Brief History Presbytery PNJ and the Orthodox Presbyterian Church
"According to the direction of the First General Assembly of the denomination, the committee entrusted with the erection of the Presbytery of New Jersey carried out preparations for presbyteryís first meeting in W. Collingswood. N. J., September 8, 1936. The Rev. Clifford S. Smith was elected the first moderator and Dr. Alexander K. Davison the first stated clerk. The roll of presbytery at that time included nine ministers and fourteen ruling elders, making a total of twenty-three members. At the present time , there are twice as many ministers and approximately three times as many ruling elders as there were ten years ago.The ten Jersey churches of the presbytery are distributed over the state so that the territory covered stretches from Passaic in the north all the way to Wildwood in the south. In addition, the promising congregation of Fort Lauderdale. Florida. of which the Rev. John C. Hills is pastor, is also a church of the presbytery, so that the bounds of presbytery are quite extensive indeed!
One particular missionary project in which the presbytery especially rejoices is the Boardwalk Gospel Pavilion at Wildwood, N. J. [Now called the Boardwalk Chapel]. Standing in a prominent place on the famous Wildwood boardwalk is a substantial building dedicated to the task of preaching the gospel of Christ to the thousands that throng this ocean resort every summer. During the season of 1945, the first summer of the Pavilionís operation, attendance at the services was increasingly encouraging. Plans are now being laid for enlarging the program of evangelism for the coming season. While the Pavilion is a project of the presbytery, enthusiastic response has come from the entire church. To the Rev. Leslie A. Dunn, pastor of the Wildwood church, much credit must be given for the vision that was his in the first place, and for the industry with which he, in particular, carried forth the Pavilion project." *
* The First Ten Years, by Robert Marsden -- a pamphlet on the early history of the OPC
Machen and the OPC D.G. Hart
Gresham Machen (1881-1937) was the principal figure in the founding of the OPC if for no other reason than that the Presbyterian controversy in which he played a crucial role provided the backdrop for the denomination begun in 1936. A distinguished New Testament scholar at Princeton Seminary from 1906 to 1929, Machen defended the historical reliability of the Bible in such works as The Origin of Paul's Religion (1921) and The Virgin Birth of Christ (1930). He emerged as the chief spokesman for Presbyterian conservatives by issuing a devastating critique of Protestant modernism in the popular books Christianity and Liberalism (1923) and What is Faith? (1925). When the northern Presbyterian church (PCUSA) rejected his arguments during the mid-1920s and decided to reorganize Princeton Seminary to create a moderate school, Machen took the lead in founding Westminster Seminary in Philadelphia (1929) where he taught New Testament until his death. His continued opposition during the 1930s to liberalism in his denomination's foreign missions agencies led to the creation of a new organization, The Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions (1933). The trial, conviction and suspension from the ministry of Independent Board members, including Machen, in 1935 and 1936 provided the rationale for the formation in 1936 of the OPC. Only six months after the new denomination's beginning, Machen died in Bismarck, North Dakota while trying to rally support for the OPC. He was arguably the most important conservative Protestant thinker of the first half of the twentieth century and the guiding light for the first generation of Orthodox Presbyterians.