Collect of the Day
O LORD, we beseech thee to keep thy Church and household continually in thy true religion; that they who do lean only upon the hope of thy heavenly grace may evermore be defended by thy mighty power; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Wednesday, March 02, 2011
To a Complaint Against Several Actions and Decisions of the Presbytery of Philadelphia Taken in a Special Meeting Held on July 7, 1944
Proposed to the Presbytery of Philadelphia of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church by the Committee Elected by Presbytery to Prepare Such an Answer.
ALAN TICHENOR, Chairman.
ROBERT STRONG, Secretary.
FLOYD E. HAMILTON.
EDWIN H. RIAN.
GORDON H. CLARK.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
The Legal Question . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5
On Incomprehensibility . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .8
On Intellect, Will, and Emotions . . . . . . .26
On Sovereignty and Responsibility . . . . 35
On the Offer of the Gospel . . . . . . . . . . . 38
The transcript of the theological examination of July 7, 1944, is extremely inaccurate. Many of the words do not make good sense because of errors in reporting. It is quoted, however, without any attempt to correct the language. The references in this Answer are made in the following style: (P. 10, 2; O. 40) indicates the Complaint, Printed Copy, page 10, column 2; Original page 40. The transcript of the theological examination of July 7, 1944 is cited by page and line.
The Legal Question
The Presbytery of Philadelphia hereby replies to the Complaint of Mr. John W. Betzold et. al. against certain actions of the Presbytery in connection with its decisions to license and ordain Gordon H. Clark, Ph.D.
The Presbytery denies that the special meeting held on July 7, 1944, was illegal. The Complaint alleges that the meeting was illegal, on the ground that no emergency existed that justified the calling of the meeting. The Complaint seems to hold that even if a situation had prevailed which Presbytery would ordinarily regard as an emergency, yet even then the meeting would be illegal, since the particular business for which the meeting was called was not proper business to be conducted at a special meeting.
The special meeting in question was called in accordance with Form of Government, Chapter X, section 9. The Presbytery holds that there was an emergency which justified the calling of the meeting and that the calling of the meeting accords with accepted Presbyterian practice of many years' standing. The uniform practice of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. And of The Orthdox Presbyterian Church in this matter indicates the meaning which has consistently been placed upon this section of the Form of Government. A perusal of the minutes of any number of presbyteries of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. will indicate that for many years special meetings have been called when a sufficient number of presbyters felt that the convenience of the Presbytery or of some persons involved in the business created an emergency. This has been the consistent practice of the Presbytery of Philadelphia. Of the special meetings of the Presbytery recorded in the Minutes probably one was called in an emergency that conformed to the Complaint's definition of the word—i.e., “important occurrences unknown at their last meeting and which cannot be safely deferred till their stated meeting, such as a scandal raised on a minister's character tending to destroy his usefulness, and bring reproach on religion; or feuds in a congregation threatening its dissolution; or some dangerous error, or heresy broached . . .” (P. 1, 3; O. 4). All the special meetings held by this Presbytery have been held in accordance with recognized Presbyterian practice—i.e., they have been called when the postponement of the business until the regular meeting would seriously inconvenience a candidate, a minister, a church, or the Presbytery. The complainants have all previously taken part in such meetings without complaint.
To refer to one of several instances that could be cited, on July 8, 1941, a special meeting was held to ordain Licentiate Eugene D. Bradford. The Minutes of Presbytery do not record what the emergency was that prompted the call for this meeting, but it is within the recollection of presbyters that Mr. Bradford had received and accepted a call to an independent church and that he and the church would have been seriously inconvenienced if his ordination had been delayed until the regular meeting of the Presbytery. The moderators and a sufficient number of other presbyters had judged that this was an emergency in accordance with the terms of Form of Government, Chapter X, section 9, and the Presbytery concurred in this judgment by proceeding with the business for which the meeting was called. There is no indication in the record that the actions of this meeting were not unanimous. Of the seven ministers present at that meeting, four are now among the complainants!
A postponement of the examination of Dr. Clark would have seriously inconvenienced him. For well over a year the matter of his ordination had been before the Presbytery. Dr. Clark had made two trips from Wheaton, Ill., to Philadelphia to appear before the Presbytery or before its committee on candidates. He had traveled at his own expense about 3,000 miles for these appearances. He had had to postpone planning his future until the matter of his ordination was settled. Further delay in planning his future would seriously have affected his usefulness in Christian service. At the time of the special meeting Dr. Clark was in the East on other business. He did not plan to be East at the time of the regular meeting, and could not have made a special trip at that time. Courtesy to Dr. Clark and consideration for him dictated the call of a special meeting at a time convenient for him. Those who were responsible for calling the meeting were careful to set a day when no impediment seemed to obtain to prevent the attendance of any member who could attend the regular meeting. That the date set was a most convenient one for the Presbytery is evidenced by the fact that the meeting was the most largely attended one in the history of the Presbytery.
The Presbytery would point out that a judicatory has a simple and most effective way of dealing with meetings for the calling of which it thinks there has been insufficient warrant. It can simply refuse to do the business for which it is called. This the Presbytery did not do on July 7, 1944, but proceeded with its business, in accordance with the terms of the call of the meeting. There is no provision in the Form of Government of The Orthodox Presbyterian Chruch that a special meeting can be held only pro re nata. As a matter of fact, this term is not used in our Form of Government, nor in the Form of Government of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A., upon which our Form of Government was based. To be sure, as the Complaint indicates, the Synod of 1760 judged that meetings pro re nata can be held only “on account of important occurrences unknown at their last meeting, and which cannot be safely deferred till their stated meeting” (P. 1, 3; O. 4). Yet the Synod of 1788 when it came time to adopt a Form of Government, which made provision for special meetings, did not provide for special meetings to be held only under these restricted terms. It is significant that this Synod, although it had the precedent set by the decision of the Synod of 1760 before it, did not denominate special meetings pro re nata. This expression has never occurred in the Form of Government of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. from the first edition, published in 1789, to the present date. There is no evidence that the Synod of 1788 in its Form of Government ever intended to restrict special meetings so drastically as the Synod of 1760 had indicated, and the Complaint certainly offers no evidence that the Form of Government of The Orthodox Presbyterian Church intended thus to restrict special meetings so drastically as the Synod of 1760 had indicated, and the Complaint certainly offers no evidence that the Form of Government of The Orthodox Presbyterian Church intended thus to restrict them. No presbytery of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. Is known in practice, to have so restricted the calling of special meetings, and certainly the Presbytery of Philadelphia of The Orthodox Presbyterian Church has never so restricted them. The Form of Government does not concern itself with the question whether the business to be done has newly arisen since the last regular meeting of the presbytery, but simply with the question whether an emergency exists important enough in the judgment of the moderator and of sufficient other presbyters, to warrant the calling of a special meeting.
The Presbytery thus maintains that the meeting of July 7, 1944, was legal in every respect, and it denies the plea of the complainants that this meeting “be found to have been illegally convened and that its acts and decisions and the acts and decisions issuing therefrom be declared null and void” (P. 2, 3; O. 7-8).
See Part Two.