f The Wittenberg Door: Today in Church History: General Assembly (5th: 1939), Orthodox Presbyterian Church: Name

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Saturday, February 09, 2013

Today in Church History: General Assembly (5th: 1939), Orthodox Presbyterian Church: Name

Meeting in Philadelphia on February 9, 1939, the fifth General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of America changed the name of the denomination to the Orthodox Presbyterian Church.

Threatened by a lawsuit by the Presbyterian Church in the U. S. A., the young church determined that it lacked the financial resources necessary to sustain the legal challenge to its name. Commissioners to that Assembly chose the new name after a vigorous, twelve-hour debate. Other names considered were the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, the Presbyterian and Reformed Church of America, the North American Presbyterian Church, the American Presbyterian Church, the Presbyterian Church of Christ, the Protestant Presbyterian Church of America, the Seceding Presbyterian Church (of America), the Free Presbyterian Church of America, the American Orthodox Presbyterian Church, and the True Presbyterian Church of the World.

Historian Mark Noll interpreted the debate in this way: "In the end sentiment was divided nearly equally between the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, with only lesser support for names retaining the word 'America.' By one vote 'Orthodox' prevailed over 'Evangelical,' and so it has remained to this day. Most significantly, the new name indicated a new perspective. No longer would the denomination aspire to be the Presbyterian Church of America."

-John Muether



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