History of the Cumberland presbyterian church
A New Denomination
by Gordon Hanna
Many things led up to the birth of our denomination. The first thing to remember is the birth of our denomination wasn’t planned, at least not by man. In the late 1700 the spiritual life of the Presbyterian Church was at a very low point. Also life in the Cumberland Country (Kentucky and part of Tennessee) was hard and risky.Most people came to this country for a new life and were busy clearing land and building cabins. There were also a lot of outlaws who came here to escape the law. Most Presbyterian ministers didn’t believe in revivals, they also didn’t want people to get excited or motivated about their religion. One person who later became a minister wrote of Dr. Thomas Craighead a Presbyterian minister from Nashville “I sat under Dr. Craighead for fourteen of fifteen years, and never heard him advance anything in the favor of the new birth, evangelical repentance, or saving faith. His sermons appeared to have not the slightest tendency to alarm the consciouses of his hearers, or to render them dissatisfied with themselves. On the contrary, his preaching seemed calculated to quiet the fears of the people and keep them from becoming disturbed about their souls’ salvation.” This was due mainly from the fact that the Westminister Confession of Faith chapter 3, section 3: states “By the decree of God, for the manifestation of his glory, some men and angels are predestined unto everlasting life, and others foreordained to everlasting death.”
A few of the ministers (like James McGready) had a problem with this. McGready came to Kentucky in 1796 to the Red River Church in Logan County. He soon organized the Muddy River and Gasper River Churches (Gasper River is still an active church today). The revival of 1800 spread beyond the bounds of McGready’s congregations and more ministers were needed. Obviously there weren’t many people around with a college degree and who were fluent in Latin and Greek as was required by the Presbyterian Church but, there were men called by God who believed Christ died for all and not for just a select few.
The Presbyterian Church refused to ordain these men because they wouldn’t accept chapter 3 section3 of the Westminster Confession of Faith and preach predestination and stop having revivals and circuit rider preaching. On February 2, 1810 two ministers Finnis Ewing and Samuel King and a licentiate Ephrain McLean went from Logan County to the home of Minister Samuel McAdow in Dickson county Tennessee to form a new Presbytery. McAdow said he would pray for divine guidance before making his decision. After praying all night he informed the others of his readiness to join them. So on February 4, 1810 a new Presbytery was formed to be known as Cumberland Presbytery. It was not the intention of those who formed this Presbytery to start a new denomination. They still hoped for a reunion with the Presbyterian Church.
After their efforts in this direction had been rebuffed, however provisions were made in 1813 for the organization of two other presbyteries Elk and Logan, and in October of 1813 the Cumberland Synod held its first session a Beach Church, Sumner County Tennessee. In 1829, a General Assembly was formed.
This is just a short over view of how our denomination was born. A lot more interesting facts and information about our denomination can be found in many of the books we have in our library. If you are interested I am sure Rev. Delashmit will be more than glad to help you.
Pastors of the Bowling Green Cumberland Presbyterian Church
Rev S.H. Eshman-1913-1914
Rev. A. C. Biddle-1915-1918
Rev. E.W. Barrington-1918-1920
Rev. C. A. Galloway-1920-1923
Rev. J. H. Zwingle-1923-1929
Rev. T. A. Devore-1930-1932
Rev. W. H. Cheatham-1932-1934
Rev. E. C. Comfort-1934-1936
Rev. A. D. Rudolph-1936-1937
Rev. Morris Pepper-1937-1942
Rev. George E. Coleman-1943-1945
Rev. Raymon Burroughs-1945-1948
Rev. C. Ray Dobbins-1949-1952
Rev. John Stamer Smith-1952-1956
Rev. Hinkley Smart-1956
Rev. Ewell Reagin, Jr.-1956-1961
Rev. C. R. Matlock-1961-1969
Rev. Merlin Alexander-1970-1973
Rev. Edward Mikel-1974-1984
Rev. James Knight-1984-1992
Rev. Cordell Smith-1993-2001
Rev. James Ratliff-2001-2002
Rev. Freddie Norris-2003-2004
Rev. Steve Delashmit-2004-present
Timeline of Cumberland Presbyterian History
1516 The Reformation 1706 Seven ministers formed first presbytery in North America — the Presbytery of Philadelphia 1716 First American Synod formed and William Tennet joined the synod in 1718, 1721 George Gillespie introduced a measure that opened the doors for subscription
1729 Jonathan Dickinson proposed the Adopting Act which protested subscription to Westminster Confession of Faith 1736 A committee of conservatives tried to prohibit members of one presbytery from preaching in another
