Thursday, February 18, 2010

The History Behind the RPCES, by George P. Hutchinson

Who are we? Where did we come from? Those are questions asked by those who want to know about the roots of their family. They are also the type of questions that ought to be asked by those who care about the church, and in particular, The Presbyterian Church in America.

One of the major events in PCA history was the joining and receiving of The Reformed Presbyterian Church Evangelical Synod (RPCES) in 1982. That event brought the PCA its own seminary (Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri), its own college (Covenant College on Lookout Mountain, Georgia), scores of churches and ministers, and a history of theological discussion found in its records and position papers. Those whose credentials were originally held in the RPCES have served and continue to serve in high leadership positions in the PCA. Anyone who wants to fully understand the PCA must be versed in the history of the RPCES. For instance, the current debate about commissioning deaconesses has its roots in RPCES history.

One of the books I read as I prepared for ordination was an out-of-print book entitled, The History Behind the RPCES by George P. Hutchinson. I have often lamented that men preparing for ministry today do not have access to the book, that is, until now. Recently, friend and colleague, Wayne Sparkman, who leads the PCA Historical Center in St. Louis, Missouri announced that the book is available on line and can be downloaded in pdf format (each chapter is a separate pdf). This should be required reading for every person seeking ordination in the PCA and every minister transferring his credentials into the PCA.

The book is available at this link: PCA Historical Center: The History Behind the RPCES, by George P. Hutchinson


Wes White said...

Dave, thanks for the great tip. I will have to give it a read.

Thanks, Wes

Dave Sarafolean said...


The book chronicles how and why the RPCES began (splitting from the OPC over eschatology and beverage use of alcohol), what it learned through that split, but also its thinking leading up to 1982. I think you will find in the RPCES a 'moderate' approach to theology (i.e. softer than Machen or Warfield) and also a propensity to form study committees and draft position papers so that "the church as a whole can speak on certain matters.

I think that this approach is different than say, the founders of the PCA intended. You could also conclude that this approach is different from those who graduated from Westminster East (and West) and RTS Jackson.

Now, almost 30 years since joining and receiving (J & R) occurred, a large section of the PCA (including many in its leadership) is 'moderate' and wants to discuss
things via study committee, consensus and position papers than simply follow the Westminster Standards and the BCO. This is the 'fair' method: all sides get their say, and the minority can always submit their report in the record.