Representatives of the Christian Education committees of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and the Presbyterian Church in America met in Philadelphia, Penna. on November 22, 1974 to inaugurate a joint publication enterprise to serve both denominations.
To be called Great Commission Publications, lnc., the new corporation will acquire the assets of the OPC’s similarly named agency. Operation of the new agency will formally begin on July 1, 1975 for an initial period of five years. (Either church may cancel its participation on eighteen months notice.)
Temporary officers of the new corporation are the Rev. Messrs. Robert Nicholas (OPC), chairman; Harold Borchert (PCA), vice-chairman; Kenneth Meilahn (OPC), secretary. The group also named the Rev. Robley J. Johnston, long-time generaI secretary for the O. P. committee, to be executive director.
A tentative schedule of production calls for a new Adult Sunday School series to be ready in the Fall of 1976; a new VBS curriculum for Summer 1977; a new Senior High Sunday school course for Fall 1978; and a Pre-school curriculum for Fall of 1979.
A spirit of confidence and unanimity has permeated discussions leading up to this joint endeavor. Problems for the future success of the venture are mainly in the area of securing needed and competent personnel for the proposed schedule of publications.
The Presbyterian Guardian, December 43.10 (December 1974), p. 167.
Words to Live By:
That the brethren can work together has been proven quite well in this venture, now some forty-two years later. Great Commission Publications does a wonderful job of fulfilling many of the Sunday School curriculum and other literature needs of the OPC and PCA. Other churches besides these two also utilize the services of GCP on occasion. The entire venture has been a good success, to the praise of our Lord and Savior.
As we need presently need a break and since we still haven’t located the rest of the article shown below (hoping some new reader might help us!), the following is a reprise which we trust will prove profitable. Blessings in Christ our King!
The Auburn Affirmation was first issued on December 26, 1923, in response to the action of the 1923 General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. It was then published in its first edition in January of 1924. Affixed to that document were the names of 150 pastors and elders within the Presbyterian Church of the U.S.A. A subsequent printing issued on May 5, 1924 contained the final list of signators, numbering 1274 names.
The Affirmation was a thinly veiled attack upon core tenets of the Christian faith. By most accounts the Affirmation was a gauntlet thrown down in response to five fundamentals espoused originally in The Doctrinal Deliverance of 1910, a deliverance which was later reaffirmed by the PCUSA General Assemblies of 1916 and 1923. It was specifically the action of the 1923 Assembly that brought about the reaction that was the Auburn Affirmation.
Among those five key doctrines that the Doctrinal Deliverance sought to protect, the virgin birth of Christ was second on the list:
2. It is an essential doctrine of the Word of God and our Standards, that our Lord Jesus Christ was born of the Virgin Mary. The Shorter Catechism states, Question 22: “Christ, the Son of God, became man, by taking to Himself a true body and a reasonable soul, being conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost, in the womb of the Virgin Mary, and born of her, yet without sin.”
It was this subject that J. Gresham Machen took up in in the December 1924 issue of The Bible Today, the house organ of The National Bible Institute, an evangelical school located in New York City. Given the issues at hand before the Church that year, Machen’s article would have to be considered one of the earliest replies to the Affirmation signatories, though he does not specifically mention the Affirmation by name in this first part of his discussion. And since we only have the first part of this article available to us, we will have to leave it stand at that, until some gracious donor comes forward with other issues of The Bible Today. We’re looking particularly for vol. 19, no. 4, January 1925. From another source we know that part two of this article appeared on pages 111-115 of that issue. (We’re also looking for any other issues of The Bible Today from the years before 1941).
So, introduction aside, here is the text of “The Virgin Birth” by J. Gresham Machen (1924).
THE BIBLE TO-DAY, 19.3 (December, 1924): 75-79.
The Virgin Birth
By J. Gresham Machen, D.D., Assistant Professor of New Testament Literature and Exegesis in Princeton Theological Seminary
An address delivered at a National Bible Institute Bible Conference, New York City.
ACCORDING to the belief of all the historic branches of the Christian Church, Jesus of Nazareth was born without human father, being conceived by the Holy Ghost and born of the Virgin Mary. In the present lecture we shall consider very briefly the origin of this belief. The belief of the Christian Church in the virgin birth of Christ is a fact of history which requires an explanation. And two kinds of explanation are possible. In the first place, the belief may be explained as being based upon fact. It may be held that the Church came to believe in the virgin birth because as a matter of fact Jesus was born of a virgin. Or in the second place it may be held that the belief arose in some other way. The task of the historian is to balance these two kinds of explanation against each other. Is it easier to explain the belief of the Church in the virgin birth on the hypothesis that it originated in fact or on the hypothesis that it arose in some other way?
I. Belief in the Virgin Birth Based on Fact
We shall first examine the former hypothesis—that the belief in the virgin birth is based upon fact. Of course, the most obvious thing to say is that this belief appears in the New Testament in the clearest possible terms. And most of our time will be taken up in examining the New Testament evidence. But before we come to examine the New Testament evidence it may be well to glance at the later Christian literature.
