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This postscript on the Covenanter Sailing Ship “Eagle Wing” comes as an aftermath post to September 9, 1636. This author treated on that day the sad story of the 140 plus passengers who attempted the very first crossing of Irish-Scottish members of the Presbyterian church to the American colonies. It was a valiant but vain effort however, as terrible storms forced the ship to turn back to Ireland, where they arrived on This Day in Presbyterian History, November 3, 1636. Further information on that effort comes from an American author named William Henry Foote, who wrote Sketches of North Carolina, a history covering the period between 1794 and 1869. The whole book is on-line for your reading pleasure.

In it, Foote shares how the ship’s inhabitants anchored in Lockfergus, Northern Ireland, the place of their departure after an absence of eight weeks. The passengers were cast down under this providence of God, and anticipating hostility, ridicule, and suffering. They were to receive all three reactions from those who greeted them upon arrival. Indeed, having sold their effects in preparation for the voyage, and invested their monies in provision and stock of merchandize for their eventual landing in the American colonies, they experienced great financial loss in disposing of their cargo. Further, they had hired some to assist them in fishing industries and building of structures. These people now demanded their wages, even though the end result was not reached. They now had to pick up and as the song puts it, “start all over again.”

It would seem to be on the surface “a big bust,” but God had other plans for these hardy pioneers. The influence which they exhibited first on Ireland, then in Scotland, and finally in America, cannot be estimated for the power of their principled and godly lives. The Lord had brought them back to do His work in His timing, not theirs. When circumstances became too “hot” in Uster for the four Presbyterian ministers on the Eagle Wing, they simply sailed to Scotland and settled into Presbyterian churches there. They kept up their continued fellowship with members of their parishes back in Ulster, even as many of their Ulster members continued to enjoy their ministries, by making trips to Scotland for participation in the Lord’s Supper or for baptism of their covenant children.

Their presence back in Scotland brought renewed strength to the covenants of that land. In time, after the lapse of fifty plus years, boatloads after boatloads of Scot-Irish began to seek the American shores. Countless descendants of these hardy Presbyterians settled in Pennsylvania, Virginia, the Carolinas and elsewhere.

Words to Live By:
Our timing may not be God’s timing. That has been evidenced in this example as well as countless other instances. It would be a worthy discussion of God’s people to prayerfully discuss among themselves or within the church itself how to discern God’s timing for some action. But what is more important than that is how best to submit to God’s timing for their lives. That will bring the most satisfaction in the long run of seeking to live by God’s will for His glory.

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What Began as Fifteen Is Now Eighty-Two

The old Delmarva Presbytery, now dissolved, was originally organized as a Presbytery of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod (RPCES) on October 11, 1969. The name Delmarva is a “portmanteau”, a conflation of two or more words or sounds to create a new word. In this case, Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia are conflated to become Delmarva. The earliest use of that term appears to date back to 1913, and by the 1920s it was widely used, particularly in commerical or business applications.

At its formation, the RPCES Delmarva Presbytery consisted of fourteen churches and one mission work. Upon checking, it appears that all of these churches either came into the RPCES from the Bible Presbyterian Church, Columbus Synod (aka, Evangelical Presbyterian Church, 1961-65), when it merged with the Reformed Presbyterian Church, General Synod in April of 1965, or were added to the RPCES in the short span of years 1965-1968 prior to the creation of Delmarva. By the time that the RPCES was received into the PCA in 1982—in little more than another dozen years—Delmarva Presbytery had more than doubled to a total of thirty-seven churches!

With the Joining & Receiving, a few of the RPCES Delmarva churches went into the PCA’s James River Presbytery, but most continued on into the new PCA Delmarva Presbytery. Gathering at its first Stated Meeting, the new Delmarva Presbytery convened at 9:45 A.M. on September 11, 1982 at the Abbott Memorial Presbyterian Church in Baltimore, Maryland, with a service of worship conducted by the Rev. Stephen Smallman, then pastor of the McLean Presbyterian Church. The service included hymns and a sermon preached from I Timothy 3. The Rev. Franklyn Miller, pastor of the host church, along with Rev. Smallman, led in the administration of the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper.

