American Presbyterianism edged closer this month to a doctrinal test on the virgin birth involving the presidency of one of its major schools, San Francisco Theological Seminary in suburban San Anselmo, California. The issue may reach the floor of the 171st General Assembly of the United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A., in Indianapolis, May 20–27.
In the background of the dispute stands the famed Westminster Confession, which states: “The Son of God … did … take upon him man’s nature, … yet without sin: being conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost, in the womb of the Virgin Mary, of her substance.”
Immediate occasion of Presbyterian concern is an editorial by president-elect Theodore A. Gill, in which he asks, “What of us who make the Virgin Birth no part of our personal confession, however often liturgical obedience involves us in its public repetition …?” (April 2, 1958, issue of The Christian Century, which Gill served at the time as managing editor). The editorial is unsigned, but Gill acknowledges its authorship (see an appraisal in “Review of Current Religious Thought,” CHRISTIANITY TODAY, April 13, 1959, issue).
Glendale (California) Presbyterian Church, distinguished for its benevolences and missions support, has memorialized the General Assembly, by unanimous action of its session, to deny confirmation of Dr. Gill’s appointment. The memorial is being circularized to the 200 churches of Los Angeles Presbytery urging them to take similar action. The session’s Committee on Christian Education had threatened to withhold financial support from the San Anselmo seminary until doctrinal uncertainties were resolved. The church has a membership of 3,150. Its minister, Dr. Clarence Kerr, recently retired after ...1
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