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These were tumultuous times in the history of the church, and in the midst of them Brumbaugh moved to Tacoma to become the pastor of the First Presbyterian Church. He was forty-one years old and had a wife and four children. The First Presbyterian Church of Tacoma boasted a formal membership of 1,850, with about 1,000 attending regularly; it was one of the largest in the denomination on the West Coast. The church edifice was a grand structure, and the church was organized with programs for everyone. The church had been without a pastor for a year, and there were some strong elders on the session of the church who were in charge of the program. One of the foremost programs of the church was the Scofield Bible Study classes conducted by the elders. Dr. Brumbaugh came to Tacoma by car from Philadelphia, which was an exciting trip at that time. During most of the trip, his son Roy stood in the front passenger compartment with his hand on the top of the windshield. The issues that were present on the East Coast were also present on the West Coast to some degree.

The Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions (IBPFM) was formally organized on October 17,1933, and the Rev. J. Gresham Machen was elected as its first president. As new revelations continued to appear pertaining to the modernism in the Board of Foreign Mission, more and more people converted over to support of the IBPFM. This support of the new board worried the denomination so that it became a major issue at the next general assembly held in Cleveland, Ohio, in May 1934. That general assembly adopted a deliverance that stated that every member of the church is required by the constitution to support the missionary program of the church in the way that each member must take part in the Lord’s Supper. Each Presbytery was mandated to take action against its members who were also members of the IBPFM. The deliverance became known as “The Mandate” and the consequences of it would play out over the course of the next year. Finally the controversy that had simmered for more than a decade was going to be decided in the church courts.

Back in Tacoma, the First Presbyterian Church prospered in many respects, and Brumbaugh, the evangelist, preached the gospel, and many people made professions of faith. However, there was an undercurrent of dissension in the local church that was a microcosm of the denominational controversy. In the local church there was a group of elders who had their plan for the church and a strong pastor who had his plan. As the controversy intensified nationally, it intensified locally and small differences that might have been overlooked in a more peaceable climate became big issues. The lines of demarcation were established and it became apparent that there would eventually be a showdown. It took over a year for the Mandate to trickle down to the local level. It was the presbyteries that were instructed to implement the mandate and there were periods of notification in accordance with the Book of Discipline, and procedures that carried over till the summer and fall of 1935. All the while, sides were taken in the First Presbyterian Church and it was a difficult time to carry on the work of the church. If Brumbaugh left the church, he would lose the building, his pension, the prestige of being pastor to one of the largest churches in the denomination, and other attendant privileges.

In spite of all of this, on August 21, 1935, Brumbaugh informed the denomination of his withdrawal from the PCUSA. Finally he was free. On Thursday night, August 22, 1935, the first meeting of the First Independent Church of  Tacoma was held with over 700 in attendance. Ironically, the only facility available to accommodate the new church was a Scottish Rites Temple, right across the alley from the First Presbyterian Church. A new church had begun, fresh and free from denominational control. It was a wonderful feeling of excitement and expectation. As the different presbyteries dealt with other members of the Independent Board, many were suspended, some were admonished or rebuked; and one presbytery, the Presbytery of Chester, refused to take action against the Rev. Wilbur M. Smith, who had followed Brumbaugh at the Coatesville Presbyterian Church. Brumbaugh was tried in absentia and suspended from the PCUSA. On March 29, 1935, Dr. J. Gresham was declared guilty in a sham of a trial and suspended from the ministry of the PCUSA. A sad chapter in Presbyterian church history had come to an end. The same church that had suspended Dr. Charles A. Briggs for heresy in 1893, had, in 1935, suspended Dr. J. Gresham Machen from its ministry for his FAITHFUL ADHERANCE TO THE WORD OF GOD.

Dr. Roy T. Brumbaugh continued on as Pastor of the Tacoma Bible Presbyterian Church until his death on January 3, 1957. The last twenty years of that ministry, although not without controversy, saw an active, enthusiastic, evangelistic church, with a special emphasis on the military personnel from the local military bases.

