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Edmund Prosper Clowney met his Lord face to face on Sunday, March 20, 2005, having passed into glory at the age of 87. He was survived by his wife of 63 years, Jean Wright Clowney; by his five children: David Clowney, Deborah Weininger, Paul Clowney, Rebecca Jones, and Anne Foreman; by twenty‑one grandchildren; and by eleven great grandchildren.
Born in Philadelphia, on July 30, 1917, Ed received his B.A. from Wheaton College in 1939, a Th. B. from Westminster Theological Seminary in 1942, a S.T.M from Yale University Divinity School in 1944, and a D.D. from Wheaton College in 1966. Ordained in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, he served as pastor of several churches from 1942 to 1946 and was then invited to become assistant professor of practical theology at Westminster Theological Seminary in 1952. He became that institution’s first president in 1966, and remained there until 1984, when he took a post as theologian‑in‑residence at Trinity Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Charlottesville, Virginia.
In 1990 Ed and Jean moved to Escondido, California, where Ed was adjunct professor at Westminster Seminary California. In 2000, he took a full‑time position as associate pastor at Christ the King Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Houston, Texas. After two years, he moved back to Charlottesville, where he once again became part‑time theologian‑in‑residence at Trinity Presbyterian Church. He remained in this role until his death.
Ed was a compassionate counselor; a devoted servant of Jesus Christ, his Word, and his church; a peacemaker; and a true visionary. He dreamed for Christ’s kingdom and was instrumental in the birth or furtherance of such ministries as the Reformed Theological Seminary in Aix‑en‑Provence, France; Westminster Seminary California; Trinity Church, Charlottesville; the Lausanne Conference; InterVarsity ministries, both in the United States and in England; and “The Westminster Ministerial Institute,” an inner‑city training program for pastors in Philadelphia, out of which the Lord developed the Center for Urban Theological Studies. He also had a life‑long interest in children’s Christian education materials.
In material written in 2002 for the publisher of one of his books, Ed revealed his creativity and educator’s heart: “The biggest job of my life was the production of the Vacation Bible School materials for [the original] Great Commission Publications [in the 1950s]…I had valuable assistance [from a number of people]…I wrote and illustrated the workbooks for children and the manuals for the teachers for the grades up to junior high….To strengthen my figure drawing, I [had] attended Saturday classes in the Chicago Museum school of art for two semesters.”
Ed will be supremely remembered by many as a preacher, perhaps the most gifted proponent and practitioner of redemptive‑historical preaching of this generation. He was unique in his ability to pick up the threads of redemptive history and to weave a rich expositional tapestry that brought Christ in all his perfections and glory before God’s people so that they were drawn to love and worship the Redeemer.
He was also a faithful churchman, serving first in the courts and many committees of the OPC and then in the courts and several committees of the PCA. He was a tireless proponent of improvement in the inter-church relations among the conservative Presbyterian denominations in this country. He had a significant role in the genesis of the “Joining and Receiving” process whereby the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod joined the PCA in 1982.
His writing displays the great theme of his life, namely Christ’s presence in the whole of Scripture and his present work in the church. His books include Preaching and Biblical Theology, Called to the Ministry, Christian Meditation, Doctrine of the Church, The Message of I Peter, The Unfolding Mystery, and Preaching Christ in all of Scripture. Some of these titles have been translated for the benefit of the worldwide church. His last book, How Christ Transforms the Ten Commandments, was accepted by his publisher only days before his death.
Ed left behind a legacy not only of written books and articles, but a great number of sermons and lectures, as well as magazine columns such as the humor column “Eutychus and His Pin” for Christianity Today and Bible studies for Tabletalk. His sense of humor and his love for people left a mark wherever he went. In the last week of his life, one attending nurse, laughing as she left his room, exclaimed, “What a sweet man!” Those who knew and loved him would agree. His tender‑hearted encouragement and wisdom will be greatly missed, but his work will be established by his Master who has now welcomed him with those reassuring words: “Well‑done, good and faithful servant, enter now into the joy of your Lord!”
[The above tribute was compiled at the time of Dr. Clowney’s death by Ms. Mindy Withrow, Associate Director for Communications of Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, PA, with additional material from Rev. Bill Johnson. Used by permission.]
