Thursday, November 11, 2010

John Howard Melish, William Howard Melish, and Church of the Holy Trinity Collection

from the Brooklyn Historical Society Library
This collection contains papers from William Howard Melish; Mary Jane Melish, his wife; Francis H. Touchet, a member of the Holy Trinity parish who wrote a doctoral thesis titled The Social Gospel and the Cold War: A History of the Melish Case; and Anna May Mason, a long-time parishioner who kept records of her extensive involvement with the church and the “Melish Case.”
The Church of the Holy Trinity (BHS Series 1: folder 1)

The Melish Case started in 1948, when the vestry of the Church of the Holy Trinity, located at Clinton and Montague Streets in downtown Brooklyn, asked their rector to find a replacement for his assistant. They considered “that certain outside activities of the Assistant rector were most detrimental to the interests of Holy Trinity Church” (Series 4: folder 2). The rector refused, the vestry sought to remove them both, and ten years later, after court battles in the Church and Civil Courts and attention from the mainstream, international, and Church press, the Protestant Episcopal Bishop of Long Island closed down the church.

John Howard Melish, ca. 1910 (BHS Portrait collection)

Like Father, Like Son
The rector in question was the Rev. John Howard Melish, born in Milford, Ohio in 1874, the son of the Rev. Thomas Jefferson Melish, the rector of St. Philip’s Protestant Episcopal Church in Cincinnati. The bulk of the collection covers the years 1947-1958, a time when Dr. Melish stood less in the spotlight of public affairs, but some events from his early life and activities at Holy Trinity can still be gleaned from the material.

Dr. Melish studied at the University of Cincinnati, then at the Episcopal Theological School in Cambridge, Mass., and received his doctorate from Harvard Divinity School. He came to the Church of the Holy Trinity as rector in 1904 after a brief stint as associate rector at Christ Church in Cincinnati. [Ed note: emphasis mine]

His was always a progressive voice in the Church. In 1915 he led the effort to give women parishioners the right to vote in the annual parish meetings of the Episcopal Church. A pamphlet he penned for that fight, Democracy and Woman Suffrage (8:1), was held in high regard and later used in the struggle for women’s suffrage on the national level. He fought for better labor conditions, and was a fraternal delegate to the Central Trades Labor Council of Greater New York. When Dr. Melish was on the stand at the Supreme Court trial (see next section), Justice Steinbrink said, “Tell them about some of the old Brooklyn political bosses that you and I helped to unseat” (3:5). Later on in life, his main crusade was housing for the poor. Among his endeavors in pursuit of that goal, he served as the Chairman of the Brooklyn Committee for Better Housing.
William Howard Melish, ca. 1940 (3:4)

The Assistant rector was William Howard Melish, the son of John Howard Melish. The younger Melish was born in 1910 in Brooklyn and was raised around his father’s activities as pastor at Holy Trinity. He also entered the ministry, like his father and grandfather had before him. Toward that end he attended Harvard, then Jesus College, Cambridge, then another alma mater of his father, the Episcopal Theological School in Cambridge, Mass. He too was an assistant pastor for a year in Cincinnati before his father asked him, in 1938, to come back to Holy Trinity to serve as the Assistant rector. [Ed note: emphasis mine]

At Holy Trinity, William Howard Melish continued his father’s emphasis on the struggle for worker’s rights and the effort to include a diverse population in the parish. He served as chairman of the International Justice and Good Will Commission in the Brooklyn Church and Mission Federation and the Vice-President of the Kings County American Labor Party. He also helped to found, and served as the Chairman of, the National Council for Soviet-American Friendship (NCSAF).
William Howard Melish serving tea (3:4)

The Controversy Begins
It was his progressive politics in general, and the position he held as Chairman of the NCSAF in particular, that discomforted certain members of the vestry at a time when the spectre of Communism was framed as the antithesis of all things good, wholesome, and American. In 1948, the Attorney General of the United States labeled the NCSAF a “subversive organization” (5:11). William Howard Melish soon landed in the pages of Time Magazine and Newsweek (3:4) as a “fellow traveler” of communism.

The vestry reacted to this attention from the mainstream press by asking the elder Melish to replace his son. He refused, so they voted to separate the parish from its rector of 45 years.
The Melishes challenged the vote, and the case made its way through both the Church and Civil Courts. Soon the Bishop of Long Island, James Pernette DeWolfe, was heavily involved in the matter. The courts upheld the bishop’s ruling that John Howard Melish was no longer the rector at Holy Trinity. Nonetheless, the younger Melish continued to preach, serving as the standing rector. Thus ended, in 1951, the first wave of the Controversy.

