Ordained Servant Online
The Past, Present, and Future Work of Christian Education in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church
Danny E. Olinger
Prior to the formation of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC), Christian education was on the minds of many supporters of J. Gresham Machen in the Presbyterian conflict. In a series of articles that appeared in the Machen-edited Presbyterian Guardian in early 1936, the question was asked whether the educational policies and program of the Board of Christian Education in the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. (PCUSA) were sound and worthy of support.
The Guardian writers in seeking to answer that question examined Board publications to see what was being taught. The mission of Jesus was said to be the remaking of this world rather than saving men's souls for the next. Students were told that Christianity's focus should not be on the preaching of sin and salvation, but on complimenting man on what he is and telling him to live his best. Accepting without reservation the doctrines of the modern churchthe infinite value of human personality, the fatherhood of God, the brotherhood of man, and desiring to build the kingdom of God on earth were the great marks of being a Christian. Youth should not pray to God for power equal to their tasks but tasks equal to their power. Old hymns with worn-out theology ("There is a Fountain," "He Lifted Me," "It is Well with My Soul") should be discarded for newer hymns ("There is a Quest that Calls Me," "Follow the Gleam") that reflect the modern faith. A Young People's Quarterly Teacher's Edition advised leaders against teaching the doctrine of the total depravity of man. The lesson stated, "Many of the older creeds of the church contained the doctrine of the total depravity of man. This has been interpreted as meaning that man is wholly defiled, incapable of any good, inclined wholly to evil, and unable in his own accord to better himself in any way. The Christian church has moved away from the belief, realizing that it is not in harmony with Jesus' teaching about the worth of man."
The authors concluded that the Board was compromised by modernism, characteristically indifferent to the gospel, and unworthy of confidence. What was needed was not the correction of this or that error, but the creation of a new organism. The action of the 1934 General Assembly, however, demanded unconditional support of all Boards of the PCUSA. This left Presbyterians who believed that modernism stood against the Christian faith without a biblical option. As Ned Stonehouse argued, members of the church were left with the necessity of deciding whether (1) to accept the mandates of fallible men on a level with the authority of Christ in his Word, and (2) to contribute to the proclamation of Modernism, a perversion of the gospel of Christ. Stonehouse concluded, "An affirmative decision on either of these issues is equivalent to a denial of Christ." Machen and seven other ministers were suspended from the gospel ministry in May 1936 for questioning the scriptural authority of demanding complete support of the boards of the PCUSA.
Developing a Doctrinally Sound Program
It was understood, then, that developing a doctrinally sound program on Christian Education would be a high priority if the new church desired its life and witness to be faithful to God's Word. But, it was more than battling liberalism that drove the OPC to emphasize Christian education. There was also the understanding that the Great Commission could not be fulfilled apart from the obligation to teach. Going to make disciples of all nations and baptizing in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit cannot be separated from teaching them to observe all that Jesus had commanded. R. B. Kuiper articulated this belief, "A noteworthy feature of the Great Commission is that it bids the apostles and the church of all ages to teach. In fact, teaching is spoken of as their chief missionary task. They are to go in order to teach. Going is but a means to the end of teaching. And they are to baptize those who accept their teaching. But they must teach whether or not men give heed. And, significantly, they are told not once, but twice, to teach."
Consequently, one of the first actions of the First General Assembly of the OPC was to request the moderator, Machen, to bring back nominees for the creation of a Committee on Christian Education (CCE). He knew exactly which men to nominate, men who had written openly in the Guardian about the liberal theological stance of the old BoardNed Stonehouse, Calvin Cummings, John Clelland, Robert Atwell, R. Laird Harrisand ruling elder Gordon Clark. The Assembly without dissent approved the moderator's nominees the next day and appointed them as the Committee to bring back a report to the next Assembly.
Six months later, the Committee's report to the Second General Assembly started with these words,
The Committee on Christian Education wishes to express its conviction that the triumph of unbelief in the old organization was due in no small measure to the prostitution of existing educational agencies through compromise with unbelief on the one hand, and to the lack of a full-orbed and consistent system of Christian education on the other. Consequently, if the Presbyterian Church of America is to be a truly reformed church, activities in the sphere of education, however humble, cannot be initiated too soon.
