The Collingswood Tent, a Tent of Testimony
from the Christian Beacon March 24, 1988
It was the first Sunday in April, 1938, that the 1200 members of the Collingswood Presbyterian Church, meeting under the name of Bible Presbyterian Church, assembled in a tent at the corner of Haddon Avenue and Cuthbert Boulevard in Collingswood, NJ. The arrival of this tent on this corner completed five years of ecclesiastical civil court litigation. On June 15, 1936, the congregation had voted to renounce the denomination’s jurisdiction when the General Assembly, meeting in Syracuse, NY, ordered the Presbytery of West Jersey to precede and suspend Carl McIntire from the ministry because he had not obeyed the 1934 mandate to support the denominations foreign board to the fullest measure of his ability and to sever his connection as a member of the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions, which it been organized by Dr. J. Gresham Machen.
When the General Assembly communicated to the stated clerk of the Presbytery the directive to ascertain from Dr. Carl McIntire whether he had obeyed the mandate and to precede with the trial, McIntire went before the Presbytery with an overture to the General Assembly of 1935, meeting in Cincinnati. These overture called upon the General Assembly to take action seeing that the Foreign Mission Board and its missionaries were faithful to the doctrinal standards of the church and to their ordination vows, including the one that declared the Bible to be the only rule of faith and practice. McIntire’s overture was supported by a series of documents which he correct lead read to the Presbytery; and when the decision came to lift to the overture, the response was overwhelming and only one vote was cast against it, that of the stated clerk himself, who had received the letter to put McIntire on trial.
When the overture reached to the General Assembly which it did, McIntire had been named by the Presbytery as one of its three commissioners in order that he could attend the assembly and present the evidence in support of the overture. No sooner had Dr. McIntire enrolled in the General Assembly along with two other members of the Independent Board from the Philadelphia Presbytery, H. McAllister Griffiths and Merril T. Macpherson, than their enrollment was challenged on the floor, and all three were denied their seats on the ground that they had not obeyed the mandate of the previous assembly.
Dr. McIntire was denied the opportunity to appear before the General Assembly committee dealing with foreign missions. The trial itself by the Presbytery was not brought to a vote until after the General Assembly of 1935 the decision was made in the First Presbyterian Church of Merchantville those pastor was E. Lansing Bennett. The actual vote was 38 to 40. The change of two votes would have kept the Presbytery from going forward with the trial, but as it was argued, it would have been in contempt of the General Assembly. McIntire was convicted by the Presbytery as Judicial Commission. The dissenting opinion by an elder who was a lawyer and judge from Bridgeton, the honorable Samuel Iredale, completely vindicated Dr. McIntire’s stand, but the mandate was unconstitutional and Dr. McIntire’s appealing to the Word of God both as to its truthfulness and authority was justified in his obedience to Christ.
The evidence which he presented to the Presbytery was then taken by Dr. Robert E. Speer who was General Secretary of the Board of Foreign Missions, and he made a reply. To this McIntire made a detailed reply, which was then printed in a booklet of 96 pages and the Collingswood session sent 10,000 copies of this to the elders in the denomination. Speer did not face the evidence that McIntire had presented and, in the introduction, McIntire listed eight ways in which Dr. Speers had Sought to get around the evidence and discredit Dr. McIntire. These eight points are listed:
1. By an effort to obscure the facts.
2. By the introduction of and dwelling upon matters designed to distract attention from the facts.
3. By actual miss quotations which missed represent the facts. He accuses me of tearing passages from their context, but he not only takes points of evidence from their context but actually changes sentences, which she is supposedly quoting from me.
4. By a deliberate denial of the facts; yet the facts remain.
5. By a warm patting on the back of the Presbytery as “a body of fair and just and open minded men,” forgetting that this body, so “fair and just an open minded,” adopted the Overture was only one dissenting vote after the evidence—the books and pamphlets—presented was read to the brethren and they heard with their ears and saw with their very eyes the actual facts! That Presbytery adopted the points of the Overture seriatim; and, of course, it did not expect the Board of Foreign Missions or its eight secretarial staff to agree.
6. By an attack upon me personally, even questioning my loyalty to the Scriptures. Has the time, when a minister in the Presbyterian Church cannot in all sincerity go before his own presbytery and argue in behalf of an Overture to the General Assembly which his brethren approve, without being attacked personally by the great leader of the missions movement? Dr. Speers difference now is with the Presbytery of West Jersey.
7. By a strong reminder to the brethren that they must be loyal to that which the General Assembly is approved, forgetting that the true loyalty which man must have to their church is that loyalty to the Great Head of the Church, Jesus Christ, and to the Book upon which the church is built. Loyalty to Christ and the ministry of his Word is greater than any personal loyalty to Dr. Robert E Speer and the Board which he represents!
8. By wrestling of the scriptures to support each is not contained in the Bible. One fairly grasps as you realize is the lengths to which Dr. Speers gone in his defense of Modernism.
The evidence after these years of stands. It was the Woman’s Missionary Society of the Collingswood church the first raised the issue for the congregation. They refused to use and accept the literature from the foreign board. Who would possibly think that Jesus’ method of making himself divine would be imitated, as their book stated? He was the Second Person of the Trinity. Who would think Jesus saw human existence so beautiful that He could not bear to leave it? Human existence was to pray them condemned and lost.
So thoroughly indoctrinated was the congregation in the sound fundamentals of the faith than when the presbytery suspended Mr. McIntire from the ministry and said he could not preach any longer, the congregation denounced the denomination and continued to call Mr. McIntire to preach. As of September 28, he will of completed 55 years of ministering in Collingswood. He has seen three generations of members become a part of the churches testimony.