The Second Wave
For five years William Howard Melish continued with the duties of a pastor at the Church of the Holy Trinity in relative peace. He lived in the rectory with his father, his wife, and his children. He published pamphlets, gave sermons, such as When Christians Become “Subversive,” (8:2), and wrote a book titled Strength for Struggle: Christian Social Witness in the Crucible of These Times.
When Christians Become Subversive (8:2)

The conflict at Holy Trinity, however, was far from over. Starting in 1955 the Bishop named a series of successors to take the place of William Howard Melish as rector, but none of them could force Melish to leave the post. On one exciting Sunday, Melish and the Rev. Robert Kollock Thomas led overlapping services from the pulpit until Thomas gave up and left the church. At one point, the vestry changed the locks on the church to keep Melish out, then, once the doors were forced open and the locks removed, Melish supporters did the same to keep out the vestry. In 1957 a newly elected vestry, led by Lewis Reynolds, a parishioner who had formerly been on the Committee to Retain Our Rector, a “pro-Melish” group formed during the first wave of the Controversy, voted to replace Melish with a new rector, Dr. Herman Sidener, who was chosen after others declined. This action led to a repeat of the former round of court arguments and legal maneuvering that lasted four years. Bills were introduced before the State Legislature of New York that would ratify the vote of the vestry. The Melishes were accused of packing the church with their supporters, whereas the Bishop and vestry were accused of elitism and racism directed at the newer members of the parish (5:34).

Eventually, the Bishop ordered the church closed. Most of the parish, including William Howard Melish and his wife, began to attend services at nearby Grace Church. In 1961, the Bishop declared the church “extinct,” and its ownership transferred from the parish to the Diocese of Long Island (7:4). John Howard Melish lived in the rectory until his death in 1969. That same year the parish from St. Ann’s church moved to Holy Trinity and it was renamed the Church of St. Ann’s and the Holy Trinity.

Gems in the collection
The collection includes a number of letters between William Howard Melish and Mr. Ralph E. Wager, who wishes to write a biography about Bouck White. White, a friend of the elder Melish and a controversial minister in the Episcopal church, helped to set up youth athletic programs at Holy Trinity. His notoriety was due in part to The Call of the Carpenter, a book he wrote, published in 1911, which portrayed Jesus Christ from a socialist’s standpoint.
A pamphlet written about the Melishes by Arthur Miller (8:5)

Personal letters, as well as congregation-wide mailings and official requests, shed some light on the troublesome years of the Melish Case. This correspondence includes missives from William Howard Melish to his father, from Dr. Herman Sidener to Ms. Anna May Mason, and from the vestry to the parishioners.

The collection contains long runs of relevant serials, from the Holy Trinity Parish News to The Churchman, a national journal now known as Human Quest. The self-published works of both the Melishes and their friends, such as Arthur Miller, add further value to the collection.
Legal records from the Melish Case and administrative records from both the Church of the Holy Trinity and Trinity House, its non-sectarian, co-ed residence club, are also included in the collection.

The Meeting House

by Jesse Halsey

The Meeting House where for ten succeeding generations aspiring souls have found God, making His Presence known under the forms of our visible worship.

The Meeting House where our Fathers met in their generations to transact in Town Meeting the affairs political and economic of their tiny commonwealth.

The First Church of Christ in Southampton—thus she was called at her beginning; thus she remains a Church of Christ through the years. Standing today at the crossing where four ways meet, her testimony unswerving to Things Unseen and Eternal, a House of Prayer for all peoples, she renews her allegiance to her Lord and His Gospel of brotherhood and Good-will, remembering the Tradition of The Fathers, their fight for freedom, their brave testimony and unswerving devotion to duty, to Country, and to God.

Let Thy work appear unto Thy servants, and Thy glory unto their children. [And let the beauty of the LORD our God be upon us:] And establish Thou the work of our hands upon us; yea the work of our hands establish Thou it. 

--Psalm 90: 16-17
[Psalm 90] A communal lament that describes only in general terms the cause of the community's distress. After confidently invoking God (Psalm 90:1), the psalm turns to a complaint contrasting God's eternity with the brevity of human life (Psalm 90:2-6) and sees in human suffering the punishment for sin (Psalm 90:7-12). The psalm concludes with a plea for God's intervention (Psalm 90:13-17).