And, indeed, humble were the activities that followed, for the OPC had little to no money to spend on home and foreign missions, much less Christian education. One year into its existence, the Committee on Home Missions and Church Extension of the OPC had a balance of $221.54. The Committees on Foreign Missions and Christian Education did not yet have operating funds.
The lack of financial resources, however, did not prevent the OPC from seeking to develop a comprehensive program of Christian education. It focused on promoting Sunday school and catechetical instruction, vacation Bible school, and Christian schools, helping with teacher training, and producing scriptural tracts. Presbyterian Guardian articles were also written to build up believers in their understanding of the whole counsel of God on the one hand, and to expose liberal unbelief on the other hand.
Cornelius Van Til helped as much as anyone to advance the cause of Christian education by tying it to the future of the OPC as a whole. In "What Shall We Feed Our Children: A Plea for Christian Education," Van Til wrote, "Humanly speaking, then, one cannot honestly be enthusiastic about the future of the [OPC] unless its people will realize that a new and far more intense policy will have to be adopted in the field of Christian education." Proving himself to be more than a friend of the Committee in word, Van Til spoke at Christian education sponsored rallies to raise funds.
Slowly emerging from its fiscal limitations, the OPC moved forward in 1942 to authorize the CCE's hiring of a general secretary, Floyd Hamilton, to supervise the work. Once a general secretary was in place, attention turned to what was meant by the term "Christian education," with various definitions given over the next decade. John Galbraith argued that what was needed during the present time was not education per se, but Christian education, "education that reveals not only the 'that' of things but the 'why'; education that teaches the origin and purpose of the things that arethat 'of him, and through him, and to him are all things.' " Leslie Dunn wrote, "Strictly speaking, Christian education is the Christian training given to children of Christian parents." Edmund Clowney drew attention to the joint responsibility of the home and the church when he wrote that "most of the actual religious training of the child must be done by the Christian parent, but the church must prepare and direct the parent in this sacred task." Clowney further explained what Christian education is. He said, "We may limit the term to the Christian day school, or even to the publishing activity of our Committee. But Christian education must mean nothing less than Christian edification, the great saving process by which Christ builds up His people in faith and new obedience. We dare not lose sight of this God-centered unity in Christian education."
Robley Johnston, who succeeded Hamilton as general secretary, summed up the Committee's position by the mid-1950s when he wrote, "Christian education, then, is the divinely ordained means of achieving the goal at which the missionary program of the church is aimed, for it is the work of Christian education to provide for the growth of the church in unity of faith and knowledge of the Son of God."
In seeking to achieve this goal, one means the CCE repeatedly stressed was teaching covenant children the Catechism. Stonehouse acknowledged the word "catechism" has a stuffy sound to some. But, as he also explained, if the church is to have a vibrant faith, then making clear the truth of Scripture to the youth of the church by use of the Catechism was a "rock-bottom essential." To those new to such an approach, Glenn Coie explained, "A catechism is an orderly, systematic statement in simple, question-and-answer form of the truths of God's Word as to (1) what we are to believe concerning God, and (2) what duties God requires of man."
The person, however, who did more to organize catechetical training for the OPC than any other was Everett DeVelde. Designing a Covenant Children's Catechumen Course that was published by the CCE, DeVelde put together a course of study for Orthodox Presbyterians to use that covered a youth's catechetical training from infancy to graduation. If taken from beginning to end, four hundred and twenty-two Bible verses, the Children's and Shorter Catechism, and ten hymns would be memorized, and, in addition, the whole Bible and the doctrinal standards of the church would be read.
