f The Wittenberg Door: Today in Church History: Westminster Theological Seminary

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Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Today in Church History: Westminster Theological Seminary

At a special meeting of the Board of Trustees of Westminster Theological Seminary on January 7, 1936, thirteen of its 28 members submitted their resignations.

Included among the departing Board members were Samuel Craig, editor of Christianity Today, and Clarence Macartney, the prominent pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Pittsburgh. At the same time O.T. Allis also resigned from the faculty of the Seminary. At the heart of the dispute that led to the resignations were the formation of the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions in 1933 and the subsequent creation of the Presbyterian Constitutional Covenant Union. Craig and Macartney regarded these responses to the crisis of modernism in the Presbyterian Church as excessively provocative and even schismatic, prompting them to challenge J. Gresham's leadership of the anti-modernist opposition. Craig wrote, "Dr. Machen is a very gifted man but as a tactician we venture the opinion that he is about the world's worst."

The disruption of the Westminster Board revealed significant differences among conservative Presbyterians between those who advocated separation from unbelief and those whose strategy was to "reform from within." Throughout the controversy, Macartney remained in the PCUSA. While he claimed to further the cause of Reformed militancy through the Presbyterian League of Faith, he steadily distanced himself from denominational matters while pastoring his Pittsburgh church until his retirement in 1937.

--John Muether



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