Venite Adoremus

by Jesse Halsey

Verulamium the Romans had called their red brick town, but when they had gone and the barbarians had overrun the North Country the name was forgotten and the stately buildings torn down and the bricks and tiles used for menial purposes.

In King Alfred’s time it was rebuilt and houses stood on floors that had been old Roman pavements. Houses, some of brick, some of stone, and in the fen down by the river huts of wattles, little hovels of wood, but each hut with its brick floor and fireplace.

The Romans had left not only bricks but also the name of a Christian martyr, one Alban, a Roman soldier who had died for his faith in the persecutions of Diocletian. The town of later days was (and is unto this day) called after him—St. Alban’s town.

Then had come the Normans—a rough army in conquest, but a cultured people with a new language, new customs, new laws, queer new and fancy usages added to the old religion. 

A hundred years now the Normans have reigned; King Williams’s builders have covered England with great churches and a might abbey stands on St. Alban’s hill, built much of it from old Roman bricks. It is a great establishment with a hundred monks, busy about all sorts of things. Great farms are theirs and the whole countryside pays tribute to their larder and cellar and coffer.

Services go on by day and by night—nine of them. In the abbey church a new and strange instrument of many horns and whistles has been installed. Brother Martyn directs a choir of monks, and a choir of men from the town, and a choir of boys from the countryside. These are great new days and business is stirring, the road that the Romans built from London into the North is in repair and is now safe to travel. St. Alban’s borough is fat and prosperous, except that then down in the fen by the river, huts of wattles and hovels of wood remain (still with their tile floors and fireplaces).

Fireplaces, but seldom fire! The Norman lords allow no man to visit their forests, lest the deer be disturbed; wood is scarce and the poor go cold—fireplaces, but little fire!

In one of these hunts by the fen dwelt Gwillum, a boy of twelve, with his mother. Father had gone one night to Earl Reloy’s forest. “Maybe a rabbit might be found.” Maybe—but he had never come back. That often happened to the peasants. Gwillum helped as he might, reeds from the marshes; fish sometimes; sticks and bits of offal that might be burned in the fire, there was plenty to do.

Weekly in summer, more often in winter, he went to the monastery kitchen for a dole of bread and meat handed out to the poor. One day he heard Brother Martyn’s choir and waited until dark before going home. Punishment and no supper, but it was worth it—that music. Often after that he managed to hear the choirs and one day as he waited by the scullery door he began singing it himself—“Venite  Adoremeus.” The words were strange but the tune easy to follow. Next time he came he found himself ushered into brother Martyn’s schoolroom. The brother Ishaot, the cook, had heard him sing.

There with a crowd of boys two score maybe—all looking on and listening—Gwillum tried to sing for Brother Martyn. “Venite adoremus,” it came in spite of his fear, and next day the Lord Abbott sends a messenger to fetch Gwillum from his rough hut to live in the monastery school and sing in the choir.

The discipline is severe, the school hard, the services long and tedious, but the music to this his whole soul responds. Twice a week he goes to the hut where his mother lives with food and fuel sent to by the monks, one night in the week he stays to supper. Often it is cold by the tiny fire in the hut and he thinks of the great logs roaring up the great fireplace in the refectory of the monastery where he takes his turn at waiting on table.

December has half frozen the fens, snow is on the hills in great white patches; Christmas is coming, that great festival and all the monastery is astir with preparation. An innovation brought in by the Normans from the continent is just being introduced. It is called a Novena. For nine days before Christmas choir boys and clergy will march through the great church or around it, each day a little farther than the day before till on the last day they will march round the whole city coming into the abbey church just in time to begin the Christmas Eve service.

This is great fun for the boys. Each day a little further marching and signing then back to the church for prayers and good supper afterwards in the kitchen. All this represents, they are told, the Journey to Bethlehem. Let the monks pray, think the boys, they can march and sing, each day a little further.

At last the great day has arrived—tomorrow will be Christmas. The great Hugh, Bishop of Lincoln has come to spend Christmas with the Abbott. That Hugh who fears none, not even the king and told the king his sins in robbing the people of their rights in the land and in the forest; and when the king’s sheriffs have been unjust the old Bishop has excommunicated them. A Norman of the Norman, scholar and a saint, he is the champion of the poor—the Saxon babble, and even the king obeys—when he comes into Hugh of Lincoln’s diocese.