At its formation, Delmarva Presbytery was made up of the following churches, with the six oldest and one other (Munson Hill) originally having come out of the old Southern Presbyterian denomination (the churches are listed by their date of organization):

1844―Aisquith Presbyterian Church, Baltimore, MD
1877―Valley Presbyterian Church, Lutherville, MD [org. 1877]
1882―Abbott Memorial Reformed Presbyterian Church, Baltimore, MD (Armistead Gardens, Baltimore, MD [org. ?]; merged with Abbott, 8/2/1987)
1896―Chapelgate Presbyterian Church, Marriottsville, MD
1907―Forest Park Presbyterian Church, Baltimore, MD
1910―Wallace Memorial Presbyterian Church, Hyattsville, MD
1936―Faith Presbyterian Church, Wilmington, DE [previously First Independent & Faith Bible Church]
1942―Evangelical Presbyterian Church, Baltimore, MD
1942―Evangelical Presbyterian Church, Elkton, MD
1942―Evangelical Presbyterian Church, Newark, DE
1943―Inverness Presbyterian Church, Baltimore, MD
1944―McLean Presbyterian Church, McLean, VA
1951―Munson Hill Presbyterian Church, Falls Church, VA [joined the RPCES in 1972; dissolved in 1992]
1954―Manor Presbyterian Church, New Castle, DE
1956―Berea Presbyterian Church, Hockessin, DE
1962―Bethany Presbyterian Church, New Castle, DE [now Heritage Presbyterian Church]
1964―Covenant Presbyterian Church, Wilmington, DE
1964―Evangelical Presbyterian Church, Annapolis, MD
1969―Liberty Reformed Presbyterian Church, Owings Mills, MD
1970―Timonium Presbyterian Church, Timonium, MD
1975―Pilgrim Presbyterian Church, Martinsburg, WV
1976―Reston Presbyterian Church, Reston, VA [transferred to EPC in 2000]
1977―McLean Korean Presbyterian Church, McLean, VA
1977―Severna Park Evangelical Presbyterian Church, Severna Park, MD
1977―Tollgate Presbyterian Church, Owings Mills, MD [became Living Hope PC, now dissolved]
1979―Faith Reformed Presbyterian Church, Frederick, MD
1980―Chinese Christian Presbyterian Church, Falls Church, VA [now owns the former Munson Hill property]
1980―Grace Reformed Presbyterian Church, Relay, MD
1980―Grace Church PCA, Dover, DE
1981―New Covenant Presbyterian Church, Bel Air, MD
1982―Grace Reformed Presbyterian Church, Woodbridge, VA [now dissolved]
1982―Loch Raven Presbyterian Church, Baltimore, MD

In the short space of another seven years, the Presbytery voted its own dissolution by division into the two presbyteries of Potomac and Heritage. Delmarva Presbytery met in its final meeting at the 30th Stated Meeting on November 14, 1989, taking the action to redraw the lines of Presbytery and delegate its churches to new presbyteries. Since Heritage was the primary beneficiary of the churches of the the old Delmarva Presbytery, she was accorded status as the official successor to Delmarva, and so retains the ranking of the PCA’s 26th presbytery, while Potomac is listed as the 48th.

Chesapeake Presbytery, the PCA’s 63d presbytery, was later formed by division of Potomac Presbytery on January 1, 2002. The churches of Potomac Presbytery number 33 in all; Heritage has 18, and Chesapeake has 31. What began as fifteen now totals eighty-two churches, all descending from the legacy that is the old Delmarva Presbytery.

A Pray for Continued Growth:
The PCA has seen good growth among its churches in the Delmarva region, but there are literally millions of souls in that region who do not know the Lord Jesus Christ as their Savior. Taking today’s history as our motivation, pray not just for this region, but for our nation and for the world. Pray for the advance of the Gospel, that pastors would be faithful to the Scriptures and bold in the proclamation of the Good News. Pray that the Word of God would make a real difference in the congregations, that each of our lives would stand out in attractive testimony to the reality that Jesus Christ is Lord and Savior. And may God grant a great harvest of souls to be brought into His kingdom. 

Note: The records of Delmarva Presbytery, both RPCES and PCA, from 1969 to 1989, are preserved at the PCA Historical Center, and comprise a total of three cubic feet of documents.

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Keeping in mind that newspapers were little different then than now, subject to the same human foibles*, nonetheless the following coverage of the modernist controversy and the resulting denominational split is interesting, as it offers some different perspectives on what a division means to those involved.

[*There are two errors mainly in the text below, both of which will be noted in brackets in their first appearance.]

This article is from a Wilmington, DE newspaper, dated June 29, 1936, and is found preserved in one of seven scrapbooks gathered by the Rev. Henry G. Welbon, covering the modernist controversy in the years 1935-1939. The photographs have been added and were not part of the original article.


Dissension with all the heartaches and strained loyalties that civil war brings, is definitely wedged in the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A.

