Vanguard Presbytery

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In the last years leading up to the formation of the Presbyterian Church in America, preparations were underway on several fronts, laying the groundwork for a new denomination. Providentially, two critical legal cases in the 1960’s had established the property rights of congregations. Then by the early 1970’s, churches that were leaving the PCUS knew that they could not properly leave to independency. Thus the need for a Presbytery structure led to the formation of Vanguard Presbytery. Vanguard began its existence some fifteen months before the organization of the PCA, and continued to serve as a Presbytery of the denomination until 1977, when its churches were received into more geographically proximate PCA Presbyteries.

The PCA’s First Presbytery, Before There Was a PCA.

On September 7, 1972, 16 persons representing 10 churches which had already withdrawn or were planning to sever their connection with the Presbyterian Church U.S. met at Eastern Heights Presbyterian Church in Savannah, Georgia.

In a unanimous vote they adopted this resolution:
WHEREAS, We, the undersigned have met together to study the situation in the Church of Jesus Christ, and
WHEREAS, We are agreed that the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are the Word of God, the only infallible rule of faith and practice, and
WHEREAS, We are agreed that the Westminster Confession of Faith and the Larger and Shorter Catechisms set forth the system of Doctrine declared in the Scriptures, and
WHEREAS, The Book of Church Order of the Presbyterian Church in the United States (1934 edition) sets forth a reasonable and practical formulary for church organization, therefore
BE IT RESOLVED,

1. That we the undersigned do covenant together to form an Association to be known as VANGUARD PRESBYTERY, INC., a provisional presbytery for Southern Presbyterian and Reformed Churches uniting, and
2. That this Association shall have as its purpose to perpetuate the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ as it was proclaimed in the Southern Presbyterian Church prior to the year 1938.

Read at the meeting was a letter which the Rev. Arnie Maves, a Presbyterian Evangelistic Fellowship evangelist, wrote to the Rev. Todd Allen who convened the meeting:

” … This is to confirm our telephone conversation on Monday evening concerning the upcoming meeting in Savannah, Georgia. I want to say on paper what I said on the phone, that I stand ready and willing to become a part of the Vanguard Presbytery which hopefully will be formed very soon. I want to be counted as one of the charter members of that Presbytery as soon as it is officially formed.

“I am presently a member of Cherokee Presbytery of the P.C.U.S. and have never changed in my beliefs as first stated some years ago upon my ordination. I still believe the Bible to be the Word of God written, the only infallible rule of faith and practice, and I still adhere to the Westminster Confession with the Shorter and Larger Catechisms as the best interpretation of the Scriptures that I know.

“I feel that my denomination has changed and left me. I have not changed my views … nor my vows. Therefore, I can no longer hold to nor adhere to what the PCUS is now doing. I am in disagreement with them in most points … although I love them and do pray for them.

“Therefore, as you gentlemen come to do an historic work … I simply want to say, I am with you … and I want to become a part of this continuing Presbyterian work called Vanguard Presbytery. I don’t know who chose that name . . . but it’s a good one. Praise the Lord.”

Vanguard Presbytery was formally organized at a meeting held in Tabb Street Presbyterian Church, Petersburg, Va., on November 14, 1972. It was reported that their plan was to adopt the Confession of Faith and Book of Church Order which were in effect in 1933 (before the liberals started tampering with them) except for one very significant change, namely that the Book of Church Order would provide explicitly that the local congregation has sole ownership and control of its own property.

The Rev. Todd Allen, who was elected Moderator of Vanguard Presbytery, also served on the Steering Committee for the Continuing Church. Chester B. Hall whose church, First Presbyterian Church of Louisville, Ky., had renounced the jurisdiction of Louisville-Union Presbytery earlier that same year, was elected Clerk and Treasurer.

Words to Live By:
More than anything else, unbelief was the reason these churches left their old denomination. The unbelief of modernism was not necessarily a problem in the pews, but among the prevailing leadership of the old denomination, it was a different story. The crux of the problem was, as the patriarch Abraham said, “There is no fear of God in this place.” (Gen. 20:11). And more than anything else, these churches left to protect and preserve their ability to faithfully preach the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. Their purpose was to remain, as the long-standing motto says, Loyal to the Scriptures; True to the Reformed Faith; Obedient to the Great Commission.