Bishop Hugh has come for Christmas to St. Alban’s abbey! The Novena procession starts out, it is late in the afternoon, a cold wind comes in from the north, the pilgrims must skirt the town. Out they go and on they go singing as they may they must skirt the town and fulfill their vows before the Christmas Eve service.

As the procession passes the huts on the fen-edge, Guillum slips away to see his mother and finds her groaning in pain in a heap of rugs by the cold fireplace. He gathers some twigs, opens the ashes, and blows up the fire to boil some water. He realizes that his mother is very sick; he must go for help. The Novena procession has passed; his vows will be unfulfilled—so brother Martyn has said, and the Abbott has said so, too. Never mind, he must go for help. Never mind the vows, he will be at church in time to sing in the service; he must be, for brother Martyn has chosen him to sing the solo opening of the Venite . . . “Venite Adoremus . . .”

Out he goes into the dark to a neighbor’s hut. No one is there. Then to the next, and the next. No one. All have gone to the Abbey for the Christmas Eve service, following the Novena procession, doubtless, of course . . . Across the fen-bog he sees a light in the big house—big to him—the house of the Earl’s gamekeeper. It is a long way round but he must go for help. Will they help him if he goes? The Church service—what will Brother Martyn say? He must run. Why not cross the bog, it must be frozen. The ice holds, he starts to run across and has almost reached the other side when he stumbles and falls breaking thin ice going up to his waist in mud. He struggles in the mire for footing, the ice breaks as he tries to lift himself by his arms, wet and bespattered, he threshes his wild way toward shore and finally pulls himself out. When he reaches the lodge door vainly he pleads for help. The gamekeeper’s servant berates him and beats him for poaching in the fen-bog.

He must get help. Back toward the monastery he runs, stumbling often in the rutty frozen road. At last he reaches the door of the boys’ dormitory completely winded and muddy from head to foot. Old Peter is there as he expected. “Hurry boy the service has begun!” No need to tell him that he can hear the organ groaning away; presently they will be singing. “They be waitin’ for ye lad, hurry.” “Nay, Peter, me mither do lay sick and like may dead. Come with me.” “Nay, Lad, wash ye, go ye to sing, I’ll go to yer mither.”

Swiftly, the boy obeyed; sousing his face and hands, leaving his muddy rags he slipped into his white cotta and wormed his way into his seat in the choir stall. Brother Martyn is red with anger, the bellows men on the organ have exhausted themselves in jumping up and down to blow the organ, all eyes are turned on him, even the old Abbot looks his impatience, and the Lord Bishop Hugh! Brother Martyn raises his fingere; it is time to start the Venite. Gwillum opens his mouth but no sound comes; he swallows, catches his breath and tries again—no sound. His throat is dumb.

The choir takes up the anthem, there is no solo voice . . . “Venite Adoremus.” Gwillum sobbing slips out of the stall and out through the dormitory, gathers his muddy garments and goes home disgraced. There he finds brother Peter and a monastery servant with a good fire, preparing to take his mother, now comfortable and cared for, to a convent hostelry across the river. The boy refuses to go with them, he has disgraced himself and dare not go back. After the others have gone, he spreads the ragged rugs by the fire and sobs himself to sleep.

How long he had slept he did not know. At the door came a succession of loud raps. Is it the gamekeeper? He thinks of his father. Again the knock—“Open boy, open, it is I . . . Brother Martyn.” No less afraid of the spiritual powers than of the civil, he pushes open the door and there in the rush light that a servant carries stands Brother Martyn the chorister, and just behind him tall and thin another stands. “Come lad, we need thee for the Christmas singing,” not the voice of Martyn this time, but another with a soft foreign accent, gentle and strong, “Come, lad, we need thee.” It is, it must be, Bishop Hugh. None other come to fetch him in spite of the Abbot’s protests and Brother Martyn’s scowls and “worthless wretch,” the Bishop had found out the reasons for the boy’s late coming and his voicelessness and had come himself to fetch him—that was like Bishop Hugh, no one could deny that was just like him.

That boy Gwillum sang in the Christmas Mass next day . . . “Venite Adoremus . . .” and lived to say Mass himself in his own cathedral church. For Bishop Hugh took the boy (after his mother died) to his choir school in Lincoln and sent him to the Grand Chartreuse in France where he learned many things new and old and came back after many years to St. Albans one Christmastide to complete his first Novena.   

