Reformed Presbyterian Church

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February 16 – 17, 1973 — A momentous date in the history of what was to become the Presbyterian Church in America.

Quoting from Paul Settle’s book, To God All Praise and Glory:

“Perhaps the most significant meeting of the entire movement convened on February 16 at the Airport Hilton in Atlanta. All the executive committees of the four conservative organizations were present with the Steering Committee. Jack Williamson brought the news from Dallas, where the Plan of Union Committee had met, that the liberals had lied: there was no plan of union! The committee scrapped teh work that had been done and asked the PCUS and UPUSA General Assemblies to allow the committee to continue its work and bring a report in 1975. Williamson said that “it was extremely unlikely that any future plan would include a belateral escape clause.” As before, in August, the men sank to their knees to pray with many tears. They now knew that there was no turning back: they must leave the PCUS, in order to exercise, as Francis Schaeffer has said, “discipline in reverse.” The season of prayer strengthened them immeasureably. John Richards told Georgia Settle: “We had…men of great power in prayer…we prayed around the table…and the prayer formed in us a kind of exhilaration;”

[To God All Praise and Glory, page 43. This book is available from the Christian Education and Publications bookstore]

News of this event was reported to the people of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod through the Bulletin News Supplement, printed by Joel Belz [back before he became editor of World Magazine]. The February 20, 1973 edition of the News Supplement stated:

“Conservatives in the Presbyterian Church U.S. (popularly known as the Southern Presbyterian Church) have responded officially to the power plays and liberalism of the hierarchy of their denomination, and laid plans for the forming of a new denomination.

A steering committee for a continuing church met in mid-February in Atlanta to lay specific plans for the new church, and did not immediately release those details. But the scope of the new move was apparent because of the broad base of participation at the Atlanta meeting. Included were leaders of Concerned Presbyterians and of Presbyterian Churchmen United, two protest groups within the Southern denomination, as well as the leaders of the Presbyterian Evangelistic Fellowship and the Presbyterian Journal.

Many of those represented had looked forward to the possible union of their denomination with the United Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), because that union–even though it was with a liberal denomination–included an escape clause through which local churches could leave and keep their properties. But in early February, that union plan was scrapped by the liberal leaders of the Southern church. Conservatives believe the plan was abandoned because of a fear that too many congregations would exercise their rights through the escape clause.

With no prospects left of being able to leave the denomination with their properties, conservatives gathered and voted unanimously to leave the church and begin anew. They will do so with no guarantees at all with respect to the numerous church properties involved.

Several Reformed Presbyterians participated in the Atlanta meetings, and indicated a genuine desire on the part of the churchmen involved to extend fellowship between themselves and the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod.”

[excerpted from the Bulletin News Supplement, vol. 17, no. 8, February 20, 1973]

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‘Though He slay me, as He did my children, I will trust in Him.’

The biographies of faithful pastors make for some of the most rewarding reading. One example would be Samuel Brown Wylie’s Memoir of the Rev. Alexander McLeod [1774-1833], a beloved pastor who is widely considered the patriarch of the Reformed Presbyterian Church. Another account of Rev. McLeod’s life and ministry is found in William B. Sprague’s volume on the Annals of the Reformed Presbyterian Pulpit. In this later account, offered by the Rev. Gilbert McMaster, we have a valuable portion on dealing with the death of a child.

We join Rev. McMaster’s account here:—

mcleod01Dr. McLeod sensibly felt the ills of life, but he evinced under them the most meek and quiet spirit. As an illustration of this, I may be allowed to give the following extracts from a letter dated December 9, 1815, shortly after being bereaved of two amiable and beloved children by scarlet fever:—

” Your favour reached me at a time in which private grief overcame the force of public interests. On Tuesday morning, my fine daughter breathed her last. She now lies beside her younger sister, where not the fever nor the storm shall disturb them. Blow upon blow falls upon my offending head and my deceitful heart. You know how long I have desired a release from this body of death and world of trials; but my God—for yet I shall call Him mine—refuses my wishes and my prayers, and beats me on the sorest part, by slaying my beloved babes, one by one, before my eyes. I have seen in the tortures of my infants the hatred of the Divinity against sin; and my works and my prayers,, my knowledge and my experience, start up before my alarmed conscience, as a thing in which I cannot hope. Decked in their impurity and imperfection, it is I who have sinned more than these afflicted children who are torn from my bleeding heart; and both the experience and the labour of my life are a burden instead of a pillar on which my soul can rest. Oh, my brother, how inestimable is that word of truth upon which the faith of God’s elect may and doth rest! To that word I refer my all. It is my only comfort, and, resting upon the offer of the gift of God, I say,—’ Though He slay me, as He did my children, I will trust in Him.’ Excuse these effusions of a wounded spirit. You know the feelings of a father.”

