from such worldly employments and recreations as are on other days lawful; and making it our delight to spend the whole time (except so much of it as is to be taken up in works of necessity and mercy) in the public and private exercises of God’s worship: and, to that end, we are to prepare our hearts, and with such foresight, diligence, and moderation, to dispose and seasonably dispatch our worldly business, that we may be the more free and fit for the duties of that day.”

WSC 60 “How is the Sabbath to be sanctified?
A.  The Sabbath is to be sanctified by a holy resting all that day, even from such worldly employments and recreations as are lawful on other days; and spending the whole time in the public and private exercises of God’s worship, except so much as is to be taken up in the works of necessity and mercy.”

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