By Parnell McCarter



One common objection to joining with the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland, if one lives in a place like the United States, is that name “Scotland”.  Why should an American join a church that is said to be “of Scotland”?  Why not join a church “of the USA”?


In order to understand the reason why, those of us who are Americans need to eat some humble pie.  Our forefathers in the mainline American Presbyterian church unadvisedly chose to discard with the Establishment Principle (see http://www.puritans.net/news/usa031307.htm and http://www.puritans.net/news/politicalphilosophy051605.htm ).  This has meant that the USA has had to “import” its Presbyterianism from Scotland, because Americans by and large rejected sound historic Presbyterianism, for a corrupted version without the Establishment Principle.  Even at this time, America is still only ready to have a mission church of the historic Presbyterian church (manifested in the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland), and is not ready to have its own synod.


And what is true of the USA is true of other nations as well.  For example, England unadvisedly rejected Presbyterianism in its past, so it too has had to “import” Presbyterianism.  Then there are nations like the Ukraine, which have been largely destitute of reformed Christianity for much of their history, but now have a mission work of the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland [FPCS] (see http://www.fpchurch.org.uk/Magazines/fpm/2005/October/article9.php ).  And there are other places like Zimbabwe, where Christianity itself only came in the last few hundred years, and it too is not ready to have its own national synod, but still be a mission work of the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland.


Scripture provides principles by which we can know when the church in a nation is ready to move from the status of a constituent mission work of a mother church of another nation, to an affiliate sister church, and these scriptural principles are suggested in The Form of Presbyterial Church-Government of the Westminster Assembly, excerpted below:


“…THERE is one general church visible, held forth in the New Testament…The ministry, oracles, and ordinances of the New Testament, are given by Jesus Christ to the general church visible, for the gathering and perfecting of it in this life, until his second coming…Particular visible churches, members of the general church, are also held forth in the New Testament… Particular churches in the primitive times were made up of visible saints, viz. of such as, being of age, professed faith in Christ, and obedience unto Christ, according to the rules of faith and life taught by Christ and his apostles; and of their children…IT is lawful and expedient that there be fixed congregations, that is, a certain company of Christians to meet in one assembly ordinarily for publick worship. When believers multiply to such a number, that they cannot conveniently meet in one place, it is lawful and expedient that they should be divided into distinct and fixed congregations, for the better administration of such ordinances as belong unto them, and the discharge of mutual duties…THE scripture doth hold out a presbytery in a church…A presbytery consisteth of ministers of the word, and such other publick officers as are agreeable to and warranted by the word of God to be church-governors, to join with the ministers in the government of the church…The scripture doth hold forth, that many particular congregations may be under one presbyterial government…THE scripture doth hold out another sort of assemblies for the government of the church, beside classical and congregational, all which we call Synodical.  Pastors and teachers, and other church-governors, (as also other fit persons, when it shall be deemed expedient,) are members of those assemblies which we call Synodical, where they have a lawful calling thereunto. Synodical assemblies may lawfully be of several sorts, as provincial, national, and oecumenical.  It is lawful, and agreeable to the word of God, that there be a subordination of congregational, classical, provincial, and national assemblies, for the government of the church...”   (see http://www.reformed.org/documents/index.html for the Form in its entirety, along with scripture prooftexts)

A church in a nation is most obviously ready to move from the status of a constituent mission work of a mother church of another nation to affiliate sister status when the church in that nation can internally sustain its own synod, and it is clearly not ready when it cannot even readily sustain its own presbytery internally.

The mission work of the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland must not hastily seek to expand by compromising truth.  Ecclesiastical union with other Christian churches in a place like the USA should not proceed if there would be compromise of truth.  (For Dr. James Bannerman’s treatment of this subject, see http://www.puritans.net/news/bannerman051107.htm .)  The FPCS has rightly barred from the Lord’s Table those who unrepentantly use Sabbath public transport in systematic disregard of the Lord’s Day, who watch movies and stage-plays for entertainment, who attend the Romish Mass, etc.  Given this judicial history warranted by the word of God, the FPCS cannot rightly merge or affiliate with denominations which violate these principles and in many cases were formed precisely because they did disagree with the FPCS on these issues.  And, even more obviously, the FPCS cannot merge or affiliate with churches which have rejected full subscriptionism to the doctrines outlined in the Westminster Standards.  The reality in the USA today is such, that without compromising the truth, the church in the USA cannot even sustain its own presbytery or really even one congregation, much less sustain a synod ready to move to affiliate sister status with the FPCS.

We can look forward to a day when each nation has its own sound Presbyterian synod or general assembly- even one that is the established church of the nation.  There will be names like “the Church of the Ukraine”.  But so long as nations can only sustain mission works of the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland, they must accept the realities of the situation, and not think they are ready for what they are not.  When there has been a failure to face this reality, micro-Presbyterian churches have been formed.  They tend to be dominated by a few leaders, and are Presbyterian more in name than in reality.  They are like young birds trying to fly before they have wings. The casualties eventually lie on the ground wondering what happened.