At the close of the second century, when the Christian literature outside of the New Testament becomes abundant, when we have full information about the belief of the Church at Alexandria, in Asia Minor, at Rome and in the West, we find that everywhere the virgin birth was accepted as a matter of course as one of the essential things in the Christian view of Christ. But this same kind of belief appears also at an earlier time; for example in the old Roman baptismal confession which was the basis of our Apostles’ Creed, in Justin Martyr at the middle of the second century, and in Ignatius, bishop of Antioch, at the beginning of the century. There were, it is true, denials of the virgin birth not only by opponents of Christianity but also by some who professed a kind of Christian faith.
But all of these denials look far more as though they were due to philosophical prepossession than to any genuine historical tradition. The plain fact is that the virgin birth appears just as firmly fixed at the beginning of the second century as at the end of it; it is quite impossible to detect any gradual establishment of the doctrine as though it had to make its way against opposition. Particularly the testimony of Ignatius and of the Apostles’ Creed shows not only that the virgin birth was accepted at a very early time, but that it was accepted as a matter of course and as one of the facts singled out for inclusion even in the briefest summaries of the most important things which the Christian needed to know about Christ. Even this evidence from outside the New Testament would suffice to show that a firm belief in the virgin birth existed in the Christian Church well before the close of the first century.
But still more important is the New Testament evidence, and to that evidence we now turn.
The virgin birth is attested in two of the New Testament books, the Gospel according to Matthew and the Gospel according to Luke. The value which will be attributed to this testimony depends of course to a considerable extent upon the view which one holds of each of these two Gospels as a whole. Obviously it will not be possible to discuss these questions here; it would carry us too far afield to discuss the evidence for the early date and high historical value of the two Gospels in which the virgin birth appears. But one remark at least may be made in passing : it may at least be observed that the credit of the great double work, Luke-Acts, has been steadily rising in recent years even in circles which were formerly most hostile. The extraordinary strength of the literary evidence has led even men like Professor von Harnack of Berlin, Professor C. C. Torrey of Yale, and the distinguished historian Professor Eduard Meyer, despite their rejection of the whole supernatural content of the book, to accept the traditional view that Luke-Acts was actually written by Luke the physician, a companion of Paul. It will not be possible here to review that literary evidence in detail; but surely the evidence must be very strong if it has been able to convince even those whose presuppositions render the hypothesis of Lucan authorship so extremely uncomfortable.
But if the Third Gospel was really written by Luke, its testimony as to events in Palestine must surely be received with the greatest possible respect. According to the information derived from the use of the first person plural in the Book of Acts, Luke had been in contact with James, the Lord’s own brother, and with many other members of the primitive Jerusalem Church. Moreover he was in Palestine in A.D. 58 and appears there again two years later; so that presumably he was in the country during the interval. Obviously such a man had the fullest possible opportunity for acquainting himself, not only with events concerning the Gentile mission of Paul but also with events in the life of our Lord in Palestine. It is therefore a matter of no small importance that the virgin birth is narrated in the Third Gospel.
But the virgin birth is not merely narrated in the Third Gospel; it is narrated in a very peculiar part of that Gospel. The first two chapters of the Gospel are possessed of very remarkable literary characteristics. The hand of the author of the whole book has indeed been at work in these chapters, as the elaborate researches of von Harnack and others have clearly shown; but the author’s hand has not been allowed to destroy the underlying literary character of the narrative. And that underlying character is very strongly marked. The truth is that the first two chapters of Luke, with the exception of the typical Greek sentence in Luke 1:1-4, are in spirit and style, as well as in thought, nothing in the world but a bit of the Old Testament embedded in the midst of the New Testament. Nowhere is there a narrative more transparently Jewish and Palestinian than this. It is another question how the Palestinian character of the narrative is to be explained. Some have supposed that Luke used a written Palestinian source, which had already been translated into Greek or which he himself translated; others have supposed that without written sources he has simply caught the truly Semitic flavor of the oral information that came to him in Palestine. At any rate, however the Palestinian character of the narrative is to be explained, that Palestinian character itself is perfectly plain; in the first two chapters of Luke we are evidently dealing with a narrative that came from Palestinian soil.
That fact is of great importance for the question of the virgin birth. It shows that the virgin birth was narrated not merely in Gentile Christian documents but also in the country which was the scene of the narrated event. But there is still another reason why the Palestinian character of the narrative is important. We shall observe in the latter part of the lecture that the great majority of those modern scholars who reject the fact of the virgin birth suppose that the idea of the virgin birth was derived from pagan sources. But if that hypothesis be accepted, the question arises how a pagan idea came to be attested just by the most transparently Jewish and Palestinian portion of the whole New Testament. The Palestinian Judaism of the first century was passionately opposed to pagan influences, especially that loyal type of Palestinian Judaism which appears with such beautiful clearness in Luke 1:2. How could a pagan idea possibly find a place in such a narrative ?
The question is really unanswerable; and in order to attempt to answer it, many modern scholars have had recourse to a truly desperate expedient—they have maintained that the virgin birth was not originally contained in the Palestinian narrative found in the first two chapters of Luke but has been inserted later into that narrative by interpolation. This interpolation theory has been held in two forms. According to the more radical form the virgin birth has been interpolated into the completed Gospel. This hypothesis is opposed by the great weight of manuscript attestation, there being not the slightest evidence among the many hundreds of manuscripts containing the Gospel of Luke that there ever was a form of that Gospel without the verses narrating the virgin birth. A more cautious form of the interpolation theory has therefore sometimes been preferred. According to that more cautious form, although the words attesting the virgin birth formed an original part of the Third Gospel they did not form an original part of the Palestinian source which the author of the Gospel was using in the first two chapters, but were interpolated by the author himself into the source which elsewhere he was closely following.