Such was the Rev. Dr. Alexander McLeod. Yet he was but a man—great and good indeed, but still a man. The sun has his spots, and my illustrious friend had his imperfections. They were, however, only such as are incident to our diseased nature in its present state;—the occasional manifestation of the remains, in the saint, of ” the old man,”—” the body of sin and death,” where the graces and virtues that constitute the Christian character were greatly predominant and confessed of all.

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A Warm Hearted Generous Irishman
by David T. Myers

Our famous person today is James McKinney. Besides being described as our title puts it, he was the founder, under God, of the Reformed Presbyterian Church in the United States, as Rev. Carlisle puts it in an article, The Life and Times of Rev. James McKinney. Certainly, both Rev. Glasgow and Rev. William Sprague testify that for scholarship and eloquence, he was not only the greatest man in the Covenanter church, but also he was a great man among men of that age. All of these accolades should cause us to want to know more about this servant of God.

Born on this day, November 16, 1759 in County Tyrone, Ireland, the son of Robert McKinney, James studied in the preparatory schools of his upbringing. Entering the University of Glasgow, Scotland, he spent four years before graduating in 1778. He stayed on in the area to study both theology and medicine. Licensed by the Reformed Presbytery of Ireland in 1783, and ordained by the same church court, he was installed in two congregations in County Antrim, Ireland. One year later, he married Mary Mitchell, from which union came five children.

He was faithful in administering the Word and Sacraments for ten years in these two Irish congregations. Known as a bold and fearless advocate of the rights of God and man, a sermon on the “Rights of God” made him a marked man by the British government. Indicted for treason by the latter, he escaped to America in 1793, with his family joining him later. From Vermont to the Carolinas, he ministered to Irish societies tirelessly, forming some of them into congregations. In 1797, his family joined him in the new land.

In 1798, in a new location in Philadelphia, he organized, with Rev. Gibson, the Reformed Presbyterian Church of America. He himself took charge of two congregations, one of which was Duanesburgh, New York. His broader ministry took him to other locations, as he and another minister visited the southern areas of this new land, to, and this is interesting, to seek to convince the churches of the land to abolish slavery from their thinking and actions.

In 1802, he resigned his pulpit at Duanesburgh, New York to accept the call of Rocky Creek, South Carolina. Soon after that, however, he died on September 16th, 1802.

Words to Live By:
A warm hearted generous Irishman! We may not be identified as Irish, but every reader is to be warm hearted and generous in our relations to our congregation and the neighbors in which we live and move as Christians. Too often we are anything but warm hearted and generous! Try instead Ephesians 5:31, 32 “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.”

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Our post today is excerpted from the Minutes of the 153rd General Synod of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod (1975), p. 176-177:

 

The cause of Bible-believing archaeological study today owes more to joseph P. Free than to any other individual. It is an honor to the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod, that for 30 years he has been numbered among our teaching elders.

Joseph Free was born in Cleveland, Ohio, October 1, 1911, and entered Stony Brook School, Long Island, New York, and received the A.B., A.M., and Ph.D. degrees from Princeton University, New Jersey. In 1935 Dr. Free accepted an invitation to join the faculty of Wheaton College, Illinois, in the departments of French and Spanish. For ten years he studied in the field of Near Eastern history and archaeology at the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago, and for nearly 20 years, until 1965, he served as Fred McManus Professor of Biblical Archaeology at Wheaton. After a brief period of retirement to his home in the north woods of Minnesota, he resumed his life work in the teaching of archaeology at Bemidji State College, Minnesota, where he was employed at the time of his death, on October 12, 1974. He was a member of the Midwestern Presbytery (RPCES), and was its moderator for two years in the 1940’s. He was ordained in 1944 to the ministry of the Bible Presbyterian Church. At his death he was still a member of the Midwestern Presbytery (RPCES).

