An Old Creed for a New Church

The first PCA (now known as the OPC) was formed on June 11, 1936. The following article ran in the New York Times after the second General Assembly of the new denomination which occured later that year.


Presbyterian Church of America Votes 300-Year-0ld Westminster Doctrine.


Most of Those Made in 1903 Removed—Pre-Millennialists, Balked, Talk of a Split.

PHILADELPHIA, Nov. 13—After nearly four hours of debate, during which references to advisability of a factional split in the new organization were heard, the Presbyterian Church of America late today completed its credal framework.

Blocking repeated attempts of the pre-millennialist wing to have inserted in the church constitution a declaration to “safeguard” this view, the second General Assembly of the militant fundamentalist organization adopted, with certain changes, the 300-year-old Westminster confession of faith, which is the doctrinal standard of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America. It was from this denomination that the new organization split off last June on the ground that the parent church was “apostate.”

This old creed of Presbyterianism was adopted by a vote of fifty-seven to twenty, on a roll-call after it had been shorn of most of the amendments made to it in 1903—amendments which have been attacked by some as “compromising” the “Calvinistic” tenor of the confession of faith.

Committee’s Report Accepted The General Assembly established its doctrinal basis by adopting the report of the committee on the constitution, headed by the Rev. Dr. Ned B. Stonehouse of Westminster Theological Seminary, who, with the Rev. Dr. J. Gresham Machen, edits the militant Fundamentalist magazine, The Presbyterian Guardian.

During the heated debate over inserting a declaration on pre-millennialism in the constitution, both Dr. Machen and the Rev. Carl McIntire, pastor of the Collingswood, N. J., Presbyterian Church, suggested that if certain courses were followed an outright schism in the young organization might be advisable. Dr. Machen expressed the hope that this would not be necessary.

The Stonehouse committee, presenting its doctrinal recommendations, announced that it had carefully considered changes made in the credal standards of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America since 1903, and that “it is unanimous in recommending to the General Assembly the adoption of the confession of faith and catechism in the form which they possessed before these changes were made, with the following two exceptions:

  1. “We recommend the retention of the change which was made in Chapter XXII, Section 3, by the omission of the sentence, ‘Yet it is a sin to refuse an oath touching anything that is good and just, being imposed by lawful authority’; and
  2. “We recommend the retention of the change made in Chapter XXV, Section 6, in so far as it involved the elimination of the words: ‘But is that antichrist, that man of sin, and son of perdition, and all that is called God.’ If this recommendation is adopted. Section 6 will read as follows: ‘There is no other head of the church but the Lord Jesus Christ; nor can the Pope of Rome in any sense be head thereof.’ In connection with this recommendation it may be well to point out that questions of copyright seem to make it advisable not to use certain material added in recent years.”

Statement of 1903 Criticized

The recommendation above, the committee stated, involved “the adoption of the Westminster confession of faith and catechism without the following changes, which were made by the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America in 1903:

  1. “Chapters XXXIV and XXXV of the confession of faith with their preamble. (Chapters headed ‘Of the Holy Spirit’ and ’Of the Love of God and Missions.’)
  2. “The declaratory statement of 1903.
  3. “The revision of Chapter XVI, Section 7. In the unrevised form, the section reads: ‘Works done by unregenerate men, although, for the matter of them, they may be things which God commands, and of good use both to themselves and others; yet, because they proceed not from the heart purified by faith; nor are done in a right manner, according to the Word; nor to a right end, the glory of God; they are therefore sinful, and cannot please God, or make a man meet to receive grace from God. And yet their neglect of them is more sinful and displeasing to God.”

Dr. Machen had characterized the declaratory statement of 1903 as “the most serious step in the downward march of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America.”

The Rev. Milo Jamison of Los Angeles, on behalf of the Presbytery of California, led the determined fight for inclusion in the confession of an amendment guaranteeing pre-millennialists security for their views in the church. Supported by the Rev. Mr. McIntire and others, he sought to show that the Westminster standards failed to recognize their doctrine that Christ will come to earth a second time to usher in a thousand-year era of peace, held to be mentioned in the Book of Revelation, before the last judgment.