The Interpolation Theory
What shall be said of this interpolation theory? Very often the best and only refutation of an interpolation theory is the refutation which a distinguished preacher is once said to have applied to theosophy. A lady is reported to have asked the preacher, after one of his lectures, to give her the strongest evidence against theosophy. “Madam,” he replied, “the strongest evidence against theosophy is that there is no evidence in its favor.” Similarly it may be said that the burden of proof is clearly against those who advance an interpolation hypothesis; if no clear evidence can be adduced in its favor the hypothesis must be rejected, and the narrative must be taken as it stands. Even such a consideration alone would be decisive against the interpolation theory regarding the virgin birth in the infancy narrative of the Third Gospel. The advocates of the theory have signally failed to prove their point. The virgin birth is not merely narrated with great clearness in Luke 1:34, 35, but is implied in several other verses; and no reason at all adequate for supposing that these portions of the narrative have been tampered with has yet been adduced. But as a matter of fact we are in the present case by no means limited to such a merely negative method of defense. The truth is that in the present case we can do far more than disprove the arguments for the interpolation hypothesis; we can also actually prove positively that that hypothesis is false. A careful examination shows clearly that the virgin birth, far from being an addition to the narrative in the first chapter of Luke, is the thing for which the whole narrative exists. There is a clear parallelism between the account of the birth of John and that of the birth of Jesus. Even the birth of John was wonderful, since his parents were old. But the birth of Jesus was more wonderful still, and clearly it is the intention of the narrator to show that it was more wonderful. Are we to suppose that while narrating the wonderful birth of John the narrator simply mentioned an ordinary, non-miraculous birth of Jesus? The supposition is quite contrary to the entire manner in which the narrative is constructed. The truth is that if the virgin birth be removed from the first chapter of Luke the whole point is removed, and the narrative becomes quite meaningless. Never was an interpolation hypothesis more clearly false.
But personally I am very glad that the interpolation hypothesis has been proposed, because it indicates the desperate expedients to which those who deny the virgin birth are reduced. The great majority of those who reject the virgin birth of Christ suppose that the idea arose on pagan ground, and admit that other derivations of the idea are inadequate. But in order to hold this view they are simply forced to hold the interpolation theory regarding the first chapter of Luke; for only so can they explain how a pagan idea came to find a place in so transparently Jewish a narrative. But the interpolation theory being demonstrably false, the whole modern way of explaining the idea of the virgin birth of Christ results in signal failure. The naturalistic historians in other words are forced by their theory to hold the interpolation hypothesis; they stake their all upon that hypothesis. But that hypothesis is clearly false; hence the entire construction falls to the ground.
The Virgin Birth in Matthew
So much then for the account of the virgin birth in Luke. Let us now turn to the Gospel according to Matthew. Here the virgin birth is narrated with a plainness which leaves nothing to be desired. Some men used to say that the first two chapters of the Gospel are a later addition, but this hypothesis has now been almost universally abandoned.
The value of this testimony depends of course upon the view that is held of the Gospel as a whole. But it is generally admitted by scholars of the most diverse points of view that the Gospel was written especially for Jews, and the Jewish character of the infancy narrative in the first two chapters is particularly plain.
If this lecture were being delivered under the conditions that prevailed some years ago it might be thought necessary for us to enter at length into the question of Matthew 1:16. Some time ago the textual question regarding this verse was discussed even in the newspapers and created a good deal of excitement. It was maintained by some persons that an ancient manuscript of the Gospels which was discovered in the monastery of St. Catherine on Mount Sinai provided a testimony against the virgin birth. The manuscript referred to is the so-called Sinaitic Syriac, a manuscript of an ancient translation of the Gospels into the Syriac language. This manuscript is not, as has sometimes been falsely asserted, the most ancient New Testament manuscript; since it is later than the two greatest
manuscripts, the Codex Vaticanus and the Codex Sinaiticus, which also have the inestimable advantage of being manuscripts of the original Greek, not of a mere Syriac translation. But the Sinaitic Syriac is a very ancient manuscript, having been produced at about 400 A.D., and despite the fact that the extravagant claims made for it have now for the most part been abandoned, a few words about it may still be in place.
The Sinaitic Syriac Manuscript
The Sinaitic Syriac has a curious reading at Matthew 1:16. But the importance of this witness must not be exaggerated. In order to accept the witness of the Sinaitic Syriac against all other documents one must suppose (1) that this manuscript has correctly reproduced at the point in question the ancient Syriac translation from which it is descended by a process of transmission, (2) that this ancient Syriac translation (which was probably produced in the latter part of the second century) correctly represented at this point the Greek manuscript from which the translation was made, and (3) that that Greek manuscript correctly represented at this point the autograph of the Gospel from which it was descended by a process of transmission. All of this is exceedingly uncertain in view of the over-whelming mass of evidence on the other side. To accept one witness against all the other witnesses is a very precarious kind of textual criticism where the evidence is so exceedingly abundant as it is in the case of the New Testament.