The CCE also sought to provide OPC members with Christian literature and tracts to combat secular teaching. Edward Young argued that that newspaper and magazine articles universally presented a view of man that magnifies man and his powers. He concluded that through the written word, a climate of opinion had been created in which God was not considered necessary. Young recommended the CCE's tracts as one way to combat such teaching. He wrote,
These tracts are distinctive. They are Scriptural. They avoid the error of merely telling a story to arouse the emotions and of then making an appeal, though there may be a place for such stories in some tracts. They are positive and instructive, and an endeavor is made to keep them absolutely true to the Scriptures. The tracts are issued upon the assumption that what the world needs is not entertainment, not amusing anecdotes, not emotional appeal alone, but truth.
Sunday School Curriculum
Johnston's main objective as general secretary, however, was for the CCE to deliver a Sunday school curriculum that could be used for children from first grade to twelfth grade. The Committee had heard from the churches for years that there was a need for Sunday school material that was both theologically sound and pedagogically correct. Finally, the CCE decided in 1960 to embark on developing a total Sunday school curriculum despite the great challenges such a program presented for a church the size of the OPC. The capital outlay required to initiate the program on a limited scale envisaged was over $50,000. To put the cost of the proposed Sunday school project in perspective, the purchase price the previous summer of the new OPC administration building at 7401 Old York Road was $49,627. Within a year, however, it was determined that at least $100,000 would be needed to write, print, and promote just the first segment of the work. Special offerings for the CCE were held, a Sunday School Publication Loan Fund was established, and CCE (along with Home Missions) petitioned the Thirtieth General Assembly to consider the establishment and operation of a combined budget for the program committees, which was adopted.
A staff was hired and work began in earnest. Senior High (grades 10, 11, 12) material was published in 1963, then Primary (grades 1, 2, 3) in 1964, Junior High (grades 7, 8, 9) in 1967, and Junior (grades 4, 5, 6) in 1971. That which seemed like an audacious goal for such a small churchthe completion of a three-year-cycle Sunday school curriculum for grades one through twelvewas done.
Immediately, however, the realization set in that the first lessons published were a decade old and in need of revision. But, where would the funds come from for such regular maintenance? The outstanding debt for the program by 1972 was $138,000 in a church that had a combined budget of $450,000. Could the CCE maintain the Sunday school program that it had established? The three options that the Committee put before the General Assembly were to enlarge the percentage of giving to the CCE, borrow more money, or abandon the program altogether.
In the end, the Committee did not abandon the program, but this was not by route of increased giving or borrowing money. The solution was entering into a joint venture in 1975 with the newly created Presbyterian Church in America for the publishing of Sunday school materials under the trade name Great Commission Publications (GCP). The CCE-developed materials formed the starting point and basic building blocks for GCP materials.
Time of Transition
While it retained the responsibility of overseeing GCP's work, the CCE no longer had the daily task of producing the materials. This reduction in work load allowed the OPC to think about Christian education in a wider manner once more. The Assembly gave the CCE the responsibility in 1980 of producing a denominational magazine, New Horizons in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. As editor, CCE general secretary Roger Schmurr was tasked with promoting the work of missions and Christian education, providing theological articles, and printing news in and around the OPC. A decade later, the Committee created a second publication, Ordained Servant. Edited first by G. I. Williamson and then Gregory Reynolds, Ordained Servant is a quarterly journal that endeavors to help ministers, elders, and deacons in the fulfillment of their offices.
In 1980 the Assembly also transferred the work of ministerial training to the CCE. The CCE now had the responsibility of seeking out men for the gospel ministry, helping presbyteries develop men under care, supervising internships, and providing continuing education opportunities for pastors. There was concern initially about lack of funding for ministerial training with this transfer of oversight, but the church responded with abundant support and ministerial training in the OPC actually flourished. The intern program, under the leadership of general secretaries Thomas Tyson and Larry Wilson, became an essential part of the training of prospective ministers in the OPC.
In recognizing the changing landscape of Reformed seminary training, the CCE also established the Ministerial Training Institute of the OPC (MTIOPC) in 1998. Deliberately an institute and not a seminary, MTIOPC provided supplemental training in OPC distinctives through the use of the internet and then in-person meetings. Around the same time, the Committee launched the website OPC.ORG to provide a presence for the OPC on the internet.
