Archives and Manuscript Repository for the Continuing Presbyterian Church

Manuscript Collections :
Synthetic Collections :

Historic Documents in American Presbyterian History

—Lamentations 4:1

A Message delivered to
Atlanta, Georgia, 18 May 1973
by Dr. Morton H. Smith

It is my task to present to you something of that sad condition. I was asked last fall to research the records of our church, for evidences of her decline. Frankly speaking, it has been this research that has driven me to the position that I now take. That is, I now stand as one who feels duty bound to separate himself from his mother Church. It has not been an easy decision to make. I was, as many of you have been, reared in the Presbyterian Church in the United States. I have never belonged to any other denomination. Both sides of my family go back into the history of early American Presbyterianism in this country. I have a brother who is a minister in the PCUS, and one who has been a ruling elder in it. My father was a ruling elder in the Church. His brother was a minister. His uncle, John Rockwell Smith, was one of the pioneer missionaries to Brazil, whose son, James Porter Smith, was late Professor of Systematic Theology at Union Theological Seminary in Richmond. All of whom were sound in the faith.
My mother was reared in the Presbyterian Church in Fredericksburg, Virginia, where her father was ruling elder for many years, and his father had been a minister in the Presbyterian Church. On her mother's side the descent is traced through the Mortons and the Venables and the Watkins for whom several of the buildings at Hampton Sydney College are named. In fact, the record has been preserved of the conversion of Little Joe of Southern Presbyterianism in Virginia in the 1740s. Yes, my roots are deeply laid in the Presbyterian Church here in the South. It is hard to break with the denomination which has so proudly borne the Presbyterian banner for over a century now here in the southland. And yet to do so, is not to break faith with one's ancestors, but to stand for the faith which they confessed. For they were Presbyterians in the true sense of the term. They believed the Confession of Faith and the Catechisms. The same cannot be said for many professed Presbyterians today. Sad to say, the same cannot be said for many of the recent General Assemblies, which have acted out of accord with the Bible, and the Confession and Catechisms.
It is my task to trace something of this sad decline.

I. The Historic Position of the Presbyterian Church in the United States
In order to realize how dim the gold of the PCUS has become, we must see that gold in its original brightness. Let me give you just a few items of our rich heritage in the PCUS. As we are all aware, this denomination came into existence during the War Between the States. She came into existence in response to the Gardner Spring Resolution which had been adopted by the U.S.A. Assembly in the spring of 1861. That resolution had demanded that every Presbyterian support the United States Government. The Southern people had already seceded from the United States, and looked upon themselves as members of a separate nation, namely, the Confederate States of America. To demand loyalty to a foreign power was to demand treason of citizens of the Confederacy. There was no alternative but to insist that the Church had no right to seek to settle the political issue. So it was that Benjamin Morgan Palmer, the first moderator of the Southern Presbyterian Church, preached on the Kingship of Christ as the opening sermon of that 1861 Assembly. This sermon called for Presbyterians in the South to stand for Christ, His cross and His crown. It was reminiscent of the stand of their Scottish ancestors when they also had stood for Christ and His crown rights.
That opening Assembly immediately adopted the Westminster Confession of Faith and the Larger and Shorter Catechisms and the Presbyterian Book of Church Order as her constitution. As Palmer said, "The time-honored standards of the Presbyterian Church had been explicitly adopted, without equivocation or reservation as their interpretation: the watchman in Zion seeing eye to eye, and all being of one mind to rise and build up her broken walls." May it be that if a new church is to be founded again in the South, that we will declare without hesitation our allegiance to the Reformed faith as set forth in the Westminster Standards.
From the outset the Southern Presbyterians declared themselves as believing in the spiritual mission in the Church. She said; "The one has no right to usurp the jurisdiction of the other. The state is a natural institute, founded in the Constitution of man as moral and social, and designed to realize the idea of justice. It is the society of rights. The church is a supernatural institution, founded in the rights of redemption, and is designed to realize the idea of grace. It is the society of the redeemed. The state aims at social order. The state looks to the visible and outward; the church is concerned with the invisible and inward. The badge of the state's authority is the sword, by which it becomes a terror of evildoers and a praise to them that do well; the badge of the church's authority is the keys, by which it opens and shuts the Kingdom of Heaven, according as men are believing or impenitent. The power of the church is exclusively spiritual; that of the state includes the exercise of force. The constitution of the church is a divine revelation; the constitution of the state must be determined by human reason and the course of providential events. The church has no right to construct or modify a government for the state, and the state has no right to frame a creed or polity for the church."
This concept of the spiritual nature and mission of the church is stamped upon the life of the PCUS from its earliest days up to the 1930s. She adopted a glorious statement on missions in that first Assembly, seeing that her chief task was to go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature.
Around the turn of the century, Dr. R. C. Reed, Professor of Church History at Columbia Theological Seminary, sets forth several distinctives of the Southern Presbyterian Church. I shall just mention these briefly:
1. The most prominent characteristic of this church is jealous loyalty to the Westminster Standards. It holds with unwavering firmness to the undiluted Calvinism of these Standards. It acknowledges no need of any new statement of old truth.
2. This jealous loyalty demands of the minister and elders strict creed subscription.
3. The church stresses the principle of the spiritual mission of the church, and excludes from its courts all discussions of political questions.
4. It stands by the plenary, verbal inspiration of the Bible, believing that this is the claim which the Bible makes for itself.
5. It persists in maintaining, as did the undivided church in 1832, that to teach and exhort or to lead in prayer in public and promiscuous assemblies is clearly forbidden to women in the Holy Oracles.
6. A point not made by Reed, but by other writers of that period is that it developed the Presbyterian polity with the complete parity of the ruling and teaching elders.
These then were the distinctives of the Southern Presbyterian Church. These were the things by which she was known for her first seventy-five years. Let us look now at the decline that has been manifested since that time.