But as a matter of fact the Sinaitic Syriac does not deny the virgin birth at all. It attests the virgin birth in Matthew 1:18-25 just as clearly as do the other manuscripts, and it implies it even in Matthew 1:16. The reading of the Sinaitic Syriac which has given rise to the discussion is (translated into English by Burkett) as follows : “Jacob begat Joseph. Joseph, to whom was betrothed Mary the virgin, begat Jesus that is called the Messiah.” That would be self-contradictory if the word “begat” meant what it means in English. But as a matter of fact the scribe of the Sinaitic Syriac, if he thought of what he was doing and was not simply making a careless mistake, clearly used the word “begat” in the sense, “had as a legal descendant.” It is interesting to note that Professor F. C. Burkitt, the greatest British authority on the Syriac manuscripts, who certainly is far from being prejudiced in favor of the virgin birth, holds that even if the original text were simply “Joseph begat Jesus” (which as a matter of fact appears in no manuscript) it would be absolutely without significance as a testimony against the virgin birth; for it would only mean that Joseph had Jesus as his legal heir. The author of the First Gospel is interested in two things, in one of them just as much as in the other. He is interested in showing (1) that Jesus was the heir of David through Joseph and (2) that He was a gift of God to the house of David in a more wonderful way than would have been the case if He had been descended from David by ordinary generation.
Thus even if the Sinaitic Syriac did represent the original text, it would not deny the virgin birth. But as a matter of fact it does not represent the original text at all. The original text of Matthew 1:16 is exactly the text that we are familiar with in our Bibles.
Accordingly we have an unequivocal double witness to the virgin birth of Christ in the Gospels of Matthew and of Luke. These two witnesses are clearly independent. If one thing is clear to modern scholars—and to every common-sense reader—it is that Matthew has not used Luke and Luke has not used Matthew. The very difficulty of fitting the two infancy narratives together is, to the believer in the virgin birth, a blessing in disguise; for it demonstrates at least the complete independence of the two accounts. The unanimity of these two independent witnesses constitutes the very strongest possible testimony to the central fact about which they are perfectly and obviously agreed.
But at this point an objection is often made. The rest of the New Testament, we are told, says nothing about the virgin birth; Paul says nothing about it, neither does Mark. Hence the testimony in favor of it is often said to be weak; and men are often impressed with this argument from silence.
Argument from Silence
Now the argument from silence needs to be used with a great deal of caution. The silence of a writer about any detail is without significance unless it has been shown that if the writer in question had known and accepted that detail he would have been obliged to mention it.
But that is just exactly what cannot be shown in the case of the silence about the virgin birth. Paul, for example, does not mention the virgin birth, and much has been made of his silence. “What is good enough for Paul,” we are told in effect, “is good enough for us; if he got along without the virgin birth we can get along without it too.” It is rather surprising, indeed, to find the Modernists of today advancing that particular argument; it is rather surprising to find them laying down the principle that what is good enough for Paul is good enough for them, and that things which are not found in Paul cannot be essential to Christianity. For the center of their religion is found in the ethical teaching of Jesus, especially in the Golden Rule. But where does Paul say anything about the Golden Rule, and where does he quote at any length the ethical teachings of Jesus? We do not mean at all that the silence about such things in the Epistles shows that Paul did not know or care about the words and example of our Lord. On the contrary there are clear intimations that the reason why the Apostle does not tell more about what Jesus did and said in Palestine is not that these things were to him unimportant but that they were so important that instruction about them had been given at the very beginning in the churches and so did not need to be repeated in the Epistles, which are addressed to special needs. And where Paul does give details about Jesus the incidental way in which he does so shows clearly that there is a great deal else which he would have told if he had found occasion. The all-important passage in I Corinthians 15:3-8 provides a striking example. In that passage Paul gives a list of appearances of the risen Christ. He would not have done so if it had not been for the chance (humanly speaking) of certain mis-understandings that had arisen in Corinth. Yet if he had not done so, it is appalling to think of the inferences which would have been drawn from his silence by modern scholars. And yet, even if the occasion for mentioning the list of appearances had not happened to arise in the Epistles it would still have remained true that that list of appearances was one of the absolutely fundamental elements of teaching which Paul gave to the churches at the very beginning.
That example should make us extremely cautious about drawing inferences from the silence of Paul. In the Epistles Paul mentions very few things about the earthly life of Jesus; yet clearly he knew far more than in the Epistles he has found occasion to tell. It does not at all follow therefore that because he does not mention a thing in the Epistles he did not know about it. Hence the fact that he does not mention the virgin birth does not prove that the virgin birth was to him unknown.
Moreover, although Paul does not mention the virgin birth the entire account which he gives of Jesus as an entirely new beginning in humanity, as the second Adam, is profoundly incongruous with the view that makes Jesus the son, by ordinary generation, of Joseph and Mary. The entire Christology of Paul is a powerful witness to the same event that is narrated in Matthew and Luke; the religion of Paul presupposes a Jesus who was conceived by the Holy Ghost and born of the Virgin Mary.
The silence of Mark is of just as little importance as the silence of Paul. The Gospel according to Mark seems to have been pre-eminently the missionary gospel; it was not intended to give all the facts about Jesus, but simply those which needed to be given first to those who had not already been won to Christ. Reading the Second Gospel, you stand in astonishment like those who were in the synagogue at Capernaum in the scene described in the first chapter. You see the wonderful works of Jesus; you stand afar off looking at Him; you are not introduced to Him with the intimacy of detail which one finds in Matthew and Luke. The fact that Mark does not narrate the virgin birth does not prove that he does not believe in the virgin birth or that it is to him less important than other facts; but shows merely that the narration of the birth of Jesus in any form is quite contrary to the plan of his Gospel, which begins with the public ministry. The most important things that need to be said are not always the first things; and Mark is concerned with the first things that would make an impression even upon those who had not already been won to Christ.