Ascension Presbytery was chronologically the 19th presbytery formed within the PCA, being officially organized on 29 July 1975. Originally its encompassed a larger territory, but those borders were diminished with the formation of Pittsburgh Presbytery on 1 January 1993, and later on 1 January 2010, Ascension contributed churches to the formation of Ohio Presbytery. Presently its borders include all of Pennsylvania north and west of and including the counties of McLean, Elk, Clearfield, Jefferson, Armstrong, Butler, and Beaver counties. The following brief history of the Ascension Presbytery was composed by the Rev. Richard E. Knodel, Jr.:—
The Presbytery of the Ascension of the Presbyterian Church in America did not spring forth de novo. Among reasons for its formation were many that were not of the moment. The constituents of the Presbytery of the Ascension were almost exclusively members, in one way or another, of the United Presbyterian Church in the United States of America (hereafter cited as the UPCUSA). In broadest terms, it could be shown that the continual turning of the majority of the UPCUSA toward a crass latitudinarianism was placing a greater and greater torque on firm evangelicals with that body. The attrition which had surfaced during the earlier portion of this century had, in many cases, reached an undesirable maturation of unbelief and corruption. No matter which field might be investigated, be it doctrine, missions, education, management, social concern or evangelism, the seeds of corruption could be seen reproducing themselves at an unnatural rate.
Yet while there were such cyclical crises, problems which for the Evangelical seemed to resurface with a foreboding rapidity, there was, for the most part, an inverse reaction of silence from the evangelical camp. Most evangelicals were hesitant to take precipitous action though they were in the midst of a self-admitted crisis. The proverbial “carrot”, representing possible changes and hope, was seen to be continually dangling before the conservative’s watch. Whether it was a humility which was deeply conscious of its own fallibility, or whether it was a hesitancy to become embroiled in an open hostility, the posture of most evangelicals was inert. And this was a position which was open and vulnerable to the disease of the greater portion of the body. Furthermore, it presented the evangelical involved, with the problem of “what degree” of liberalism there must be, before it would be morally advisable to either attempt discipline within the church, or to exercise reverse discipline by separating oneself from the church.x
But for the vast majority of the members of this new presbytery, such agonizing decisions were made unnecessary, by the direct action taken by the UPCUSA. Most felt that they were asked to leave their church, and that the most honorable way that this might be accomplished was to “peacefully withdraw.” This action was precipitated by the popularly known “Kenyon Case” which began in the late Spring and ended in the late Fall of 1974. The watershed of this case had taken, and is taking place in 1975, even as this account is presently being penned.
Mr. Walter Wynn Kenyon was an honors graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. in his trials for ordination, Mr. Kenyon, upon being asked his position on the ordination of women, stated that he could not in good conscience participate in the ordination of a woman. He said that it was his understanding of Scripture that prevented such involvement, but went on to say that he would not stand in the way of such an ordination, if such was the desire of a church which he would happen to serve. Immediately there arose much dissent, and such dissent grew until the overwhelming majority of the church endorsed the judicial verdict which banned Kenyon and all future Kenyons from the pulpits of the UPCUSA. Furthermore, there was both explicit and implicit action which was taken against those men already ordained.
The Rev. Arthur C. Broadwick (and the Union UPCUSA of Pittsburgh) and the Rev. Carl W. Bogue, Jr. (and the Allenside UPCUSA of Akron) were already involved in litigations which involved this issue. And, in an even more pervasive way, the Stated Clerk of the UPCUSA (Mr. William P. Thompson), acting as the official interpreter of th Constitution of the UPCUA, ruled that as one’s answering the ordination/installation questions affirmatively was involved in the final decision in the Kenyon Case, any presently ordained pastor or ruling elder who held to the Kenyon views, could likewise never be placed in another pulpit or office unless he changed his views. The constitution of the UPCUSA clearly stated that men should exercise “forebearance in love” in situations where non-essentials of the presbyterian system of doctrine and polity were at stake. when the Permanent Judicial Commission of th UPCUSA ruled that Mr. Kenyon could not be ordained (i.e., granted exception on this matter of conscience) it effectively elevated this doctrine concerning social relationships to the place of being a major doctrine of the church. Furthermore, by application, it appeared that this new essential would eclipse all others and become the sine qua non of “orthodoxy” test questions.
Such action by the Permanent Judicial Commission led to a crisis for all of those pastors and elders who held to the traditional views on this question and who were now considered heretics. Accordingly, to uphold the peace, unity and purity of the church, most of the men who made up the membership of the charter presbytery peaceably withdrew from the UPCUSA.
These decisions and their subsequent effects were aided by many informal gatherings of like-minded individuals, beginning with the Kenyon Case and continuing through 1975 to the official organization of the Presbytery of the Ascension on July 29, 1975. The three meetings immediately preceeding the organization were unofficially recorded under the title of “Pre-Presbytery Meeting” and shall be spread upon the minutes of the present presbytery as an appendix to this historical program.