Strict subscription required by Old Side Presbyterians
1740 The Great Awakening
1740 Gilbert Tennent preached his sermon “The Danger of an Unconverted Ministry”
1741 Schism of Old Side Party and New Side Party (revivalistic)
A new presbytery formed after synod wanted to review qualifications of ministers
1745 A new synod was formed of New Side branch — the Synod of New York
1758 Church came back together and ended schism with a majority of New Siders
1783 David Rice was first Presbyterian minister in Kentucky. He persuaded presbytery to ordain exhorters.
1786 Translyvania Presbytery formed
1796 James McGready arrived on the scene
1797 Revival of religion/awakening
1799 Red River Meeting/McGready aided by Hodge, Rankin and McGee preached to about 500
1800 Cane Ridge Revival
1802 Alexander Anderson was received by a one vote majority in April, Transylvania Presbytery.
1802 Finis Ewing, King, and Anderson were received by their experience, call to ministry and thought on Divinity
1802 Synod divided Transylvania adding Cumberland Presbytery.
1804 Thomas Craighead submitted a common fame charge against Cumberland Presbytery to the Synod of Kentucky
1805 Kentucky Synod reviewed Cumberland Presbytery’s records and formed a commission to investigate
1806 Council of Revival Ministers formed (including McAdow, Hodge, Rankin, McGee)
1806 KY Synod reviewed Hodge & Rankin and dissolved Cumberland Presbytery and annexed its members to Transylvania Presbytery
1810 McAdoo, Ewing & King constituted Cumberland Presbytery on February 4.
Ephraim McLean was the first to be ordained by the newly formed presbytery.
1813 Logan, Cumberland & Elk Presbyteries constituted the first synod of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church
1814 Cumberland Presbyterians revised the Westminster Confession of Faith eliminating objectionable language
1814 Buck’s Theological Dictionary published with an entry about the Cumberland Presbyterians
1820 Charity Hall school organized by Robert Bell among the Choctaw Nation, Mississippi
1825 Presbyterians recognized Cumberland Presbyterians as a separate denomination
1826 Cumberland College chartered, Princeton, KY with President Cossitt
1829 First General Assembly of the CP Church held on May 19 at Princeton, KY
1829 Nashville, Lebanon, Knoxville, and Hopewell Presbyteries constituted Franklin Synod.
1831 General Assembly named five highly regard preachers as missionaries to PA and NY: Robert Donnell, Chapman, Reuben Burrow, Morgan, and Alfred McGready Bryan
1838 Pennsylvania Synod constituted
1842 Cumberland College relocated to Lebanon, TN and the Princeton (KY) school remained
1850s Unsuccessful move to further revise Confession of Faith toward Arminianism
1851 Six memorials on the subject of slavery were received by General Assembly
1852 Edmund Weir, a freed slave, became the first foreign missionary of the C.P.C. when he was sent to Liberia.
1852 General Assembly forbade attending parties, theatres, circuses, etc.
1853 Antoinette Brown, a Congregationalist, became the first woman ordained in the USA
1859 Cumberland Presbyterian Church contained 105 presbyteries
1861 The Civil War began
1861 General Assembly met in St. Louis, Missouri where Rev. Milton Bird encouraged unity in the Church
1862 General Assembly had no delegates from Southern states due to Civil War.
1864 General Assembly flew the flag of United States over the Church house and resolved that those in rebellion to the United States are guilty of a great sin toward God and without repentance they could not fellowship together.
1865 The Civil War ended and some delegates from Tennessee were seated at General Assembly but few from the South attended.
1866 Milton Bird as Stated Clerk of the GA ignored the question of the 1864 resolution and enrolled the Southern delegates. GA ruled that war-time declarations on slavery and rebellion were not binding on the Church.
1868 A memorial was presented to General Assembly which stated that a) things secular belong to the state; b) things moral and ecclesiastical belong to the Church, c) that in regard to things that are mixed, the secular and civil belongs to the state and the moral and ecclesiastical belong to the Church, 4) it is the prerogative of the church to sanction correct morals, to express its views from the pulpit, the press, and the various judicatories, on all moral questions, regardless of civil codes or political creeds. The Committee on Overtures pointed out that the Confession of Faith was clearer on the first point, that the memorial failed to recognize the state’s say so in moral questions, that the memorial inadequately described the complexity of the church-state relationship, and finally that the committee stated that the church could defy or disregard the civil laws of the land. The committee’s report was adopted.
1868 First convention of black Cumberland Presbyterians where their part in the church was discussed.
1869 Freed slave Moses Weir sent to General Assembly but was not seated.
1869 Black Cumberland Presbyterians decided to form separate presbyteries of black ministers: Elk River, Huntsville, Murfreesboro?
