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People Loved to Hear Him Preach

strongRobertFrequently we have heard pastors speak about how they love to preach the Word of God. And that is great.  But to hear that God’s people love to hear their pastors preach, well, that is less heard today.  Yet it was the case that people loved to hear the Rev. Dr. Robert Strong preach the Word.  Who was he?

Robert Strong was born in the windy city of Chicago on June 13, 1906. He moved to California to attend college soon after his graduation from high school.  He graduated from the University of California at Los Angeles in 1920 with honors.  He studied next at the University of Southern California for his Master of Arts and Master of Theology degrees in 1930 – 1932.  Returning east, he attended the newly formed Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, from which he earned his Bachelor of Theology degree.  A Doctorate of Sacred Theology from Temple University finished out his educational experience.

At some point prior to 1936, he was ordained in the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A.  But in that pivotal issue confronting the Presbyterian Church in the mid thirties, Robert Strong took his stand with  Bible believers and joined the Presbyterian Church of America in 1936.  He was to stay in that new church and later on through the name change to the Orthodox Presbyterian Church until 1949.

Part of his initial pastoral ministry took place in Willow Grove, Pennsylvania, when he led 225 members out of the PCUSA in 1936.  For three vital years, Pastor Strong met with the members of this beginning church in the American Legion post.  The church continues today as a congregation of the Presbyterian Church in America.

Dr. Strong joined the Presbyterian Church in the U.S. in 1949.  Why the change?  Students of Presbyterian history realize that there was a schism in  the Orthodox Presbyterian church in that year of 1949 between the views on apologetics of Cornelius Van Til and Gordon Clark.   Robert Strong left the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and joined the Southern Presbyterian church, indicating his position on the topic.

Two Presbyterian churches down south were  sites for his pastorates.  The first was the First Presbyterian Church in Augusta, Georgia.   And the second was Trinity Presbyterian Church in Montgomery, Alabama.  Both churches are presently in the Presbyterian Church in America.

In 1973, Dr. Strong left the pastoral ministry to become Homiletics and Practical Theology professor at Reformed Theological Seminary, teaching there until his retirement in 1978.  After a life time of service for Christ, he would enter glory in June 17, 1980.

Words to Live By:
From the Journal of the  Evangelical Theological Society, the following memoriam was written:  “Robert Strong was a model Christian scholar, possessed of a keen mind that he used well.  He read widely and had varied interests, one of them being the relation of Christianity, the Bible, and science.  He was a highly gifted preacher who loved to preach, and people loved to hear  him preach.  He enjoyed greatly the opportunity to participate in the equipping of young men for the gospel ministry.  He was a man of many gifts who used those gifts well in the service of our Lord.”  Using gifts well in the service of the Lord!  Are not all Christians in general, and Christian ministers in particular, to use their God-given abilities well? May God grant that it be so.

Chronology for the Life of Dr. Robert Strong—
Born 13 June 1907 in Chicago, IL to Walter Wills Strong and his wife Genevieve Kipley Strong.
Educated at UCLA, 1926-30, AB; University of Southern California, 1930-32, AM, Th.M.; Westminster Theological Seminary, 1933-34, Th.B.; Temple University, 1936-38, S.T.D.
Married Roberta Kirkpatrick, Long Beach, CA, 27 May 1933. Children born to this marriage included Patricia (Mrs. Harry Gould Barrett, Jr.); and James Walter Strong..
Licensed in May and ordained on 1 June 1934 by the Presbytery of Philadelphia [PCUSA]
Installed as pastor of the Calvary Presbyterian Church [Independent], Willow Grove, PA, 1933-1949
Pastor of First Presbyterian Church, Augusta, GA, 1949-59.
Pastor of Trinity Presbyterian Church, Montgomery, AL, 1959-1973
Professor, Reformed Theological Seminary, 1973-1980.
Died on 7 June 1980 in Pensacola, Escambia County, Florida.

Chronological bibliography—

A Study of the Factors of Persuasion in the Sermons of Charles Haddon Spurgeon.  [Los Angeles] University of Southern California, 1933 . Microform, 72 l.

