First Presbyterian Church Boulder

First Presbyterian Church Boulder -

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First Presbyterian Church Boulder Year 1850 to 1950 1900s

Members Rapid Growth

Event Presbyterian church plants 1,000s of churches, 100s of hospitals, and scores of colleges and seminaries. Strong missionary sending organization.


Conservative “Fundamentalists” vs. Liberal Progressive “Modernists” controversy develops in northern PC(USA) during late 19th and early 20th centuries. Fundamentalists hold to Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms, Modernists seek to re-examine the confessions. GA1 adopts 5 “essential and necessary” doctrines known as The Five Points proposed by the conservatives. 1) the inerrancy of the Bible, 2) the virgin birth of Christ, 3) Christ’s substitutionary atonement, 4) Jesus’ bodily resurrection, and 5) the authenticity of miracles. Fosdick sermon “Shall the Fundamentalists Win?” preached at 1st Presbyterian Church in New York. Fosdick was renowned liberal Baptist preacher. 2 Modernists publish Auburn Affirmation with support of approximately 1/7th of ministers. This attacked the requirement of adherence to the Five Points, inerrancy of Scripture, defended the “modernist” preaching in FPC NYC, and sought freedom to explore theories outside the traditional confessions.3,4 Rev J. Gresham Machen (a leader of the “Fundamentalists” and Princeton Seminary Professor) argues that Modernists are really pushing for a different religion. GA under heavy influence of Auburn Affirmation undermines The Five Points by declaring that the individual presbyteries would have authority over ordination. Princeton board reorganized with view toward adding Liberal Modernist professors


Orthodox Presbyterian Church formed in opposition to Liberal trend seen in PCUSA


Reorganization: Bottom up denominational model of church replaced by corporate model, mirroring rise of corporation in wider culture.


1922 1924

1925 1926


Stirs pot against Five Points

Over time wide diversity of belief over the five fundamentals develops. Machen forced out of Princeton and his ordination revoked. Started by 34 ministers, 17 elders, and 79 layman, Now 300 Churches in US

GA stands for General Assembly. The General Assembly meets every two years and can among other things propose changes to the Book of Order or Book of Confessions. However, these changes or amendments must then be ratified by a majority of the presbyteries in the subsequent year to become law. 2 Interesting commentary on controversy between Fosdick and the Fundamentalists in writings of Drietrich Bonhoeffer who was visiting Union Seminary at the time. Rather than find God in the Modernist or the Fundamentalist camps, Bonhoeffer encounters God in a very real way in the black church in Harlem. See Bonhoeffer, Pastor, Prophet, Martyr, Spy by Eric Metaxas. 3 The Auburn Confession www. -- (MLP, More Light Presbyterians, is a progressive lobby in the PCUSA) 4 The Crime of the Auburn Confession” (a sermon) by Rev. Ira Miller, Feb 4, 1942. 1

A Thumbnail Sketch: 100 Years of Struggle for the Soul of U. S. Presbyterianism Based on “The PCUSA 2012: How we got ‘here’ by Carmen Fowler “The Fellowship of Presbyterians” Presentation #2, Jan 15 2012 by Pastor Buck Day

First Presbyterian Church Boulder Year 1960s



4.5M (Peak year)

Critical Event

1965 1970s 1973 1978 1981

Event Civil Rights and Cultural Revolution. Seminaries veer toward progressive if not avantgarde theologies. Growing number reject existence of God, divinity of Christ, unique authority of Scripture.

Impacts Positives: Civil and Women’s Rights Negatives: Historical Orthodoxy suffers

Book of Confessions (plural) replaces Westminster Confession (singular) including The Confession of 1967 (C67). Wikipedia entry on “Confession of 1967” documents the main elements of the debate around confession’s view of the Bible which took place at the time. What began as an attempt to keep the church relevant in the face of the upheaval of the times by updating language led to abandonment of its confessional unity.

Undermines historical orthodox understanding that the Scriptures are the Word of God.5

Presbyterian Lay Committee formed out of concern for theology contained in C67. Resulted in publication of The Layman newsletter to the present times. Significant theological shift in United Presbyterian Church USA moves focus from “salvation” to “liberation”. Theology term replaced by political term  hence many of the subsequent more political actions by the PCUSA staff. Presbyterian Church in America formed based on a firm commitment to Westminster Confessions. They take advantage of a reorganizational window of opportunity brought about by union of northern and southern branches of the church. GA redefines missions as mission. Replaces Great Commission with “what the institutional church does” GA affirms that unrepentant homosexual practice does not accord with ordination Evangelical Presbyterian Church formed: In Essentials Unity, In Non-Essentials Liberty, in all things Charity

Unrestricted donations to the General Fund of the PC(USA) begin to decline Denomination staff increasingly out of step with membership in pews.


GA Permanent Judicial body upholds ordination of Mansfield Kaseman who did not affirm Jesus was God during ordination exam


PCUSA sponsors “Reimagining God “ conference where leaders denied existence of transcendent God and ridiculed crucifixion of Christ. GA reaffirms historical orthodox position on Homosexual practice GA refuses to pass a motion that affirms “the singular saving lordship of Jesus


260 congregations and 41,000 members leave PCUSA6 Redirects missions dollars to political causes. EPC has grown steadily to around 300 congregations and around 115,000 members.

