At 7:15 pm on Monday evening, June 16, the 53rd (1986) General Assembly, meeting at Eastern College in St. David’s, Pennsylvania, finally came to a vote on a matter it had begun to debate the previous Saturday: whether or not to accept the invitation from the Presbyterian Church in America to unite through the process dubbed “joining and receiving” (J & R). The narrowly affirmative vote (78-68) fell far short of the two-thirds majority necessary for the motion to prevail. The vote surprised and disappointed many commissioners, prompting 37 of them to sign a protest on the following morning in which they described the decision as “a serious setback to our hopes for a unified, vital, biblical, and nationwide Presbyterian witness.”
One factor that may have swayed votes was the emphasis throughout the assembly on the fiftieth anniversary of the OPC. The Assembly recessed at several points to observe the milestone. On Wednesday, June 11, Wendell Rockey served as master of ceremonies at a banquet that featured an address by John Galbraith. Other speakers during the week included Clair Davis, Charles Dennison, Richard Gaffin, Jr., and Mark Noll.