Formation of the independent board in 1924 by the Rev. Dr. J. Gresham Machen, of Philadelphia, rivaling the officially recognized group, precipitated a fight between fundamentalists and modernists. Dr. Machen and several associates already have been tried on charges of refusing to resign from the board, decisions in which are expected to be handed down by the judicial committee either tomorrow or Wednesday.
The 1,000 clergymen and laymen attending the assembly heard an appeal today to quit “quarreling about how you interpret the Bible and make God known to the children.” Offered in the form of a floor motion, the appeal came form David Bogue, of Portage, Wis., an elder, after several hours discussion on various subjects, participated in by fundamentalists and modernists.
The assembly broke into wild applause. The motion was referred to the general council for consideration. Only a few moments before the assembly heard the Rev. Robert L. Vining, of Mifflinburg, Pa., criticize the Board of Christian Education for distributing literature “saturated with modernism and typical of much of the literature published by the Board of Christian Education.” The Rev. Mr. Vining mentioned these booklets specifically. They were titled “Christian Beliefs” and “A Survey of New Testament History,” by Eliot Porter, widely used in Presbyterian conferences, and a primary teachers’ pamphlet. The Pennsylvania minister attempted to amend the board’s program for the coming year to eliminate “such expressions of modernism,” but the assembly voted to refer the motion to committee.
The fundamentalist minority suffered a further setback when the assembly refused an immediate vote on its proposal to restrict members of the Board of Christian Education “to only such members who are faithful to the doctrinal standards.” The proposal, drafted by the fundamentalists headed by the Rev. Dr. Machen, was referred to the committee on policy.
This action, it was pointed out, generally means a deferment of consideration for at least another year, or may “pigeon hole” the measure for all time. The fundamentalists sought to instruct the Board of Christian Education “that no one who denies the absolute necessity of such loyalty to the Bible, to the confession of faith, shall serve on its staff.” The assembly’s action further widened the breach between the fundamentalists and modernists, marked within the last twenty-four hours by another attack by Dr. Machen upon modernist doctrines.
These were the rapid-fire developments as the one hundred and forty-eighth assembly moved into its fifth day:
1. Dr. Machen, fundamentalist leader, reiterated that the Judicial Commission decisions last week against his faction “renders inevitable a division in the church,” and charged that the present organization is “dominated by a modernism which is profoundly opposed to the Christian religion.”
2. Announcement of a meeting tomorrow night of Machen followers to discuss preliminary plans for creation of a separate church, preparatory to the Philadelphia convention late this month of the Constitutional Covenant Union.
3. Fundamentalists protested what they termed modernistic policies by the Board of Foreign Missions in China, and prepared to demand a reorganization of the Board of Christian Education “so as to assure the teaching of our doctrines.”
Dr. Machen’s latest attack upon the modernist doctrines was made in a Sunday sermon in which he criticized what he termed the church’s demand that “we ministers submit our consciences to a living and shifting human authority.” “To that demand, he declared, “we must say very simply that ‘we ought to obey God rather than men.’ We cannot agree to take the Bible from our pulpits and put the last minutes of the General Assembly in its place.