“Paul’s Gospel,” The Evangelical Student 14.1 (January 1939): 8-11.

Doctrinal Sermons : Preached in the Winter Quarter of 1960 in Trinity Presbyterian Church, Montgomery, Alabama.  Montgomery, Ala. : Trinity Presbyterian Church, 1960-1961?  59 p. : port.

Sermons on the Last Things : Preached in the winter quarter of 1961 in Trinity Presbyterian Church, Montgomery, Alabama.  Montgomery, Ala. : Trinity Presbyterian Church, 1961.  84 p. : ill.

Contents:  Does the soul survive death?; What are they doing in heaven?; Is there such a place as purgatory?; Is hell real?; Will Christ return to earth in person?; What must occur before Christ comes again?; How will Christ return?; Will the dead literally be raised to life?; Will there be a Millennium?; Why is a final judgment necessary?; The New Heavens and the New Earth; What made that Friday good; Easter privileges.

Sermons on the Apostles’ Creed : preached in the winter and spring quarters of 1962 in Trinity Presbyterian Church, Montgomery, Alabama.  Montgomery, Ala. : The Church, 1962.  110 p.; 1 port.

Sermons on the Order of Salvation : preached mainly in the winter quarter of 1963 in Trinity Presbyterian Church, Montgomery, Alabama.  Montgomery, Ala. : Trinity Presbyterian Church, 1963.  106 p.; port.

Holy Week and the Civil Rights Demonstrations at the Churches : A Sermon-Address.  [Montgomery, Ala. : Trinity Presbyterian Church, 1965.  1 v. (pages not numbered) ; 27 cm.

Sermons on the Covenants and on Romans Eight : preached in 1964 and 1965 in Trinity Presbyterian Church, Montgomery, Alabama  [Montgomery, Ala. : Trinity Presbyterian Church, 1965.  156 p.; port.; 23 cm.  Contents:  Holy Week and the Civil Rights Demonstrations at the churches.

Sermons on the person and work of Christ : preached in 1966 in Trinity Presbyterian Church, Montgomery, Alabama.  [Montgomery, AL : Trinity Presbyterian Church, 1967.  140 p.; port.

Sermons on the Person and Work of Christ. [Montgomery : Trinity Presbyterian Church, 1967. 140 p.; port.

The Issues We Face .  Address recorded at the Atlanta rally of Presbyterian Men United, Atlanta, Ga., Dec. 6, 1969. Sound recording, 1 audio cassette, 53 minutes in length, mono.

The Modern “Tongues” Movement (glossolalia).  [S.l. : s.n., 1970.  19 p.; 23 cm.

“The Gordon H. Clark Case”. 1977?  17 leaves ; 28 cm. “A lecture delivered at Reformed Theological Seminary, 5422 Clinton Boulevard, Jackson, MS 39209, 1977.”  Typescript (mimeographed)

Marshall, James Williams; Robert Strong, editor, The Presbyterian Church in Alabama : a record of the growth of the Presbyterian Church from its beginning in 1811 in the eastern portion of Mississippi Territory to the centennial of the Synod of Alabama in 1936.  Montgomery, Ala. : Presbyterian Historical Society of Alabama, 1977.  xii, 493 p.; ill.; map; ports.; 24 cm.  [PCAHC]


The American Tradition is in Danger : A Sermon-Address.  [S.l. : s.n., 1962-1994?  1 v. (unpaged) ; 15 cm.

The Story of Man : Sermons preached in 1970 in Trinity Presbyterian Church, Montgomery, Alabama.  Montgomery, Ala. : Trinity Presbyterian Church, 1970-1975?  142 p.; port.

Critical Evaluation of the Proposed New Confession of Faith.  [Weaverville, NC: The Presbyterian Journal, 1970s.  20 p.; 28 cm.  [PCAHC]

Our Foreign Policy Blunders and Their Domestic Roots. [Montgomery, AL: Robert Strong], 1962. 20 p.; 15 cm. [PCAHC]

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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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