Trivia Question: Who did come up with that name for the Presbytery?

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Rights of Particular Churches in Relation to the Denomination and its Courts.

This day, October 30, marks the anniversary of the organizational meeting of the Mid-Atlantic Presbytery (PCA). As you will remember, the denomination itself did not meet in General Assembly until December 4-7 of 1973. However, several Presbyteries were formed in advance of the official founding of the denomination. The first of these, as evidenced by its name, was the Vanguard Presbytery, organized on September 7, 1972. The churches comprising Vanguard Presbytery eventually merged into other Presbyteries and Vanguard was dissolved in March of 1977. In addition to Vanguard, there were another thirteen Presbyteries organized in advance of the official founding of the PCA. Mid-Atlantic Presbytery was the last to organize prior to the First General Assembly

1.    Warrior – 13 February 1973
2.    Gulf Coast – 10 April 1973
3.    Westminster – 10 April 1973
4.    Central Georgia – 30 May 1973
5.    North Georgia – 2 June 1973 [dissolved by division and continued by Metro Atlanta Presbytery]
6.    Southern Florida – 4 Jun3 1973
7.    Covenant – 18 June 1973
8.    Calvary – 1 July 1973
9.    Grace – 17 July 1973
10.  Mississippi Valley – 19 July 1973
11.  Texas – 31 July 1973 – [dissolved by division and continued by North Texas Presbytery]
12.  Evangel – 5 August 1973
13.  Mid-Atlantic – 30 October 1973 – [dissolved by division and continued by James River Presbytery]

As these Presbyteries and their churches organized, they met as Presbyteries of “The Continuing Presbyterian Church,” that being the working name of the new denomination prior to its official organization. What follows are a few highlights from the Minutes of the organizational meeting of the Mid-Atlantic Presbytery:—

WHEREAS, we, the undersigned, are agreed that the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are the Word of God, the only infallible rule of faith and practice; and,

WHEREAS, we are agreed that the Westminster Confession of Faith (in the edition published in 1973 by the Steering Committee for a Continuing Presbyterian Church) and the Westminster Larger and Shorter Catechisms set forth the system of doctrine taught in the Holy Scriptures; and

WHEREAS, we are agreed that the mission of the Church has been given her by the Lord Jesus Christ, the Head of the Church, and is to make disciples of all nations and to teach them all things whatsoever He has commanded; and,

WHEREAS, The Book of Church Order (in the revised 1933 edition published in 1973 by the Steering Committee for a Continuing Presbyterian Church) sets forth a reasonable and practical formulary for church organization (although we do not regard the quota of three ministers necessary for a quorum of presbytery to be in effect until there are at least four minister members of our presbytery); and,

WHEREAS, the appended statement “Rights of Particular Churches in Relation to the Denomination and Its Courts” is adopted by us as setting forth priniciples of Presbyterian government essential to our agreement, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED,

1.    That we, the undersigned, to covenant together to form an association to be known as Mid-Atlantic Presbytery; and,
2.    That this association shall have as its purpose to perpetuate the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ as it is proclaimed in the Scriptures and declared in the Westminster standards; and,
3.    That we, the undersigned, met in Hopewell, Virginia at 11:00 A.M. on October 30, 1973.

mid-atlantic_1973

Rights of Particular Churches in Relation to the Denomination and its Courts.
a. The corporation of a particular church, through its duly elected trustees or corporation officers, (or, if unincorporated, through those who are entitled to represent the particular church in matters related to real property) shall have sold title to its real property, and shall be sole owner of any equity it may have in any real estate. No superior court, as such, shall have any claim whatsoever upon any real property or any equity in any real estate, or any fund or property of any kind by or belonging to any particular church, or any board, society, committee, Sunday School, class or branch thereof. The superior courts of the church may receive monies or properties from a local church only by free and voluntary action of the latter.

b. All particular churches shall be entitled to hold, own, and enjoy their own local properties, without any right of revision whatsoever to any presbytery, synod, or any other courts hereafter created, its trustees or other— officers.

c. The provisions of this chapter are to be construed as a solemn covenant whereby the Church as a whole promises never to attempt to secure possession of the property of any congregation against its will, whether or not such congregation remains within or chooses to withdraw from its body. All officers and courts of the Church are hereby prohibited from making any such attempt. The intent of the provisions of this section are unamendable and irrevocable.

