Presbyterian Reformed Church (Australia)
|Presbyterian Reformed Church|
|Region||Australia, Fiji, Vanuatu|
Sutherland, New South Wales
|Separated from||Presbyterian Church of Australia|
The Presbyterian Reformed Church (PRC) is a Presbyterian denomination in Australia. The denomination was formed in 1967, when the leadership and majority of the members of the Sutherland, New South Wales congregation of the Presbyterian Church of Australia separated from that denomination. This separation was a result of a growing trend of theological liberalism within the Presbyterian Church of Australia (the mainstream Presbyterian Church), prior to the formation of the Uniting Church in Australia in 1977.
The PRC met for the first time on Sunday, 8 December 1967. Today it is made up of congregations in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Vanuatu and Fiji. During its existence there have also been congregations and/or mission works in the Australian Capital Territory, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea and Kenya, but these have not continued.
Events leading up to separation in 1967
The move to separate was a result of many years of gradual decline in the Reformed Faith within the Presbyterian Church of Australia. As early as 1891 the Westminster Confession of Faith (the Church's official Confession of Faith) was scorned by the Editor of The Presbyterian, the major church paper of the time. The Editor's words were:
- "That venerable document will not in our opinion stand patching... it is ill fitted to represent the theological sentiment of our day as the cathedral is ill fitted for our Protestant worship"
In 1901, a Declaratory Act was passed, which, while not amending the Westminster Confession of Faith, toned down the distinctive Calvinistic doctrines of the Confession. Additionally, it allowed liberty of opinion for ministers on a wide range of doctrines set forth in the Westminster Confession of Faith.
In doing so, instead of amending the Westminster Confession of Faith, or disciplining those ministers who did not adhere to it, the Presbyterian Church of Australia made its doctrinal position ambiguous.
In 1936, the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of Australia, in a private session, shelved charges levied against Dr Samuel Angus in order to ensure "the peace of the Church". Dr Angus not only denied the deity of Christ, but also denied the inspiration and authority of Scripture as defined in Chapter 1 of the Westminster Confession of Faith.
In 1967, Professor Lloyd Geering, the Principal of the Presbyterian Theological College in New Zealand was brought up on charges of 'doctrinal error and disturbing the peace and unity of the (Presbyterian) church'. During his church trial he claimed that the remains of Jesus lay somewhere in Palestine, and that the resurrection had been wrongfully interpreted by churches as a resuscitation of the body of Jesus. He also rejects the notion that God is a supernatural being who created and continues to look over the world. 
Despite these views, Professor Geering was acquitted of the charges by the 1967 General Assembly. This acquittal can rightfully be considered the immediate cause of the separation from the Presbyterian Church of Australia.
For the first 6 months of its existence, the Presbyterian Reformed Church existed of the congregation at Sutherland. During the second half of 1968, congregations were established in Brisbane, Queensland, Ryde, New South Wales and Wagga Wagga, New South Wales. During 1969 a youth group of over 20 people resigned from the Cronulla Presbyterian Church at Cronulla to join the PRC.
While there have been no other instances of an entire congregation leaving a mainstream church to join the PRC, the PRC has grown to now include congregations in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, and as a result of missionary work links have been established to congregations in Vanuatu and Fiji. Mission work has also been undertaken in the Australian Capital Territory, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea and Kenya, but the congregations established in those areas have not continued.
The Presbyterian Reformed Church receives the Bible (consisting of the sixty six books of the Old and New Testament) as the inspired word of God and the only foundation for how to serve God and live as Christians.
Being a Reformed Church, it holds to the Calvinistic system of Biblical truth and receives the Westminster Confession of Faith as it Confessional standard, with a few stated amendments. The full text of the Westminster Confession of Faith, with stated amendments, can be found here.
In summary, the PRC believes:
- In the Triune God consisting of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, the God who created and controls the whole world according to his excellent purpose and plan.
- That salvation is only by faith in Christ Jesus, whose perfect life and sacrificial death was sufficient to atone for sin in every person who believes in him.
- God's promise to offer eternal life in heaven after death to all people who believe in the saving work of Christ Jesus and the requirement of eternal judgement in hell after death for all who reject Christ.
The church is governed in the Presbyterian form. Essentially, each local congregation is governed by a group of elected elders, each of equal rank (including the Minister). Additionally, a council of elders from each congregation meet bi-annually to discuss and judge the denomination's beliefs and activities in various areas.
The denomination's activities include:
- Regular worship services,
- Sunday School classes for primary school children,
- Youth fellowship studies and activities for teens and young people,
- Missionary outreach in Australia and overseas
- Publishing ministry through Covenanter Press
- Ministry training through John Knox Theological College.
- List of Presbyterian denominations in Australia
- Presbyterian Reformed Church, Epping
- Presbyterian polity
- http://www.reformiert-online.net/adressen/detail.php?id=1236&lg=eng www.reformiert-online.net/adressen/detail.php?id=1236&lg=eng
- Robert Humphreys and Rowland Ward, Religious Bodies in Australia, 2nd ed., p. 66.