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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.


p style=”text-align: justify;” align=”left”>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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With Great Patience Under Affliction

Moses Roney was born in Washington county, Pennsylvania, on the 20th of September, 1804. His parents were members of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, and were careful to train him up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. At the age of fourteen, he entered a preparatory school, aiming at admission to Jefferson College, and later graduated from that College with highest honors in 1823. As with so many young men of that era who planned to enter the ministry, Moses taught school for a few years following his graduation from college. His ministerial preparations were under the tutelage of the Rev. Dr. James M. Willson, one of the more noted pastors and theologians of the Reformed Presbyterian Church in those early years. Without great delay, Moses was licensed to preach on June 8, 1829 and quickly came to be noted as as one of the more popular preachers in the RP Church. Serving as pulpit supply and preaching as opportunities arose, he finally answered a call to serve the RP church in Newburgh, New York, being ordained and installed as pastor on June 8, 1830.

In 1833, the Reformed Presbyterian Church was split over a controversy having to do with the Church’s doctrine concerning relations with the civil government. One of the defining convictions of the Reformed Presbyterians maintained that because Jesus Christ is clearly spoken of in Scripture as being the King of kings, Lord of lords, and sovereign over all nations, that therefore Reformed Presbyterians expected civil governments to acknowledge the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Some among the RP’s were giving way on that conviction, and thus the split in their Church. Moses Roney held to and defended the old ground and though still a young pastor, was among the more vocal adherents of the “Old Light” side of the controversy.

While his ministry showed great promise—his gifts and abilities garnering the added responsibility of editing the denominational magazine—Rev. Roney’s life was not long. In the spring of 1843, he was struck down by an inflammation of the lungs, followed later by related problems. His health never fully recovered, and while his remaining years were labored and heavy, he continued in faithful ministry as his strength allowed. Death came at last on July 3, 1854.

In one of the last letters he ever wrote, addressed to a close friend, Rev. Roney gave a good indication of how he approached his final days:—

“Very dear and highly esteemed friend: I have for months longed to communicate with you, but have been unable. In the expectation of friends, and in my own opinion, I was near the end of my earthly journey. It has pleased my Heavenly Father to give me a little respite, and I have been for a few days tolerably comfortable. I have no expectation that it will be of long continuance, but still it gives occasion for thankfulness to God, and is a ground of satisfaction. On two occasions I was really brought low; but though the Lord chastened me sorely, He did not give me over to death. My prayer is that, while I live, I may call on Him who is my only support and my only portion. I trust that, by His grace, “for me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” Oh that I may find the presence of the Good Shepherd when I come to enter the dark valley. My only trust is in the righteousness of Christ. My dependence is on the aid of the Holy Spirit. Oh, my friend, pray for me and that I may die in a triumphant faith. Mrs. Roney is much fatigued from want of rest, etc. Still she and the children are mercifully kept in health. Give my warmest love and what may perhaps be my last farewell, to [your wife] and all the family. My kind remembrance to all inquiring friends.

With love and esteem, I remain affectionately and truly yours,
—M. Roney.”

Words to Live By:
One great advantage to reading Christian biography is what it can teach us about dying in the Lord. Though not discussed much at all these days, you will find a frequent concern in older biographies about “dying well”—dying in such a way as to bring glory and honor to our Lord. For if in our living we should live to His glory, shouldn’t we also die to His glory as well?

Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.”—Psalm 116:15, KJV.

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A Great Historian & Biographer

When searching out pre-twentieth century Presbyterian biographies, there are three big names—three primary sources which cannot be overlooked. The unsurpassed efforts of William Buell Sprague would have to be mentioned first. Indeed, Sprague did not limit himself to Presbyterians, but gathered biographical entries covering all the major Protestant denominations and even included Unitarians in his nine volume set, Annals of the American Pulpit. (As a young man, Sprague came under the influence of a Unitarian teacher, but turned to orthodox Trinitarianism while attending Princeton Seminary).

Another resource is that of Alfred Nevin‘s Encyclopedia of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A., including the Northern and Southern Assemblies. This massive single volume was published in 1884 and tops out at 1229 pages. Where Sprague had solicited entries from pastors across the nation and acknowledges their contributions in each case, Nevin’s work gives the appearance of being his work alone, though it seems doubtful that a work of that extent could have been accomplished by just one man.