Where it will lead and the effect of the wedge, no one knows.

But this much is already evident in the Presbytery of New Castle, which embraced Delaware and parts of Maryland: families are divided, parents against children, husbands against wives, and friend with friend.

This is a time when members of congregations are torn between loyalty to their established church, when men are being accused of dogmatism, heresy, apostasy and free will.

Out of the seething cauldron has been born a new church, the Presbyterian Church in [sic; should be “of”] America, in contrast to the old Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A.

The nature of the wedge that is lodged in the church of the U.S.A. today is itself controversial.

Question Not Doctrinal

Those who are remaining loyal say the split is on a church constitutional question and among the loyalists are both fundamentalists and modernists.

“The matter now and never has been a controversy between ‘fundamentalists’ and ‘modernists’ the general council of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. states.

It is a question the general council states, of whether ministers shall disobey the established constitution of a church and agree to the will of the majority.

The secessionists–all fundamentalists–say the differences are based upon doctrinal questions and liberty of conscience.

In any case, the immediate cause of the secession and the controversy has been the Independent Board of [sic; should be “for”] Presbyterian Foreign Missions, a board with no official connection with the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A.

The leading personality in the Independent Board of Presbyterian Foreign Missions has been the Rev. Dr. J. Gresham Machen of the Presbytery of New Brunswick, N.J.

Four Judicatories in Church

For those not familiar with Presbyterian Church government, it should be explained that the judicatory and administrative bodies of the church are: First, the session, composed of representatives of a congregation, governing the church; second, the Presbytery governing a group of sessions in a district; third, the synod, a group of Presbyteries and fourth, the General Assembly which is the national ruling body of the Presbyterian Church which also is the supreme court and lawmaking body of the entire church.

Also as part of the story of the Independent Board of Presbyterian Foreign Missions is Pearl Buck, a missionary in China, whom it was charged was too much a modernist.

Dr. Machen Heads Movement

machen02Though she resigned, the charges persisted from the militant fundamentalists of the Presbyterian Church against the alleged modernism in the foreign mission groups. In 1933, Dr. Machen introduced into the Presbytery of New Brunswick a proposed resolution to be presented to General Assembly relating to what he called “modernism” in the Presbyterian Board of Foreign Missions.

A large majority of the Presbytery of New Brunswick refused to send this resolution to General Assembly but similar resolutions did reach General Assembly in 1933. The assembly received it and Dr. Machen was heard by the committee to which the resolutions had been presented for consideration.

By a vote of 43 to 2, the committee reported unfavorably and expressed its confidence in the Board of Foreign Missions and by a nearly unanimous vote, the General Assembly approved the report of this committee.

But Dr. Machen did not pause there. Accepting neither the views of the committee nor the “judgment of the General Assembly,” he was influential in the establishment of the Independent Board of Presbyterian Foreign Missions, incorporated in December of 1933, with Dr. Machen as president. It is not a recognized body of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A., being just what its name indicates, “independent.”

H. S. Laird Member of Board

lairdhsTo this board came the Rev. Harold S. Laird, pastor of the First and Central Presbyterian Church of Wilmington, an ardent fundamentalist.

But before he joined the independent board, he consulted with his session. He did not join against their counsel.

Another point, not widely known, is that Mr. Laird during his pastorate at First and Central Presbyterian Church never solicited for the Independent Board of Presbyterian Foreign Missions.

“It was only after much earnest prayer and careful consideration,” he said, “that I came to the conviction that this movement was of God, and being thus convinced, I agreed to throw what little influence I have in the church to the lifting high of this standard. This was my primary motive in allowing myself to be elected a member of the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions.

“It is from this board that I was ordered to resign. I believe the board is of God and I also believe that my call to membership on that board was of God. Under such circumstances, how can I resign? Shall I obey man rather than God?”

Taking note of this independent board and that ministers and elders were prominent in its membership, the General Assembly directed that all ministers and laymen affiliated with the board sever their connections with the organization.

Those who declined to obey this direction were ordered tried by their Presbyteries. A number were found guilty and either rebuked or suspended.

Mr. Laird tried before the Presbytery of New Castle, protested that his affiliation with the independent board had been guided by his conscience and that in refusing to sever his connection, he was placing the word of God above the courts of man.

Rebuked, But Not Suspended.

Mr. Laird, however, was found guilty, with one dissenting vote in his favor. He was ordered rebuked but allowed to remain [in] his pulpit.