d. Particular churches need remain in association with Presbytery, synod, or any other courts hereafter created, only so long as they themselves so desire. The relationship is voluntary, based only upon mutual love and confidence, and is in no sense to be maintained by the exercise of any kind of force or coercion whatsoever. A particular church may withdraw from its presbytery, synod, or any other court hereafter created, at any time for reasons which seem to it sufficient, by orderly ballot at a legal meeting of its congregation or corporation. A simple majority of those present and voting shall decide the issue.
———

With some further changes, the principles of the above text was subsequently incorporated into the Book of Church Order of the Presbyterian Church in America, as part of BCO Chapter 25.

A Question to Ponder:
While the above provision is a wise one, can you offer a Scriptural defense for this provision? (I’m seeking wiser minds here)

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Vanguard Presbyterian was organized this day, September 7, 1972. As John Edward Richards wrote, “There were ministers and churches who could not wait for the formation of the new church. Under the Presbyterian system they needed a Presbyterian home.” Richards presented the following report in Contact, the official publication of Presbyterian Churchmen United:

VANGUARD PRESBYTERY

A significant event in the Presbyterian family occurred in Savannah, Georgia on September 7, 1972. A group of ministers and independent Presbyterian churches met and formed Vanguard Presbytery.

Early in August the Reverend Todd Allen, pastor of the Eastern Heights Presbyterian Church of Savannah, contacted the Administrator of the Steering Committee for a Continuing Presbyterian Church and requested advice and counsel with reference to his plan for calling a meeting of the representatives of independent Presbyterian churches and their pastors for the purpose of forming a presbytery that would be faithful to the Word of God and the Reformed Faith. The Steering Committee is ever ready to assist Presbyterian churches in uniting for this worthy purpose. The Administrator was glad to be of what service he could, but the credit for the accomplishment of the Vanguard Presbytery must go to the Reverend Todd Allen and others closely associated with him.

The meeting on September 7 was on a high spiritual plane, beginning with a devotional lesson from Philippians 1:1-6. The Communion service which followed was according to the Word of God and the presiding minister reminded the worshipers that the Sacrament commemorated the substitutionary atonement of our Lord for our sins.

In a most orderly fashion a temporary moderator and clerk were elected and four standing committees were “The Constitution and Service for Constituting the Presbytery”, “Naming and Chartering”, “Presbytery Organization and Schedules” and “Committee of Thanks.” The entire group united in intercession to God for His blessing upon these committees.

The feature of the afternoon meeting was an address by Attorney Owen H. Page. Mr. Page was the attorney for the Eastern Heights and Hull Memorial Churches when these churches went independent in 1966. The case went to the United States Supreme Court and was decided in favor of the local churches’ ownership of their respective properties. The case was decided on neutral principles, that is, without reference to church doctrine or government. Mr. Page stated that the vast majority of church property decisions recently rendered in various states had used the Savannah churches as the precedent effecting their decisions. (Incidentally, state laws vary greatly on the matter of church property and any local congregation wishing to assure the ownership of their church property should consult local attorneys to work out the proper legal instruments.)

The standing committees worked during the afternoon and completed their reports.

The people of the Eastern Heights Presbyterian Church graciously entertained the entire group at supper.

The concluding session of the presbytery was held at 7:00 p.m. All committee reports were unanimously adopted. Rev. Todd Allen was elected Moderator and Ruling Elder Chester Hall of the First Presbyterian Church, Louisville, Kentucky was elected temporary clerk and treasurer. The Presbytery was named “VANGUARD PRESBYTERY, a provisional presbytery for Southern Presbyterian and Reformed churches uniting.” The presbytery accepted an invitation for their November 14 meeting from the Tabb Street Independent Presbyterian Church, Petersburg, Virginia.

The meeting in Savannah was joyously Christian and was without criticism or derogatory remarks concerning any other religious group. The presbytery voted to accept the invitation of the Steering Committee for a Continuing Presbyterian Church for its moderator to become a member of that Steering Committee.

Words to live by: The organizing meeting of the Vanguard Presbytery began with a message on the text of Philippians 1:1-6. The central truth of that message is that “He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.”
In everything that He does, God unerringly accomplishes His purpose. And here, in this text, the apostle Paul drives home the point that as the Lord has raised you up from death to a living faith in the risen Savior, so He will continue to work in you, bringing you at last to Himself in glory. God’s work is sure, and there is no condemnation for those who in Christ Jesus.