The New Testament does indeed imply that the contemporaries of Jesus in Palestine were unaware of the story of the virgin birth, and perhaps it also “makes probable that the virgin birth formed no part of the earliest missionary preaching of the apostles in Jerusalem. But all that is just what would be expected even if the virgin birth was a fact. The virgin birth was a holy mystery which was capable of the grossest misunderstanding; certainly it would not be spoken of by a person like Mary whose meditative character is so delicately and so vividly depicted in the first two chapters of Luke. It would not be spoken of to the hostile multitude, and least of all would it be spoken of to the brothers of Jesus. Also it would certainly not be mentioned in the earliest public missionary preaching before the crowds in Jerusalem. Only at some time after the resurrection, when the miracle of the virgin birth had at last been vindicated by the resurrection and exaltation of Jesus would Mary breathe the mystery of Jesus’ birth to sympathetic ears. Hence it found its way into the wonderful narrative preserved by Luke and from there into the hearts of Christians of all the ages.
Such is the course of events which would be expected if the virgin birth was a fact. And the attestation of the event in the New Testament is just exactly what is suited to these antecedent probabilities. The attestation in the very nature of the case could not be equal to that of an event like the resurrection, of which there were many eye-witnesses; but it is just what it would naturally be if the event really occurred in the manner in which it is said to have occurred in Matthew and Luke.
But the full force of the New Testament evidence can be appreciated only if the accounts are allowed to speak for themselves. These narratives are wonderfully self-evidencing; they certainly do not read as though they are based on fiction; and they are profoundly congruous with that entire account of Jesus without” which the origin of the Christian religion is an insoluble puzzle.
(To be continued – that is, if we can locate that next issue from 1925!)
For today’s post, we will look at a letter composed by the Rev. Don Dunkerley, a PCA pastor who was at that time also serving as the Director of a missions organization known as Proclamation International. He writes here with first-hand knowledge of the establishment of a Presbyterian witness in the nation of Uganda. This letter provides both a unique insight into the birth of a Church, and provides at the same time a great example of why it is so important to have a denominational archives like the PCA Historical Center which will preserve such things.
July 18, 1986
Pastor Leon F. Wardell
I enjoyed our phone conversation several days ago. I phoned you in my role as Director of Proclamation International, the sole representative of the Presbyterian Church in Uganda in the USA, because the brethren in Uganda have been asking me how their request for fraternal relations was being handled by the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America. As Chairman of the General Assembly’s Committee on Inter-Church Relations, you asked meto write this letter giving information about the PCU, since their request has been referred by the assembly to your committee. You felt that the kind of information I shared on the phone would be helpful to your committee if it could be distributed to them in letter form.
A short time after speaking with you, I spoke with John Galbraith, Chairman of Inter-Church Relations for the General Assembly of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. Since the PCU has made an identical request to the OPC, I will also send a copy to John.
The Presbyterian Church in Uganda is a daughter church of the PCA and the OPC. This is not true in the formal sense of having been planted by PCA and OPC missionaries, for none of our missionaries were working in Uganda. Nevertheless, in a less formal but very real sense it is a daughter of both of our churches, as the history will make clear.
Although the first missionary to enter Uganda was a Scottish Presbyterian, Alexander Mackay, he was sent by the Church of England and did not plant a Presbyterian but an Anglican Church. For almost a century thereafter Uganda was a British protectorate, and no Protestant missionaries except Anglicans were allowedinto Uganda by the British.
In the early 1970’s a movement for indigenous Ugandan churches was led by Dr. Kefa Sempangi, an Art Professor in Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda’s capital. Kefa’s spiritual background was in the East Africa Revival Movement in the (Anglican) Church of Uganda. Several indigenous churches arose out of Kefa’s movement, most notably the Redeemed Church which, under his preaching, grew from zero to 14,000 members in a year and a half and saw 150 witch doctors converted in that time. Dictator Idi Amin ordered Kefa killed and Kefa had several narrow escapes from Amin’s hit men. These are recorded in his book “A Distant Grief,” by Kefa Sempangi with Barbara Thompson (Gospel Light Regal Books, and soon to be reprinted by World Vision.) The book also tells of the beginnings of the Redeemed Church, the forerunner of the present Presbyterian Church in Uganda.
In the 1960’s, when Kefa was an Art student in London, he regularly sat under the preaching of Dr. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones. He was again exposed to the Reformed faith when he studied under Dr. Hans Rookmaaker at the Free University of Amsterdam, where he‘received his doctorate. When forced into exile by Amin, at the urging of Dr. Edmund F. Clowney whom he met in the home of Dr. Rookmaaker, he came to Philadelphia and studied at Westminster Theological Seminary, where he learned the Reformed faith more fully.
In 1979 Amin was driven into exile and Kefa returned to Uganda. The Redeemed Church had survived the Amin years as an underground movement. They met secretly under penalty of death. Amin’s soldiers had orders to raid their services and kill everyone. They especially had orders to find and kill Peterson Sozi, pastor of an underground Redeemed Church congregation meeting in a garage in Kabowa. Nevertheless, the church survived and many of Amin’s soldiers were converted.
