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
- Inerrancy of the Scriptures
- The virgin birth (and the deity of Jesus)
- The doctrine of substitutionary atonement
- The bodily resurrection of Jesus
- The authenticity of Christ's miracles
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:
- 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.
- The General Assembly has no power to dictate doctrine to the Presbyteries.
- 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.
- None of the five essential doctrines should be used as a test of ordination. Alternated “theories” of these doctrines are permissible.
- Liberty of thought and teaching, within the bounds of evangelical Christianity is necessary.
- Division is deplored, unity and freedom are commended.
- 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.