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The Story of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church - By Honour and Dishonour
by Ernest C. Brown

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No up to date history of our denomination has been available since The Origin and Witness of the Irish Evangelical Church in 1945. This new book gives the background to our formation in 1927, the reason for our existence, the journey to the present and some challenges for the future. The book is hard back, has over 400 pages and is full of detailed information. You may even see yourself in one of the many photographs throughout. It is your story!

Pages: 543
ISBN: 978-0952266228
Cost: £15

Available to purchase from The Evangelical Book Shop:

Book Information
  1. Table of Contents[+]

    Preface and Acknowledgements
    List of Abbreviations
    Select Bibliography

    Part 1 – The Background Centuries
    1. The Pre-Presbyterian Era
    Patrick, Columbia and Others (400-800 AD)
    Vikings, Anglo-Normans and Tudors (800-1600 AD)
    2. The Presbyterian Church Begins
    Introducing Presbyterian History
    Early Blessing (1610-1630)
    Laud, Wentworth and Repression (1630-1642)
    Presbyterian Church in Ireland – Phase 2
    Civil War, Westminster and Cromwell (1642-1690)
    3. Doctrinal Surrender, Counteracting Grace
    Non-Subscription and Arianism
    Blessing from Without
    The Reformed Presbyterian Church of Ireland
    4. Counter-Offensive, Returning Life
    The Battle Joined with Arianism
    Returning Life
    Great Expectations

    Part 2 – The Developing Crisis
    5. The Broadening Church
    Lefferts A Loetscher
    Irish Presbyterian Colleges and Biblical Criticism
    Free Church of Scotland (1900-1905)
    Code Revision (1904-1911)
    Rev F W S O’Neill, China
    6. The IEC Founding Fathers
    James Hunter
    John Richard Gillespie
    William James Grier
    The Family Trees
    7. The Princeton and Machen Input
    The Princeton Controversy
    The Princeton Influence
    Summers in Canada 1924-25
    The Machen-Grier Correspondence
    8. The Nicholson Missions
    The First W P Nicholson Campaign
    The Second W P Nicholson Campaign
    9. The Leaders Engage
    Hunter and Grier Join Forces
    The Cape Breton Call
    10. The Battle is Joined
    SOS to Irish Presbyterians
    Presbyterian Bible Standards League

    Part 3 – The Heresy Trial and Appeal
    11. The Heresy Trial
    Formal Indictment
    Trial Overview
    Charge 1 – Imputation
    The Verdict
    W J Grier’s Notebook
    Charges 2-5
    Notice of Appeal
    12. From Trial to Appeal
    The Public Meetings
    Ulster Pamphlets
    The Days Before…
    13. The Appeal
    The Appeal Structure
    The Case for the Prosecution
    The Defence: Discrediting the Accusers
    The Defence: Vindicating the Accused
    Put to the House
    14. Post-Mortem
    The Combination of Factors
    Davey Theology – Irish Presbyterian Comment
    15. Theological Review
    Charge 1 Plea – Imputation – Derek Thomas
    Charge 2 Plea – Christology – John Grier
    Charge 3 Plea – Scripture – David McKay
    Charge 4 Plea – Sin – Iain D Campbell
    Charge 5 Plea – The Trinity – Andrew Woolsey