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In writing up this post, it will be important to note that this was an independent foreign missionary society. Thus, when the PCUSA issued the Mandate of 1934, they were being hypocritical (perhaps too strong a word–they were at least going contrary to their own history), in that their in own history the PCUSA had twice utilized independent agencies, the other being the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (check to make sure that’s the correct name of the latter organization]

 

The centennial of the Western foreign missionary society, 1831-1931 [microform]Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. Presbytery of Pittsburgh. Committee on the centennial of the founding of theWestern foreign missionary society
“Bibliography … of Sadhu Sundar Singh”: p. 111-112; “Bibliography of the Western foreign missionary society“: p. 227-234

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The 100th General Assembly of the PCUSA was notable as the first time in which the disrupted Church, North and South, met fraternally. The Southern Presbyterian Church, while meeting in Assembly in Baltimore, came to meet with the Northern Presbyterians during their Assembly in Philadelphia. Discusssions of a permanent reunion were on the table, but nothing came of it. News of that event, as reported in a denominational magazine of the day, follows:

THE PRESBYTERIAN CONGRESS.

The great Presbyterian Congress—its General Assembly—begins its sessions in Philadelphia to-day. As our Philadelphia dispatches showed yesterday, it is a body notable for the number of distinguished divines and laymen who are to lead its deliberations. Of the 500 delegates in attendance a large majority are prominent in the States from which they come, and there are scores of men who are known and honored all over the country, while some of them are recognized by Protestants the world over, as leaders of the religious thought and action of the age.

The great gathering suggests more than ecclesiastical or denominational considerations and reminiscences. It reminds intelligent students of the history of this country of the intimate relations between Presbyterianism in its various forms with the history of the struggles for religious and political freedom, in the old world and in the new. It was the love of freedom of the Presbyterians in Great Britain that brought on them the persecutions and trials that drove here hundreds of thousands of Presbyterians, who became the staunchest and most intelligent supporters of American independence. The same causes gave to the American colonies the splendid qualities for citizenship that were possessed by the exiled Huguenots and by the Dutch Presbyterians. It was a natural and most vitally important result that during the whole period of the Revolutionary war the Presbyterian churches were unanimously for American independence and furnished a large proportion of the ablest civil and military leaders who conducted the war and founded the Union.

One of the most notable  concessions as to the harmony between Presbyterianism and our peculiar form of government was made by the Roman Catholic Archbishop of New York, John Hughes, when he wrote these words:

“Though it is my privilege to regard the authority exercised by the General Assembly as usurpation, still I must say with every man acquainted with the mode in which it is organized, that for the purpose of popular and political government, its organization is little inferior to that of Congress itself. It acts on the principle of a radiating centre, and is without equal or rival among the other denominations of the country.”

[excerpted from The Church at Work, 2.34 (31 May 1888): 3.]

President Grover Cleveland’s Address to the Members of the General Assemblies.
[The Church at Work, 2.34 (31 May 1888): 4]

I am very much gratified by the opportunity here afforded me to meet the representatives of the Presbyterian Church. Surely, a man never should lose his interest in the welfare of the church in which he was reared. Those of us who inherit fealty to our church as I do, begin early to learn those things which make us Presbyterians all the days of our lives, and thus it is that the rigors of our early teaching, by which we are grounded, in our lasting allegiance, are especially vivid, and perhaps, the best remembered. The attendance upon church service three times each Sunday, and upon Sabbath school during the noon intermission, may be irksome enough to a boy of ten or twelve years of age to be well fixed in his memory, but I have never known a man who regretted these things in the years of his maturity. The Shorter Catechism, though thoroughly studied and learned, was not, perhaps, at the time, perfectly understood, and yet in the stern labors and duties of after life those are not apt to be the worst citizens who were taught “What is the chief end of man.”

Speaking of these things, and in the presence of those here assembled, I may say the most tender thoughts crowd upon my mind—all connected with Presbyterianism, and its teachings. There are present with me now memories of a kind and affectionate father, consecrated to the cause and called to his rest and his reward, in the mid-day of his usefulness; a sacred recollection of the prayers and pious love of a sainted mother, and a family circle hallowed and sanctified by the spirit of Presbyterianism. I cannot but express the wish and the hope that the Presbyterian church will always be at the front in every movement which promises the temporal as well as the spiritual advancement of mankind.

In the turmoil and bustle of every day life few men are foolish enough to ignore the practical value to our people and our country of the church organization established among us, and the advantage of Christian example and teaching. While we may be pardoned for insisting that our denomination is the best, we may, I think, safely concede much that is good to all other churches that seek to make men better.

