July 2014

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A Christian of Exceptional Personality and Evangelistic Appeal

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Charles Woodbridge, born January 24, 1902, was described by his fellow Reformed Christians as being no ordinary General Secretary. From his heritage as the fifteenth generation minister of his family line, dating back to 1493, from his own father who had been a missionary in China, from the fact that he married the daughter of a missionary, Charles Woodbridge would be known as “a man of exceptional personality and evangelistic appeal.” His spiritual gifts made him the perfect architect of a new mission strategy in reaching the world for Christ.

Yet the main line denomination of which he was a part, did not take kindly to this new mission upstart. Within a year, steps were taken to force him to abandon this new missions work, and when he chose not to follow their directives, Charles Woodbridge was censured by the church. He left in 1937 to become a pastor of the Presbyterian Church in North Carolina for several years.

Eventually, he served as a theological seminary professor and author, always seeking to warn Christians of the danger of compromising the Word of God. He died not all that many years ago, on 16 July 1995, at the age of 93.

woodbridge-ibpfmAs the General Secretary of the Independent Board, Rev. Woodbridge composed, on behalf of the Independent Board, a “Statement as to Its Organization and Program.” The text that follows is a portion of that Statement:—

The Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions

The Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions is an agency established for the quickening of missionary zeal and the promotion of truly Biblical and truly Presbyterian foreign missions throughout the world.

It is independent in that it is not responsible, as an organiza­tion, to the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the U. S. A., or to any other ecclesiastical body.

*      *     *     *

Why Was the Independent Board Established?

Because a great many loyal Presbyterians have lost faith in the official Board of the largest of the Presbyterian churches, which is the Presbyterian Church in the U. S. A. They cannot in good conscience support an organization which they regard as disloyal to the Word of God; but they are more eager than ever, in view of the growing apostasy throughout the world, to further the cause of Biblical foreign missions to the uttermost ends of the earth.

Why have so many persons lost confidence in the official Board? Because in the last few years the Board, in its official actions, has been compromising with error in a most dis­tressing way.

rethinkingWhen the Laymen’s Appraisal Commission’s Report was issued last year, an attack against the very heart of the Chris­tian message, the Board, instead of swiftly, directly, and uncom­promisingly repudiating the Report, answered it in terms which were most vague and unsatisfactory.

When Pearl Buck offered her resignation to the PCUSA Board of Missions, it was accepted by the Board “with regret,” commending her work in China.

[At right, if you can’t make out the dust-jacket blurb by Pearl Buck, it says, in part, “… I think this is the only book I have ever read that seems literally true in its every observation and right in its every conclusion…” — The effrontery of Mrs. Buck’s statement is impossible to miss. By itself it is proof that the concerns of orthodox Christians were not misplaced.]

Some of the Modernist institutions in China which the Board helps to support are: the “Church of Christ in China”, con­trolled by Modernists, in opposition to which a large group of conservative Christians organized the Bible Union of China; the National Christian Council of China, in whose Bulletin one may read extracts which make the true Christian shudder — for example, in one of its articles, Sun Yat Sen, Lenin and Jesus Christ are treated as figures of comparable grandeur; the Chris­tian Literature Society of China, where Modernist books are often printed; Yencheng University, a hotbed of “liberal” thought; these institutions, all destructive of Biblical Christian­ity, the Board of Foreign Missions of the Presbyterian Church in the U. S. A. helps to maintain.

At the meeting of the General Assembly in May, 1933, an attempt was made to remedy the situation through ecclesiastical action.

An Overture was presented to the Assembly which, if passed, would have been a real step toward the purification of the Board of Foreign Missions. A document of 110 pages was written in support of the Overture. This document is entitled “Modernism and the Board of Foreign Missions of the Presbyterian Church in the U. S. A.” by Dr. J. Gresham Machen, and may be had upon request to the office of the General Secretary. In a clear, logical way the author of this pamphlet marshalled his facts. He proved that the Board of Foreign Missions had been tempor­ising in its attitude toward Modernism.

Instead of attempting to answer this document—and there was no satisfactory answer other than the entire reformation of the Board—the Board evaded the issue.

Instead of replying to the specific accusations which were levelled in black and white against its policies—accusations which to this day have never been disproved—The Board took refuge behind the career, character and personality of one of its leading secretaries, rallied the Assembly to the defense of a man, and, in the popular enthusiasm which was evoked, the Overture was lost.