On his return to Uganda, Kefa gathered together Redeemed Church leaders and began to teach them the Reformed faith in a weekly Bible study. Soon Sunday afternoon Reformed services began under an open roof behind the public library building (where First Presbyterian Church, Kampala, meets to this day). Some Redeemed Church leaders rejected the Reformed faith, especially the doctrines of grace (“TULIP”) and so did many of the people. The Redeemed Church congregation at Kabowa informed Peterson Sozi and others that, if they wanted to teach this, they should leave and start a new church. Soon a Presbyterian Church was meeting on Sunday mornings behind the public library. Kefa Sempangi was its founder, but its pastor was Peterson Sozi. The associate pastor was Edward Kasaija, who had been associate pastor of the Redeemed Church at Makerere, another congregation that would not accept the Reformed faith. Joseph Musiitwa, an attorney who had been Kefa’s colleague in leading the indigenous church movement and who had most recently been an elder in Kabowa, was one of the elders of the new Presbyterian Church. Although the Presbyterian Church was worshiping together by November, 1979, they were not officially organized and recognized by the government until January, 1981.
During his days at Westminster, Kefa had befriended Dr. C. John Miller, a professor at Westminster who is an OPC minister and an evangelist with the Presbyterian Evangelistic Fellowship, one of the four organizations that took the leadership in forming the PCA. After Kefa’s return to Uganda in 1979, Jack Miller spent six months each year in Uganda, training Kefa and other leaders in the Reformed faith, until 1983 when Jack suffered a heart attack in Kampala.
In 1981 Jack Miller brought a team of evangelists and ministers from the Presbyterian Evangelistic Fellowship into Uganda to evangelize and train leadership. I was a member of this PEF team. Except for Jack, I believe all members of the team were in the PCA.
Meanwhile, other PCA and OPC people visited Uganda at the encouragement of Kefa and Jack Miller. Dr. Harvie Conn from Westminster came. And Peterson Sozi and Edward Kasaija, the two pastors, were able to come for six month periods to study at Westminster Seminary.
In 1983, on my second trip, Petereon and Edward told me that the elders hoped that I would start an organization that would enable me to return often to Uganda to evangelize and train leadership and would be able to represent the Presbyterian Church in Uganda in the USA. It might also have a similar ministry in other countries. In March, 1984, in direct response to the urging of the elders in Kampala, Proclamation International was formed in Pensacola. Our board has seven men. I am a PCA minister and five of the other six are elders and deacons in Gulf Coast Presbytery of the PCA. Until Proclamation International was recognized by the IRS, we operated as a committee of Pinewoods Presbyterian Church (PCA), Cantonment. Fla.
Meanwhile, Dr. Henrik Krabbendam, an OPC minister and a Professor at PCA’s Covenant College, became involved in Uganda. He has been visiting about twice a year, evangelizing and training leadership. I believe he is there at this present time.
Close ties are developing with individuals and churches in the Christian Reformed Church. More financial support is coming presently to the PCU from CRC sources than from either PCA or OPC. And Reformed Bible College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, an independent school with close ties to the CRC, is also becoming involved. Our PCU Bible School, “The Back to God School of Evangelism and Discipleship” in Kampala, is being operated with very close ties with Reformed Bible College. Emma Kiwanuka, a member of the church and a graduate of RBC, is the one full-time faculty member. He designed the curriculum in consultation with Dr. Burt Braunius, Vice President for Academic Affairs at RBC. Burt was at one time Director of Christian Education at Mcllwain Memorial Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Pensacola, Florida.
(I am attaching the class schedule for the most recent program, June 23 to July 6. Please notice the emphasis on TULIP.) Dr. Dick Van Halsema, President of RBC, has raised most of the money to date for the construction of a church sanctuary for First Presbyterian Church, Kampala, a building that is about half paid for and partially built.
In 1984 Peterson asked me to teach Church Government to the leadership. He felt that they had been grounded in Reformed theology by Miller, Krabbendam and others, but needed help with Reformed Church government. He said he was asking me to teach this because of my practical experience. He was aware that I had been the organizing first Moderator of Gulf Coast Presbytery, had participated in the Steering Committee for a Continuing Presbyterian Church in the historic February, 1973, meeting and had been elected by the Convocation of Sessions to be an alternate to the Organizing Committee of the Continuing Presbyterian Church, with which I served actively.
For three weeks in the Fall of 1984 I taught a daily morning seminar. Our text was, “The Form of Presbyterian Church Government” (FOG), written by the Westminster Assembly of Divines and adopted by the Church of Scotland in 1645. We studied it line by line, discussing at each point its scripturalness and also its relevance to Uganda. At the conclusion of the course they asked me to write a revision of the Westminster FOG in the light of our discussions. Daughter churches were being formed and a presbytery should be organized soon. The constitution would need a FOG suitable for Uganda.
