December 8 Today in OPC History

Clarence Duff


On this day in 1938 the Rev. Clarence W. Duff renounced the jurisdiction of the Presbyterian Church in the USA (PCUSA) and asked for his name to be erased from the roll of the Presbytery of Philadelphia North. Duff graduated from Princeton Theological Seminary in 1927 where he was in the same class as Ned B. Stonehouse, Paul Woolley, John Murray and Edwin Rian. Ordained in the Presbytery of Shenango PCUSA on June 22, 1927, Duff was in the first party of the Sudan Interior Mission to go to southern Ethiopia as a pioneer missionary. He served in Ethiopia until forced to come home in September, 1938 by the Italians who had conquered the country.

Back in the USA Mr. Duff was faced with the developments which had occurred in recent years in the PCUSA. His reasons for leaving the PCUSA were:

1. ”Men of unquestioned loyalty to the Bible and the subordinate standards of the PCUSA have been deposed from the Gospel ministry while men well known to deny the essential doctrines of the Bible are elevated to the highest places of leadership in the church."

2. “I cannot conscientiously support by my gifts, or encourage others to support, the foreign or national mission enterprise or the Christian education program of the church.”

3. “The PCUSA continues to support the radical Federal Council of Churches of Christ in America.”

Duff wrote, “This situation has become intolerable to me, and I no longer care to be connected with a church whose testimony is so confused and many of whose ministers are so dishonest that they can take the most solemn vows with apparently no intention of keeping them. I am convinced every time I read I Corinthians 6:13-16 that to remain in a church so controlled by and complacent toward unbelief is to confuse righteousness with unrighteousness, and light with darkness. I have decided that for me to continue in the fellowship of the Church involves me in compromise with error and obscures my testimony to truth as it is revealed in God’s Word.”

Duff was received by the Presbytery of Philadelphia of the OPC on May 10, 1939. After a short stint as a Home Missionary in Colorado during World War II he was called by the OPC to be a missionary to Ethiopia. He sailed in 1943 for Ethiopia but was unable to enter that country. Consequently, he began work in Eritrea where he labored for 27 years for the OPC as a missionary until retirement in 1970. Before his death on December 13, 1982, he wrote two books. God's Higher Ways is the story of the OPC mission work in Eritrea. Cords of Love describes the pioneering mission work in Ethiopia.

Picture: Clarence and Dora Duff

Note: Today's entry was written by Clarence Duff's son, Donald.



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