—∞—

Thus some of the events which led up to the formation of the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions. Dr. Woodbridge served as General Secretary of the IBPFM and also as the editor of the Independent Board Bulletin, from March 1935-June 1937. Some of his more important publications through the remainder of his life included the following:
1935 – “The Social Gospel: A Review of the Current Mission Study Text Books Recommended for Adults by the Board of Foreign Missions, Presbyterian Church, U.S.A.,” Christianity Today 5.9 (February 1935): 209-211.
1937 – “Why I Have Resigned as General Secretary of the Independent Board,” The Presbyterian Guardian 4.5 (12 June 1937): 69-71. Available here.
1945
 – The Chronicle of Salimbene of Parma: A Thirteenth Century Christian Synthesis. Durham, NC: Duke University, Ph.D. dissertation, 305 p.
1947 – Standing on the Promises: Rich Truths from the Book of Acts.
1953 – A Handbook of Christian Truth, co-authored with Harold Lindsell.
1953 – Romans: The Epistle of Grace.
1962 – Bible Prophecy.
1969 – The New Evangelicalism.

Image sources:
• News clipping [publisher not known] from the Henry G. Welbon Manuscript Collection, Scrapbook no. 1, page 34.
 Cover of The Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions: A Statement As to its Organization and Program, by Charles J. Woodbridge. (1934)
• Dust-jacket of Re-Thinking Missions: A Laymen’s Inquiry After One Hundred Years. New York: Harper & Brothers Publishers, 1932.

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knoxJohn04Were you, the reader, aware that the man of the hour in Scotland, John Knox, once rowed a galley ship? No, it wasn’t for exercise. No, it wasn’t for some national pride of the fastest galley ship in a sailing contest. Simply put, John Knox was enslaved on that ship.
Earlier, Knox had entered St. Andrews Castle with three young children in tow. Their parents had entrusted him as a tutor. When events following the murder of a Roman Catholic cardinal went badly for anyone suspected of being part of that deed, they urged him to flee to that Protestant bastion for safety purposes. Know was not one of the individuals who killed the cardinal. But he did go there for safety. While present, the chaplain to the soldiers at the chapel was urged by the congregation to extend a pastoral call to Knox, recognizing his spiritual gifts. At first, Knox resisted, but finally gave in to the invitation. He began to preach boldly on themes familiar to the Protestant reformation then beginning in the land of Scotland.
At the end of June in 1547, the French fleet besieged St Andrews Castle. On this day, July 31, 1547, victory was gained over the defenders inside its walls.  Surrendering were every one in the castle, with promises of lives spared, transportation to France, the opportunity to enter the service of the French king, but if not, then to be conveyed to any country they wished, provided it not be Scotland again.  Upon arrival in France, immediately the terms of surrender were annulled, and they became prisoners of war. John Knox became a galley slave for nineteen months.
While there were months in which the slave ship did not sail due to weather and cold conditions, in warmer months Knox labored under cruel conditions, of which he writes in many a book and sermon afterwards. He was loaded with chains.  He spoke of the sobs of his heart during the imprisonment. It was in anguish of mind and vehement affliction. There were torments sustained in the galleys.
Amidst all of the physical treatments came the attacks upon their faith. Daily, the Romanist mass was offered, with expected reverence by the prisoners.  As soon as it began however, the galley slaves would cover their heads so they wouldn’t hear the words of the service.  Daily, there were efforts to get the prisoners to confess the Romanist faith. Once, a figure representing the Virgin Mary, was pressed between the chained hands of a slave, with a command to kiss the figure. The slave, who many believer to be John Knox himself, threw the figure overboard into the sea, loudly proclaiming the Virgin to save herself by swimming! After this, there were no more attempts to convert the prisoners.
John Knox gradually wore down physically from this experience, with a fever near the end of it.  Rowing close to the Scottish coast, they raised the feverish Reformer up when the spires of St. Andrews came into view, asking him if he recognized it. He answered, “I know it well; for I see the steeple of that place where God first opened my mouth in public to  his glory; and I am fully persuaded, now weak I now appear, that I shall not depart this life, til my tongue shall glorify His godly name in that same place.”
Whatever means was used (and even Thomas M’Crie was not sure what it was),  after 19 months in harsh conditions, John Knox was freed to continue his ministry in England and Scotland.
Words to Live By: It wasn’t God’s will that Knox should be kept forever as a galley slave. It was God’s will to free him so as to allow him to continue his ministry in the Reformation. All of us ever live within the scope of God’s will all of our lives. Let us submit to that will, in large areas as well as small areas.

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clowneyEPEdmund 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.”

clowneyEP_03Ed 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.

EutychusEd 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.]

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Historical Prologue

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.

Postscript:
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.

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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.

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