The third major resource brings us to another great biographer and the focus of our post today. William Melancthon Glasgow was born in Northwood, Logan county, Ohio, on July 1, 1856. If you will remember, this was the original location of Geneva College, and so not surprisingly this was where William received his college education, graduating there in 1880. After a few years of employment in Boston, he then prepared for the ministry at the Allegheny Theological Seminary (now known as the Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary).

Glasgow’s first published work, Catalogue of the Alumni of Geneva College, appeared in the same year that he began his Seminary studies (1882). Another work, History of Geneva College followed quickly (1883), and his third book, The Provincial Churches, was published around the time he graduated in 1884. Clearly he was already evidencing his life’s interest in history and biography. I know of no other seminary student who has ever equalled his record of three volumes published while still in seminary.

Glasgow was licensed to preach by the (Reformed Presbyterian) Presbytery of Pittsburgh on April 9, 1884 and later ordained by the Philadelphia Presbytery (also RP) on November 26, 1885. He was installed as the pastor of the RP church in Baltimore, Maryland, and served that church until the early summer of 1889. His second pastorate was in Kansas City, Missouri, 1889-1893 and from that post he next answered a call to serve the RP church in Beaver Falls, Pennysylvania. In 1899, he transferred his credentials into the United Presbyterian Church of North America, in order to take a call to serve the UPCNA church in Wellsville, Ohio, from 1899 until his death in 1909, at the age of 51.

Rev. Glasgow authored two major works which are of inestimable value. The first of these, History of the Reformed Presbyterian Church in America, was published in 1888. That volume was republished in 2007 by Reformation Heritage Books. Glasgow’s other major biographical work was his Cyclopedic Manual of the United Presbyterian Church in North America, published in 1903. This work has never been republished, but is available in digital format. Where the former work offered more extensive biographies and histories of R.P. congregations, the latter U.P. work adopts a shorter notation style, similar in format to what is found today in the PCA Yearbook and the OPC Ministerial Register.

Words to Live By:
I’m convinced that the work of Christian biography and history falls very much within the Scriptural mandate to remember the Lord’s works [1 Chron. 16:9; Ps. 26:7; 28:5; 77:11; 78:7; 105:5; etc.] The history of the church is a history of what the Lord has done and is doing on this earth. Thus we can understand it as redemptive history, though clearly it is not authoritative or divinely inspired history, not in the way that Scripture is. We cannot look to church history or Christian biography to determine God’s will, for instance. But we can find profit from these accounts, and certainly these stories can prompt us to praise God.

Psalm 111:2-4 (KJV)
2. The works of the LORD are great, sought out of all them that have pleasure therein.
3. His work is honourable and glorious; and his righteousness endureth forever.
4. He hath made his wonderful works to be remembered; the LORD is gracious and full of compassion.

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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.

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He Was OP, RP, EP and RPCES

grayRichardWThat tag line will bring back for some of our readers the famous Dameron and Jones song. Others, not so blessed, will draw a blank. The Rev. Richard W. Gray was the living expression of that song:  “We’ve been OP, BP, and RPCES. What we’ll be next is anybody’s guess.”

Richard Willer Gray was born in Brooklyn, New York on June 6, 1911. After the age of 12 he lived in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, until moving to attend Wheaton College, from 1930-1934. Following graduation from Wheaton, he received the M.Div. at Westminster Theological Seminary, in 1937. In 1936, a year before graduation from Westminster, he married Emily MacDonald. To this marriage, three children were born. Their son Richard is himself a PCA pastor, serving in Florida.

Rev. Gray was ordained by the Presbytery of New Jersey on May 18, 1937 and installed as pastor of the Covenant OPC church of East Orange, New Jersey. He served this church from 1937 until 1945. Resigning that post, he then answered a call to serve Calvary Orthodox Presbyterian Church, in Bridgeton, New Jersey [now New Hope OPC], serving there from 1946-1949. His third pastorate was with the Calvary Presbyterian Church of Willow Grove, Pennsylvania, which at that time was an independent church. Rev. Gray served this church from 1949 to 1958, and during these same years he was also the editor of a magazine, The Witness, a publication widely utilized by OPC, BPC and Reformed Presbyterian congregations. In April of 1958, Dr. Gray transferred his credentials to the Reformed Presbyterian Church, General Synod, leading his independent congregation into this denomination. By way of two later denominational mergers, the Willow Grove congregation is today a part of the PCA.

