Reformed Presbyterian churches
|Reformed Presbyterian Church|
Traditional "Blue Banner" insignia used by Reformed Presbyterians
The Reformed Presbyterian Church is a communion of Presbyterians originating in Scotland in 1690 when its members declined to be part of the establishment of the Church of Scotland. The Reformed Presbyterian churches collectively have a little over 9,538 members worldwide in Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland, Scotland, France, the United States of America, Canada, Japan, South Sudan and Australia.
Reformed Presbyterians have been referred to historically as Covenanters because of their identification with public covenanting in Scotland, beginning in the 16th century. In response to the king's attempts to change the style of worship and form of government in the churches that had previously been agreed upon (covenanted) by the free assemblies and parliament, a number of ministers affirmed their adherence to those previous agreements by becoming signatories to the "National Covenant" of February 1638 at Greyfriars Kirk in Edinburgh. It is from this that the Blue Banner comes, proclaiming "For Christ's Crown And Covenant", as the Covenanters saw the king's attempt to alter the church as an attempt to claim its headship from Jesus Christ. In August, 1643, the Covenanters signed a political treaty with the English Parliamentarians, called the "Solemn League and Covenant". Under this covenant the signatories agreed to establish Presbyterianism as the national church in England and Ireland. In exchange, the "Covenanters" agreed to support the English Parliamentarians against Charles I of England in the English Civil War. The Solemn League and Covenant asserted the privileges of the "crown rights" of Jesus as king over both Church and state, and the Church's right to freedom from coercive state interference. Oliver Cromwell put the independents in power in England, signalling the end of the reforms promised by the Parliament. When the monarchy was restored in 1660, some Presbyterians were hopeful in the new covenanted king, as Charles II had sworn to the covenants in Scotland in 1650 and 1651. Charles II, however, determined that he would have none of this talk of covenants. While the majority of the population participated in the established church, the Covenanters dissented strongly, instead holding illegal worship services in the countryside. They suffered greatly in the persecutions that followed, the worst of which is known as the Killing Times, administered against them during the reigns of Charles II and James VII.
In 1691, Presbyterianism was restored to the established Church in Scotland. Because there was no acknowledgement of the sovereignty of Christ in terms of the Solemn League and Covenant, however, a party of dissenters refused to enter into this national arrangement (the “Revolution Settlement”), on the grounds that it was forced upon the Church and did not adhere to the nation's previous covenanted settlement. These formed into societies which eventually formed the Reformed Presbyterian Church in Scotland. Meanwhile, when persecution broke out after Charles II had declared the Scottish Covenants illegal, tens of thousands of Scottish Covenanters had fled to Ulster, between 1660 and 1690. These Covenanters eventually formed the Reformed Presbyterian Church of Ireland.
After the Revolution Settlement, all of the few remaining Covenanter ministers joined the established church in 1690, leaving the "United Societies" without any ministers for sixteen years. For those sixteen years the Dissenting Covenanters maintained their Societies for worship and religious correspondence. The Societies numbered about twenty, with a general membership of about seven thousand.
At the end of the sixteen years, Rev. John Macmillan, minister of the parish of Balmaghie, a man of rare force of character and strict integrity, who had tried to persuade his fellow presbyters and churchmen to return to the Covenant ground that they had abandoned, and who had suffered deposition for his persistency, was offered, and accepted, the officer of minister to the Dissenting Societies (1706).
In 1743, another minister, the Rev. Thomas Nairne, who had left the established church and joined the Associate Presbytery, came over to the Societies, which were then constituted the Reformed Presbytery. The church increased in numbers, and in 1810 the Presbytery was divided into three—the Eastern, Northern, and Southern Presbyteries—which met the following year as the first Synod of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of Scotland. In that same year, the Irish and North American Reformed Presbyterian churches, daughters of the Scottish church, were also strong enough for each to constitute its first synod.
Doctrine and practice
Reformed Presbyterians believe that the supreme standard for belief and practice is the Bible, received as the inspired and inerrant Word of God. Reformed Presbyterians also follow the Westminster Confession of Faith and the Larger and Shorter Catechisms.
Reformed Presbyterian churches describe their theology as apostolic, Protestant, Reformed (or Calvinistic) and evangelical.
Members of the communion follow a literal interpretation of the Bible, which is clearly demonstrated in many stances on moral issues such as abortion, homosexuality and gambling laws. The various Reformed Presbyterian churches only sing Psalms (a practice known as exclusive psalmody), unaccompanied by music, which they argue is set forth in the New Testament.
In particular, Reformed Presbyterians give prominence to the kingship of Christ. This has implications for human life in all its spheres. Areas which have received special attention (and where Reformed Presbyterian practice is) are worship and politics. The communion teaches the worship of Jesus must be governed in every detail by what he has required in the Bible. They also believe that the state is under obligation, once admitted but now repudiated, to recognize Christ as its king and to govern all its affairs in accordance with God's will. Words from Colossians 1:18 express the core of Covenanter theology: "that in everything he (Christ) might have the supremacy."
The Reformed Presbyterian churches follow the presbyterian polity; members of each congregation elect elders who must be male, as this is believed to be commanded in the Bible and who must also be members of the congregation. These elders, along with the minister or pastor of the congregation make up the "session" of a congregation. Ministers are known as "teaching elders"; others are known as "ruling elders". The teaching elder is not in authority over the ruling elders, neither are the ruling elders in authority over the teaching elder.
The Reformed Presbyterian Church is a communion. All churches stem from the Reformed Presbyterian Church of Scotland. The member churches of the Reformed Presbyterian Church are:
- Reformed Presbyterian Church of Australia
- Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America
- Reformed Presbyterian Church of Cyprus
- Reformed Presbyterian Church of Ireland
- Reformed Presbyterian Church of the Philippines
- Reformed Presbyterian Church of Scotland
- Reformed Presbyterian Church of South Sudan
The Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America has jurisdiction over the Japan Presbytery, and the Reformed Presbyterian Church of Ireland has a mission in the French city of Nantes. All of the communion's members form the RP Global Alliance.
Several denominations and individual churches not part of this group use the name of Reformed Presbyterian. While the Reformed Presbytery in North America uses the name because of its claim to be the only true continuation of the RPCNA, most of these other churches are more distantly related and use the term for other reasons.
- The literature of the Scottish Reformed Presbyterian Church, Part II. Scottish Church History Society. SCHS. 1938.
- A Reformed Presbyterian bibliography Part III. Scottish Church History Society. SCHS. 1938.
- "Our Beliefs". Reformed Presbyterian Church of Scotland. 2012-02-01. Retrieved 2018-10-10.
- "The Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America - Convictions". reformedpresbyterian.org. Retrieved 2018-10-10.
- "A Concise Case For Exclusive Psalmody". Purely Presbyterian. 2017-09-19. Retrieved 2018-10-10.
- "The Necessity of Singing the Psalms". Purely Presbyterian. 2017-01-02. Retrieved 2018-10-10.
- "Was John Calvin an Exclusive Psalmodist?". Purely Presbyterian. 2016-12-30. Retrieved 2018-10-10.
- "Colossians 1:18 And He is the head of the body, the church; He is the beginning and firstborn from among the dead, so that in all things He may have preeminence". biblehub.com. Retrieved 2018-10-10.
- Minutes of Synod and Yearbook of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America 2005. Pittsburgh: Crown and Covenant, 2006, page 171.
- "About RP Global Alliance | RP Global Alliance". RP Global Alliance. Retrieved 2018-10-10.
- Steps of Defection in the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America Official publication of the General Meeting of the Reformed Presbytery. Accessed 3 April 2007.