The newest additions to the work of the Committee are the OPC Timothy Conference and the OP Summer Institute. The OPC Timothy Conference assists Orthodox Presbyterian churches in identifying and encouraging young men from ages 16-21 years old with apparent gifts for the gospel ministry. Local sessions nominate young men from their midst to participate in the Conference, which includes visiting Reformed seminary campuses and classes, being introduced to the gospel ministry by OPC ministers, and fellowshipping with a host OP congregation. The OP Summer Institute is designed for seminary students interested in learning more about the OPC and its distinctives.
Despite these new additions in the area of ministerial training, the CCE has continued its long history of providing resources for the church. Among its many print publications are the OPC's Book of Church Order and Confession of Faith and Catechisms of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. It also produces books, booklets, and tracts that focus on the basic teachings of the church.
To the Future
Times have changed, but what has not changed is the CCE's desire to serve the church through teaching all that Jesus has commanded. CCE has grown from very humble roots to conduct a comprehensive program of Christian education. And yet, the Committee recognizes the challenges that face the church in the area of Christian education. For instance, when Edward Young pointed out the power of the printed word in the 1940s, the impact of technological innovations on education in general was not envisioned. Experts agree today that the World Wide Web is for scanning, not for sustained reading. On average, individuals spend less than two minutes reading on any one site, which might explain why the most indispensible app of the web carries the name "browser." The lessening of attention spansor reading just for entertainment purposesis alarming. And yet, the message proclaimed by Google, the reigning king of the new media, is adapt or die.
For the purposes of Christian education, that ultimatum rings both true and false. It would be foolish for the CCE not to utilize new media forms. And yet, what must always be safeguarded is the primacy of the Word of God in the church, especially in regard to preaching. The alarm sounded today is that the church must ditch the old top-down model of proclamation for more user-friendly models of communication in worship such as drama, dance, and dialogue. Added to the pressure to abandon preaching as Word proclamation is the popularly held opinion that the next step in reading is tablet reading where images will fill the page along with the text, much like watching a foreign movie with subtitles. It will not be long before a Bible is produced along these lines, one where you will see an image of Jesus feeding the five thousand superimposed over the words.
Many raised in this internet generation already question the hard work required to memorize the kings of Israel, Luke's birth narrative of Jesus, or the Shorter Catechism when the information is a few clicks away. But, there is no substitute for memorization or meditation. Having access to God's Word is not the same as hiding it in one's heart.
Encouraging the OPC to remain Bible-based in the modern age undoubtedly will be part of the future work of the CCE. Seeking both to serve the Lord and his people faithfully, the CCE is endeavoring to develop media ecology sensibilities that will encourage the wise use of new media. But while our response to societal change will have an impact on the success of our future efforts, what will be even more important is the necessity of keeping Christian education ever before the church, not just a working general secretary and committee. As Ned Stonehouse warned Orthodox Presbyterians in his era, "a vigorous committee and an energetic secretary will not guarantee progress." Rather, Stonehouse argued, "True progress will materialize in the proportion that the churches and their individual members come to love the cause of Christian education." But lest anyone think that such a stance might result in indifference, Stonehouse concluded, "Such love will express itself in the generous support of the Committee."
Privileged to serve as the sixth general secretary of the CCE, I rejoice that members and friends of the OPC have supported the work of Christian education in the generous manner that Stonehouse deemed necessary. May our prayer be that the Lord would continue to bless the ministry of Christian education in the OPC for generations to come.
 Originally named the Presbyterian Church of America, the young church was forced to change its name when the Court of Common Pleas in Philadelphia ruled in favor of a suit brought by the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. The new name chosen February 9, 1939 at the Fifth General Assembly was the Orthodox Presbyterian Church.
 Ned B. Stonehouse, "Modernism and the Board of Christian Education of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A.: Part I," Presbyterian Guardian 1 (Jan. 6, 1936): 108. The editor's note for the article reads, "The Presbyterian Guardian presents herewith the first of an important series of articles to be published under the same general title. They will endeavor to appraise the attitude of the above mentioned Board as expressed in actions, attitudes, and publications."