151st General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church

The 151st annual General Assembly was held in Cleveland, Ohio May 25-31, 1939. Ruling Elder Sam Higginbottom of Allahabad Christian College in India was elected Moderator, and the Rev. Dr. Jesse Halsey of Cincinnati, Ohio, was appointed Vice-Moderator.

A Plumbline in His Hand: The Prophet Amos

--Jesse Halsey

Rabbi Jeshua
Had learned the mason's trade
Working with Joseph.

Straight He clove the rock
With a strong arm
And true he laid it,
Plummet alternating
With trowel.
A righteous builder,
His neighbors said.
("Na-Garr," their very word.)

That Last Week
One evening
Going to Bethany
A Disciple pointed,
"See, Master,
See, what manner of stonework."

He could appreciate.
Massive and square it lay
Buttressing the cliff,
The very foundation
Of The Temple.

"There shall not be left
One stone upon another
That shall not be--
Thrown down."
He seemed to sob.

They heard in silence,
Dumb with horror.

Then the sun set.

Years afterward
They remembered.

The text is prefaced with this note: "Mr. Editor-- Has this any value for some day in Holy Week?"

Friday, November 5, 2010

Notes for the Tree

Direct Line of Ancestors: Halseys in England and America 1510-1682
Thomas Halsey I immigrated to Lynn, MA, around 1638 and moved to Southampton, NY, in 1640. The first authentic record mentions the Halseys as Lords of the Manor of Tanesley in Cornwall, England, as early as the year 1189. In 1458, a branch of the Halsey family settled at Great Gaddesden and later became lessees of the Rectory of Gaddesden. In March 12, 1545, when came the dissolution of religious houses, Henry VIII bestowed the estate upon William Halsey. At that time the donation consisted of 4000 acres and it was on this estate in 1591, in the old mansion designated the Golden parsonage, that Thomas Halsey I the pilgrim to America was born.

The Golden Parsonage was situated a short distance from the river Gadde in Hertfordshire, England, about 28 miles north of London. The present heir and occupant of the property, Thomas Frederic K Halsey, M.P., is a descendant of the elder brother of immigrant Thomas Halsey. The great grandfather of the present owner tore down the original structure in 1773 after a fire and erected Gaddesden Place, the present residence. Gaddesden Place was designed by James Wyatt. About 3000 acres remain of the original grant. Reportedly, in a letter dated "Great Gaddesden, Hertfordshire, March 23, 1885," and addressed to Jacob L. Halsey, Vice President of the Manhattan Life Insurance Company, NY, Thomas Frederick Halsey acknowledges the clear and undoubted right of the descendants of Thomas Halsey, born at Great Gaddesden, to bear the Halsey Arms.
In 1994 I visited the Halsey homestead which is about 28 miles north of London. It was not easy to find [before the interwebs] and involved a very lucky cab ride and a lot of walking. But it was worth the trip.


William Halsey I was born 1510 in Great Gaddesden, [parish], Hertfordshire, England. He married Alice Ringsall. She was born Abt. 1510 in Great Gaddesden, Hertfordshire, England. She died 1557 in Great Gaddesden, Hertfordshire, England. He died 1546 in Great Gaddesden, [parish], Hertfordshire, England.
William Halsey II is the son of William Halsey & Alice Ringsall. He was born 1536 in Great Gaddesden, [parish], Hertfordshire, England. He married Anne in 1590 in Great Gaddesden, [parish], Hertfordshire, England. She was born Abt. 1536 in Great Gaddesden, [parish], Hertfordshire, England. She died on 20 Sep 1608 in Hemel, Hempstead, Hertfordshire, England. He died on 16 May 1596 in Hemel, Hempstead, Hertfordshire, England. 

Robert Halsey is the son of William Halsey & Anne. He was born 1565 in Great Gaddesden, [parish], Hertfordshire, England. He married Dorothy Downs about 1590 in Great Gaddesden, [parish], Hertfordshire, England. She is the daughter of John Alley & Esabel. She was born 1567 in Linslade, [parish], Buckinghamshire, England. She died on 23 Sep 1620. He died on 12 Oct 1618. 

Thomas Halsey I is the son of Robert Halsey & Dorothy Downs. He was born on 02 Jan 1592 in Parsonage, Great Gaddesden, Hertfordshire, England. He married Elizabeth Wheeler Abt. 1625 in Cranfield, Bedford, England. He died on 27 Aug 1678 in Southhampton, Long Island, Suffolk County, NY.