II. Departures from the Historic Position on Scripture
It is sometimes asserted by the liberals in the church that the Presbyterian Church in the United States has never believed in the plenary, verbal inspiration of Scripture with the resulting infallible Word. In 1867 the General Assembly said; "The Assembly would earnestly impress on the minds of all having in charge the government and instruction of our theological seminaries, the vital importance of training our future ministers not only to be able and faithful ministers of the Word, but also to be fully imbued with an implicit faith in the plenary and literal inspired authority of the Sacred Scriptures."
Strictly speaking, all of the problems that we have faced in the Church today stem from the departure from this high view of Scripture. One of the most explicit expressions of this came to the fore in the 1972 General Assembly in a paper adopted by the Assembly entitled, "The Meaning of Doctrinal Loyalty in the Ordination Vows." In this paper the Assembly says that when we adopt the Scripture as the "only rule of faith and life" that "neither by the Reformers nor in the Westminster Standards was it used in the strict literal sense of affirming the Bible as the only authority to govern Christian belief. The authority is thus a complex including the Bible, the Church, human reason and experience...." (p. 197). This is essentially the same position as that held by the Roman Catholic Church.
The paper posits the position that the testimony of the Church and the witness of the Holy Spirit, that brings us to conviction that the Bible is God's Word, are separate authorities in addition to the Bible. The fact is the Westminster Standards clearly teach that the Bible is the only infallible rule of faith and practice. The reference to the internal testimony of the Holy Spirit being required to bring us to conviction that the Bible is the Word of God, is due to our depravity. The Spirit does not add additional content to what is in the Word. The writers of the Confession did not see the operation of the Spirit separated from the Scripture. Rather, the authority of Scripture is that of the Holy Spirit speaking in the Scripture. In other words, the position of the Westminster Confession is that the Bible is the only infallible rule of faith and practice because it is the very Word of God.
As late as 1939 the General Assembly declared "that it regards the acceptance of the infallible truth and divine authority of the Scripture as being involved in the ordination vows to which we subscribe." The 1972 statement now denies this position.

