The background on this story is that as the modernist controversy progressed in the 1930’s, and as modernists were increasingly in control of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A., presbyteries within that denomination began to pass resolutions to turn away the graduates of Westminster Theological Seminary. The Seminary had been formed over the summer of 1929, in response to the modernist takeover of the governing Board at the Princeton Theological Seminary. Westminster, under the leadership of Dr. J. Gresham Machen, sought to hold resolutely to orthodoxy but increasingly found its graduates unwelcome in many presbyteries. The specific occasion for the following editorial was a resolution by the Presbytery of Waterloo, Iowa barring Westminster graduates from its pulpits.
A Westminster Man
Westminster Seminary is the object of constant attack in many Presbyteries of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. Why are these men not wanted? What is wrong with them?
The answer to that question is, we believe, very simple. They are ministers of Jesus Christ. If they were anything else than just humble ministers of their Saviour, they would not now be opposed. The account given in the last issue of the Christian Beacon of a graduate of both Yale University and Princeton Seminary who, together with his congregation, has been forced out of the Presbytery of Lackawanna for the same reason that the students of Westminster are kept out of Presbyteries, is an evidence that it is not to Westminster Seminary men per se that Presbyteries are opposed, but it is to that for which these men stand—the Word of God and the right of men to be ministers of Jesus Christ.
The situation has developed that in many Presbyteries a man dare not speak against a board of the church; and students who will not pledge blind obedience to the boards of the church cannot enter. Westminster students, simply because they are ministers of Jesus Christ and not servants of men or of boards, cannot in accordance with the Word of God take such a pledge; neither can they sit silent in a church where open denials of the confession of Faith are taking place. The present leaders of the church do not want these kind of men. They call them trouble-makers. Yet it is just these kind of men, servants of the Lord, which the church must have, if it is to be a church of Jesus Christ.
The hostility to “Westminster men” is, at bottom, hostility to the truth for which they stand. No man today, whether he be from Westminster or not, can get into some Presbyteries unless he promises to be the faithful servant of the boards. The General Council needs men to do its bidding. Therefore men must be tied, their consciences bound, and their right to be servants of Christ denied. When will people wake up to the awful sin of making young men, who have heard a call form Christ to preach, promise to serve blindly human agencies and councils rather than Jesus Christ!
[excerpted from The Christian Beacon, 1.15 (21 May 1936): 4.