Elizabeth Wheeler is the daughter of John Wheeler & Elizabeth. She was born Abt. 1604 in Cranfield, Bedford, England. She died 1649 in Southhampton, Long Island, Suffolk County, NY.

Daniel Halsey is the son of Thomas Halsey I and Elizabeth Wheeler. He was born Bef. 1630 in Cranfield, Bedford, England. He married Jemima Woodhull. They were married Abt. 1668 in Southhampton, Long Island, Suffolk County, NY. He died Abt. 1682 in Southhampton, Long Island, Suffolk County, NY.  

Thursday, November 4, 2010

McCormick Faculty 1947

Annual Register of Officers and Students
McCormick Theological Seminary of the Presbyterian Church - 1947

The Rev. Jesse Halsey, DD
846 Chalmers Place Lane 
Professor of Pastoral Theology and Liturgies 

The Rev. Joseph Haroutunian, Ph.D. 
857 Chalmers Place Lane 
Cyrus H. McCormick Professor of Systematic Theology

"it is constantly on the job"

Ad in the Assembly Herald, April 1914

The Bulletin Board has been placed on the front of the church with a light placed over it, so that it is constantly on the job as our advertising spent, our best paying one, night and day. Every one is delighted with its neatness, general "get-up," and appearance of the frame. Jesse Halsey. Pastor.

The Auburn Affirmation

from Wikipedia

The Auburn Affirmation was a document dated May 1924, with the title "AN AFFIRMATION designed to safeguard the unity and liberty of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America," authored by an eleven-member Conference Committee and signed by 1274 ministers of the PCUSA. The Affirmation challenged the right of the highest body of the church, the General Assembly, to impose the Five Fundamentals as a test of orthodoxy without the concurrence of a vote from the regional bodies, the presbyteries. In 1910, 1916, and again in 1923, the General Assembly declared that every candidate seeking to be ordained in the Presbyterian Church ought to be able to affirm
  1. Inerrancy of the Scriptures
  2. The virgin birth (and the deity of Jesus)
  3. The doctrine of substitutionary atonement
  4. The bodily resurrection of Jesus
  5. The authenticity of Christ's miracles
The Auburn Theological Seminary history professor, Robert Hastings Nichols, proposed to challenge this procedure of repeatedly affirming additional standards of orthodoxy, besides the Bible and the Westminster Confession of Faith - which were the only standards of orthodoxy officially recognized by the church. The Affirmation denounces that procedure of affirming the Fundamentals in the General Assembly as a contradiction of the history and polity of the Presbyterian Church. It was drafted and signed by a writing group, primarily Nichols and Henry Sloane Coffin, with the original intention of presenting it to the General Assembly of 1923. After events of the Assembly that year appeared to indicate that their thesis would be favorably received by moderates, Coffin suggested that the Affirmation should be signed by ministers before being formally made public; and in accord with that advice it was circulated for signature in preparation for the General Assembly of 1924. Although the Affirmation did not officially come from Auburn Theological Seminary (at that time located in Auburn, New York), the name "Auburn Affirmation" has been attached to the document from the beginning, because of Nichols' influence as the originator of the idea.

The Auburn Affirmation was the culmination of the Fundamentalist-Modernist Controversy, which by 1924 had been a conflict of more than thirty years within the Presbyterian Church (USA). It is generally regarded as signalling a turning point in the history of American Presbyterianism, because it garnered the support of both theological traditionalists and liberals. Besides the 1274 signatories, the document as submitted claimed the support of "hundreds of ministers who agree with and approve of the Affirmation, though they have refrained from signing it."

The Affirmation has six sections that can be summarized as:
  1. The Bible is not inerrant. The supreme guide of scripture interpretation is the Spirit of God to the individual believer and not ecclesiastical authority. Thus, “liberty of conscience” is elevated.
  2. The General Assembly has no power to dictate doctrine to the Presbyteries.
  3. The General Assembly’s condemnation of those asserting "doctrines contrary to the standards of the Presbyterian Church" circumvented the due process set forth in the Book of Discipline.
  4. None of the five essential doctrines should be used as a test of ordination. Alternated “theories” of these doctrines are permissible.
  5. Liberty of thought and teaching, within the bounds of evangelical Christianity is necessary.
  6. Division is deplored, unity and freedom are commended.
Referring to the Five Fundamentals as "particular theories", the Affirmation's argument is succinctly summarized in two sentences:
Some of us regard the particular theories contained in the deliverance of the General Assembly of 1923 as satisfactory explanations of these facts and doctrines. But we are united in believing that these are not the only theories allowed by the Scriptures and our standards as explanations of these facts and doctrines of our religion, and that all who hold to these facts and doctrines, whatever theories they may employ to explain them, are worthy of all confidence and fellowship.
Partly due to the acceptance of the Auburn Affirmation, Presbyterian traditionalists who found themselves displaced because of it went on to found the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. This church maintains the older standards, such belief in the five essential doctrines (listed above) and the inerrancy of the bible; these are the minimum requirements for membership in an OPC congregation and ordination for its ministers.