III. Departures from the Historic Position on the Confession and Catechisms
The 1972 General Assembly went on to say what was never explicitly stated by an Assembly before. It is to the effect that the ordination vows of our Church are to be understood as "broad" and not "strict", as our forefathers took them to be. We have already noted that R. C. Reed speaks of the strict subscriptionism as one of the distinctives of the Southern Presbyterian Church. The 1972 General Assembly explicitly departs from that distinctive.
This is, in effect, to deny the original adopting act of American Presbyterianism made in 1729. The 1729 action was commented on by the Synod in 1736, because there had been some misunderstanding as to just what was intended by the original adoption of the Confession and Catechisms. Let me quote from that official comment on the Synod's action. "That the Synod do declare, that inasmuch as we understand that many persons of our persuasion, both more lately and formerly, have been offended with some expressions or distinction in the first or preliminary act of our Synod, contained in the printed paper, relating to our receiving or adopting the Westminster Confession and Catechisms, etc.; that in order to remove said offense, and all jealousies that have arisen or may arise in any of our people's minds, on occasion of said distinctions and expressions, the Synod doth declare that the Synod have adopted and still do adhere to the Westminster Confession, Catechisms, and Directory, without the least variation or alteration, without any regard to said distinctions. We do further declare that this was our meaning and true intent in our first adopting of said Confession, as may particularly appear by our adopting act which is as follows:... "
It was clearly the intent of the forefathers in the American Presbyterian Church to establish, by the adoption of the Westminster Confession and Catechisms, a distinctly Presbyterian and Reformed Church. All future ministers and officers were to be required to subscribe to the Confession of Faith, in the same terms with which the 1729 Synod had subscribed. The 1972 Assembly, on the other hand, tries to assert that Presbyterianism has always been broad. It said "up until the second or third decade of this century, even with such differences as those between the Old and New Schools, there was, in contrast to today's wide divergencies, sufficient consensus in the essential and necessary elements of the faith to make the term fundamentals relatively clear and useful. In the present situation it is much more ambiguous, and whether it can still be useful will depend in part on the degree of theological unanimity now desired by the church. Meantime the Presbyterian Church in the U.S. operates with a detailed Confession, the fundamentals of which are interpreted with considerable latitude."
In this description of the present situation, the Assembly admits to the diversity of theological views now in the Church. It should be observed that the reference to the Old and New School differences in the PCUS is not accurate. The PCUS was historically an Old School Church, and their union with the New School Churches in the South was on Old School terms. There is a sense in which the modern problems can be likened to that of the Old and New School conflict of a century ago. It is true that the liberals of today have imbibed various new elements of theology as contrasted to the New School Church of a century ago, but both hold to loose subscriptionism. Both hold that the Church may be involved in more than the spiritual mission given by Christ in His Great Commission. It would have been more accurate for the 1972 Assembly to have admitted that the PCUS had been essentially an Old School Church, until the second and third decade of this century. Since that time there has been a distinct change in the stance of the PCUS to the effect that the Old School theology and viewpoint are found only in the minority, at least at recent General Assembly meetings. Now the Assembly, however, seeks to justify a broad church view, in contrast to the historic position of the PCUS.

