Orthodox Presbyterian Church
|This article does not cite any references or sources. (October 2012)|
|Orthodox Presbyterian Church|
|Origin||June 11, 1936
|Separated from||Presbyterian Church in the United States of America|
|Separations||Bible Presbyterian Church|
|Statistics for 2011|
The Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC) is a conservative Presbyterian denomination located primarily in the United States. It was founded by conservative members of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America (PCUSA) who strongly objected to the pervasive Modernist theology during the 1930s (see Fundamentalist–Modernist Controversy). Led by J. Gresham Machen, who had helped found Westminster Theological Seminary, the church attempted to preserve historic Calvinism within a Presbyterian structure.
Standing in the tradition of men like Charles Hodge, Geerhardus Vos, and B. B. Warfield, 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 seminary board reorganized along more theologically liberal lines, and appointed professors who were significantly more friendly to modernism and some forms of liberalism.
Machen and a group of other conservatives objected to these changes, forming 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 deposed from the ministry of the old Church. On June 11, 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 was organized some forty years later). Machen was elected as the first moderator. The PCUSA filed suit against the fledgling denomination for their choice of name, and in 1939, the denomination adopted a new name as the Orthodox Presbyterian Church.
Schism & Continuity 
At the time leading up to the founding of the OPC, Machen and his allies in the PCUSA were considered to be prominent leaders of Christian fundamentalism. Machen and the majority of the OPC, however, were committed to the historic Reformed tradition with plenary statements of faith, rather than to the fundamentalist movement. Although the OPC agreed with the fundamentalists on many issues—including the inerrancy of the Bible—Machen and most OPC pastors felt that fundamentalism was inadequate in its doctrinal formulations. However, a significant faction of the OPC, led by Carl McIntire, was strongly committed to a bare Fundamentalism, distinguished by such things as total abstinence from alcohol, premillennialist eschatology, opposition to the ecumenical movement, and political activism against the Communist Party. In 1937, this faction broke away to form the Bible Presbyterian Church. "That left the OPC with a more clear-cut commitment to the Reformed faith."
Pivotal, early leaders of the church included men from American Presbyterian, Dutch Reformed, and Scottish Presbyterian backgrounds, such as Cornelius Van Til and John Murray. Controversies (in the OPC and in American evangelicalism) and failed attempts at church union with other Reformed churches (the CRC and PCA) ultimately promoted a firmly Reformed commitment. Yet, a tension between a more American evangelical and a more rigorously Reformed emphasis remains in the OPC, "but our commitment is to follow the Holy Spirit speaking in Scripture, wherever he leads."  "Although the OPC is not large, she has never isolated herself from the rest of Christ's church. She has energetically promoted the Reformed faith around the world and has engaged in ecumenical discussions with other biblically Reformed churches in order to perfect the unity that Christ desires for his people."
In 2011, At the 75th anniversary of the OPC, Rev. John P. Galbraith, a student of J. Gresham Machen who was ordained in 1937, "delivered a stirring reminder to the Assembly that the OPC was a sin-stained communion to whom God has been good. He urged ongoing fidelity to the 'two pillars' of its founders: that the Bible was the Word of God and that it was to be obeyed."
The OPC system of doctrine is the Reformed faith, also called Calvinism (because Calvin was the most important exponent of it during the Reformation). It pulls together the most significant doctrines taught in the Bible. These doctrines are set forth in the Westminster Confession of Faith and the Westminster Larger Catechism and the Westminster Shorter Catechism (with accompanying biblical references).
The OPC provides the following summary of its doctrine:
- The Bible, having been inspired by God, is entirely trustworthy and without error. Therefore, we are to believe and obey its teachings. The Bible is the only source of special revelation for the church today.
- The one true God is personal, yet beyond our comprehension. He is an invisible spirit, completely self-sufficient and unbounded by space or time, perfectly holy and just, and loving and merciful. In the unity of the Godhead there are three "persons": the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
- God created the heavens and the earth, and all they contain. He upholds and governs them in accordance with his eternal will. God is sovereign—in complete control—yet this does not diminish human responsibility.
- Because of the sin of the first man, Adam, all mankind is corrupt by nature, dead in sin, and subject to the wrath of God. But God determined, by a covenant of grace, that sinners may receive forgiveness and eternal life through faith in Jesus Christ. Faith in Christ has always been the only way of salvation, in both Old Testament and New Testament times.
- The Son of God took upon himself a human nature in the womb of the virgin Mary, so that in her son Jesus the divine and human natures were united in one person. Jesus Christ lived a sinless life and died on a cross, bearing the sins of, and receiving God's wrath for, all those who trust in him for salvation (his chosen ones). He rose from the dead and ascended into heaven, where he sits as Lord and rules over his kingdom (the church). He will return to judge the living and the dead, bringing his people (with glorious, resurrected bodies) into eternal life, and consigning the wicked to eternal punishment.
- Those whom God has predestined unto life are effectually drawn to Christ by the inner working of the Spirit as they hear the gospel. When they believe in Christ, God declares them righteous (justifies them), pardoning their sins and accepting them as righteous, not because of any righteousness of their own, but by imputing Christ's merits to them. They are adopted as the children of God and indwelt by the Holy Spirit, who sanctifies them, enabling them increasingly to stop sinning and act righteously. They repent of their sins (both at their conversion and thereafter), produce good works as the fruit of their faith, and persevere to the end in communion with Christ, with assurance of their salvation.