Modernists in the Presbytery

from Two Assembly Previews by Thomas R. Birch
The Presbyterian Guardian
June 10, 1941

FOR those Bible-believers who have elected to remain in the Presbyterian Church in the U. S. A., the 153rd General Assembly, meeting in St. Louis from May 22nd to 29th, presents no bright ray of hope. These lines are being written as the assembly opens, and a bureaucratic big-wig has just nosed out an Auburn Affirmationist in the moderatorial race, no foe of Modernism has lifted his voice against the corporate unbelief of the denomination's boards and agencies, and the air is filled only with a frenzied enthusiasm for church union and for the mass-production of resolutions on the subject of war.
We confess that we are appalled when we consider that, for the first time in the history of the church, the general assembly received the sacrament of the Lord's Supper from the hands of an Auburn Affirmationist, retiring Moderator William Lindsay Young. The ugly and unadorned fact is more powerful than any editorial comment we could make about it.

Dr. Herbert Booth Smith of Los Angeles, California, and Dr. Henry Sloane Coffin of New York City were the only two moderatorial candidates mentioned prior to the opening of the assembly. There was little to choose between them. Dr. Smith might, it seemed, lose out to Dr. Coffin, for the latter possessed one qualification for election which each year becomes more important. Dr. Coffin is, in short, a signer of the Auburn Affirmation, which denies the doctrine of plenary inspiration and holds as mere theories, which mayor may not be believed, the doctrines of the virgin birth, the substitutionary death of Christ, His bodily resurrection and His miracles. For other facts about Dr. Coffin, see the article, "Modernism's Coffin," by the Rev. Robert B. Brown, in THE PRESBYTERIAN GUARDIAN for April 25th.

Dr. Smith, pastor of the second largest church in the denomination, is a member of the Permanent Judicial Commission-the body that brought in the Christ-dishonoring decisions of the Syracuse Assembly in 1936, which ordered the ecclesiastical executions of those who could not bow before
the iniquitous 1934 mandate. This seemed likely to give him a slight advantage over his rival. On the other hand, Dr. Coffin, as president of modernist Union Seminary, New York, for the past fifteen years, was sure to give him a stiff battle. It was impossible to forecast the outcome.

But Dr. Smith, nominated by Princeton's Charles R. Erdman who stressed his candidate's "orthodoxy"
and the "genuineness" of his Presbyterianism, won the gavel on the third ballot by a comparatively microscopic margin. There were 404 commissioners who wanted the Auburn Affirmationist candidate, and 461 who preferred Dr. Smith.

It is worth noting, also, that Affirmationist Coffin was nominated by Affirmationist Jesse Halsey, and that a dark horse who was scratched after the second ballot was Affirmationist William R. Farmer of Pittsburgh, Visiting Professor of Homiletics at Princeton Seminary in 1937-38.

Church union, that hardy perennial of previous assemblies, will again come under the spotlight. Serious wooing of the Presbyterian Church in the U. S. (the Southern Church) and of the Protestant Episcopal Church has been going on for some time, along with a mild flirtation with the United Presbyterians and the Methodists. The Southern Church is the only one that offers much hope of early nuptials, and it is likely that serious troth-plighting will occupy the current assembly. The Southern
Church, quite plausibly, has entertained some doubt as to the doctrinal soundness of its neighbor, and last year those doubts were strengthened by the refusal of the Northern assembly to adopt an overture reaffirming, in substance, the five points of the 1923 assembly which the Auburn Affirmation so effectively denies. This year conservatives and Modernists have lovingly linked arms and declared
their united hope that the assembly will adopt an overture from the Presbytery of Cedar Rapids, designed to assure the Southern Church that the Northern denomination is oh so
sound and that together they could be just one big happy family. Because of its tremendous significance, no matter which way the vote goes, we reprint the entire overture:
  • Whereas, The General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church, U. S., has deemed it wise to declare itself in a "didactic, advisory and monitory" manner concerning the essential truths involved in the ordination vows to which ministers and elders subscribe; and
  • Whereas, The doctrinal standards of the Presbyterian Church in the U. S. are substantially identical with our standards, and