IV.Departures of the Confession and Catechisms -- Changes Enacted
Many of our friends insist that before a separation can legitimately take place, we need to have a change of confessional stance. It is interesting to observe that the PCUS has already made a number of changes in her confessional documents. We shall not try to list all of these, but give a reference to the most significant ones. In 1939 there were a number of grammatically and linguistic changes which tended to weaken the position of the Church's Confession on a number of points.
One of the more significant changes took place in 1942, when the Assembly approved the insertion into the Confession of two chapters entitled "Of the Holy Spirit," and "Of the Gospel." The Committee which had made the original recommendations in 1937, that were finally adopted in 1939, had made a study about the possibility of such chapters being added to the Confession, and had concluded that they were not necessary. They included in their report the teachings on these subjects found throughout the Westminster Standards, which made it unnecessary to have new, separate chapters added to the Confession. Essentially, the chapters proposed are those found in the Confession of the PCUSA. These chapters had been adopted by the denomination in order to encourage the reunion of the Cumberland Presbyterians with the PCUSA Church.
The Cumberland Presbyterians had departed from the UPUSA Church in 1810 over the issue of predestination, and the requirement for an educated ministry. The ministers who had been ordained on the frontier, without a thorough education, had not been trained in the Reformed faith, and thus rejected the predestination doctrine. They re-wrote their Confession on this matter. The USA Church watered down the testimony of the Confession by the addition of these two chapters in order to have a union with the Cumberland Church in 1905.
When, in the early 1940s our Church was looking towards the possible merger with the USA Church, it was believed that it would be good to add these chapters so that we had essentially the same Confession. We do not have time to get into the criticism of these two chapters, but let me suggest to you that a careful reading of them indicates no reference to the doctrine of election, which is an essential part of the original Confession. These statements are distinctly more Armenian in tone, and teaching universal atonement, instead of the particular atonement that the Westminster Confession teaches.
It is my personal hope that as the Continuing Church comes into existence, that we shall return to the historic Presbyterian Confession, and not include these two chapters in that Confession. The proposed Confession that the Steering Committee is suggesting that the Continuing Church adopt does not include these two chapters, simply because of their inconsistency with the rest of the Confession. If it is deemed that chapters under these titles are needed, then they need to be written much more carefully, so as not to deny or contradict other portions of our system of doctrine.
The 1959 General Assembly approved changes in the chapter on marriage and divorce. The result is that the Presbyterian Church in the United States now endorses divorce and re-marriage for non-Biblical grounds. This means that all who subscribe to the present-day Confession are subscribing to a position that endorses as proper, relationships that Jesus brands as adulterous. All of us in the PCUS are thus endorsing the breaking of the Seventh Commandment. This is not merely on the basis of an Assembly action, but it is a Constitutional action of the Church. Our Church has in the marriage and divorce chapter departed from the Scripture. She has departed from her original Constitution. On this point she is distinctly unbiblical and heretical. Again I point out that this is a Constitutional matter. Perhaps we should have made more of it in 1959 than we did, but the fact is that it remains unchanged, and is still part of the PCUS Constitution in 1973.
The 1961 General Assembly chose to criticize her constitutional document by saying that she did not believe the formulation on ordination to everlasting death to be an adequate statement of faith, because it implies an eternal negative decree. The protest to the effect that this was an unconstitutional procedure was to no effect. One wonders how men, who subscribe to the Westminster Confession as the confession of their faith, can be so critical of their own Confession of Faith.
Other areas in which the Church has taken positions that are contrary to the Confession are the matter of evolution, in which the Assembly says that evolutionary theory and the Bible are not contradictory (1968); the matter of the charismatic movement in which the Assembly, contrary to the first paragraph of the Confession of Faith, declared that speaking in tongues and prophecies may occur today (1971); the Assembly further declared that immersion was proper, contrary to the Confession of Faith (1965). The 1963 and 1964 General Assemblies approved a change of the Book of Church Order allowing for the ordination of women to office, in direct contradiction to the historic position of the Church and to the Scripture, "let a woman learn in quietness with all subjection. But I permit not a woman to teach or have dominion over a man but to be in quietness." (I Tim. 2:11-12)
Yet another area in which the Assembly clearly rejected the position of her Constitution was in the endorsement of capital punishment. In 1961 it had been ruled that this matter was unconstitutional. The question was again raised in 1966, and though it was acknowledged that it was contrary to the Confession, the Assembly went on record favoring the discontinuance of the use of capital punishment.
Here we see an Assembly openly standing against the Constitution of the Church. When the highest court of a body acts unconstitutionally, the question may be fairly asked as to whether the constitution is of any real value of the body. This type of flagrant, unconstitutional action raises serious questions as to whether the PCUS is still a constitutional church, or not. The highest court itself will not abide by its own constitution, and the rule in the Church has become that of the majority and not that of the objective constitutional standards to which all agree when they enter into membership and office in the Church. In effect, such an action nullifies the whole Constitution of the body politic. For the PCUS this means that the Confession and Catechisms may simply be ignored at the whim of a majority of any particular Assembly. For those who believe in constitutional Presbyterianism, is not just ground for the establishment of a new constitutional church, in which the bonds of unity, namely the Confession and Catechisms, will be honored?
In this same connection, the approval by the 1970 General Assembly of abortion for socio-economic reasons, is unconstitutional. Further, the fact that a special fund, out of which some $90,000 has been spent in the last two years for some 360 abortions, involves everyone of us in the act of murdering the unborn in the name of Christ by the Presbyterian Church in the United States. This issue has been on my conscience ever since I realized what was happening. The absolute refusal of the Assembly to listen to any protest, or change its position on this matter, virtually settles the issue. How long can any of us remain in a church that is thus committing murder? We are corporately involved in this sin, whether we like it or not.