 

 

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This Day in Presbyterian History:

Vanguard Presbyterian was organized this day, September 7, 1972. As John Edward Richards wrote, “There were ministers and churches who could not wait for the formation of the new church. Under the Presbyterian system they needed a Presbyterian home.” Richards presented the following report in Contact, the official publication of Presbyterian Churchmen United:

VANGUARD PRESBYTERY

A significant event in the Presbyterian family occurred in Savannah, Georgia on September 7, 1972. A group of ministers and independent Presbyterian churches met and formed Vanguard Presbytery.

Early in August the Reverend Todd Allen, pastor of the Eastern Heights Presbyterian Church of Savannah, contacted the Administrator of the Steering Committee for a Continuing Presbyterian Church and requested advice and counsel with reference to his plan for calling a meeting of the representatives of independent Presbyterian churches and their pastors for the purpose of forming a presbytery that would be faithful to the Word of God and the Reformed Faith. The Steering Committee is ever ready to assist Presbyterian churches in uniting for this worthy purpose. The Administrator was glad to be of what service he could, but the credit for the accomplishment of the Vanguard Presbytery must go to the Reverend Todd Allen and others closely associated with him.

The meeting on September 7 was on a high spiritual plane, beginning with a devotional lesson from Philippians 1:1-6. The Communion service which followed was according to the Word of God and the presiding minister reminded the worshipers that the Sacrament commemorated the substitutionary atonement of our Lord for our sins.

In a most orderly fashion a temporary moderator and clerk were elected and four standing committees were “The Constitution and Service for Constituting the Presbytery”, “Naming and Chartering”, “Presbytery Organization and Schedules” and “Committee of Thanks.” The entire group united in intercession to God for His blessing upon these committees.

The feature of the afternoon meeting was an address by Attorney Owen H. Page. Mr. Page was the attorney for the Eastern Heights and Hull Memorial Churches when these churches went independent in 1966. The case went to the United States Supreme Court and was decided in favor of the local churches’ ownership of their respective properties. The case was decided on neutral principles, that is, without reference to church doctrine or government. Mr. Page stated that the vast majority of church property decisions recently rendered in various states had used the Savannah churches as the precedent effecting their decisions. (Incidentally, state laws vary greatly on the matter of church property and any local congregation wishing to assure the ownership of their church property should consult local attorneys to work out the proper legal instruments.)

The standing committees worked during the afternoon and completed their reports.

The people of the Eastern Heights Presbyterian Church graciously entertained the entire group at supper.

The concluding session of the presbytery was held at 7:00 p.m. All committee reports were unanimously adopted. Rev. Todd Allen was elected Moderator and Ruling Elder Chester Hall of the First Presbyterian Church, Louisville, Kentucky was elected temporary clerk and treasurer. The Presbytery was named “VANGUARD PRESBYTERY, a provisional presbytery for Southern Presbyterian and Reformed churches uniting.” The presbytery accepted an invitation for their November 14 meeting from the Tabb Street Independent Presbyterian Church, Petersburg, Virginia.

The meeting in Savannah was joyously Christian and was without criticism or derogatory remarks concerning any other religious group. The presbytery voted to accept the invitation of the Steering Committee for a Continuing Presbyterian Church for its moderator to become a member of that Steering Committee.

Words to live by: The organizing meeting of the Vanguard Presbytery began with a message on the text of Philippians 1:1-6. The central truth of that message is that “He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.”
In everything that He does, God unerringly accomplishes His purpose. And here, in this text, the apostle Paul drives home the point that as the Lord has raised you up from death to a living faith in the risen Savior, so He will continue to work in you, bringing you at last to Himself in glory. God’s work is sure, and there is no condemnation for those who in Christ Jesus.

Through the Scriptures:  2 Chronicles 23 – 25

Through the Standards:  The Preface to the Lord’s Prayer, in the Shorter Catechism

WSC 100 — “What do we pray for in the first petition?
A. In the first petition, (which is, Hallowed be thy name) we pray, That God would enable us and others to glorify him in all that whereby he makes himself known, and that he would dispose all things to his own glory.”

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