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November 12

Second General Assembly – Day One

On Thursday, November 12, 1936, the Second General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of America (later to become the Orthodox Presbyterian Church) convened in the Manufacturers' and Bankers' Club on Walnut and Broad Streets in Philadelphia,

The assembly opened with a sermon by the retiring moderator, J. Gresham Machen, on "Constraining Love, " based on 2 Corinthians 5:14-15. Though none of his listeners knew it, this was the last time most of them would hear him preach. Stated clerk Paul Woolley then proceeded to call the roll, and 58 ministers and 26 ruling elders were seated as commissioners.

The Rev. Dr. J. Oliver Buswell, President of Wheaton College, was elected moderator on the first ballot. As the assembly began its deliberations commissioners detected from the start a clear departure in the new church from the practice of general assemblies of other denominations. As the Presbyterian Guardian observed: “The moderator did not make partisan ‘speeches from the throne,’ but left the chair in parliamentary fashion when he desired to make a proposal to the Assembly. He did not engage in attacks upon anyone in the church. He did not breathe out threatenings of ecclesiastical discipline against those who might be in the minority in ecclesiastical councils. He did not try to be a kind of moderatorial toastmaster by making jocose remarks when commissioners arose to speak. He did not use the weapon of ridicule against speakers who might arise to oppose measures which he favored. He did not, in short, employ any of the moderatorial methods which have attained such a painful vogue in certain ecclesiastical bodies of the present day. On the contrary, he conducted his office not only with the dignity and fairness which was to be expected of so distinguished a Christian leader, but also he endeared himself yet more to his brethren in the Presbyterian Church of America who already held him in high respect and warm affection."

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