RPCES

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highland_ college_1953

When the Bible Presbyterian denomination was formed in 1938, they consciously chose to have all of their associated agencies, schools, and mission boards established as separate, independent organizations. It was sort of like “every egg in a separate basket” — in case one work went bad, the chance of affecting the others was minimized.

In 1950, Rev. Clyde Kennedy was the leading force in establishing Highland College in Pasadena, California. The former Annandale Country Club property was purchased, and Rev. Kennedy began to promote the school. Somehow the school struggled through the first two years, and by the fall of 1952, Dr. Robert G. Rayburn, recently returned from the chaplaincy in Korea, was hired as a full-time president. As more students began to enroll, things were finally looking up for the school.

rayburn_highland_1953But Rayburn was a man of honor and conviction. He ran a tight ship and he expected the same of others. He became aware of improprieties in the management of the American Council of Christian Churches, another BPC-related agency. He began to speak to others in the BPC about those problems, and that in turn brought conflict with some of the denominational leaders. Eventually Dr. Rayburn lost the battle and the Trustees of Highland College dismissed both he and his registrar, Rudy Schmidt, on March 1, 1955.

Half-way across the country in Iowa, the Rev. Max Belz heard about the problem. Belz was the founder of the Cono Christian School. His papers are preserved at the PCA Historical Center, and from all I’ve seen of him, he has my respect and admiration. He was a wise Christian.

Belz wrote these words of counsel to his friend Rayburn:

“Rudy called to tell me that you were no longer President of Highland College, and that he was no longer Registrar. This is most disturbing news. I am wondering  if there is anything I can do to help in the situation. I know that you must be in financial straits, but that is also our situation. Letters have come in from several different directions expressing deep concern, and our people are upset. The sympathy, of course, goes to you and Rudy. Everyone who writes to me seems to expect me to take sides with you and Rudy. I do, of course, but I am not free to enter this thing with both fists swinging because, after all, I assume that the board at Highland has a right to dismiss the President and anyone else they choose to dismiss. Furthermore, I doubt if you, yourself, desire that any intra-Synod strife should come from this.

“Surely now is not the time for any of us to descend to the childish device of saying ‘I’ll quit if I can’t have my way.’ I am always tempted in that direction; but I am a part of the Church, and I know I must never leave it unless it becomes an unequal yoke with unbelievers.

“Perhaps you will not agree, but I think, Brother Bob, that you and Rudy and the others out at Highland are experiencing the bitter results of an error in which we are all involved. We have permitted Highland, (and others) to grow up outside the actual jurisdiction of Synod, and thus the steadying balance of the whole body is lost. I believe we must all soon face the issue as to whether we want our agencies to be independent or whether we want them to be subject to the Synod. Now, I do not have boundless confidence in our Synod, but I am committed to it in the name of Christ; and I am not committed to any other visible body, individual, or clique. I believe this bitter experience at Highland should make us all more determined than ever to build a Bible Presbyterian Church that is truly Presbyterian.

“Right now I want to do anything I can to help you, and help the cause. Shall I sit still? Shall we get busy with the printing press and linotype and editorialize the Synod by mail? Shall we gird for the battle in St. Louis [site of the next Synod meeting], where it appears that we shall be forced into conflict with men we love in the Lord? Shall we conclude that they are determined to oust us, and go down into the arena with them, or shall we bide our time, commit the whole thing to the Lord, and keep a tight rein on our tongues?

“I have a deep feeling that the latter course is the best, but perhaps you have a different view.”

Words to Live By:
And so far as I can discover, that is how they conducted themselves–with honor and with love for their brothers in Christ. Regrettably the denomination split that summer in 1955, but on the positive side, Rayburn and others were able to quickly establish the school that became Covenant College. After one semester, property was located in St. Louis. Then a year later, Covenant Theological Seminary was also established.

The Rayburn/Schaeffer/Buswell side of the BPC split initially called themselves the Bible Presbyterian Church, Columbus Synod. After four years they changed the name to the Evangelical Presbyterian Church. Then in 1965, that group merged with a small denomination called the Reformed Presbyterian Church, General Synod. The denomination created in 1965 was the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod (RPCES), and in 1982, the RPCES became a part of the Presbyterian Church in America.

When the PCA meets annually in General Assembly, at the close of Assembly each year, we sing Psalm 133. But it wasn’t always that way. We used to follow the practice of the Church we had left. The Presbyterian Church, U.S. (aka, Southern) would sing most anything. And some of the choices were atrocious! It was only with the reception of the RPCES that we began the tradition of singing Psalm 133. It had been a tradition with the RPCES since 1965. More importantly, it had been a tradition with the Reformed Presbyterian Church, General Synod since 1833! For you see, it was in 1833 that the Reformed Presbyterian Church suffered a division, creating the Synod (today’s RPCNA) and the General Synod. In singing Psalm 133 we affirm and pray that God would preserve the unity that we have in Christ. But in our singing, there is also an element of repentance, looking back in sorrow at divisions past, praying that in the mercy and grace of Christ our Lord, that one day those divisions will surely be mended.