  • Whereas, It is the hope and prayer of cur denomination that these two great branches of the Presbyterian Church might once again be organically united in the service of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, and
  • Whereas, We believe that this will be a denominations together,
  • Therefore, The Presbytery of Cedar Rapids, meeting in Mt. Vernon, Iowa, on April 28 and 29, 1941, respectfully overtures the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the U. S. A., meeting in St. Louis, Mo., in May, 1941, to declare that it regards the acceptance of the infallible truth and divine authority of the Scriptures, and of Christ as very and eternal God, who became man by being born of a virgin, who offered Himself a Sacrifice to satisfy Divine justice and reconcile us to God, who rose from the dead with the same body with which He suffered, and who will return again to judge the world, as being involved in the ordination vows to which we subscribe.
. . . The Presbyterian Church in the U.S. is proceeding with great caution on the matter of union, and has exhibited none of the frantic eagerness shown by its Northern neighbor. We hope that a continued thorough investigation of the doctrinal condition of the latter denomination will eventually lead the Southern Church to abandon the entire project.


from The Presbyterian Guardian, May 18, 1936, p. 86.

Eclectic Medicine

In 1934 the Eclectic Medical College of Cincinnati conducted an AMA Survey for Accreditation:

from A Profile in Alternative Medicine: The Eclectic Medical College of Cincinnati, 1845-1942 by John S. Haller, Kent State University Press, 1999. from

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

"cooked a 'Bean Supper' for the whole group"

Notes on Central Presbyterian Church
founded October 10, 1928
2950 Warren Blvd., Chicago 60612
  • Changed name from “New Eighth Church” (1922)
  • Merged with the Central Park Church (10/10/1928). 
  • During a period of financial difficulty a dinner was held (2/10/1943) — Professor Jesse Halsey of McCormick Seminary cooked a “Bean Supper” for the whole group. 
  • All-Negro “St. Paul Church” & all-white “Central Church” merged (first event of its kind in history of Presby. Church—9/1/1947). 
  • United with “Warren Avenue Congregational Church” to form the “Chicago, Warren-Central Church” in 1968.
from The Churches of the Presbyteries of Chicago edited by Bill Lankton and Lou Hasse, February 2010

"plumbing and kindred practical crafts"

The Rev. Jesse Halsey, clergyman and plumber, October 1910
May 10, 1910 - An interesting arrival will be Mr. Jesse Halsey, a Presbyterian minister who after an intensive course in plumbing and kindred practical crafts is to serve the Mission by superintending drainage installation. He will arrive with his bride in June to stay for a year, probably located at the Guest House.
from Jessie Luther at the Grenfell Mission by Ronald Rumpkey, 2001.

The Social Gospel

The Social Gospel was not intended only for America and Europe. It is applicable wherever there are men and women. The work of the missionary is an illustration of its message as truly as are improved tenements and municipal reform in our great cities.
But we cannot limit our thought of missions to Christian work in foreign lands, important and extraordinary as that now appears in the light of great transformation through which Asia is passing. There are missionaries on the American continent who are equally heroic exponents of the gospel.
There is the work among the Eskimos and the Indians; the ministration of Doctor Grenfell to the fishermen on the coast of Labrador, which extends across the entire range of social activities, business, home life, disease, mechanics, religion.
Vastly wider in influence is the work of Christian missionaries on the frontier of America and Canada. In point of self-sacrifice and willingness to endure privation for the sake of others, the lives of such missionaries are in no wise second to those of the missionary in foreign lands. Any person who has visited our great Northwest, and has seen how the Sunday-school worker and the missionary pastor have built up their churches and carried over the spirit of the gospel into every form of life, will realize how much our country owes to their efforts. Our missionary work among the foreign-speaking populations in America has been of importance not only religiously, but politically. No better training in the American spirit could be given the newly arrived immigrant than that given by Protestant churches. In a new world facing a new life under new conditions, the new settler, whether he be of American or foreign descent, needs the message of the gospel to enable him to withstand the temptations which spring up all too quickly.
from The Social Gospel by Shailer Mathews, Dean of the Divinity School, University of Chicago, 1910