But Mr. Laird continued in the membership of the independent board. The Presbytery recently suspended him from the ministry–an act regarded as illegal by Mr. Laird who immediately renounced the authority of the Presbytery.

Words to Live By
Unity is a precious thing, to be cultivated and prized. But Christian unity must be centered on the saving Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. Where we have that unity, it is glorious. Without Jesus Christ as our Cornerstone, there can be no Church.

Luke 12:49-53 (ESV)
49 “I came to cast fire on the earth, and would that it were already kindled!
50 I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how great is my distress until it is accomplished!
51 Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.
52 For from now on in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three.
53 They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”

Psalm 133 (KJV)
1 Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!
2 It is like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron’s beard: that went down to the skirts of his garments;
3 As the dew of Hermon, and as the dew that descended upon the mountains of Zion: for there the Lord commanded the blessing, even life for evermore.

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Today’s post provides a good example of  press coverage of the modernist controversy during the 1930s. On July 3d, 1936, the following news item appeared in the Wilmington, Delaware newspaper. The Rev. Harold S. Laird has been mentioned before on TDPH, but today we also have the added names of Doctors Roy and Bertha Byram, as well as the Rev. Robert H. Graham. The Byrams went on to serve as medical missionaries in Manchuria and were imprisoned by the Japanese during WW2. Rev. Graham, who was born in 1905, remained a pastor with the PCofA/OPC and passed away on February 27, 1993.  At this time, I do not have birth and death dates available for the Byrams. This article also mentions a few lesser known conservative groups, The League of Faith (a PCUSA renewal group), and The Elder’s Testimony, both of which will have to be discussed at some later date.

“Bolters” appears to have been an apparently derogatory term used to describe those leaving the PCUSA in the 1930s. The term may have been one chosen by journalists, or it may have simply been picked up by them, as they heard it used by PCUSA loyalists. The term appears in a number of the news clippings preserved in the Welbon Collection. While it is a somewhat descriptive term, I suppose the intended implication was that these men, women and churches were leaving rashly and without having properly thought the matter through.


Fundamentalist Pastors In­sist They are Loyal But Hit Rule of Few

Declare Issue is Doctrinal, Deplore Conferring Author­ity on Small Group

Fundamentalist ministers of the Presbytery of New Castle, including those who have renounced its author­ity and that of the Presbyterian Church in the U. S. A., yesterday announced here a statement, which they had adopted in answer to a recent one by the Presbytery setting forth its doctrinal beliefs and stand in the fundamentalist–modernist controversy.

Harold Samuel LairdThe Rev. Harold S. Laird, formerly of First and Central Presbyterian Church, recently suspended by Presbytery for continuing to refuse to resign membership on the outlawed Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions; and Dr. Roy M. Byram, who recently resigned from the Presbyterian Board  of Foreign Missions to join the independent one, and accept appointment to Manchukuo, with his wife, also a medical missionary, attended the meeting of fundamentalists in Pittsburgh, where the statement was drafted. The Drs. Byram formerly were supported on the mission field at Kankei, Korea, by First and Cen­tral Church.

Loyalty Is Affirmed

byramThe fundamentalist statement, endorsed here by that group, follows:

“As loyal Presbyterians, loyal in the Lord to our beloved Church and her standards, and desirous of being loyal to her boards and agencies, we believe that the issue which is troubling the peace of the Church is primarily doctrinal and are convinced that doctrines not in accord with her standards are being tolerated and even fostered by boards and agencies of the Church.

“Believing heartily in the great educational and evangelistic mis­sion of the Church, we hold that voluntary giving only is acceptable to the Lord, and that conscientious scruples should be respected in the case of all who are loyal to the con­stitution of the Church.

Church Held Democratic

“We believe that the Presbyterian Church is a democratic and repre­sentative church, and we hold that the concentration of authority and power in the hands of a few, the making of boards and agencies the masters, and not the servants, of the people, the attributing to adminis­trative acts of casual majorities of the General Assembly of supra-constitutional authority, is all contrary to the constitution, destructive of true Presbyterianism, and should be resisted.

“We deplore the severe treatment which has been meted out to men of our communion conspicuous for their loyalty to the doctrines of our Church and for zeal for its purity, and we call upon all to work and pray for the healing of a breach in our communion that has brought shame and sorrow upon the Church.

Three Proposals Made

“Believing that the supreme need of the Church is return to full loyalty to her historic standards, we make the following proposals:

“1. We request the national com­mittee of the Elders’ Testimony and the League of Faith to issue from time to time statements to the eld­ers and ministers of the church in­forming them regarding the great doctrinal and ecclesiastical issues that are now before the church, especially with a view to exposing the invasion of unbelief, and the tyranny of organization.