I am here to greet the delegates of two General Assemblies of the Presbyterian Church. One is called “North” and the other “South.” The subject is too deep and intricate for me, but I cannot help wondering why this should be. These words, so far as they denote separation and estrangement, should be obsolete. In the councils of the Nation and in the business of the country they no longer mean reproach and antagonism. Even the soldiers who fought for the “North” and for the “South” are restored to fraternity and unity. This fraternity and unity is taught and enjoined by our church. When she shall herself be united, with all the added strength and usefulness, then harmony and union ensue.

Words to Live By:
How the mighty have fallen. How some have departed over these many years from the clear proclamation of the glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ. We take no pride in making such an observation. If anything, we should be immensely humbled, knowing our own sinful hearts. Indeed, we should fear the Lord and daily strive to draw near to Him. May the Lord by His Holy Spirit bring repentance. May He revive His Church in these latter days.

Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall.—I Corinthians 10:12, NASB.

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On this day, Neovember 20: 

janeway_sm021774 — Birth of Jacob Jones Janeway, in the city of New York, the eldest child of George and Effie (Ten Eyck) Janeway. The year 1797 found the young man diligent in the use of the means of grace, and seeking growth in the divine life. “In reviewing my conduct, I felt that my sins were pardoned. In the morning exercise, on Monday, I was somewhat earnest in pleading with God. Towards the end of the week too much absorbed in study.” “This week my soul has been somewhat refreshed. I see that my heart is deceitful and easily ensnared by the world. Though we depart from God in our affections, yet if we strive to return he will accept and help us. Remember, O my soul, the exhortation, Work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God that worketh in you, both to will and to do of his good pleasure. To this end I must be circumspect in my conduct, diligent and active.”

alexander_jw_sm1849 — Inauguration of the Rev. James W. Alexander, D.D., as professor of ecclesiastical history and church government in the theological seminary at Princeton. Born near Gordonsville, Virginia, in 1804, the eldest son of Archibald Alexander, James was raised in a household filled with theological giants of the faith. His father was the president of Hampden-Sydney College at that time. But by the time that schooling had begun for James, his father had taken the pulpit of the Third Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1807. Then in 1812, as the new seminary called Princeton began in New Jersey, the Alexander family moved there and Archibald Alexander became the first professor of that new divinity school. Young James graduated from the College of New Jersey in 1820. And while he studied theology at Princeton Seminary from 1822–1824, he would not be ordained by the historic Hanover Presbytery until 1827, having first served about three years as a tutor. He died on July 31, 1859.

league1925 — The First Annual Conference of the League of Evangelical Students was held in Grand Rapids, Michigan, November 20-24, 1925. At this conference nineteen schools were represented, eleven theological seminaries and eight Bible schools, and these represented student bodies from Texas to Canada and from the Atlantic to the Pacific. The Conference, with its keynote on unswerving loyalty to the Bible as the only authoritative rule of faith and practice, was held on the campus of Calvin Theological Seminary and Dr. J. Gresham Machen spoke on the theme, “The Church’s Historic Fight against Modernism from Within.” An early 20th-century campus ministry, the League ran its course in a brief fifteen years, overtaken by the wider appeal of InterVarsity.

Harold Samuel Laird1936 — The Rev. Harold S. Laird, pastor of the First Independent Church, Wilmington, was elected president of the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions [IBPFM], succeeding the Rev. Dr. J. Gresham Machen. Dr. Machen had also retired that same year as Moderator of the First General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of America. The IBPFM had been organized in 1933 in response to the failure of the PCUSA to remove modernists from the foreign mission field. In reaction, the PCUSA’s General Assembly had, in 1934, issued a “Mandate” forbidding PCUSA ministers and laity from involvement with the IPBFM. Their refusal to step down from their participation with the IBPFM led to Machen and about a dozen others being defrocked or otherwise kicked out of the denomination.

soltau_addison_sm021952 — Addison Soltau was ordained on this day in 1952 and installed as pastor of the First Evangelical Presbyterian Church, Memphia, Tennessee. Born in Seoul, Korea, the son of missionary parents T. Stanley and Mary Cross (Campbell) Soltau, Addison came from a long and illustrious line of noteworthy Christians. He graduated from Wheaton College in 1949 and prepared for the ministry at Faith Theological Seminary, later earning a Th.M. degree from Calvin Seminary in 1966 and the Th.D. from Concordia Seminary in 1982. Leaving his pulpit in Tennessee, he labored as a missionary in Japan from 1953-1970, served as a professor at Reformed Bible College and at Covenant Theological Seminary, and has, since 1989, served on the pastoral staff of several churches in Florida. He is currently an associate pastor at the First Presbyterian Church of Coral Springs, in Margate, Florida.

