A Long Tradition Carries On
by Rev. David T. Myers
A new church was born on this date, April 6, 1965, at ten o’clock in the morning. Actually, it was not a new church but simply the merging of two historic Presbyterian bodies dating back to the formation of our country. The Evangelical Presbyterian Church [1956-1965] had come out of the stream of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America [organized in 1789]. The Reformed Presbyterian Church, General Synod [1833-1965] had come out of the Scottish Covenanter heritage. Both churches had been courting each other from 1957 to 1964 with continual contact.
Each denomination held dearly to the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, as being the inspired Word of God, without error in whole and part, the only infallible rule of faith and practice. Each church body held to the subordinate standards of the Westminster Assembly as being a summary of the teaching of the Old and New Testaments. They proclaimed the good news of salvation to a lost world as the only hope of reconciliation with the holy God. The fundamentals of historic Christianity, being only Scripture, only Christ, only grace, only faith, and only to the glory of God, were part and parcel of their belief structure.
Each church had been weathered by internal divisions in their past history. In the case of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, they had the experience of coming out of the apostasy of the mainline Presbyterian church in the mid 1930’s, where a stand for the fundamentals of the faith translated out to being deposed by the modernists who had gained control of the church. This Church begin in 1938 as a split from the Orthodox Presbyterian Church over issues of eschatology and Christian liberty as well as independent agencies versus synod control agencies; then in 1955, further issues such as truth in Christian living and questions about separation from brethren, brought about yet another division, creating what was initially called the Bible Presbyterian Church, Columbus Synod, later renamed in 1961 as the Evangelical Presbyterian Church.
Are we confused yet?
In the case of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, General Synod, the issue in 1833 was basically the relationship of the church to the civil government. They had no problem supporting the Declaration of Independence in 1776, but the Constitution a dozen or so years later was another matter. Should its members vote, for example, in a country which did not recognize itself as a Christian nation? Should they serve on juries, with oaths involved? Should they serve in the armed forces? Should exclusive psalmody be the standard of worship services? All these were questions which were asked, debated, and voted upon by the church.
Finally, when these two bodies, the EPC and the RPC,GS met together in 1965 at Covenant College, the issues had been faced squarely by godly men for eight years. Both churches voted for the merger and combined their names into the Reformed Presbyterian Church Evangelical Synod (RPCES).
Words to Live By: The Psalmist David proclaimed words of wisdom for all church bodies and Christians when he wrote “BEHOLD, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!” (KJV – Psalm 133:1). In point of fact, it had been the long standing tradition of the RPC,GS to sing Psalm 133 at each meeting of their annual General Synod. The newly created RPCES gladly took up this tradition and carried it on, until that day in 1982 when the RPCES became a part of the PCA. And since that time, the PCA now concludes every General Assembly with the singing of that same Psalm 133. May that continue as our prayer even today, that brethren would dwell together in unity!