    Part 4 – The Irish Evangelical-Evangelical Presbyterian Church
    16. Severing the Bonds (1927)
    The Local Press
    17. Constituting the Trust (1927-28)
    Chat Noir ‘General Meetings’
    A Union Church?
    A New Denomination
    Early Restraints
    Let Israel now Say
    18. Gaining a Foothold (1928-39)
    Industrialisation and Depression
    Announcing IEC
    The Irish Evangelical
    The First Congregations
    The First Ministers
    Home Missions – Mainly Colportage
    Foreign Missions – First Steps
    Council and Constitution
    Youth Work – in Embryo
    Ladies United Monthly Prayer Meeting
    The Emergent W J Grier
    19. …And Experiencing Pain (1933-34)
    The Dispensationalist Controversy
    James Hunter Gillespie
    20. Forging the Identity (1940-64)
    The International Scene
    Interceding for the Nation
    The Presbyterian Journey
    Inter-Church Relations – First Affiliations
    21. Consolidating the Position (1940-67)
    Church Extension: Phase 2
    Ministry Pressures and Progress
    Home Missions – Old and New
    Foreign Missions – Free Church of Scotland
    Youth Work – Becoming Established
    The Evangelical Presbyterian – Tributes and Changes
    Council Committees Begin
    The Grammar School Syllabus
    The Free Presbyterian Church of Ulster
    Early Anniversaries
    These Forty Years
    22. Paying Tribute (1940-67)
    Rev James Hunter
    Dr John Richard Gillespie
    Mr James A Kell
    Mr John J Patterson
    The First Four Ministers
    W J Grier
    23. Developing in Troubled Times (1968-1989)
    Old Attacks Renewed
    Ministry Changes and Development
    Church Extension – Phase 3
    Developing Committee Structures
    Annual Presentation of Presbytery Reports
    Developments in Praise
    Foreign Missions – An Era Concludes
    Inter-Church Relations – The Changing Scene
    Youth Work – Developing
    Commitment to Prayer
    Ministers’ and Office Bearers’ Conferences
    50th-60th Anniversaries
    24. Engaging with Strategy and Change (1980-2014)
    Strategy and
    Vision for the Nineties
    Further Church Development
    Ministry Growth and Standards
    A Busy Presbytery
    Youth Work – New Activities
    Autumn Evening Lectures
    The Book of Praise
    Ladies United Monthly Prayer Meeting – Its 70 Years
    The Evangelical Presbyterian – A New Chapter
    Inter-Church Relations – Expanding
    International Missions – A New Phase
    The Evangelical Book Shop – Changes
    Recurrent Censure
    75th Anniversary
    The Legacy of J G Machen
    Looking Back – and Forward – and Upward

    Part 5 – Learning from History
    25. Identifying the Issues
    Semper Reformanda
    The Right of Private Judgement
    Reaction to Change
    The Internal Lessons
    26. Living to the Standard
    The Confessional Church
    Church Worship
    Church Leaders
    Church Members
    Covenant Youth
    ‘Faith and Life’

    1. Heresy Trial Charges
    2. Articles of Faith of the Irish Evangelical Church (1927)
    3. Form of Government (1930)
    4. Ministers – Alpha
    5. Ministers – Congregations
    6. Ministers’ Service Chart
    7. Congregations Chart
    8. Congregations-Ministers Chart
    9. Office Bearers – Congregations
    10. Membership-Attendance Statistics
    A Member Long-Term Missionary Service, B Member Missionary Service Chart
    12. Council-Presbytery Appointments
    13. IEC-EPC Member Publications
    14. Conferences
    15. Autumn Evening Lectures
    16. Sunday School Projects – Subjects
    17. YPA Projects
    18. Camp Venues


  2. Endorsements[+]

    The History of the church has been marked by a never-ending struggle for faithfulness to the Bible and its central teachings. This struggle has always been painful and costly and often perplexing. This history of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church provides a glimpse of an often-overlooked chapter in that larger story. In a way that belies its relative smallness, it allows us to see the scale of the issues facing the church generally in Britain and Ireland at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries. This was a time of growing confusion over what churches claimed to believe on the one hand and what was actually being taught by its ministers, missionaries and educators on the other. Many Presbyterian churches were deeply affected by these issues and the Presbyterian Church in Ireland was no exception. This record of events and the candid analysis that comes with it gives a unique insight into the formation of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church. It speaks beyond the limits of EPC and provides valuable perspective on issues churches continue to face till the end of time.
    Mark G Johnston, Bethel Presbyterian Church, Cardiff

    Every now and again a work of denominational church history appears which has a wider significance than to those whom it immediately concerns. Such a work, as well as telling the story of a particular church, or controversy, or division, can also serve to inform, to warn, and to counsel others in similar situations. Ernest Brown’s history of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church is such a book, and when the Church is in a state of ferment, as it is in so many parts of the world at the moment, it is to be warmly commended.
    John R McIntosh, Professor of Church History and Church Principles, Edinburgh Theological Seminary

    As a denominational history this will have first appeal to its members, but it would be a great mistake to suppose that is where the appeal will end. God often does great things through minorities. One young man going from Belfast to Princeton Theological Seminary in 1923 led to a bookshop in Belfast and to recovery of the Reformed Faith which would touch many parts of the United Kingdom. It had an exciting influence on my own life. Here is a narrative which puts faithfulness to truth before numbers and demonstrates again, “Them that honour me, I will honour.”
    Iain H Murray, Author, Historian and joint Founder of The Banner of Truth Trust in 1957

