The Ordination of E.J. Young

The following article comes from the inaugural issue of the Presbyterian Guardian magazine published in 1935. It recounts E.J. Young’s ordination in the San Francisco Presbytery of the PCUSA. Young would go on to join the OPC (founded in 1936) and serve as a professor of Westminster Theological Seminary. You can learn more about Young in For Me to Live is Christ: The Life of Edward J. Young.

San Francisco Presbytery Ordains Mr. Joseph Young

On September 3rd, the Presbytery of San Francisco, after long and serious debate, voted more than three to one to license, and 21 to 16 to ordain Mr. Joseph Young, brilliant young graduate of Westminster Seminary, Philadelphia, who refused to pledge blind “loyalty” to the Boards of the Church.

The fight upon Mr. Young was led by the Rev. Jesse H. Baird, D.D., Auburn Affirmationist Pastor of Oakland’s First Presbyterian Church. Said an observer: “It was the most thrilling thing I have ever seen in our Church. I say with utter solemnity that the young man reminded me of our Lord Jesus. His perfect poise, quietness, gentleness, and readiness of answer under circumstances which were most trying caused a fear and hush to descend upon the Presbytery. The Modernists were out to crush him, and it looked for a time that he was going to be crushed. But let it be said to the credit of the Presbytery of San Francisco that common sense and honesty prevailed. The fact that the vote stood three to one shows that we need not give up all hope for our beloved Presbyterian Church. Dr. Baird was visibly affected by the young man’s readiness of answer and his loveable nature and Christ-like spirit made him more than a match for Dr. Baird.”

Samples of questions and answers given (not all questions were asked by Dr. Baird):

Q. — “Do you promise to study the unity and peace of the Church?”

A. — “I will study the peace, unity and purity of the Church.”

Q. — “Will you promise to be subject to your brethren?”

A. — “I will be subject to my brethren ‘in the Lord.‘”

Q. — “If you become a minister and have charge of a Church will you inform the people that you think the Church is disloyal?”

A. — “We are not Romanists, we do not keep the people in ignorance.”

Q. — “Do you think the Professors of the Seminary [San Anselmo] are not sincere and honest men?”

A. — “I think they are sincere, but I think some of them are sincerely wrong.”

Q. — “Here is an excerpt from the 1758 Basis of Union in which it says that any who find themselves in disagreement shall quietly resign from the Church. Are you willing to do that if you find yourself at odds with your brethren?”

A. — “That contradicts the Constitution of the Presbyterian Church and I do not agree with it.” [The resolution of 1758 was adopted prior to the adoption of the Constitution (1788) and the formation of the General Assembly. It has not been the “law” of the church since 1788.]

An Elder — “Mr. Moderator, we are not trying Dr. Machen or Westminster Seminary. Why does Dr. Baird try to inject Machen into this? Let us be fair and examine the young man.”

Another Elder — “Let us not shoot Dr. Machen through this young man. Let us not take our spite out on Westminster Seminary by shooting the recruits.”

Finally asked to make any statement he desired, Mr. Young said, in substance: “I must say there are serious doubts in my mind [About the Board of Foreign Missions]; Dr. Machen’s Pamphlet and the Rev. Carl Mclntire’s Pamphlet have never been answered. We should answer by fair investigation. I have listened today to the abuse of Dr. Machen. I sat under Dr. Machen for three years and never saw any of the bitterness you accuse him of. I found him to be a courteous, Christian gentleman, without bitterness but with a sincere desire to be right with God.”

The vote to license was approximately three to one. Then some of those opposing seemed to change their attack and pled that they should “lay hands hastily on no man.” The plea was not considered appropriate, however, and the vote to ordain was then carried 21 to 16.

Said an observer: “Perhaps the most hopeful thing about the examination of Mr. Joseph Young is that San Francisco Presbytery, in the face of all the evil reports which had reached them concerning Dr. Machen, Westminster Seminary and her student body, were open minded, and after a most searching examination as to the doctrinal, mental and character qualifications of the young man, were absolutely convinced that a great injustice would have been done had they refused to ordain him.”

One of those who opposed Mr. Young then requested that the brethren would see that no news of the examination should be allowed to reach the Press.


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