A fitting conclusion to this description of the genesis of the Presbytery of the Ascension is the mention of the Presbytery’s new affiliation, the Presbyterian Church in America. In the Fall of 1974, men who were affected by the drift of the Kenyon Case, sent four representatives, from an informal committee which was considering alternatives to the UPCUSA (i.e., in case that body should make a ruling against Mr. Kenyon which would affect the church as a whole), to the second General Assembly of the National Presbyterian Church (which became the Presbyterian Church in America). These four pastors (cf. the Rev. A.C. Broadwick, the Rev. K.E. Perrin, the Rev. R.E. Knodel, Jr., and the Rev. W.L. Thompson) were, on behalf of the larger concerned group, seeking a historically Reformed body which was also evangelical and mission minded. While this small entourage went to Macon, Georgia with many suspicions and questions, they returned overjoyed that there was an option such as the Presbyterian Church in America. When the Permanent Judicial Commission of the UPCUSA ruled as was feared, men who felt compelled to leave her bounds renounced the jurisdiction of that church and very happily were welcomed into a body of like mind. In the most concise manner possible, it would be said that it was the fervent balance of orthodoxy and spirit which led this group to finally align themselves with the Presbyterian Church in America. We pray that all of our actions might work to the praise and glory of our Sovereign God, our Victorious Christ, and The Spirit who continually sustains us.”
Respectfully and Humbly submitted,
/s/ Richard E. Knodel, Jr.
Dr. Wynn Kenyon went on to serve an illustrious career spanning thirty-one years as Professor of Philosophy and Biblical Studies at Belhaven University, and was also a founding member and ruling elder at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Jackson, Mississippi. He passed away quite unexpectedly on February 13, 2012, at the age of 64.
Rasing a Leader in the Church
During the course of this historic Presbyterian blog, there have been seven references to the life and times of J. Gresham Machen. This is no surprise, because he was God’s choice to lead His true church in tumultuous days of the early twentieth century. This event recognized today begins the whole story on July 28, 1881, J. Gresham Machen was born in Baltimore, Maryland.
On both sides of his family, there was a firm commitment to the Calvinistic truths of the Westminster Standards. His grandfather, on his father’s side, was a ruling elder of Old School Presbyterianism. His father, Arthur Machen, was a well-known attorney, and member of the Presbyterian church. Marrying Mary Gresham in 1872, a home was divinely ordered together.
[at right, Arthur W. Machen, father of J. Gresham Machen, pictured at about 75 years of age.]
His mother came from the southern Presbyterian tradition resident in Macon, Georgia. While we do not know much of her early life, after her marriage to Machen’s father, she exhibited an influence upon young J. Gresham Machen’s life which could not be rivaled. The whole family was influential members of the Presbyterian Church in Baltimore. Machen’s father served as an elder for many years.
When J. Gresham Machen was born, and here we simply quote Ned Stonehouse’s book on J. Gresham Machen, “he entered a home of devout Christian faith, of a high level of culture and social standing, and of a considerable degree of prosperity. Both parents were persons of strong character and extraordinary intellectual and spiritual endowments, and our understanding of J. Gresham Machen is illumined as we observe how various qualities and interests of his ancestors were blended in generous portions in his own personality. . . the intense affection and loyalty that distinguished the Machen home were to prove one of the most influential and fascinating factors in shaping the course of things to come.” (p. 39, J. Gresham Machen, by Ned Stonehouse, Eerdmans) Some of the “things to come” are treated on January 1, March 13, 17, 29, April 1, 11, and May 14 of this historical blog.
Words to Live By: Certainly God’s sovereign grace can change an individual’s life for the better, but also God’s grace can use the faithful upbringing of a Christian family into even greater outreach of service. And the latter was evidenced in the home religion of Dr. J. Gresham Machen. We simply cannot stress too much the vital principles and practices of a godly home on a child’s life and life work. Parents! Labor hard in prayer and perseverance to make your home a godly one, leading by example and exhortation the faith of your children in the things of the Lord.
To read more of Dr. Machen’s reflections on his own parents and their home, click here.
Tags: J. Gresham Machen
The Lone Star of the Covenant
Challenged by his land owner father to become a minister, Donald Cargill resisted the suggestion at the first. His inclination was not the gospel ministry. Finally, with what his father had put into his hand and heart, young Cargill at last set aside a day to prayerfully consider whether God was calling him to this ministry. It was said that a text from Ezekiel came into his mind, “Son of man, eat this roll, and go speak to the house of Israel.” Then when Presbytery chose the same text from Ezekiel during his trials, there was no doubt of his divine calling to the ministry.