    The Evangelical Presbyterian Church deserves a place in church history to a degree far greater than it currently possess. Small, and therefore insignificant to many, she stood (and stands!) firm when others around her collapsed into a post-modern haze of uncertainty and compromise. Never one to pursue the ephemeral concerns of ecclesiastical politics, the EPC has been content (arguably, too content) to remain loyal to core biblical and reformed truths that root her to the Reformation and non-conformist Presbyterian traditions. As such, she is strategically positioned and disposed to meet the demands of the 21st century. This history affirms her immensely significant role and much more! It is a labour of love. It remains my greatest honour to have served in this body for 17 years, and though my life since has been very different, none of it compares to the blessed experience of ministry in the Evangelical Presbyterian Church. I commend this book, and its accomplished author, not for the sake of emblazoning a particular denomination, but for something far greater: the faithfulness to the gospel that it relates.
    Derek W H Thomas, Senior Minister, First Presbyterian Church, Columbia, South Carolina. Robert Strong Professor of Systematic and Pastoral Theology, Reformed Theological Seminary, Atlanta.

    The Evangelical Church is a small denomination which has punched above its weight since its founding in the early twentieth century, producing a number of outstanding preachers and, in W J Grier, a significant church leader. Yet it is little known, and its history, though fascinating, has not received significant treatment at the hands of historians. In this work, a labour of love, Ernest Brown has pieced together a splendid history of the denomination which he loves. Indeed, he has done more than that: he has set the EPC within the context of Irish church history as a whole and of the wider Western social context. This is a delightful book, of interest beyond the bounds of the EPC.
    Carl R Trueman, Paul Woolley Professor of Church History, WTS-PA

  3. Sample[+]

    The following is comprised of extracts from a chapter, Gaining a Foothold, and describes how the Irish Evangelical Church took its first steps.

    These were generally hard times for the people of Britain and Ireland. Belfast had enjoyed some 80 years of prosperity, but this was drawing to a close at the end of the 1920s. The 19th century Industrial Revolution applied powered machinery to manufacturing and focused locally on the dominant linen business that had developed as a cottage industry during the 17th century between the rivers Bann and Lagan – the Linen Homelands. Industrialisation transferred it to factories concentrated in Belfast. People flocked from the countryside to work in the Belfast linen mills, and the human tragedy of the Irish Famine, 1845-1848, added to the migration. It was largely instrumental in the rapid growth of the population from 20,000 in 1800 to 350,000 in 1900, and 438,000 in 1939. There were over 70,000 Belfast linen employees at the end of the 19th century, many of them women and girls – the ‘shawlies’ among whom Amy Carmichael worked in the 1880s. Shipbuilding began in 1853 and developed quickly into a golden era with Harland and Wolff boasting the largest shipyard in the world by the early 20th century. The launch of the luxurious, technically advanced Titanic in 1912, symbolised its prestige. Rope making also flourished during the 19th century and the Belfast Ropeworks became the biggest in the world, at one point employing 4,500 people. However, Belfast did not escape the post-World War I industrial decline nor the impact of the global Great Depression (1929-1941) marked the period in many parts of the world, earning it the epithet, the Hungry Thirties. Belfast was one of the places badly affected. Harland and Wolff’s workforce, for example, fell from 20,000 in 1924 to 2,000 in 1933. Added to this was a resurgence of political tension, with weeks of serious violence in Belfast in 1935. Such were the IEC’s early years.