V. Departures from the Historical Position on Church Government
One of the things for which the PCUS has been known was its thoroughgoing Biblical polity. This was especially worked out as the Church sought to carry into effect the parity of the ruling and teaching elders. Ruling elders actually lay hands on teaching elders in ordaining them. Further, it is mandatory in our forms, that ruling elders make up part of the quorum of a presbytery or commission of presbytery.
Another particular emphasis that comes from Thornwell, which the Southern Church sought to incorporate in its original structure, was the use of the church courts themselves as a society for missions, etc. The original church operated through committees of the Assembly, and not through boards that could act independently of the Assembly.
We are all aware of the fact that our agencies now are called boards, and that last year, there was a major restructuring of all the boards and agencies into the General Executive Board. The whole idea of the Assembly operating through subsidiary committees has thus been abandoned. What we now have is a centralized agency, namely the General Executive Board, that will direct the affairs of the Church from a single central headquarters. There will be lines of control directly down to the individual minister from the General Executive Board. I do not think that any of us realize how destructive this is of Biblical Presbyterianism, which maintains that the rule is to be by elders, elected by the people. In the graduated system of church courts as we have had it in Presbyterianism, the congregations participate all the way up to the General Assembly through their elders.
One of the trends towards this centralization came in 1937 with the adoption of new paragraphs in the Book of Church Order that established the Commission on the Minister and His Work in every presbytery as a mandatory part of our Church's life. These commissions have been subject to abuse it is obvious how easily they can be used to change the character of a presbytery. Those on a commission will tend to approve only men who hold their same viewpoint. A small minority in a presbytery could soon build a majority of ministers of their own persuasion, if they could control the commission in their particular presbytery. This has been the history of this institution in the Church. Again I would point out the fact that the proposed Book of Church Order for the Continuing Church will recognize that such an institution in the Church has been destructive of the true character of our Presbyterian government. May it be that we will avoid the establishment of anything of this sort in the new Church.
Let me suggest another area in which our Church has brought about its own decline. It was the establishment of the rotating system of officers. There is nothing of this sort in the Bible. Congregations that have adopted the rotating system, have often been subjected to the whims of a particular pastor, who politics for the election of certain men to office. Just as the commission of a presbytery level has tended to change the presbyteries, so has the rotation system allowed church sessions to be changed in a relatively short time. It has caused a general lack of stability in church sessions.
We have already noted the serious departure from the Biblical position with regard to women officers.
A new, unbiblical innovation was introduced at the 1970 Assembly when it approved the sending of youth delegates to the General Assembly. These youth delegates are actually granted vote in committees that write the reports that eventually are adopted by the Assembly. To date they have not been allowed to vote on the floor of the Assembly, but one wonders how long it will be before this happens. As it is, they are actually involved in framing the actions that the Assembly takes.
Generally speaking, we may say that we see a departure from the Bible as the basic norm for the kind of government that the Church should have to those forms and structures that seem to men to be wise. This is a departure from Biblical Presbyterianism.