Dr. Free is best known as the excavator of ancient Dothan, in northern Israel, the town near which young Joseph was sold by his brothers (Gen. 37:17) and where the prophet Elisha performed a miracle of deliverance (II Kings 6:13). Professor Free had gained archaeological field experience as a staff member with the American Schools of Oriental Research in Jerusalem; and he and Mrs. Free directed ten seasons of excavation at Dothan between 1953 and 1964. Many field archaeologists and teachers, including several on the staff of Covenant Theological Seminary, owe their basic training to his untiring efforts and competent leadership. His vision resulted in the founding of the Near East Archaeological Society in 1960 and the Near East School of Archaeological and Biblical Studies in 1962, under which scores of students were introduced to Bible geography, history, and archaeology. He authored the widely used textbook Archaeology and Bible History, plus more than fifty articles on archaeology for both scholarly and popular Christian journals. He held membership in the Evangelical Theological Society, the American Schools of Oriental Research, American Oriental Society, Society of Biblical Literature, and National Society of Arts and Letters, which he served as National Literature Chairman, 1966-1970.

He was married to Ruby Aldrich on August 20, 1935. In addition to Mrs. Free, he was survived by a daughter, a son, three grandchildren, a foster son, and two sisters. Joseph P. Free was zealous in his defense of the faith and of the inerrancy of Holy Scripture. The same verse that at Princeton honors the memory of one of America’s greatest nineteenth century Reformed scholars of the Old Testament, Dr. William Henry Green, may now with propriety be applied to our brother Dr. Free: 

“They that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament, and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever.”—Deuteronomy 12:3. 

For Further Study:
For more on the life and ministry of Dr. Free, see “Joseph P. Free And The Romance Of Biblical Archaeology.” by Timothy Larsen, in the Westminster Theological Journal, 66.1 (Spring 2004): 97ff. To view a portion of this article, click here.

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A New Help for Conservative Presbyterian Chaplains in our Armed Forces

Being a military chaplain in any of our Armed Forces was always viewed with favor by this contributor.  That was probably because my father served his God and country as an Army chaplain from World War Two through the Korean Conflict. There were divine appointments in the context of a military which are not found in any civilian context.  And when the chaplain is a Bible-believing, Gospel-preaching minister to men and women in the military, there is an extraordinary opportunity to see God’s kingdom and church grow in the faith and knowledge of the Triune God.

Prior to 1976, the National Association of Evangelicals were endorsing chaplains on behalf of young Presbyterian Church in America.  As good as that was, there was a conviction on the part of some, which was communicated by the Pacific Presbytery of the P.C.A., to request a study to consider whether sister Presbyterian churches could join together to endorse their own chaplains to the Chief of Chaplains. Committees were formed in the respective Presbyterian churches, such as the Presbyterian Church in America, the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, and the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod.  Ministers in all three churches who had been or were then military chaplains formed these committees.  A working group was organized and a name was suggested, which was, “Presbyterian and Reformed Joint Commission on Chaplains and Military Personnel.”

On September 21, 1978, the initial meeting was held at Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis to form such a commission.  The combined churches had over 100,000 members and could therefore endorse chaplains on its own.  Some of the added benefits of having our own endorsing agency included the ability to hold our own spiritual retreats, an increased awareness of our chaplains and their ministries at national denominational meetings, better representation before the Chief of Chaplains in Washington, D.C., and a national newspaper, called the Guardian.

Other Presbyterian and Reformed bodies joined in the commission, such as the Korean American Presbyterian Church, Korean Presbyterian Church in America, Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America, and the United Reformed Churches in North America.  Col. (ret.) David Peterson, after a thirty year career in the United States Army as a chaplain, became the Executive Director in 1995.  He served up until just a few years ago, when Brig. General (ret.) Douglas Lee took over the helm of that position.

Chaplain David Peterson

Words to live by: There are opportunities and challenges for our military chaplains which pastors in their civilian churches do not have normally.  Young men and women in uniform are facing war tours away from families.  How great is it to have a Bible-believing chaplain to be there with the Word of God to meet them in public and private.  Temptations are always present in a military situation.  How good is it to have a gospel-preaching chaplain present who can provide an escape from that temptation with other Christian soldiers for a Bible-study, or meaningful worship time.  Family life without a father or a mother, a husband or a wife, is stressful.  A Reformed chaplain can be there to counsel in difficult times.  Pray for our military chaplains.  Write them letters or emails of encouragement.  Provide them and their soldiers with care boxes from home.  Support them in their important callings.

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