    The Conferences
    The Irish Evangelical Church was constituted in October 1927. An early decision was to use a series of conferences to spread awareness of the new Church and the first was on 31 March 1928 in the YMCA Minor Hall. “The Hall was filled, some being present from the counties of Down, Antrim, Tyrone and Derry.” The handwritten programme, showing that five congregations or groups were already in existence, outlined an afternoon meeting of two hours duration. It began with the singing of Psalm 121, and ended with “The Church’s One Foundation”, both from Alexander’s Hymns No 3. The YMCA Minor Hall, and on one occasion the Large Hall, featured as Conference venues, but less often than congregational venues. The first of these was in Ballyclare on 1 September 1928 followed by an open-air meeting which formed “a large ring in Market Square”. A ‘Special Bus’ took the Belfast contingent. At the May 1928 Conference, Charles E Hunter of Ballyclare gave his testimony and his reasons for separation from the Irish Presbyterian Church. W J McDowell, the Church’s Colporteur addressed the gathering in April 1929. There were some well known speakers at these Conferences too: Dr E J Pace Director of the Field Extension Department of the Moody Bible Institute in Florida spoke in October 1929 and Rev. R Wright Hay, Secretary of the Bible League, in January 1930. Rev. Angus Mackay, Free Church of Scotland, Kingussie, was the speaker in April 1930, and Dr Basil C Atkinson, Under-Librarian of Cambridge University, in January 1931. Missionaries addressed two of the Conferences. Of special significance was the ordination of Rev. W J Grier at the Lisburn Road Conference on 20 July 1929. Another highlight was the visit of Dr Lewis Sperry Chafer, President of Evangelical College, Dallas, Texas, on 28 June 1930. Dr Gresham Machen, President and Professor of New Testament of Westminster Theological Seminary formed in 1929, visited Belfast in June 1932. He addressed a conference in the Botanic Avenue Church on Saturday afternoon, 25 June 1932, and another in the Wellington Hall of Belfast YMCA on the following afternoon. On Sunday morning he preached at Knock and in the evening at Crosscollyer Street. Dr Cornelius Van Til, Westminster Theological Seminary, addressed a Botanic Avenue Conference on 10 September 1938. He spoke on 1 Cor 1.20-21: “Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.” He said that it was plain that the Schools of Philosophy of Paul’s day had no answer to Paul’s challenge, and that likewise the modern thinkers had no answer to the Christian challenge, no solution to offer for the real problems of life, its origin and destiny. He appealed to his audience to hold fast manfully and consistently to that which was “the wisdom of God”. So the first decade saw the Conference become a regular feature of denominational life with most congregations hosting, and some establishing it as an annual event. During the period its purpose evolved from external advertising to internal bonding.

    The Irish Evangelical
    In 1987, Rev Joseph McCracken, then a retired missionary in South Africa, wrote a 60th anniversary article on the Evangelical Book Shop. In it he looked back on his own early days as an employee in the Shop: “I can recall the day when I said to Mr Grier, ‘We need a magazine’, and he heartily agreed, and so was born The Irish Evangelical” with Rev W J Grier as editor. In February 1933 the title became more ornate and superimposed on a sketch of the seven-branch Golden Lampstand of the Tabernacle. The Lampstand symbolised the church’s calling to be the light of the world, fuelled by the oil of the Holy Spirit and energised by the power of Christ (Ex 25.31-40; Zech 4; Rev 1.12, 20). To the left was the Chi Rho monogram of the first two letters of the Greek word for Christ, and on the right, the Alpha and Omega, signifying that the Lord Jesus Christ is the beginning and the end of all things. (Rev 1.8) The text in the lower left box changed with each issue. The first issue – 16 pages – June 1928, set a lasting pattern. It carried substantive articles—exegetical, devotional, evangelistic, and missionary with an IEC news section emphasising the need for prayer. There were ‘Gleanings’—brief quotations from well-known Christian writers. Its strong polemical note was a feature of W J Grier’s 50-year editorship, presenting a global picture of Higher Criticism, evolution, modernism, ecumenism, and the suffering of the church in parts of the world. The back page began its lasting Evangelical Book Shop advertisement of Bibles, devotional, doctrinal, teachers’ and children’s books, the Revised Psalters and Hymn Books.

    The First Congregations
    The strategy of meeting in homes with supporting conferences produced 10 congregations in the first five years, 1927-1932. Knock and Crosscollyer Street opened in October 1927, meeting at first as house churches. Shaftesbury Square began in November 1927 with evening services in a Lisburn Road home before starting morning worship on 11 December 1927 in a Shaftesbury Square hall. Ballyclare (1928), Jocelyn Avenue (1930), Clintyfallow (1931) also began in members’ houses. Somerton Road (1929) started in the local Unionist Hall, Crumlin (1929) in the Market Hall, and Slatehill, between Carrickfergus and Ballynure, was a Mission Hall. There was tremendous fervour in those early days. There were nights of prayer in the Shaftesbury Square Hall, until the man in the house next door started hammering the wall when the prayer and praise continued into the middle of the night. After that it was ‘half nights’ that stopped at midnight. They preached in the open air. They used every means that they could. This was a time of encouraging progress but it outstripped the limited manpower resources and produced its own difficulties as later became apparent.