VI. Decline in Exercise of Discipline
The exercise of discipline by the Church has been looked upon by a number of the Reformed churches as one of the marks of a true church. Certainly where there is true preaching of the Word, there should be the proper administration of the sacraments and the exercise of discipline in accord with the Word.
It should be observed that though some say there is no exercise of discipline at all in the church, there actually is. In the admission of people to the Lord's Table. This is part of the disciplinary process. The problem that particularly faces us here, however, is the exercise of discipline at the highest level. There are two significant cases that we should mention.
The first of these was the Hay Watson Smith case that began in 1929. The Assembly was asked by the Presbytery of Augusta to look into the soundness of Hay Watson Smith in Little Rock, on the basis of pamphlets he had published regarding evolution and other matters. The Assembly enjoined the Presbytery of Arkansas to look into this. The Presbytery and the Synod of Arkansas gave Dr. Smith a clean bill of health. In 1934 there were overtures from six presbyteries asking that the matter be considered still pending, and that the Assembly appoint an ad interim committee to investigate the case. This the Assembly refused to do, thus asserting that the place of original jurisdiction regarding any minister was in his own presbytery.
The importance of this case is obvious. First, the refusal of the Assembly to grant permission to members of other presbyteries or synods to bring charges, or to have the Assembly enter into matters of charges against a man in a different synod or presbytery, established a procedure for protection of unorthodox men in the Church. If a man could find a presbytery that would protect him from the Assembly, then he could teach anything acceptable to that presbytery.
This was exactly the case with Dr. Ernest Trice Thompson in East Hanover Presbytery in the 1940s.
It is certainly a basic weakness in the Presbyterian polity that permits protection of known unorthodoxy within the Church. There should be some direct means by which the Assembly could move against a known heretic. Actually, what the presbyteries were proposing to the Assembly in 1934, namely, that an ad interim committee of the Assembly look into the matter more fully, was used against the Synod of Mississippi, because of its orthodoxy and resistance to the Assembly itself. Had this procedure been used in 1934, one questions whether Earnest Trice Thompson could have been quite so easily protected in the 1940s.
The failure to deal with heresy in the case of Hay Watson Smith in the early 1930s, and with that of E. T. Thompson in the 1940s, has resulted in a Church in which Biblical discipline at the highest level is no longer practices. It may well be asked whether more should not be done in this area before any division of the Church is attempted. It is argued that there is no use in carrying out discipline, which will fail at the highest level. The Bible teaches that we are to put out of the Church those who are not believers in the Truth. The Bible does not give examples of orthodox people withdrawing or leaving the Church in the hands of less orthodox, except for Paul's departure from the Jewish synagogues. It would appear that one of the duties that conservatives have is to press their case in every place against unbelief wherever it is found. If, as a result of such attempts to exercise discipline, the Church as a whole proves that it is not only unconcerned, but unwilling to purify itself according to the Word, then it will be easier to justify separation from such a church.
The action of the 1972 Assembly in adopting the report on doctrinal loyalty, to which we have already referred, may well mean that the PCUS is beyond exercising discipline against a minister. In setting forth a broad, instead of a strict adoption of the Confessional Standards, the result is the permission of diversity of view and practice among church courts. With such diversity now recognized officially by the Assembly, can there be any serious attempt to hold one accountable for a strict interpretation of the Confession?
If this is the implication of the 1972 action, those who are conservative and remaining in the Church must challenge this action. Failing in the challenge, to withdraw may be their only recourse.