1869 The Synod of Colored Cumberland Presbyterians was formed at the request of black ministers
1874 Several journals consolidated into the Cumberland Presbyterian magazine
1874 Colored Cumberland Presbyterian Church organized (now Cumberland Presbyterian Church in America)
1877 Revs. J.B. and A.D. Hail sent to Japan as missionaries
1877 PA Presbytery approved the appointment of female trustees and deacons
1883 Revised Confession of Faith
1880 Women’s Board of Missions formed
1884 Pan Presbyterian Alliance
Women in Ministry
In 1886, the Synod of Oregon allowed women to serve as advisory members in the judicatory but General Assembly ruled this unconstitutional. Louisa Woosley was accepted as a candidate for ministry in 1887 by Nolin Presbytery. We know of no woman seeking ordination in the CP Church before this date. In 1888 , Louisa Woosley was licensed by Nolin and in 1889 Louisa Woosley was ordained and appointed as a missionary for Nolin Presbytery. She became the first woman ordained in Presbyterian tradition in the United States. In 1891 Louisa Woosley’s Shall Woman Preach was published. That same year, General Assembly took no action in regard to the question of whether women should be appointed as ruling elders in the congregation. When Rushville Presbytery wanted to know if women could serve, the minority report of a 1892 General Assembly committee said women should be ordained when needful. The majority said in neither Constitution nor Scripture are women told to serve.
In 1893, Pallie Clagett, a woman elder commissioner of Nolen Presbytery showed up at GA. She presented her credentials and answered present for roll call and was given applause. They allowed her to be seated at that particular General Assembly. They sent two sets of amendments to the presbyteries: one allowing only men to serve as elders or deacons and one allowing for both men and women to serve in these capacities. Nothing was passed or resolved. The 1894 General Assembly refused to seat Louisa Woosley as a delegate and turned down her appeal of the action of the Synod of Kentucky which removed her name from Nolin’s list of ministers. Still, Woosley was commended as a lay evangelist by General Assembly. The 1895 General Assembly turned down a request of Nolin Presbytery to reconsider action of 1894 GA. In 1896, on motion of JA Clagett, a letter of dismission and recommendations was given to L. Woosley by presbytery. In 1899 Owensboro presbytery received Woosley as an ordained minister by letter from the defunct Nolin presbytery. In 1901, Vianna Woosley, a woman elder delegate presented herself to GA from Leitchfield Presbytery. GA passed a resolution asking presbyteries not to do this again. She became stated clerk of Leitchfield Presbytery. Vianna was seated. Finally, in 1921, Rev. Louisa Woosley’s ordination was affirmed by the Cumberland Presbyterian Church.
1890 Thornton home for aged ministers formed in Evansville, IN
1895 Harris & Howard brought the Social Gospel to the Cumberland Presbyterian magazine
1903 PCUSA adopted Brief Statement of GA and Declaratory Statement added to Confession to explain it and stated that those dying in infancy are saved and that it had never taught fatalism
1903 Several memorials presented to GA concerning a possible merger with PC
1904-1905 Presbyteries voted to determine whether their was common doctrine. A majority of presbyteries and a minority of individuals voted in favor of union. A protest was made and action was taken to civil court when the vote came back to GA
1906 Merger ratified by both the CPC and the PCUSA but was only partially accomplished. The 90,000 Cumberlands who entered the PCUSA influenced the church for more liberal views in doctrine. The 50,000 who remained Cumberland Presbyterian started over with little money or experienced leadership.
1906-1918 A period of re-establishment and struggle for the Cumberland Presbyterian Church
1906 Incomplete merger of Cumberland Presbyterian and larger Presbyterian Church
1911 L. Woosley was enrolled as a minister in Presbytery, then synod and finally GA
1913 L. Woosley was enrolled as a minister in GA
1907 TN Supreme Court Case which was an injunction against C.P.’s — Ira Landrith et al. vs. J.L. Hudgins et al
1907 Cumberland General Assembly held at denomination birthplace in Dickson, TN
1907 Louisa Woosley offered prayer at Women’s Board of Missions. Her daughter Vianna was on the Board. Johnnie Massie Clay worked hard and long to carry on the work of missions. They voted to support Gam Sing Quah and sent him to China. They extended the Gospel while the rest of church was in survival mode. Louisa also showed up at Leitchfield Presbytery after being at GA bringing a gavel made from a walnut tree at that site.