After preparing an initial draft. I sent copies to many that I believed could make helpful suggestions, including:
Dr. Will Barker, Pastor Rich Cannon, Prof. George Clark, Dr. Phillip Clark, Chaplain Don Clements, Dr. Edmund Clowney, Dr. Harvie Conn, Dr. John Richard DeWitt, Dr. Sinclair Ferguson, Pastor John Findlay, Dr. George Fuller, Professor Bill Iverson, Dr. James C. K. Kim, Dr. George Knight, Dr. Henrik Krabbendam, Dr. Paul Long, Pastor Jimmy Lyons, Dr. Allan A. MacRae, Dr. Don MacNair, Dr. C. John Miller, Pastor Iain Murray, Dr. J.I. Packer, Dr. Robert Rayburn, Dr. Robert Reymond, Dr. Palmer Robertson, Dr. Morton H. Smith, Mr. William H. Spanjer, III, Dr. R. C. Sproul, Dr. Dick Van Halsema, Dr. Luder Whitlock, and Pastor Paul Zetterholm.
Significant revisions were made as a result of suggestions from these brethren. Of course, not all suggestions were incorporated. Some contradicted each other, especially on the number of offices. Don MacNair, Henry Krabbendam and Allan MacRae are among those whose specific wording was included at certain points.
When Peterson was in the USA in 1985, I gave him a copy of my revised draft plus the complete file of correspondence. He took this material back to Uganda where it was thoroughly studied by the elders. They sent me a list of further revisions, mostly editorial changes to bring it more in line with Ugandan English.
On February 28, 1986, I had the privilege of being the only American visitor present at the formation of the Presbytery of Uganda. Most of the meeting was taken up with last minute changes to the Form of Government. The FOG was adopted, along with the Westminster Confession and Catechisms (I am appending a copy of the FOG in the form finally adopted.) Peterson Sozi was elected Moderator and Kefa Sempangi was elected Stated Clerk. A “Letter to All Churches of Jesus Christ” (patterned after the one adopted by the First General Assembly of the PCA) was adopted, and copies have since been sent to PCA and OPC
General Assemblies, among others. The Clerk was instructed to write the following churches for fraternal relations: the Presbyterian Church in America, the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America, the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, the Christian Reformed Church (USA), and the Westminster Presbyterian Churches of Australia. A letter was also sent to Gulf Coast Presbytery, PCA.
In a technical sense, PCU is not a daughter of the PCA and the OPC. But who are its spiritual fathers? We have seen some names: D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Free University of Amsterdam, Hans Rookmaaker, Edmund P. Clowney, Westminster Theological Seminary, Presbyterian Evangelistic Fellowship, C. John Miller, Harvie Conn. Henrik Krabbendam, Proclamation International, Reformed Bible College, Dick Van Halsema, Don MacNair and Allan MacRae. The roots of the PCU are in the PCA, OPC and related movements. They look to us as their fathers. We should receive them as our spiritual children.
It should be abundantly clear that the PCU is a church of like faith and order with the PCA and OPC. It is also our spiritual daughter and looks to us for leadership and help. Not only is there no good reason to refuse their request for fraternal relations, but to do so would hurt them greatly and hinder our ability to nurture them in the future. I urge your committee to recommend strongly to the PCA General Assemb1y that it enter fraternal relations with the PCU.
In All that We Say and Do, Let Us Live to His Glory.
Last year, when we could not tie some Presbyterian event or person to a given date, we had recourse to the Westminster Shorter Catechism. On this day last year, the following was our post, and it seems pertinent this year as well. We pray that all that we have done with our posts has in fact been to the glory of God. May God’s kingdom be firmly established throughout the world. May each of us rest in His grace and prayerfully, obediently seek to be used for His glory.
Remember when this writer said that many Presbyterian people must have been taking a sabbatical in December? Well, on this day of December 30, we conclude our substitute study on The Lord’s Prayer with the last phrase of this prayer. The last Shorter Catechism question [Q. 107] asks, “What doth the conclusion of the Lord’s prayer teach us?” And the answer given is “The conclusion of the Lord’s Prayer, which is, For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen. teaches us to take our encouragement in prayer from God only, and in our prayers to praise him, ascribing kingdom, power, and glory to him; and in testimony of our desire and assurance to be heard, we say, Amen.”
David in 1 Chronicles 29:10-13 prayed, “So David blessed the LORD in the sight of all the assembly, and David said, ‘Blessed are You, O LORD God of Israel our father, forever and forever. Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, indeed everything that is in the heavens and the earth; Yours is the dominion, O LORD, and You exalt Yourself as head over all. Both riches and honor come from You, and You rule over all, and in Your hand is power and might; and it lies in Your Hand to make great and to strengthen everyone. Now therefore, our God, we think You, and praise Your glorious name.’”
All these are arguments to enforce our petitions. And please notice that they are all based on God, on His works of creation and redemption, on Him alone. You will find no man-made encouragements in this Old Testament text. The conclusion, whether if was truly there originally or not, is God-centered, and whether we use the specific words, or simply other words in our pleading with God, it is a right and noble conclusion to the Lord’s Prayer.
Words to live by: Our pleading with God must never be based upon our merit, of which we don’t have any in the first place anyhow, but only on the mercy of God. He and He along must receive the praise, and truly His is the kingdom or dominion. His is the power and authority. His is the glory and majesty. May all our prayers, even our most mundane requests, have the glory of God as their greater goal. Amen, and amen.
With over four hundred attendees, the Second General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of America met in the large auditorium of the Manufacturers’ and Bankers’ Club in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, beginning on Thursday, November 12, 1936. Present were 64 teaching elders and 26 ruling elders, with numerous guests. [It was in 1938 that the Presbyterian Church of America changed its name to The Orthodox Presbyterian Church.]