VII. The Decline in Worship
I am noted at the Seminary for taking a puritanical position regarding worship. That position is the position of the Westminster Confession and Catechisms. The Shorter Catechism says "the second commandment requires the receiving, observing, and keeping pure and entire all such religious worship and ordinances as God hath appointed in His Word." Again it says, "The second commandment forbiddeth the worshiping of God by images, or any other way not appointed in His Word." The Larger Catechisms is more explicit in what is forbidden, "Sins forbidden in the second commandment are: all devising, counseling, commanding, using, and anywise approving any religious worship not instituted by God Himself; the making of any representation of God, of all, or any of the three persons, either inwardly in our mind, or outwardly in any kind of image or likeness or any creature whatsoever; all worshiping of it, or in it, or by it, and making any representation of feigned deities and all worship of them, or service belonging to them; all superstitious devices corrupting the worship of God, adding to it, or taking from it, whether invented and taken up of ourselves, or received by tradition from others, though under the title of antiquity, custom, devotion, good intent, or any other pretense whatsoever; simony, sacrilege; all neglect, contempt, hindering, and opposing the worship and ordinances which God hath appointed."
The PCUS was very strict about this in its early history as is witnessed in the 1899 Assembly's action regarding the observance of Christmas and Easter as religious days. "There is no warrant in Scripture for the observance of Christmas and Easter as holy days, rather the contrary (see Gal. 4:9-11; Col. 2:16-21), and such observance is contrary to the principles of the Reformed faith, conducive to will worship, and not in harmony with the simplicity of Jesus Christ."
That we have departed from the Reformed principle of worship, as set forth by our Catechisms, is so obvious that it needs no documentation. We now find our Assemblies endorsing and encouraging the use of liturgical calendars, including not only Christmas and Easter, but the whole year divided into liturgical observance. The extremes of the decline of worship may be seen in the psychedelic worship services that took place in Montreat, and the tacit approval of them by the Assemblies when they were criticized by various presbyteries the year following.
If one of the marks of the Church is the proper administration of the sacraments, then it must be concluded that when the General Assembly itself condones the kind of sacrilegious, unbiblical forms of observing the Lord's Supper, as were seen at Montreat on August 4, 1968, it has departed from being a true church in this particular area. This is not to say that every congregation in the denomination has thus departed, but it is to say that at the Assembly level the Church has condoned that which is a radical departure from the true administration of the sacraments, and thus ceases to be a true church in its worship of God.
It should be observed that the general observance of the Sabbath has declined markedly across the board in our Church. This is true not only among our liberal friends but also within our conservative circles. Sad to say, it is also true that even conservative churches have pictures and crosses that are set as aids to worship, and thus represent a serious departure from the Bible, and the Confessional position of our Church.
What is desperately needed as a new church comes into being, is a report of worship. We need to be concerned that we worship according to the Word of God. If this means removal of those things that have become sacred to us because of tradition or usage, let them be removed if they cannot be justified by the Word of God. Pure worship and orthodox doctrine go together. Orthodoxy in doctrine should be expressed in orthodoxy in worship.

VIII. Decline as Reflected in Relation to Other Church Bodies
From the outset, the Presbyterian Church in the United States has been in conversation with various other groups about possible mergers. Various smaller bodies did merge with the Church in its earliest years. Conversations have been carried on with a number of other churches, with which the denomination has been made for union with the UPUSA Church. As of this date, no plan for such a union has ever been approved by the necessary three-quarters of the presbyteries. In 1969 the Assembly approved adding to the Book of Church Order authorizing Union Presbyteries on the basis of a vote of only a majority of the presbyteries and not the three-fourth presbytery vote, which is mandatory for organic union. The result is that ministers and elders from the UPUSA Church now sit in PCUS courts without their ever having subscribed to the Confession and Catechisms of the PCUS.
We of course, are aware of the fact that there is presently a committee working on a new plan. The lack of good faith by the committee with regard to the so-called "escape clause" is what has brought us to this place this day. I shall not try to speculate about what sort of plan will be reported out to the Assembly when that committee finally does bring its report. I doubt that it will be upon a firm basis of the Westminster Confession and Catechisms that the Southern Church now professes.
One of the saddest chapters in the history of relations with other bodies is the fact that the PCUS did approve by a three-quarters presbytery vote the plan of union with the Reformed Church in America. This plan was distinctly a compromise from the Southern Presbyterian position. The Biblical office of deacon was to be dropped out. The ordination vows were no longer to be a profession of one's faith, but a much looser type of vow.
Perhaps the most serious matter of relation to other bodies has been the fact that the Presbyterian Church in the United States has been a part of the Federal Council of Churches and of the World Council of Churches. We cannot take time to document or bring charges with regard to these various ecumenical groups, but it is well known that they do not represent the historic Reformed understanding of the Gospel. They certainly intermeddle with social and political affairs. They often represent left-wing attitudes and movements. Thus they have involved their member churches in left-wing activities. One of the points that has been brought out in more recent Assemblies, though not enough has been made of it, is the fact that though we give a token support to these agencies of less than $10,000 a year, the actual support that goes to them from the respective boards and agencies of our Church mounts up to several hundreds of thousands of dollars each year. Further, the program materials that our boards and agencies promote before our Church are all too often directly borrowed from the National Council of Churches. Thus, though these agencies theoretically are not immediately involved with us and seem distant to us, they actually have greatly affected the life of the PCUS.