1908 Gam Sing Quah began mission work in South China
1909 Lackey Law passed that allowed no more than nine members on any Board and members could not succeed themselves
1910 Bethel College awarded to loyal Cumberland Presbyterians
1911 Board of Publication cut Goodpasture’s salary
1913 Committee on Tithing with nine members appointed by GA. Vint N. Bray had addressed the assembling on this topic and was made GA tithing secretary. People were exhorted to adopt this plan
1913 Interest among young people in starting a mission in South America
1915 Teaching/training handbook Student’s Lamp by Barbee Ashburne
1917 Hugh S. McCord began work as a tithing evangelist
1918 Attempts to raise $500,000 for an endowment for a theological and literary school
1918 Educational convention in Memphis to determine the needs of the church
1918 Gam Sing Quah received money from the Women’s Board of Missions
1919 Last court case from the attempted merger
1919 Prior to this date, each Board made its own financial appeal to the church; $30,000 was received
1920 US Amendment passed giving women the right to vote
1921 GA stated that the word “man” is a generic term meant to include women
1929 Period of Expansion for the Church; getting programs established and moving; leadership training
1922 Charles Matlock elected field supervisor for Young People’s Work
1922 First Chinese Church formed in San Francisco
1923 Board of tithing and the Budget Committee were consolidated
1924 Chinese Presbytery attached to Texas Synod
1924 Bethel College got a new Administration building
1924 Permanent home for publishing house in Nashville
1925 Theological department at Bethel College opened
1929 Completed payment of fees for legal services.
1929 Wall Street Crash and Great Depression
1929 First CPC established in South America
1929-1930 GT Morrow died and left 1/3 of will to CP children’s home at Lubbock; a children’s home was set up by the CPC at Denton, TX (1932)
1930 Program of leadership development
1935 Systematic plan of finance developed for local church
1936 Women began to suggest that missions become the responsibility of the whole church – men need to be involved in missions
1936 New Deal programs
1938 South American Presbytery formed
1938 Japan invaded South China; missionaries had to flee
1938 Women changed name to Board of Foreign Missions with 3 male members; it became more connected with GA since it was doing the work of the GA; reported to GA and Convention
1939 GA looked at requirements for ordination and set a standard for theological education
1941 U.S.A.’s entry into WWII
1947 Morris Pepper, Moderator of GA, called a church-wide conference on polity and program: congregational-centered, raised questions on importance of institutions and boards
1949 Communist takeover of China; missionaries at risk and relocated to Hong Kong
1950 Church began consolidation and headquarters; Nashville publishing house sold; all endowments brought together in the Board of Finance; there were few women delegates to GA or serving on the Boards of the church
1953 Ten presbyteries memorialized for GA about affiliation with NCC; it was requested of GA that they disapprove of the RSV and affiliation of CP Boards with Boards of the NCC; Fellowship of Cumberland Presbyterian Conservatives, a group of CP’s reacting against the modernist movement, formed a conference and planned a second one in Memphis. General Assembly declared these actions unconstitutional and some left the denomination and formed the Upper Cumberland Presbyterian Church in Gallitan (near Carthage, TN).
1953 CPC sent first missionaries back to Japan, Tom & Fran Forester; the Dills (1961) and Buddy & Beverly Stott (1964)
1954 New GA committee on moral and social concerns
1959 The Social Creed, a document prepared by the Committee on Social Relations (the predecessor of the Committee on Theology and Social Concerns), was adopted by General Assembly in 1960; it set parameters for the committee in addressing issues for GA; topics included: the family, civil government; the economic order; nationality, class and race, health, education, recreational activities, and welfare services.
1960 Establishment of Birthplace Shrine and McAdow’s Log Cabin at Dickson, TN
1961 Joel Rice was the first black student to enter Bethel College and the first Executive Secretary of the Second CP Church and was Moderator of the Second CP GA.
1962 Women’s Board of Missions merged with GA Board of Missions (will always have at least 1/3 women members); Board areas include: World Missions, Home Missions, and Women’s Work; sessions were encouraged to set up missions committees
1962 Memphis property purchased for $95,000 for seminary
1964 Board of Trustees opened the church seminary in Memphis; Library addition (1981); Baxter property bought for another building (1988).
1965 Brothers of the Faith study booklet on race relations published by the CPC
1967 Attempt to bring the black church into the white church failed. The white GA approved the plan without the white presbyteries voting. The black presbyteries voted and rejected the plan.
1968 Thomas D. Campbell submitted a resolution to his presbytery to open Bethel College to black students of any profession but it failed by one vote. It was overwhelmingly favored by ministers and opposed by elders. He submitted it to GA and it passed for both the college and seminary.
