Sunday, July 15, 2007

Reformed Presbyterian History: Week 12: North America, 1871-1938

1. The Trial and Division of 1891

a. Principles in tension: kingship of Christ, church union, evangelism, and missions

b. The "East End Platform" (July 15, 1890)

i. Named after the East End congregation of Pittsburgh.

ii. "That persons, who make a credible profession of faith in Christ, should be received into church membership on their acceptance of our testimony and terms of communion, without binding them to our explanations in the matter of political dissent, or in other questions."

c. Effects on membership

i. Six ministers suspended, including a professor at the seminary.

ii. 1890: 11,289 communicants; 124 ministers; 125 congregations. (Note: This year marked the numerical high-point for the RPCNA's communicant membership.)

iii. 1893: 9874 communicants; 107 ministers; 122 congregations.

iv. A total of 19 ministers left over the controversy: 15 joined the UPNA (identical to the RPCNA at the time, except for political dissent); 3 joined the PCUSA; 1 joined the "Woodside" church (a group which splintered off of the New Light RPs).

2. Women Deacons

a. 1887: McKeesport (PA) congregation elected a lady to the office of deacon.

b. 1888: Synod approved the ordination of women deacons by a four-fifths vote. The synod did not overture the matter to the sessions. Later in the year, articles defending the practice were published in the RP periodicals.

c. The first woman ordained to the office was Miss Jennie Gault of the Youngstown (OH) congregation, on the fourth Sabbath of October 1888.

3. The Teachers' Oath

a. 1918: Teachers in New York (and later in Pennsylvania and Indiana) were required to take a loyalty oath to the state.

b. Since many RPs were teachers, the synod responded by approving an "Explanatory Declaration" as a substitute for the oath.

c. The declaration was designed to be a test case, but the courts always upheld it.

4. Forward Movement

a. A parachurch organization which impacted many denominations.

b. 1919: Appointment of a Forward Movement Secretary (D. H. Elliott).

c. Emphases: development of individual spiritual life; consecration to Christ in one's calling; stewardship.

i. There were about 25 vacant pulpits at this time.

ii. Church finances were a mess.

d. Results: unified synodical budget; presbytery summer conferences; national conferences every four years beginning in 1926.

5. National Reform Association

a. The church was patriotic, firmly on the side of the Allies in WWI.

b. Secularism was growing in the NRA, which did not reflect the heart of the church.

c. Christian Citizenship Conferences were hosted by the NRA.

d. Mediatorial kingship of Christ had come to be identified with Americanism.

6. Revision of the Standards

a. Covenant of Church Membership (1938) -- See below.

b. Queries for Ordination (1938) -- See below.

c. Political dissent died the death of a thousand equivocations.

d. The church members moved from viewing themselves as aliens in this land to feeling more like they belonged.

7. Foreign Missions

a. 1893: Mission in Cyprus began.

b. 1895: Mission in China began.

c. 1930: Mission in Manchuria began.

i. J. G. Vos served in Manchuria until WWII.

ii. Vos had joined the church after finishing his work at Princeton.

iii. Later became pastor of Hebron RPC (Clay Center, KS).

iv. Began publishing Blue Banner Faith & Life.

d. Total missionaries

i. 1900: 26

ii. 1910: 39

iii. 1920: 47

iv. 1930: 22

e. Cyrpus mission ended in 1974 because of Turkish invasion. Bill Sterrett is a pastor in Larnaca, but not under the Foreign Mission Board.

f. The mission in Japan started in 1950 after missionaries were forced out of China.

g. In China, one RP (Jesse Mitchell) stayed on through WWII to help gunned-down American pilots escape China.

h. The mission in Syria (Latakia) produced Bassam Madany, who pioneered Arabic radio evangelism.

8. Psalmody

a. Psalmody had been a neglected doctrine in the decades preceding the 1880s. It became an important topic in the church periodicals.

b. 1885: A newspaper, The Psalm-Singer, began publishing.

i. Edited by an ARP minister, with contributors from each of America's five psalm-singing churches (RPCNA, RPGS, UPNA, ARP, AP).

ii. Note: CRC would also have been psalm-singing, but their services were still in Dutch at this time.

c. Yearly psalmody conventions were conducted, to foster unity and cooperation.

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