 R. Laird Harris, "Modernism and the Board of Christian Education of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A.: Part VI, Presbyterian Guardian 2 (April 6, 1936): 7.
 Ned B. Stonehouse, "The Crisis in Christian Education: What Will the 148th General Assembly Do?" Presbyterian Guardian 2 (May 18, 1936): 72.
 John P. Clelland, "Modernism and the Board of Christian Education of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A.: Part V," Presbyterian Guardian 1 (Mar. 16, 1936): 198-199.
 Robert L. Atwell, "Modernism and the Board of Christian Education: Part VIII," Presbyterian Guardian (May 4, 1936): 51.
 Atwell, "Part VIII," 50.
 Ned B. Stonehouse and John J. DeWaard, "Modernism and the Board of Christian Education of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A.: Part IV," Presbyterian Guardian 1 (Mar. 2, 1936): 179.
 Calvin K. Cummings, "Modernism and the Board of Christian Education of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A.: Part III," Presbyterian Guardian 1 (Feb. 17, 1936): 162.
 Stonehouse, "Modernism," 108.
 For a full account, see Edwin H. Rian, The Presbyterian Conflict (Willow Grove, PA: Committee for the Historian of the OPC, 1992): 143-148.
 R. B. Kuiper, The Glorious Body of Christ (Philadelphia: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1966), 245.
 The Orthodox Presbyterian Church established "committees" answerable to the General Assembly and not "boards" given power beyond the judicatories of the church.
 Minutes of the First General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of America (1936): 14, 16.
 Minutes of the Second General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of America (1936): 23.
 Minutes of the Third General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of America (1937): 20.
 Vacation Bible school was seen as an essential means of outreach to unchurched homes with the message of salvation. See Lawrence B. Gilmore, "Vacation Evangelism," Presbyterian Guardian 12 (April 10, 1943): 104.
 A standing recommendation of the CCE to the General Assemblies in the late 1930s was to recommend to pastors and members of the Church the formation of Christian school societies, which have as their purpose the establishment of Christian day schools. In the last article written before his death, Machen urged the establishment of Christian schools looking to the example of those associated with the Christian Reformed Church. See, J. Gresham Machen, "Shall We Have Christian Schools?" Presbyterian Guardian 3 (Jan. 9, 1937): 133.
 Although officially an independent magazine, the Presbyterian Guardian was the undisputed house organ of the OPC. Machen helped establish the magazine in 1936 when it became apparent that Samuel Craig's Christianity Today would not support a reform movement. See, Neb B. Stonehouse, J. Gresham Machen (Willow Grove, PA: Committee for the Historian of the OPC, 2004): 407, 443-444.
 Cornelius Van Til, "What Shall We Feed Our Children: A Plea for Christian Education," Presbyterian Guardian 2 (Oct. 24, 1936): 24.
 Minutes of the Sixth General Assembly of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (1939): 20.
 John P. Galbraith, "Christian Education," Presbyterian Guardian 12 (Apr. 10, 1943): 105 (quoting Rom. 11:36, KJV).
 Leslie A. Dunn, "Our Covenant Children," Presbyterian Guardian 12 (Apr. 10, 1943): 101.
 Edmund P. Clowney, "Sunday Schools for Salvation," Presbyterian Guardian 15 (Feb. 10, 1946): 35. A subtle debate took place in the pages of the Presbyterian Guardian in the 1940s about whether Sunday school was primarily for instructing covenant children or evangelizing non-Christian children. Clowney represented a mediating position that prevailed in the end. He maintained that the primary responsibility of the church's teaching is to bring covenant youth to full realization and avowal of the covenant claims and blessings. However, he asserted that the church also shares in Sunday school teaching a solemn obligation for the evangelization of non-Christian children. See also, "A Formulation of Specific Principles of Christian Education and Pedagogy in Terms of Which the Work of the Committee on Christian Education is to be Guided," Minutes of the Twelfth General Assembly of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (1945): 42-48.