1969 GA entered into contract with the Center for Parish Development for Lyle Schaller to study the CP church
1970 General economic boom
1971 Shaller’s report of his findings and recommendations was presented to GA; he found a leaning toward congregational polity; recommended decentralization so that synods and presbyteries could do work that GA was doing; found clergy dominated recommended greater lay involvement by term representation to presbytery of lay leaders, electing a lay leader as moderator of presbytery on alternate years, and creation of a GA executive committee with lay representation; he found need to grow to in acceptance of plurality and diversity (of pietists and activists); he found conflict over operational definition of evangelism and educational requirements
1975 GA set priority to strengthen congregations; OUO reached $800,000; Attempt to combine the Cumberland Presbyterian and the Missionary Messenger
1976 GA rescinded action to combine magazines; reinstated committee to propose agency structure; GA Executive Committee formed; General Council abolished (move toward a more consolidated structure as a general program board was to be designed in its place, but wasn’t done till 1993); there was an attempt to elevate the role of licentiate to offer communion
1977 General Assembly rejected allowing elders and licentiates to offer communion alone; GA rejected a re-structure; GA rejected a GA Council and formed the GAEC; presbyteries moved to approve a principle of parity between elders and ministers (1 minister & 1 elder to constitute a presbytery with four total); GA voted to appoint a committee to revise the Confession of Faith for the Centennial of the 1883; GA directed a conference on Church Growth and Evangelism be held
1978 GA elected fifteen persons to revise the Confession of Faith with five from the Second CP Church. Efforts were to make it a Confession of both denominations; GA set 1980-1990 as the Decade of the ’80s for Evangelism and Church Growth, all boards and agencies brought together to promote church growth and development; a study of the feasibility of purchasing the Sienna College property was rejected due to high price; new standards set for licensure and ordination which passed presbyteries (licensure college degree; ordination seminary degree or approved alternate study program)
1979 Unified budget of over $1 million; Conference/Celebration of Unity approved to be held in Jackson, TN; Joint committee on Cooperative Work moved us toward possibility of re-unification; seminary received National Citation of the Conference of Christians and Jews for progress in Race Relations
1980 Jack Barker chaired decade of 80’s movement and spearheaded church growth and the trend of membership decline was reversed in three years; many new church developments in the 1980’s; a computer based system established at CP Center
1981 Presbyteries passed amendment allowing for installation of Assistant/Associate Pastor which recognized the possibility of a multiples staff church; established trustees of historical foundation of both churches; program of alternate studies (PAS) approved to replace home study course; Doctor of Ministry degree approved by GA to be offered at MTS; Bernice Barnett Gonzalez, a missionary to Colombia published In the Valley of the Cauca; presbyteries approved strong statement on ownership of property by presbytery; joint membership in another denomination is possible if an ordained minister from another denomination takes a position on one of our boards or in a union church.
1982 Decade of 80’s committee abolished and “Church Growth and Evangelism” became a division of the Board of Missions; GA appointed a Task Force on Middle Judicatories to study structure of church and function of presbyteries and synods in the CPC.
1983 Love Loaf program began; proposed Confession of Faith presented to GA where it was approved and sent to presbyteries for their approval.
1983 PCUS and PCUSA united into one organizational church
1984 The Confession of Faith was revised by a broader composite of theologians of the church (both Cumberland Churches) than previous Confessions and approved by both denominations. The committee was co-chaired by Roy Blakeburn and included 15 people plus 5 from the Second CP Church (now Cumberland Presbyterian Church in America). The 1984 Confession emphasizes a covenant of grace with a clearer recognition of God is acting to save. A covenant of works isn’t found in the 1984. “Repentance is necessary to partake of the saving grace and forgiveness of God in Christ, [but repentance does not merit salvation]” (4.06).
1984 General Assembly encouraged local churches to set goals for church growth. A process was proposed to adopt a plan of union for white and black Cumberland Presbyterians.
1985 Archives moved to Cumberland Presbyterian Center; report of Joint Committee on Union addressed concerns that had to be addressed before union was possible; OUO reach $2 million
1989 The General Assemblys of both Cumberland Presbyterian Churches meeting at Paducah, KY agreed to cease unification efforts. The Cumberland Presbyterian church was restructured by 1989 with five regional synods: Synod of Great Rivers, Synod of Midwest, Mission Synod, Synod of the Southeast, Tennessee Synod.
1993 Established GA Council; a way Boards, agencies, and institutions meet to coordinate programs, determine funding, etc. An Executive Director, Davis Gray was chosen
1995 General Assembly began with a forum for a vision of the future of the church
Three major issues of the last decade: 1) health insurance, 2) restructuring middle judicatories, 3) plan of reunion and reconciliation for black and white Cumberland Presbyterians