Pictured below, the building occupied by the Calvary OPC church of Bridgeton, New Jersey, where Rev. Gray served from 1946-1949.

grayRW_CalvaryOPCAs editor of The Witness, Rev. Gray had a pulpit which effectively reached a number of Presbyterian denominations, and the magazine in turn allowed Dr. Gray to eventually become the leading voice in the eventual merger of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, General Synod [1833-1965] and the Evangelical Presbyterian Church [1961-1965]. The denomination resulting from that merger, the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod [1965-1982], eventually was received into the Presbyterian Church in America, in 1982.

[This coming Sunday, June 16, we will feature Dr. Gray’s sermon delivered before the Synod on the occasion of the RP/EP merger in 1965. His sermon was titled, “Where Have We Been and Where Are We Going?”]

Rev. Gray never saw the merger of the RPCES with the PCA. Following the merger of the RPC,GS and the EPC, he had continued as pastor of the Calvary Presbyterian Church of Willow Grove until 1975. At that time he answered a call to serve as the founding pastor of the Presbyterian Church of Coventry, Connecticut. It was while serving as pastor of this church that the Lord called him to his final reward. He died on February 28, 1979.

Apart from his pastoral duties at the above four churches, Dr. Gray participated in a wide variety of denominational and intellectual activities. At various times he:

Edited a Christian magazine (The Witness)
Taught courses at a seminary
Was active in the establishment of four branch churches
Started the Christian Counseling Center of Willow Grove
Was active in the establishment of Christian schools
Wheaton College awarded him the honorary Doctor of Divinity degree in 1959
Served on the Board of Directors of National Presbyterian Missions; Quarryville Home; and Covenant College
Served as a chief architect of the union of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, General Synod and the Evangelical Presbyterian Church
Moderator of the 148th Synod of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod (1970)
Frequent moderator of denominational committees, regional presbyteries, and synodical reports
Founded the Christian Counseling Service in Coventry, Connecticut
Presided over the Evangelical Ministerial Association of greater Hartford

The people who fell under Dick Gray’s ministry were as diverse and varied as his multi-faceted personality, yet all found common ground in his infectious enthusiasm for the Kingdom of God.

From a young counselee: “I thank God for the vast help that Dr. Gray has been in my life. I came to him in desperate anxiety. He allowed me to expose all that was ugly and frightful. He was both utterly trustworthy and wisely insightful. God used him to lead me into the health and maturity and objectivity about myself which now is a part of my abundant and joy-filled life.”

From a ministerial colleague: “Although in God’s providence Dick and I were working on the most recent church problem from different sides of it, I want you to know that that in no way diminished my admiration and esteem for him as one of the God-given leaders to the RP Church. I  particularly appreciated his openness to new ideas and his willingness to encourage the young ministers. At the same time, no one could question his concern for the welfare of the churches and his tireless energy on their behalf.”

From a former elder and long-term friend: “[Dick] had a capacity for concentration and single-mindedness that was maddening, and a capacity for empathy that was healing. He could have written books of great significance, if he had the patience. He was one of only several individuals it was my privilege to know who had the mind of an intellectual explorer, a discoverer of principles, relationships between what are too often labeled ‘spiritual’ and ‘intellectual.’ He thought and wanted others to think, and this caused him undeserved difficulties because thinking is painful. He shunned superficial statements that would have won him acceptance among those believers who limit orthodoxy to set phrases. He bore the risk of being considered not Biblical enough, in order to be truly Biblical.”

Words to Live By:
“Then I realized that it is good and proper for a man to eat and drink, and to find satisfaction in his toilsome labor under the sun during the few days of life God has given him, for this is his lot. Moreover, when God gives any man wealth and possessions, and enables him to enjoy them, to accept his lot and be happy in his work; this is a gift of God. He seldom reflects on the days of his life, because God keeps him occupied with gladness of heart.” (Eccl. 5:18-20)

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