Words to Live By:
I suppose we could simply have stretched out the events of this twentieth day of November into the next six years with the six posts listed above, but it seemed good to explore some of the notable events and people for this date all at once. In that way, we behold the Lord’s providence of sovereignly governing both good and bad events on this day in Presbyterian history. James reminds us of the significance of one day when he asks and answers, “What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.” (James 1:14, ESVOpen in Logos Bible Software (if available)) To be sure, who among the people and events mentioned above ever wondered what else occurred on their day of November 20? That is why all of us need to take the words of James to heart when he wrote in verse 15, “Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” (James 4:15, ESV). Use this last biblical thought as a prayer today as you read this post, and venture out into your world.

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The Westward Expansion of Presbyterianism

As Presbyterians, all Presbyterian history is our history. Those who have gone before, regardless of their denomination, have had an effect and have left a testimony which affects the work of ministry today. Whether they sowed the good seed of the Gospel or whether they turned their hand from the plow, we today work that same soil. The faithful proclamation of the Gospel will always be difficult, but what others have done before us can and does affect the work today. Thus the importance of history–to know the work done before and to build upon that work in the wisest ways.

mcmillanJohnThe Presbytery of Redstone was an historic PCUSA Presbytery, the first court of that denomination west of the Allegheny mountains. The organization of this Presbytery marked the beginning of the Church’s occupation of the great valley of the Mississippi. The field actually occupied was, geographically, the key to the great westward expansion. This was the section of the country extending from the base of the mountains westward to Fort Pitt and the Forks of the Wheeling, comprising the southwestern region of Pennsylvania, together with an adjoining section of West Virginia. It can rightly be said that it was from this Presbytery that the PCUSA began to expand across the nation until at last it reached the Pacific ocean.

Pictured at right, the Rev. John McMillan, one of the leading ministers in the Presbytery of Redstone.

The Presbytery of Redstone was organized on May 16th, 1781, by the Synod of New York and Philadelphia, in answer to a request from missionaries who were then serving west of the Alleghenies.  1781 was the closing year of the Revolutionary War and the Presbytery was formed but a month before the surrender of British forces at Yorktown.

After the division of what was termed the Old Synod inn 1788, the Presbytery of Redstone formed part of the Synod of Virginia, up until 1802, at which time the Synod of Pittsburgh was formed. With rapid growth, the Presbytery then divided in 1793 to create the Presbytery of Ohio. A later division in 1830 created the Presbytery of Blairsville.

The men who formed this Presbytery were Scotch-Irish settlers who were used to hardships and wilderness life, yet who were also resolute in their Reformed faith. The pastors numbered among the first members of Redstone were all well-educated men, most of whom had graduated from Princeton College. “Taken collectively, they were a body of well disciplined, orthodox and devoted ministers.” Among them, Thaddeus Dod, James Dunlap, Thomas Marquis, Elisha McCurdy, John McMillan, Joseph Patterson, and James Power. Among Redstone’s first ruling elders, many were notable men in business, government, and education.

Cumulatively, their influence was such that in most of the churches of western Pennsylvania, and in many churches throughout the western States in later years, a large part of the effective membership of those churches consisted of the descendants of those first ministers and elders whose names are found in the early records of the Presbytery of Redstone.

A history of the Presbytery was published in 1854, under the title of Old Redstone. And in 1878, the minutes of the Presbytery up to that point were gathered together in a published volume of over 400 pages. In 1881 the Presbytery held a centennial celebration, an occasion held jointly with some of the surrounding PCUSA Presbyteries of Pittsburgh, Washington, Blairsville and West Virginia.

There are actually a good number of published histories for Presbyteries in both the PCUS (aka, Southern Presbyterian Church, 1861-1983) and the PCUSA [1789-1958]. By comparison, we have preserved at the PCA Historical Center a few brief sketches that have been written for some of the PCA presbyteries. But the PCA is still a young denomination and I am sure that more such work will be done in the coming years. Off-hand I don’t know of any histories that may have been written for OPC or ARP presbyteries, outside of larger denominational histories.

Something to Consider:
For all the practical value of church history, at the root of it all, we value our history as a record of what God has done in our midst. The history of the Church in all its parts is a testimony to our risen Lord who has redeemed us and who has employed us in His kingdom, to His greater glory.

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