  4. Review by Andrew J. Lucas[+]

    Not everyone appreciates history.
    For example, the American industrialist Henry Ford famously remarked “History means nothing to me. History is more or less bunk”. As evangelical Christians we have a different perspective, particularly regarding sacred history, which as Paul tells us ‘was written for our instruction’ (Rom. 15:4 NASB). But we should also have a high regard for church history more generally, which is so often a helpful interpreter of present dilemmas. For this reason, the members and friends of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church are particularly indebted to Ernest C. Brown for his new book ‘The Story of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church’. It is a fact, that the events that brought our church into being now lie beyond the memory of all of us, and for this reason, it would be easy to lose our ties with the past, and to question our reason for existing as a distinct denomination. But with great clarity, the author of this new work brings those momentous events to life again, and helps us to see, that not only was the cause of our forefathers just, but that there is also a strong case for our continuing existence as a confessional church.

    In the opening chapters, we are skilfully guided through the ups and downs of Irish Presbyterianism in the centuries preceding the crisis that gave birth to the EPC. And what becomes clear, is the fact that our forefathers’ struggle was nothing new, but part of a recurring struggle for Biblical Christianity. The issues may have changed from one generation to another, but again and again, faithful men had to step up to the mark and fight for the truth. In the closing decades of the 19th century, previous battles were forgotten, and the Irish Presbyterian Church once again allowed itself to drift theologically. Ideas began to be tolerated which would require a new generation to take up the fight. The author introduces us to those characters who will go on to play a significant role in the coming battle. He describes their backgrounds and their initial skirmishes, before moving on to the dramatic events of 1927. The fact that almost ninety years have passed since the heresy trial, allows the author to view events with a little more detachment than was perhaps true of those who lived nearer to the time. He assesses both the strengths and the weaknesses of our forefathers’ case and the tactics that they employed. This balanced approach only adds strength to the author’s final conclusion that truth was unquestionably on the side of those who opposed Professor Davey. And just in case we think the issues raised in 1927 belong to a bygone age, the book also includes five helpful articles by different authors, which show their ongoing relevance for us today.

    The final sections of the book centre on the establishment and growth of the Irish Evangelical Church, as it was then known, and from 1964 the Evangelical Presbyterian Church. The early years were not without their difficulties, but much can be learned from how our forefathers coped with those difficulties. But perhaps the most striking feature of this part of the book, is the zeal displayed by the founding members of the EPC. They had a clear vision that all of Ireland, both north and south, should be reached with the gospel of grace, and to this end they laboured with extraordinary zeal and selfsacrifice. The reviewer was struck by the observation made by J. Campbell Andrews, a student at Free Church College in Edinburgh, who visited Ireland in the 1930s. He wrote:

    Two things about the Irish Evangelical Church must impress a stranger. One is the spiritual fervour of the members with whom one comes in contact. They are zealous for the glory of God in the salvation of souls. The other is the great volume of earnest and definite prayer rising from the church to the throne above. It must be prevailing prayer because it is offered in faith, in Christ’s name, to the end of His glory and the good of men’s souls. Such zeal and prayer must have results, and for this reason one feels that, under God, the Irish Evangelical Church is to be a means of great blessing to many.

    If the book helps us to rediscover this prayerful zeal, we will be forever indebted to its author. This book is warmly recommended and is an absolute must for all who love the Lord Jesus Christ and his church.

Book Launch - Evangelical Book Shop Spring Lecture 2016

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From Left to Right: David Watson, Andrew J Lucas, Ernest C Brown (seated), Colin Campbell, John Grier

On Monday 14th March 2016, 'By Honour and Dishonour' was launched at the Evangelical Book Shop Spring Lecture at Knock Evangelical Presbyterian Church. The Rev. Robert Johnston preached from 2 Corinthians 6:1-10 and the author Ernest C Brown gave a lecture on 'The Confessional Church'. Items of praise on the night were Psalm 102 13-22 (Scottish Psalter), All hail the power of Jesus' Name, and Psalm 87 (Sing Psalms).

Audio recordings from the meeting are available below to listen to or download.