His first charge was that of the Barony Church in Glasgow, Scotland, which charge would take his time and talents from 1655 until 1662. The church was divided in Covenanting groups and non-Covenanting groups of people. No one can abide long in such a divided congregation without receiving the wrath of one group or the praise of another. All this changed however in 1661, upon the restoration of Charles, when Donald Cargill delivered a sermon before a great crowd. He said in part, “the king will be the woefullest sight that ever the poor Church of Scotland saw. Woe! Woe! Woe! unto him, his name shall stink while the world’s stands, for treachery, tyranny and lechery.” Obviously, this was not a statement which would bring good relations between the Crown and his place as pastor in Scotland! And indeed, before a week went by, government soldiers were out looking for him, and he had gone into hiding.
His ministry from that point on until his capture by the Crown was that of witnessing before small groups of men and women. From 1668 on, he became a traveling evangelist for the Gospel, escaping death and destruction by many a close call. To be sure, he showed bravery and courage in many a situation. In other cases, he was weakened and oppressed by lack of assurance.
On one occasion, a great crowd was present to hear the word of grace from his lips. But in addition to that Word came words which amounted to a curse upon his persecutors. He said, “I, being a minister of Jesus Christ, and having authority and power from Him, do, in His name, and by His Spirit excommunicate, cast out of the true Church, and deliver to Satan, Charles the Second . . . The Duke of York, the Duke of Monmouth, the Duke of Lauderdale, the Duke of Rothes, General Dalziel, and Sir George MacKenzie. And as the causes are just so being done by a minister of the gospel, and in such a way as the present persecutions would admit of, the sentence is just. And there are no kings or ministers on earth who, without repentance of these persons can reverse these sentences. God, who is their author, is more engaged to the ratifying of them: and all that acknowledge the Scriptures ought to acknowledge them.” There is no doubt that such words were inflammatory and some even questioned and criticized such talk. Yet all those he mentioned here in his curse did die in strange ways. As Calvinists, we see no place for coincidence in the realm of persons, places, and events on this earth.
Finally caught by the authorities, he would be martyred on July 27, 1681. His last words were “farewell, all relations and friends in Christ; farewell, acquaintances and earthly enjoyments; farewell, reading and preaching, praying and believing, wanderings, reproach, and sufferings. Welcome, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; into Thy hands I commend my spirit.”
Words to Live By:
Standing in the crowd of mourners was James Renwick, a future minister of the Covenanters and the last in Scotland to die by hanging for the cause of Christ. God is so gracious as to continue His witness in the land. Consider times when mere man thought that some event was the end of the matter. But God . . . But God . . . But God! To Him goes our prayers and praise for the truth that “He does according to His will in the hosts of heaven And among the inhabitants of earth; and no one can ward off His hand Or say to Him, ‘What have You done?'” (Daniel 4:35b)
Image source: Sketches of the Covenanters, by J.C. McFeeters (Philadelphia, 1913), p. 298.
And for our Sunday Sermon, an abbreviated portion of a sermon by the Rev. Donald Cargill:
“For here we have no continuing city, but we seek one to come.”—Hebrews xiii.14.
In vain would we hope to bring men to a course of godliness, considering how averse the flesh is to it, and in vain would we deal with ourselves for that purpose, if great and real advantage lay not in taking that way. Whatever the flesh objects as to disadvantage, yet there is no real disadvantage in a religious life; yet, there is more advantage in this course, than will make up for all other disadvantages. It were good that we were considering what advantages there are in this way, and comparing our advantages with our disadvantages. It would gain our affections to it, considering that our Lord is calling us to leave all that which at last will prove our eternal ruin. As for anything lawful, He is not calling us to leave that; but we are not to idolize, or make a god, as it were, of it. Consider what He is calling us to pursue. It is that without which we cannot be eternally happy.
Now, this is the scope of the words. The apostle is here pressing that exhortation which he was giving in the 13th verse. Says he, “Let us therefore go to him without the camp, bearing his reproach.” But this seems heavy, and therefore he puts in this reason in the text, “For here we have no continuing city.” In these words, we have
1st, The shortness of man’s life signified. It is here compared to a city. In opposition to the present life, Paul sets forth the length of eternity, “But we seek one to come.”
