The Presbyterian Church, U.S., popularly known as the Southern Presbyterian Church, will observe in 1961 the centennial of its organization as a separate denomination. The theme of the celebration is Heritage and Mission. The emphasis on Heritage will not feature the tragic “divorce” in 1861 involving Southern members and the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A. (now the United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A.) but three centuries of Presbyterianism in the South. Actually the celebration looks to the present and future with stress on Mission. Two goals will be served by a centennial “love offering” (this is no high pressure quota campaign): aid for Presbyterian churches in other lands and participation, with the United Presbyterian Church, U.S.A., in a great Presbyterian Mission to the Nation. Evangelism will be the heart and soul of the celebration because of the place it has held in the history of the church and because of present needs and opportunities.

Evangelistic Concern

Presbyterianism in the South owed its origin to evangelistic concern and endeavor. It was the direct product of the Great Awakening in colonial America. The mother presbytery of the South and the agent for much of the advance in southern states was Hanover Presbytery in Virginia, founded in 1755 by New Side Presbyterian ministers who stressed the new birth, religious experience, and revivalism. The leader was Samuel Davies who shared many views and concerns of William Tennant and George Whitefield. Davies gave a tremendous impulse to Presbyterian outreach, though his ambition was “not to Presbyterianize the colony” but “to propagate the catholic religion of Jesus in its life and power.” The beginnings of Presbyterianism in many southern states owed much to ...

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