The first Moderator of the new denomination, J. Gresham Machen, preached from 2 Corinthians 5:14, 15. The text reads, “for the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead: And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again.” Speaking on the love of Christ being a constraining force, Dr. Machen, in a message not soon forgotten by those who heard him, stated that Christians should not live to themselves but live unto Christ.
Taking the position of Moderator was the Rev. J. Oliver Buswell, D.D., president of Wheaton College, Wheaton, Illinois. He was to moderate the meeting in good fashion as a moderator should do, without fear of discipline or the ridicule of biblical positions.
This General Assembly adopted the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms as they stood before the 1903 additions enacted by the P.C.U.S.A. general assemblies. Thus the Presbyterian Church of America put itself on record as being a truly Reformed church.
Various reports came on this day and over the next two days, from committees set up by the previous Assembly in June of 1936. These included Home Missions and Church Extension, with report of 13 home missionaries already at work in the field. Present among them was one home missionary to South Dakota, the Rev. David K. Myers, this writer’s father. The Committee on Foreign Missions also reported, encouraging support for the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions. However, it also spoke about the establishment of an official Board of Foreign Missions from the denomination at the next General Assembly.
Westminster Seminary was recommended to the pastors and congregations as worthy of their prayers and financial support. Held over to the next General Assembly was the adoption of a Form of Government, Book of Discipline, and Directory for Worship. The assembly was dissolved on Saturday evening, November 14, 1936
Words to live by: This writer can read the minutes of the Second General Assembly, as he has a copy of them before him, but the spirit of the meeting was only to be enjoyed by those who were actually present. It must have been a joyous meeting to realize that since just that previous June of 1936, the number of ministers had increased from 35 pastors to 107 ministers in the Presbyterian Church of America. God was doing a great work in this spiritual successor to the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A. Take time to look at your church choice, and if it is an Evangelical and Reformed Church, rejoice in what is happening in it as a sign of God’s blessings. Indeed, support it with your tithes and offerings. It probably is not perfect. No church this side of glory is perfect. But if it is committed to the Scriptures, the Reformed faith, and the Great Commission, then give thanks for it, pray for it, and support it.
Also on this day, November 12, in 1886, Archibald Alexander Hodge died in Princeton, New Jersey.
The Westminster Standards are the Standards of the Presbyterian Church We have already considered the meeting which took place in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania which stopped an impending schism in the infant Presbyterian Church by The Adopting Act of 1729, as was presented on September 17. But there was another important commitment made by the infant church as part of this multi-day […]
It was yesterday actually—September 17th, 1936—and not today’s date of September 18th, when Dr. J. Gresham Machen spoke in Westfield, New Jersey on the subject “Shall We Obey God, or Man?”. But as we didn’t want to pass up mention of this occasion, so you will please forgive a bit of backtracking. This appears to be one […]
A Potential Schism Halted by a Compromise Initially there was no real problem with the written standards for the Presbyterian Church in America. Ministerial students were simply tested for their learning and soundness in the faith. But a controversy in the mother country soon changed this. So the question arose, should teaching and ruling elders be […]
Excerpted from Volume III of The Presbyterian Magazine, September 1853, pp. 413-415.This recounting of the venerable Dr. Alexander’s farewell to his congregation bears the following footnote: THE PRESBYTERIAN says, that “A valued friend recently discovered in the possession of one of the Pine Street parishoners of Dr. Archibald Alexander, a manuscript copy of the remarks made […]
This is the concluding article in the series PRESBYTERIANS IN AMERICA. The author, Rev. Prof. Paul Woolley, was formerly the professor of Church History at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia. I do hope you have found Rev. Woolley’s articles both interesting and instructive, and I do trust that our readers are more familiar now than […]
Dr. Paul Woolley’s series of articles on Presbyterians in America continues today with a segment on churches of Covenanter ancestry. Please keep in mind that these articles were written in the early 1950s and so much has changed since that time. VI – The Churches of Covenanter Ancestry [Reformed Presbyterian Advocate, 86.3 (March 1952): 25-26] […]
On August 27th, 1820, the Rev. Sylvester Larned appeared for the last time before the congregation of the First Presbyterian Church of New Orleans. He had remained in the city during the summer’s “sickly season.” Death from fever was everywhere, and Rev. Larned has spent those weeks and months ministering to the city’s poor who […]
Dr. Woolley’s series of articles on Presbyterians in America continues today with a focus on the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and the Bible Presbyterian Church. Our Monday and Tuesday posts will conclude this series. Do keep in mind that these articles were written in the early 1950s and so much has changed since that time. V […]
We continue today with Dr. Woolley’s series of articles on Presbyterians in America. Do keep in mind that these articles were written in the early 1950s and so much has changed since that time. Tomorrow’s post will focus on the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and the Bible Presbyterian Church. Presbyterians in Americaby Rev. Paul Woolley IV […]
We continue today with Dr. Woolley’s series of articles on Presbyterians in America. Do keep in mind that these articles were written in the early 1950s and so much has changed since that time. Presbyterians in Americaby Rev. Paul Woolley III – The Presbyterian Church in the United States [Reformed Presbyterian Advocate, 85.12 (December 1951): […]