Orthodox Presbyterian Church

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The Orthodox Presbyterian Church is a conservative American Reformed denomination that emerged from the Presbyterian tradition in America. In 2005 it had 20,000 full members and 449 clergy in 244 congregations. Despite the term "Orthodox" it has no links to the Eastern Orthodox churches.

It holds steadfastly to the Westminster Standards. It was founded in 1936 by conservative members (especially John Gresham Machen) of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America (PCUSA) who were strongly opposed to the pervasive Modernist theology of the 1930s. Machen, a Presbyterian scholar at Princeton Theological Seminary for most of his career, was the first moderator.

The Church attempts to preserve historic Calvinism within a Presbyterian structure. OPC was originally called the Presbyterian Church of America, but a legal issue with Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A caused them to change their name.[1]

It has been charged with being too Fundamentalist in nature as well as not being Fundamentalist enough. Its willingness to defend Bible-based Christian liberties such as the moderate consumption of alcoholic beverages (see Ecclesiastes 9:7, Matthew 26:29, John 2:3-11) and a robust toleration of various eschatological viewpoints set it apart from those who seek more prohibitionist-based forms of piety and a strict dispensationalist interpretation of scripture. After the confrontations with modernism of 1920's and early 1930's died down, differences among the conservatives, especially in regards to the tolerance of Christian liberties and dispensation theology, became much more apparent. Such differences ultimately led to a split in the OPC: strict dispensationalists and anti-drinking members left to form the Bible Presbyterian Church in 1937. "With the division of 1937, the OPC signaled that is was not a fundamentalist church.[2]"

The OPC has disciplined its members for breaking rules that prohibit participation in organized sports on their Sabbath observance. It remains highly skeptical of the Charismatic movement, going so far as to discipline one of its ministers who spoke tongues in private.

Further reading

  • Hart, D. G. "Fundamentalism, Inerrancy, and the Biblical Scholarship of J. Gresham Machen." Journal of Presbyterian History 1997 75(1): 13-28.
  • Hart, D. G. and John Muether. Fighting the Good Fight: A Brief History of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. Philadelphia: Orthodox Presbyterian Church, 1995. 217 pp.
  • http://www.opc.org/ The Orthodox Presbyterian Church's website.


  1. Ironically, another conservative denomination has since assumed the name Presbyterian Church in America, which was founded in 1973 and is the second largest Presbyterian church in the United States after Presbyterian Church (USA).
  2. "Hart, D. G. and John Muether. Fighting the Good Fight: A Brief History of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. Philadelphia: Orthodox Presbyterian Church, 1995. p. 105

External links