The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary






Orthodox Presbyterian Church

Along with Westminster Seminary, the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC) was founded by conservative Presbyterians who revolted against the modernist theology within the Presbyterian Church (USA) (PCUSA) during the 1930s. Led by J Gresham Machen, the church attempted to preserve historic Calvinism within a Presbyterian structure.

Machen was one of the chief conservative professors at Princeton Theological Seminary, which until the early twentieth century was a bastion of orthodox presbyterian theology. In 1929, the Board of the seminary reorganized along more liberal lines, and began hiring professors who were significantly more friendly towards modernism and some forms of liberalism. Machen and a group of other conservatives objected to these changes, and formed Westminster Theological Seminary in 1929. Then, objecting to theological positions that he believed compromised the distinctives of the Reformed tradition, if not the basic tenets of Christianity itself, Machen pled his case before the General Assembly of the PCUSA. The Assembly refused to take action, and so Machen and several other professors, along with a group of fellow conservatives, formed the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions. In 1934, the General Assembly condemned this action and Machen and his allies were relieved of their positions and effectively thrown out of the denomination. In 1936, Machen and a group of conservative ministers, elders, and laymen met in Philadelphia to form the Presbyterian Church of America (not to be confused with the Presbyterian Church in America which organized half a century later). The PCUSA filed suit against the fledgling denomination for their choice of name, and in 1936 Machen's group renamed itself the Orthodox Presbyterian Church.

These events coincided with the origins of fundamentalist Christianity, another movement in which Machen was influential. However, Machen and the bulk of the OPC were committed to the Reformed tradition more than to fundamentalism as such, and in 1937, a faction of the OPC interested in pursuing a more traditionally American and fundamentalist direction broke away under the leadership of Carl McIntire to form a different denomination, the Bible Presbyterian Church .

Early leaders in the denomination include Cornelius Van Til and Professor John Murray.

The denomination maintains a cordial but somewhat distant relationship with the Presbyterian Church in America, the largest conservative Reformed denomination in the United States, with which the OPC almost merged in the 1970s. The two differ from each other more in origin and history than doctrine.

External links

Official Website

Last updated: 02-10-2005 06:22:59
Last updated: 04-25-2005 03:06:01