IX. The Departure from the Spiritual Mission of the Church as Seen in the Political and Social Actions of the Assembly
Beginning in 1935, the General Assembly set up a permanent Committee on Moral and Social Welfare. This committee has changed names and particular functions down through the years since that time, and is presently represented by the Council on Christian Relations. In the early years of this committee, the social pronouncements were fairly mild. The major things done in those early years, however, was to establish the principle that the Church could and should speak on social and moral issues. Since World War II these committees have spoken on more and more items. They have involved the Church in speaking directly to the President, the Congress, various cabinet members, various state governments, etc. They have tried to tell the government what kind of peace proposals they should have at the end of the war. They have tried to tell the government that capital punishment should be abandoned. They have proposed various policies regarding the Vietnam War. The extreme and radical social issues that the Church has been involved in recent years have come from this branch of the Church. One of the most striking actions of the Assembly in this connection was the 1958 Assembly in which a paper was adopted which said the Church should and would speak prophetically, as the Old Testament prophets spoke. This was to adopt the neo-orthodox view of revelation. That is, the abandonment of the Westminster Confession's position, namely, to the effect that all special revelation has ceased, with the close of Scripture. Now the thought is that God continues to speak through the Church. In effect this view would elevate the Church to a position similar to that held by Roman Catholics regarding the Church.
This is an obvious departure from the historic position of the Southern Presbyterian Church, which set forth in its opening Address the principle of the spirituality of the Church, and the spiritual mission of the Church. This view of the Church marked the Southern Presbyterian Church until 1935. Since that time it has been an abandoned position.
It is my belief that this position is the more Biblical position regarding the Church, and that as we call a new Church into being, we should return essentially to this same view regarding the Church.

X. Conclusion
In this address, I have tried to summarize something of what I have found in my own research, and that is to be published in the book entitled, "How Is the Gold Become Dim!" There is so much more that could be said. The departures of the Presbyterian Church U.S. from its historic position is so massive, that it is difficult to deal with it in a brief time such as we have had here today. I do not even feel that the book which I have produced covers it at all adequately. It would take volumes really to document all that this Church has and is doing against the faith of her forefathers.
I do not say that the Presbyterian Church in the U.S. is apostate as a whole. I do say, however, that there is much apostasy within the Church. And far too much of it has been manifested at the Assembly level.
It seems to me that we are faced with a two-fold possibility. If one maintains that a church must be declared apostate before he leaves it, then he may feel called upon to remain within the bounds of a church like the PCUS. If he does so, however, it must be with a sense of obligation to work for reform at every level and on every front. To fail to do this is to fail in one's Christian duty to his Church and to his Lord.
For those who, though admitting that the PCUS is not totally apostate, and yet who believe that to remain within this church involves them in sin, and thus it becomes a matter of conscience for them to leave, they, too, must seek for reform.
Simply to separate from the PCUS is not going to make a better Church. If we separate but are not concerned about our real commitment to the Bible, both in profession and in life, we cannot expect to have a better Church. If we separate but are not concerned about adhering strictly to our Confession and Catechisms, we will not have a Reformed Church. If we are not concerned about maintaining true Biblical Presbyterian polity, we will not have a Biblical Church. If we are not concerned about our worship being pure, and in accord with the Word, we will not be worshiping God aright. If we are not concerned about the exercise of discipline at every level; congregational, presbytery, synod, and General Assembly, we will not be able to maintain a Church that is true to the Word and the Reformed faith. If we are not concerned about carrying out the spiritual mission of the Church, namely to evangelize the world and to nurture those who are in the Church in the faith, then we will not have a better Church.
What we need, whether within or without the PCUS, is a genuine Biblically-based reformation, in which we
individually and as the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ are reforming ourselves more and more in accord with the
Word of God. May God help us, whatever our individual course may be, to bring about such reform. Amen.