A Supreme Court Justice Plants a Church
When forty thousand Christians on December 4, 1973 started a new Presbyterian Church, they were understandably excited beyond measure for the fruition of plans to begin a Bible-believing, Gospel-preaching church true to the Scriptures, the Reformed Faith, and the Great Commission. Though they essentially had left the Southern Presbyterian church (PCUS), they had a vision of impacting the whole nation. So they named their denomination the National Presbyterian Church. They immediately however encountered a road block to the choice of that name. There already was a congregation by that name, the National Presbyterian Church, located in Washington, D.C., and this local church had a national mission to all the states and even beyond, primarily as an endorsing authority for military chaplains. So in the second year of its existence, the new denomination changed its name to the Presbyterian Church in America.
National Presbyterian Church [the congregation] had its beginnings in two PCUSA congregations located in the nation’s capitol. The First Presbyterian Church, which began in the last decade of the seventeen hundreds in our nation’s capitol, was the home of countless presidents. Chief executives like Jackson, Polk, Pierce, Buchanan, Cleveland made this their Washington home church.
The other congregation which joined to make National Presbyterian what it is today was Covenant Presbyterian Church. It was begun when eleven ruling elders of New York Avenue Presbyterian Church met in the home of Supreme Court Justice William Strong on March 11, 1883 to plant another Presbyterian church in the capitol. Its first service was in 1889 and it was dedicated in 1901. Early attenders were President Harrison and Alexander Graham Bell. It became the home church of President Dwight David Eisenhower, when he was elected to this high position.
Both churches united and were designated as the National Presbyterian Church as an action of the Presbyterian Church USA in 1946. Thus, they did not wish any confusion as to what would be considered the National Presbyterian Church.
In hindsight, the 1974 decision to change the denominational name rather than contest the matter, while gracious, was also providential. For so the churches, sessions, and elders who came out of the PCUS church in 1973 were then enabled to choose what their real calling was to be, namely, the Presbyterian Church in America.
Words to Live By: God never makes mistakes. If an action in your life, or the life of your church, at first seems a puzzle, wait prayerfully for God’s providence to make it clear.