- Believers strive to keep God's moral law, which is summarized in the Ten Commandments, not to earn salvation, but because they love their Savior and want to obey him. God is the Lord of the conscience, so that men are not required to believe or do anything contrary to, or in addition to, the Word of God in matters of faith or worship.
- Christ has established his church, and particular churches, to gather and perfect his people, by means of the ministry of the Word, the sacraments of baptism (which is to be administered to the children of believers, as well as believers) and the Lord's Supper (in which the body and blood of Christ are spiritually present to the faith of believers), and the disciplining of members found delinquent in doctrine or life. Christians assemble on the Lord's Day to worship God by praying, hearing the Word of God read and preached, singing psalms and hymns, and receiving the sacraments.
Demographics and organization 
The OPC churches are located predominantly in the United States, only 5 churches are in Canada, four in the Province of Ontario and 1 in Alberta. The highest rate of churches are in the Upper Midwestern states, and Pennsylvania and California are the states where the OPC churches are numerically the strongest. At the 2012 General Assembly, the OPC reported 275 churches, 51 mission works, and 30,279 members.
From the OPC website: The congregations of the OPC are organized into sixteen regional churches, each with a governing body called a presbytery. A presbytery combines the efforts of its churches in conducting youth ministries, caring for diaconal needs, establishing new churches, and helping to send missionaries to other countries. The presbytery, which meets two or more times each year, consists of all the ministers and commissioned ruling elders in the regional church. It cares for the health and well-being of its local congregations and provides help and a place for appeal in resolving conflicts in local churches. It supervises ministers and prepares ministerial candidates, and it spreads the gospel in its region through evangelism and church planting.
The General Assembly oversees the ministry of the whole OPC. It ordinarily meets once each year and is composed of ministers and ruling elders representing each presbytery. It provides training and educational materials for the churches. It arranges internship training for prospective ministers. It coordinates the planning, funding, and prayer support for the efforts of presbyteries and local congregations in establishing new churches. It helps to oversee special diaconal needs. It makes health and pension plans available to its ministers and elders. It sends missionaries to foreign lands. And it resolves matters of conflict in regional and local churches, and administers judicial discipline as a court of final appeal.
The OPC works (alongside other Reformed churches) to establish "indigenous national churches that are firmly and fully committed to the Reformed standards, that are self-supporting, self-governing, and self-propagating, and with whom the OPC may have fraternal relations."
Notable members 
Ecumenical relations 
The denomination maintains a cordial relationship with the Presbyterian Church in America, the largest conservative Reformed denomination in the United States. The two differ from each other more in origin and history than doctrine, though the OPC is traditionally more conservative than the PCA in its approach to worship, government, and discipline. Like the PCA, the OPC does not ordain women. However, while most OPC congregations only allow women to teach Sunday school classes for children and other women, some of the more moderate PCA congregations allow a woman to do the same things as a non-ordained man. The OPC also requires elders and deacons to accept the Westminster Standards without exception as an accurate expression of the Bible's teachings, while the PCA allows elders and deacons to accept them with minor exceptions.
Further, the OPC, as a historically Northern U.S. body, was not informed culturally by the Lost Cause of the South as were the churches that would form the nucleus of the PCA. The OPC is a member of the North American Presbyterian and Reformed Council (NAPARC), and the International Conference of Reformed Churches (ICRC).
- "What is the OPC?: 2. Our System of Doctrine". The Orthodox Presbyterian Church. Retrieved 8 January 2013.
- Pontier, Alan. "2012 General Assembly Report". The Orthodox Presbyterian Church. Retrieved 8 January 2013.
- "What is the OPC?". The Orthodox Presbyterian Church. Retrieved 8 January 2013.
- "What is the OPC?". Retrieved 8 January 2013.
Further reading 
- Gatiss, Lee. Christianity and the Tolerance of Liberalism: J.Gresham Machen and the Presbyterian Controversy of 1922-1937. London: Latimer Trust, 2008 ISBN 978-0-946307-63-0
- Churchill, Robert King. Lest We Forget : a Personal Reflection on the Formation of The Orthodox Presbyterian Church. Philadelphia : The Committee for the Historian of The Orthodox Presbyterian Church, 1987. ISBN 0-934688-34-6
- Longfield, Bradley J. The Presbyterian Controversy: Fundamentalists, Modernists, and Moderates. New York: Oxford University Press, 1991. ISBN 0-19-508674-0
- Hart, D.G. Defending the Faith: J. Gresham Machen and the Crisis of Conservative Protestantism in Modern America. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1994. ISBN 0-8010-2023-9
- Hart, D.G., and John Muether. Fighting the Good Fight of Faith: A Brief History of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. Philadelphia: The Committee on Christian Education and the Committee for the Historian of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, 1995. ISBN 0-934688-81-8
- North, Gary. Crossed Fingers: How the Liberals Captured the Presbyterian Church. Tyler, TX: Institute for Christian Economics. 1996. ISBN 0-930464-74-5
- Calhoun, David B., Princeton Seminary: The Majestic Testimony, 1869-1929. Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1996.
- Rian, Edwin H. The Presbyterian Conflict. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans. 1940. ISBN 0-934688-67-2
- Loetscher, Lefferts A., The Broadening Church: A Study of Theological Issues in the Presbyterian Church Since 1869. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press
- Elliot, Paul M., Christianity and Neo-Liberalism: The Spiritual Crisis in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and Beyond, 2005, Trinity Foundation, ISBN 978-0-940931-68-8