 Edmund P. Clowney, "God-Centered Unity in Christian Education," Presbyterian Guardian 23 (July 15, 1954): 125. John Murray would later argue that education if it is Christian must find its focus in all that is involved in Jesus Christ's person and work, Christ being not only Christian education's unifying principle, but also its interpretative principle. Murray added, "That the glory of God and the enjoyment of him is the goal of all life is surely an axiom of Christian profession. Education cannot be an exception." See, John Murray, "Christian Education," Presbyterian Guardian 44 (Oct. 1975): 142.
 From mid-1947 until 1954, the CCE labored without a general secretary overseeing the work. During this time, Orthodox Presbyterian minister Lewis Grotenhuis was hired as part-time publications secretary. Grotenhuis's tireless effortson top of pastoring a church and delivering mail dailyallowed the CCE to continue publishing its materials. The trade name "Great Commission Publications" was chosen during this time.
 Robley J. Johnston, "Perspectives in Christian Education," Presbyterian Guardian 24 (Sept. 15, 1955): 118.
 Ned B. Stonehouse, "Christian Education," Presbyterian Guardian 13 (Apr. 25, 1944): 125
 Glenn R. Coie, "A Message to Christian Parents," Presbyterian Guardian 13 (Apr. 25, 1944) 122.
 Everett C. DeVelde, "Something New for Covenant Children," Presbyterian Guardian 13 (Sept. 25, 1944): 297.
 Edward J. Young, "The Power of the Printed Page," Presbyterian Guardian 12 (Apr. 10, 1943): 103.
 Minutes of the Ninth General Assembly of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (1942): 36.
 It should be added that while the OPC saw the desperate need for a complete Reformed Sunday school program, it never advocated elevating Sunday school to a non-biblical status. Edmund Clowney argued "If Sunday school becomes a substitute for systematic instruction by Christian parents and the Christian pastor, it becomes a menace to the youth of the church. Exactly this has been the case in countless churches throughout our country" ("Sunday Schools," 35).
 Minutes of the Twenty-eighth General Assembly of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (1961): 47.
 Ibid., 45.
 Minutes of the Twenty-ninth General Assembly of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (1962): 19.
 Minutes of the Thirtieth General Assembly of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (1963): 8-12, 72-76.
 John Mitchell was hired as the main writer-editor. John Tolsma worked as the art editor. Dorothy Partington Anderson and Penny Pappas served as staff writers.
 Upon the completion of the Sunday school materials in the grade 1-12 sequence, 133 of the 140 congregations making up the OPC in 1973 were using the curriculum. See, D. G. Hart and John Muether, Fighting the Good Fight: A Brief History of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (Willow Grove, PA: Committee for the Historian of the OPC, 1995), 161.
 Minutes of the Fortieth General Assembly of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (1973): 58.
 Ibid., 59.
 The motivation behind producing a denominational magazine was two-fold. First, the Presbyterian Guardian had ceased operations in 1979. Second, the Assembly's program committees had been promoting their ministries through so many separate publications and letters that chaos was beginning to reign in this area. See Roger W. Schmurr, New Horizons 26:1 (2005): 4.
 Roger W. Schmurr, New Horizons 5:10 (1984): 15.
 Intern funding now represents the largest single budget expenditure yearly for the Committee. The Committee financially assists on average seven to ten yearlong internships and twelve to fifteen summer internships. The Committee also sponsors the Intern Mentoring Conference to help mentoring pastors in the supervising of interns.
 The stated purpose of OPC.ORG reads, "The Orthodox Presbyterian Church shall, through its Committee on Christian Education maintain a presence on the World Wide Web through its website known as OPC.ORG, in order to: 1) Provide public information concerning the description, beliefs, structure, ministries, and publications of the OPC; 2) Promote the cause of Christ within the OPC; 3) Provide Reformed theological material for consideration by other Reformed churches around the world; 4) Evangelize and teach the gospel to the world." Minutes of the Sixty-fifth General Assembly of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (1998): 116.
 See Ken Auletta, Googled (Penguin: New York, 2009).
 Ned B. Stonehouse, "Christian Education," 125.
Danny E. Olinger is the General Secretary of the Committee on Christian Education of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. Ordained Servant Online, August-September 2010.