2ndly, There is the employment of those that leave it. How are they taken up? They are as travellers going from one place unto another, until they at last come unto their long abode, or resting-place, which is heaven.
Now the words hold forth these few things unto us:—
I. That man’s continuance on earth and enjoyments of earthly things are but for a short time.
II. That the consideration of this short time on earth should take our hearts off from earthly things, and set them upon Christ only.
III. That we must all flit and remove from this earth, for “here we have no continuing city.”
IV. That all should be seeking after Christ and that city of eternal habitation of rest.
Now we shall speak to some of these:—
1. The first thing which we proposed to speak unto, was, that man has but a short time or lease on earth. The Spirit of God points it out by sundry expressions, “Lord, make me know mine end, and the measure of my days.” And what is the answer: “Behold, thou hast made my days as an hand breadth,” yea shorter, “and mine age is as nothing before thee.” Says Moses, when speaking of man’s life, “They are like a sleep; in the morning they are like grass that groweth up, and in the evening it is cut down, and withereth.” Our days are but as a thought; nay, the Holy Ghost points them out to be shorter: “For what is your life? It is even a vapour that appeareth a little, and then vanisheth away.” It is rather a vapour than a reality. It is but a vapour that continueth a little time. And doth not experience prove all this? Are we not here to-day and away to-morrow? The great thing we ought to consider is, that our time here is but short—a truth seldom minded and more seldom laid to heart.
Use 1.—If our time here be short, it ought to be the better employed; it should make us early up in the morning, and late up at night about our main work. It becomes us,
(1.) To consider our ways and what belongs to our peace. It is a good advice that Solomon gives us: “Remember thy Creator in the days of thy youth, before the evil days come;” and yet the most part of us, for all that is spoken from the word of the Lord concerning the shortness of man’s life, think not that our time is short, but long enough, and so remember not that the evil days are coming upon us.
(2.) We lie down, and know not if ever we shall rise up again. Should we not then improve our time? For is there any person so certain of his life that he can say, “I shall live so long”? And is it not of God’s good providence that it is so short and so uncertain unto us?
(3.) Consider that it is not only short and uncertain, but also full of trouble and misery. And is it not enough for every person? What is dying and a decaying old age but labour and misery? And should not this be considered and laid to heart, that our life is not only short and uncertain but full of misery? And should not the time we now have be well employed on that account?
(4.) To incite you to employ your time, consider that the time is short and the task is great. Are there not many strongholds of sin and corruption to subdue and conquer? Hath not man a little world to subdue in his own heart? Now, lay these two together, that your time is short and your work great, and this may make us employ and improve it to the best advantage.
(5.) To provoke you to a right improving of time, consider further that there is nothing of greater moment or concernment than eternity, an eternity of happiness, or an eternity of misery. It were good for us that we were considering this, and laying the preciousness of the soul in the balance with all earthly things, that we might see which of them is of most value; for, as our Lord says, “What is a man profited, if he should gain the whole world, and lose his own soul.”
(6.) Consider that eternity is fast approaching, and our Lord Jesus is coming to judgment. His last words are, “Surely I come quickly.” And is Christ hastening? Should not every believer then be hastening to meet Him? If believers loved Christ as well as He loves them, they would be more hasty to meet Him. It is a wonder to see what we are employed in, and yet never employing our time aright.
Lastly, Consider that the Bridegroom is coming, and the bride must be prepared. It ought to be all our work, or talk here, to be ready to meet Him, that we may not be found unprepared. Oh, what a dreadful thing will it be to be found unprepared when Christ comes—when the midnight cry is made, “Behold the Bridegroom cometh, go ye out to meet Him”!
and concluding the sermon, Rev. Cargill said,
IV. And from this we would pose you, Are ye ready to meet Christ, and ready for eternity? Have ye nothing to do but to come and meet Him? We say, Are ye ready to step into eternity? We, if it be not so, ye have need to be serious in time, for we are not sure of another day or another sermon. Consider eternity will come once, and if ye spend not your time well, it will be ill with you. Take the apostle’s advice, “Walk while ye have the day.” Hath God given you a day? Then ye should be serious in it, for we know not if we shall have another. And is it not a mercy that we are not lying in the bosom of the earth unprepared and unconverted. If you misspend this time, then wrath will come upon you. On the whole, these words are a direction to you, to consider the time is passing on, and ere long we must all away, “For here we have no continuing city, but we seek for one to come.”
[excerpted from Sermons in Times of Persecution in Scotland (Edinburgh: Johnstone, Hunter, & Company, 1880), pp. 516-521.]