C67 brings in new set of ordination vows in which the person ordained acknowledges that the Bible may contain the Word of God but is “nevertheless the words of men” and promises only to be “guided” by the confessions of the church. In practice, the authority of Scripture and the confessions as written are replaced by the authority of the reader. 6 As of 2000, PCA had 1,700 congregations and over 335,000 members and a strong missions focus with nearly 7,000 short, medium and long term missionaries and chaplains all around the world. 5

A Thumbnail Sketch: 100 Years of Struggle for the Soul of U. S. Presbyterianism Based on “The PCUSA 2012: How we got ‘here’ by Carmen Fowler “The Fellowship of Presbyterians” Presentation #2, Jan 15 2012 by Pastor Buck Day

First Presbyterian Church Boulder Year



1997 ~2000

2.5M (11,178 Churches)


20022005 2006

2.3M (2005)




Christ” GA adds language to the Book of Order to clarify ordination standards in the face of ongoing attempts to work around biblical standards for ordination. Known as “fidelity and chastity” clause, G6.0106B inserts a clause to ordination vows that church officers live in “fidelity within marriage between a man and a woman or chastity in singleness.” Proposal is ratified by the presbyteries. GA passes motion to remove Fidelity and Chastity language opening the door for ordination outside fidelity in marriage or chastity in singleness. This was meant to open the door for practicing homosexuals to be ordained. New Light Movement speaks of need for new Auburn Affirmation to among other things relax the ordination requirements. GA again passes amendments to remove fidelity and chastity clause from ordination standards Peace Unity and Purity (PUP) task force formed to address ongoing conflict between progressive and evangelical wings of the church Confessing Church Movement formed to promote historical confessions of the church PUP task force recommends that G6 fidelity and chastity language be retained but also recommends that GA issue an Authoritative Interpretation (A.I.) that would undermine the standard by allowing for individual scruple. This became know as the “local option” GA votes to delete G6 for the third time. New Wineskins group seeks to find a way for more orthodox and evangelical congregations to “live together” within increasingly progressive national denomination. Group disbands after 2008 and 2010 moves by GA. Replaced by Fellowship of Presbyterians GA issues AI that nullified 30 years of church judicial proceedings on the matter of ordination standards.





GA approves new form of government (nFoG) and amendment known as 10A which

Impacts Proposal is ratified by the majority of the presbyteries thus changing the constitution of the church. Majority of presbyteries vote against change. New Auburn Affirmation document published but has been withdrawn from websites Presbyterians vote down change for the second time.

GA sets a trend to work around the amendment process. Amendment defeated by presbyteries for the third time. Multiple options explored including non-geographic presbyteries or parallel synods. None are found to be acceptable to larger church.

By working outside the system, the GA effectively cut off years of effort to reform from within. Many reformers begin to give up on the possibility of reform from within

Presbyteries approve changes. For

PC(USA) loses 618 congregations from 2000 to 2010. This number is likely to accelerate next few years as 50 churches are in the midst of dismissal processes, and 762 churches were represented at ECO meeting in Orlando. 52% of congregations have 100 members or less and have difficulty supporting any full time staff and a further 22% of congregations are between 100 and 200 members. Implication: for the vast majority of PC(USA) 7

A Thumbnail Sketch: 100 Years of Struggle for the Soul of U. S. Presbyterianism Based on “The PCUSA 2012: How we got ‘here’ by Carmen Fowler “The Fellowship of Presbyterians” Presentation #2, Jan 15 2012 by Pastor Buck Day

First Presbyterian Church Boulder Year

Members (10,560 Churches)

2011 2012


2012 2013


Event removes fidelity and chastity clause for the fourth time. Opens door for ordination of those with wide range of behaviors including practicing homosexuality, heterosexual cohabitation, and others. Among other things: nFoG recentralizes certain aspects of control of the church, moves toward a more universalist theology and strips congregations of certain rights. There seems to be little if any will to enforce historical confessional standards. Fellowship of Presbyterians created. Group explores new ways of relating in an increasingly post-denominational world. January: Fellowship of Presbyterians meet in Orlando. 762 churches are represented. The group announces Evangelical Covenant Order of Presbyterians together with theology paper, book of order and well thought out organization plan. Churches begin to consider and vote as to their future inside the PC(USA). Many of the largest churches in particular are reconsidering their affiliation. GA will meet this summer to consider a range of topics including:  Officiating gay marriage ceremonies  Mid council report on new ways of organizing  Reinstatement of fidelity and chastity clause Rev. Janet Edwards, a self-identified bisexual, will be at the meeting campaigning to become moderator of the General Assembly. 8 PC (USA) on course to fall below 2 M members and lose 100s of churches.

Impacts many evangelical leaders in the church, this step “breaks the camel’s back” with regard to a shared biblical foundation for the church.

New denomination, ECO, is announced. Many evangelical churches have voted to seek gracious dismissal. Many others in discernment process Further polarization inside the church is possible if not likely

Between 2011 and 2012 53 churches in process of leaving according to the

churches, any significant departure of individuals on theological grounds caused by recent events may tip the scale of congregational viability for that specific church. Source: PCUSA Research Services. 8 “Unbelief Unveiled” Rev. Parker T. Williamson. A Thumbnail Sketch: 100 Years of Struggle for the Soul of U. S. Presbyterianism Based on “The PCUSA 2012: How we got ‘here’ by Carmen Fowler “The Fellowship of Presbyterians” Presentation #2, Jan 15 2012 by Pastor Buck Day