Behold how good a thing it is,
And how becoming well
Together such as brethren are
In Unity to dwell.

Like precious ointment on the head,
That down the beard did flow,
Ev’n Aaron’s beard and to the skirts
Did of his garments go.

As Hermon’s dew, the dew that doth
On Zion’s hill descend,
For there the blessing God commends,
Life that shall never end.

 

Bonus Extra (no charge!, and thanks for sticking with us; this was a long post today):
Below is an image scan of the Commencement bulletin for Highland College in May of 1954.
On this occasion, the Rev. Francis Schaeffer brought the Commencement Address, titled “In the Spiritual Seat”.
At that same Commencement, Highland College awarded Schaeffer the honorary Doctor of Divinity degree.
Later in 1971, Gordon College presented Dr. Schaeffer with the Doctor of Laws (LL.D.) degree.

highland_commencement_1954

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chisholmWHWilliam Hugh Chisholm was born February 1, 1894, in Emerson, Michigan, to godly parents, Hugh and Mary MacLennan Chisholm, who had immigrated to the United States from Scotland, bringing with them that Scottish Presbyterian background. Despite difficulties connected with his father’s health, William managed to attend the University of California and later the University of California Medical School. He graduated in 1921 and did his residency in San Francisco. Then by the summer of 1923 he had been appointed a medical missionary to Korea under the Board of Foreign Missions of the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A.

In trying to select even just one short story of this amazing life, I am guided by the realization that Dr. Chisholm’s life was, more than anything else, marked by believing prayer. And so today we will recount something of William’s college years. It was during those college years when a “nobody” in the eyes of the world entered his life–a man named Mr. Stout. A number of students would go to his home for Bible study and prayer. They loved and respected this man, for they could see he was mighty with God, a man of prayer whose prayers God heard. One day the thought passed Will’s mind, “I bet Mr. Stout is praying that I will be a medical missionary.” He felt quite indignant and his first impulse was to go and ask Mr. Stout to stop praying! Then on second thought he said to himself, “I can’t call myself a Christian and ask a man to stop praying for me.” Knowing the power Mr. Stout had in prayer, he then said to himself, almost dejectedly, “I just wonder if I won’t end up on some mission field because of this man.”

Through the fellowship of this wonderful man, Bill learned to pray. He started praying for his pastor, an unbeliever in a modernist church. Some weeks later this man received Christ as his Savior, openly rejected the unbelief he had been preaching, and came out totally for Christ and the Word of God. Other wonderful answers to prayer were experienced at this time.

Skipping ahead in Dr. Chisholm’s story, in September of 1923, Dr. Chisholm and his wife sailed for Korea, and in October they arrived in the small city of Syen Chun near the Manchurian border, where they were to labor for many years in medical missionary work. It was not long before Bill realized that he had come to an impasse. The senior missionary did not believe in any Gospel preaching in the hospital; instead, good works were to lead the patients to God! Again Bill went back to God in prayer, saying, “Lord, open up a way to present the Gospel to these patients.” Shortly thereafter that senior missionary came down with an acute pain that could not be diagnosed and he had to return to America. Thus this obstacle was removed and Bill had free course to give out the Gospel!

Words to Live By:
chisholm_bookThere are many, many more stories concerning this amazing life of this medical missionary. His was truly a life marked by prayer. Upon returning to the States some years later, Dr. Chisholm authored a book, titled Vivid Experiences in Korea. If you can find or borrow a copy, it is well worth the reading. A few copies show up on the used book market from time to time.

God tells His people to call upon Him. He tells us to come before His throne with our needs. And He promises to hear our prayers.

“Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and shew thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not.” (Jer. 33:3).

“Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. (Matt. 7:7)

[Dr. Chisholm died on September 17, 1977. Our account today is freely adapted from portions of the eulogy delivered in memory of Dr. Chisholm by Dr. Louis M. Barnes at the Valley Presbyterian Church in North Hills, CA on September 20, 1977.]

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The Peaceable Fruit of Biblical Ecumenism

In the Message to all Churches of Jesus Christ throughout the world, (See December 7) the First General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America (though it was called originally National Presbyterian Church)  had specifically stated that they invited “into ecclesiastical fellowship all who maintain our principles of faith and order.”  It was at the Fifth General Assembly of PCA, meeting in Smyrna, Georgia, that the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod sent a communication requesting closer relationship and engagement of cooperative ministries.

Two assemblies later in 1979, a small committee with a long name, namely, “The Ad Interim Committee to Discuss Areas of Agreements, Differences, and Difficulties with the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC), the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod (RPCES), and the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America” was constituted by the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA).  They would meet many times in the two years of discussion with representatives of the various Presbyterian churches.

In June of 1980, at the Eighth General Assembly of the PCA, that body issued invitations to the aforementioned denominations to join the PCA.  The invitation was not to be a long courtship but rather a quick “tying of the knot” by simply merging into the PCA by a common commitment to the subordinate standards of the Westminster Assembly and the Book of Church Order.

The Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America, citing exclusive psalmody and other considerations, pulled out of the discussions.  The invitation to the Orthodox Presbyterian Church come up to a vote of presbyteries in both bodies.   It failed by a narrow margin to arrive at the necessary vote by both assemblies, first by the PCA and then by the OPC.  Fraternal relations continue between both bodies with each other.

For the remaining two denominations of the Presbyterian Church in America and the Reformed Presbyterian Church Evangelical Synod, joint General Assemblies were scheduled for their next national meetings at Calvin College, in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  The pivotal vote of the RPCES on June 14, 1982  accepted the union by a majority vote of 322 – 90.  Elected as moderator was former RPCES scholar and minister, Dr. R. Laird Harris, from Covenant Theological Seminary.

By this union, the PCA received 164 churches, 416 ministers, 20,615 communicant members, 6,139 covenant children, Covenant Theological Seminary, Covenant College, a direct line to the Scottish Covenanters from the Reformed Presbyterian Church branch of the former RPCES, and the God-given experience of  recognized theologians, teaching and ruling elders in both churches.

The “marriage” has lasted now  30  years (as of 2012), with continued prayers and work to make it a lifetime of married bliss.

Words to Live By:
Here is true biblical ecumenism.  We ought to unite together on the basis of the Word of God and the Westminster Standards with all churches which have that common basis.  By it, the Church is strengthened to meet the secular challenges of the age in which we live; the divisive character of too many a religious body in the eyes of the watching world is removed, and God’s people are built up in the holy faith.  Work where God has placed you to make this a reality more and more.

Through the Scriptures: Song of Solomon 1 – 4

Through the Standards: Ceremonial law abrogated

WCF 19:3
“Besides this law, commonly called moral, God was pleased to give to the people of Israel, as a church under age, ceremonial laws, containing several typical ordinances, partly of worship, prefiguring Christ, His graces, actions, sufferings, and benefits; and partly, holding forth divers instructions of moral duties.  All which ceremonial laws are now abrogated, under the new testament.”

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This Day in Presbyterian History:

From Twenty Nine Years of Age to One Hundred and Forty Three Years of Age

A new church was born on this date, April 6, 1965, at ten o’clock in the morning.  Actually, it was not a new church but simply the merging of two historic Presbyterian bodies dating back to the formation of our country.  The Evangelical Presbyterian Church had come out of the stream of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America.  The Reformed Presbyterian Church, General Synod had come out of the Scottish Covenanter  heritage.  Both churches had been courting each other from 1957 to 1964 with continual contact.

Each denomination held dearly to the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, as being the inspired Word of God, without error in whole and part, the only infallible rule of faith and practice.  Each church body held to the subordinate standards of the Westminster Assembly as being a summary of the teaching of the Old and New Testaments.  They proclaimed the good news of salvation to a lost world as the only  hope of reconciliation with the holy God.  The fundamentals of historic Christianity, being only Scripture, only Christ, only grace, only faith, and only to the glory of God, were part and parcel of their belief structure.

Each church had been weathered by internal divisions in their past history.   In the case of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, they had the experience of coming out of the apostasy of the mainline Presbyterian church in the mid 1930’s, where a stand for the fundamentals of the faith translated out to being deposed by the modernists who had gained control of the church.  Then in 1938 and 1956, further issues over eschatology and Christian liberty as well as independent agencies verses synod control agencies, truth in Christian living, and questions about separation from brethren, brought into existence the Evangelical Presbyterian Church in 1961.

In the case of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, General Synod, the issue in 1833 was the relationship of the church to the civil government.  They had no problem supporting the Declaration of Independence in 1776, but the Constitution a dozen or so years later was another matter.  Should its members vote, for example, in a country which did not recognize itself as a Christian nation?  Should they serve on juries, with oaths involved? Should they serve in the armed forces?  Should exclusive psalmody be the standard of  worship services?  All these were questions which were asked, debated, and voted upon by the church.

When the two bodies met concurrently in 1965 at Covenant College, the issues had been faced squarely by godly men for eight years.  Both churches voted to merge with each other, and combining their names into  the Reformed Presbyterian Church Evangelical Synod.  What has been a church of twenty-nine years became a church of one hundred and forty-three years years of age after one meeting!

Words to Live By:  The Psalmist David proclaimed words of wisdom for all church bodies and Christians when  he wrote “BEHOLD, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!” (KJV – Psalm 143:1)

Through the Scriptures: 2 Samuel 9 – 12

Through the Standards: (Note: For four days we are thinking about the degrees of sin and their aggravation.  If these characterize you, repent and confess them.  If they do not, be warned about them and beware their ugly risings in your heart and life)

The aggravation of sin in the parties offended

WLC 151  “Sins received their aggravations, 2. From the parties offended: if immediately against God, his attributes, and worship; against Christ, and his grace; the Holy Spirit, his witness and workings against superiors, men of eminency, and such as we stand especially related and engaged unto; against any of the saints, particularly weak brethren, the souls of them, or any other, and the common good of all or many.”

 

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