“2. We recommend that The Presbyterian and Christianity To­day be urged to become the chan­nels for this militant testimony.

“3. That copies of these resolutions be sent to the League of Faith and the National Committee of the Elders’ Testimony, with the request that they take the necessary steps to call a national convention in the autumn for the purpose of furthering the ends herein expressed, and that should no steps be taken by those two organizations, a meeting of this group be called by its chairman and its secretary in the autumn.”

Forest Church Defers Action

Forest Presbyterian Church, Mid­dletown, whose pastor, the Rev. Robert H. Graham, has already join­ed the Presbyterian Church of  America, and which had indicated that it probably would also seek admission, has decided to continue in its independent status for at least a month longer.

It has been expected that Forest Church would follow Eastlake Church here in joining the new church.

This action was taken at a congregational meeting Wednesday night, when, according to Mr. Graham. a large number of the members who believe that they should remain loyal to the Presbytery of New Castle, attended than at the earlier meeting. He said the vote Wednes­day night did not indicate strong opposition to joining the new church, but that those in favor felt it might be wiser to defer action.

Mr. Graham is one of five min­isters suspended by the Presbytery in connection with their renuncia­tion of its authority and other of­fenses of which the Presbytery ac­cuses them in connection with the fundamentalist–modernist dispute here and nationally. Four, of whom Mr. Graham is one, were given temporary suspension, pending trial, while Mr. Laird was suspended indefinitely. He was tried and con­victed on charges of disobedience to the government and discipline of the church.

The Rev. Dr. John W. Christie, a member of Presbytery’s permanent committee on National Missions, to which was delegated the task of supplying the pulpits of churches of the temporarily suspended ministers and all others where there are no pas­tors, visited Middletown yesterday afternoon and last night. He con­ferred with officers and members of the Forest Church who have re­mained loyal to Presbytery.

[transcript of a news clipping from The Wilmington Morning News, 3 July 1936. This clipping is preserved in Scrapbook No. 3, page 279, in the Henry G. Welbon Manuscript Collection.]

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Behind a Frowning Providence

William Cowper’s great hymn, “God moves in a mysterious way,” has a verse in it which says, “Judge not the Lord by feeble sense, but trust him for his grace; behind a frowning providence he hides a smiling face.” The Rev. John Lowrie and his wife Louisa, as missionaries to India, would experience this frowning providence in a personal way.

John Cameron Lowrie, D.D. [16 December 1808 - 31 May 1900]Called by the Lord to the great mission field of  India in 1832 while still a student in seminary, John Lowrie was ordained upon graduation by the Presbytery of New Castle in March of 1833.  Taking twenty-four year old Louisa as his bride, they then traveled with another couple to New Castle, Delaware.  After a season of prayer, they boarded the sailing ship “The Star,” which departed on May 30, 1833.

A trip of this magnitude across the ocean normally took four to five months as they were dependent upon the winds. Louisa Lowrie was ill during the entire voyage, and it was hoped that as soon as they reached land in Calcutta, India, that she would make good progress to health once again. However, upon reaching the field, she grew worse and worse, and finally died on November 21, 1833. Talk about a frowning providence.  A young consecrated life was taken away.

Her husband John, while still greatly bereaved, next had to deal with the subsequent illness of the couple who had traveled with them. The Western Foreign Missionary Society which had sent all of them out in the first place, encouraged this latter couple to return to the States. But on the return trip, the husband died and was buried at sea. Thus John Lowrie was left alone, bereft of friends in this strange land of India. Yet he was determined, despite his grief, to do something of the Lord’s work before he too left the country. Forced to wait for another seven months, he used the time well to learn the language. Then he took passage to Lodiana, India, a thriving city near the Punjab border, where the East India Company had a great military station, arriving November 5, 1834.

For the next four years, he established a mission school and  a Presbyterian church in India.  During this time, he had the friendship of several Christian laypeople from the military station.  Repeated attacks of malaria fever, however, brought him low several times,  until he was forced to return to the States in 1838.  For the rest of his life, until 1900, he ministered in administrative affairs in the office of the mission society which sent him and his wife out in the first place.

Words to Live By: William Cowper’s last verse reads, “Blind unbelief is sure to err, and scan his work in vain; God is his own interpreter, and he will make it plain.” Frowning providence may be made plain here, or hereafter in heaven. Our place is to trust God now, despite what comes our way, resting in Him.

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