In speaking of the formation of the 1973 formation of the Presbyterian Church in America, it is important to know that, more than anything else, the founding fathers saw the new denomination as a faithful remnant—a “continuing Church.” That in fact was the name they operated under in the last years leading up to the actual formation. At its formation, the Continuing Presbyterian Church officially became the National Presbyterian Church. Then a year later, that name was changed to the Presbyterian Church in America.
Truly a Historic Day
The big announcement for a continuing Presbyterian Church outside the Presbyterian Church, US was made on August 11, 1971 at the Journal Day gathering. Much prayer and planning had gone into this point. The July 15 devotional spoke of the first strategy meeting earlier in the year. Now on this day was the unveiling of the whole plan, with those who were willing to take the lead for this historic departure.
Jack Williamson announced that the four conservative organizations — The Presbyterian Journal, Concerned Presbyterians, the Presbyterian Evangelistic Fellowship, and Presbyterian Churchmen United — had each officially given the impetus by naming representatives to serve as a Steering Committee “for the continuation of a Presbyterian Church loyal to the Scriptures and to the Reformed faith.” All four organizations, instead of continuing to represent conservative Christians inside an apostate denomination, had reached an agreement “to accept the apparent inevitability of division in the Presbyterian Church US caused by the program of the radical ecumenists, and to move now toward a continuing body of congregations and presbyteries loyal to the Scriptures and the Westminster Standards.”
The Presbyterian ruling elder continued, “We sincerely believe that the Holy Spirit is leading us in this direction. We know that any result which is pleasing to Almighty God shall not be accomplished by our might, nor by our power but by His Spirit. There, we urge and implore you to undergird this effort daily with much fervent prayer that God will fill us with His Holy Spirit to guide us in this tremendous undertaking…This is truly a history day for all of us. We resolutely set our faces in a new direction. We shall, with God’s help, preserve for future generations the witness of our historic faith, that faith once delivered to the saints, to the glory of our King and Head, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.”
The Steering Committee consisted of the following: Donald Patterson, Chairman, James Baird Jr., Leon F. Hendrick, William E. Hill, Kenneth Keyes, John E Richards, John R. Richardson, Kennedy Smartt, G. Aiken Taylor, S.A. White, Ben Wilkinson, and Jack Williamson.
(This contributor is thankful for the book “To God all Praise and Glory” by Paul Settle, for the above information)
Words to live by: When tough decisions have to be made, God provides faithful and courageous men to stand up in the gap for His church. Such were the above mentioned names who agreed to serve on the Steering Committee for a continuing Presbyterian Church faithful to the Scriptures, the Reformed Faith, and the Great Commission of Jesus Christ. Today, the Presbyterian Church in America continues her ministry to a watching world because of their historic stand. We should praise God for them and honor them because they honored God.