Historic Documents of American Presbyterianism

The Harvey Cedars Resolutions
[The Bible Presbyterian Church, 1945]

A significant signpost in the history of the Bible Presbyterian Church was the publication and approval of what came to be known as the Harvey Cedars Resolutions. In 1945 the Eighth General Synod of the BPC convened at the denomination's conference center in Harvey Cedars, New Jersey. Thus the name applied to the resolutions. With its approval, the Bible Presbyterian Church codified much of what had already characterized the denomination, namely its stance on the twin issues of personal and ecclesial separation.

Some background on the Resolutions is provided in the seventh chapter of George P. Hutchinson's valuable History Behind the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod
[p. 258]:

As anticipated, the issue of separation was much discussed during the Synod of 1944. For instance, retiring moderator Roland Armes addressed the brethren in the following spirit,

"There would be no Bible Presbyterian Church apart from the call to separation. . . . I am convinced that God is calling us to go on with Him in this walk of separation. Every act of separation, in time, necessitates another act of separation, as God permits new circumstances to arise and then through these circumstances calls us with a still, small voice to a closer walk with Him and a clearer, sharper testimony to the heedless, truth-denying, Bible-doubting world about us."

As a result of debate, the Synod called for ‘a prayerful study of the Word of God to ascertain the Biblical basis and meaning of Christian separation.’ The supervision of this task was entrusted to Faith Seminary President Dr. Allan A. MacRae, whose labors culminated in the carefully articulated Harvey Cedars Resolutions approved by the Synod of 1945.

Consideration of the Resolutions later figured in the eventual 1965 merger of the Columbus Synod wing of the Bible Presbyterian Church [renamed in 1961 as the Evangelical Presbyterian Church] and the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America, General Synod. The latter group was particularly cautious about the degree of separation espoused by the Resolutions, and only after considerable negotiation was the matter laid aside, in effect by a renunciation of the Resolutions on the part of the EPC.

{The following text of the Resolutions is excerpted from the Minutes of the Eighth General Synod of The Bible Presbyterian Church, Harvey Cedars, New Jersey, 1945, pages 18-20]:

The report of the Committee to Study the Subject of Separation was then heard, the Rev. A.A. MacRae presenting the report. The Committee was appointed by the last Synod to study the question of separation from worldliness and from apostasy, and to report to this Synod. It consisted of the Rev. A.A. MacRae, the Rev. Harold S. Laird, and the Rev. Clarence Laman. Dr. MacRae reported that the Committee had sent out a letter last fall to all ministers of the church asking them to send in statements as to their views on separation and to request their elders to do the same. The Committee decided to deal with the two aspects of separation individually. Since the matter of separation from worldliness plays
so vital a part in the events which cause the establishment of the Bible Presbyterian testimony, each Synod has adopted a well-thought-out resolution on the subject. This resolution, which was adopted as Resolution 2 in 1944, seemed to the committee to fill the need on this point and to give a balanced view of the matter. The Committee recommended, however, the insertion of an additional phrase so as to explicitly include the use of tobacco in the subjects discussed. With this change the resolution is as follows:

Resolution I
In conformity to the Word of God, and without adding thereto any rules binding the conscience, we do hereby urge our membership to lead a holy life separated from worldly sin. We hold that the participation in games commonly used for gambling sets a snare for our young people, introducting them to gambling associates and leading them in this evil practice. We hold that the patronage of the commercial theatre is not conducive to the development of the spiritual life. We hold that the promiscuous familiarity between the sexes in modern society in the modern dance and in other modern social customs sets dangerous temptations before the young. We also desire to declare that we deem it wise to pursue the course of total abstinence with regard to alcoholic beverages, and also tobacco; and furthermore we are unalterably opposed to the modern saloon, and the liquor traffic in general. We urge all ministers and Christian leaders among us to discourage these and other worldly practices among the Lord's people, and to give their testimony uncompromisingly against all forms of sin.

On motion this resolution was adopted.

In connection with the aspect of separation from apostasy, Dr. MacRae reported that the Committee had worked out a resolution which seemed to it to present the important principles related to this subject in carefully balanced form. The resolution was presented as follows:

Resolution II

1. We hold that it is our duty to separate ourselves from all cooperation in religious activities with those who deny the full authority and dependability of the Word of God, and that no consideration of expediency could ever warrant such cooperation.
2. As concerns coooperation with those who, while themselves believing in the fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith, continue in membership in denominations which include known unbelievers, and fail to see clearly and to observe fully the scriptural injunction to separate themselves from such organizations, we hold that this is a sphere of expediency, that is, one in which no man's conscience may be bound by other men; however, we as a Synod feel that great harm is done in many cases by such cooperation, and hence that it is unwise to enter upon or continue in them without careful consideration.
3. Regarding such individuals as are described in paragraph one, we should seek by every possible means to win them to Christ; regarding such individuals as are described in paragraph two we urge that they be dealt
with in a spirit of brotherly love, seeking by every proper means to win them rather than to drive them from us, and yet not violating our conscience.

Mr. [E.A.] Dillard moved that the suggested resolution be amended by substituting "a Christian's" for "our" and "himself" for "ourselves" in the first line of the resolution. This amendment was adopted.

It was moved and seconded that the second paragraph be amended by striking out the words "of expediency, that is, one". After considerable discussion this motion lost.

A change in the third paragraph was suggested, and by common consent Dr. MacRae was permitted to alter it by inserting the words "to the scriptural position of separation" before the words "rather than" in the next to the last line in the resolution.

After a thorough discussion of the resolution it was moved and seconded that further consideration and action be postponed and made the first order of the day Monday. This motion was lost. It was moved and seconded that Resolution II be adopted as amended. This motion was unanimously passed.

As adopted Resolution II reads as follows:

1. We hold that it is a Christian's duty to separate himself from all cooperation in religious activities with those who deny the full authority and dependability of the Word of God, and that no consideration of expediency could ever warrant such cooperation.

2. As concerns coooperation with those who, while themselves believing in the fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith, continue in membership in denominations which include known unbelievers, and fail to see clearly and to observe fully the scriptural injunction to separate themselves from such organizations, we hold that this is a sphere of expediency, that is, one in which no man's conscience may be bound by other men; however, we as a Synod feel that great harm is done in many cases by such cooperation, and hence that it is unwise to enter upon or continue in them without careful consideration.

3. Regarding such individuals as are described in paragraph one, we should seek by every possible means to win them to Christ; regarding such individuals as are described in paragraph two we urge that they be dealt with in a spirit of brotherly love, seeking by every proper means to win them to the scriptural postion of separation rather than to drive them from us, and yet not violating our conscience.

Recess was voted untill 7:30 p.m.

 

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