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The circumstances in which the Committees held their first meeting were so peculiar as to demand a special mention, as they were fitted to produce an unusual sobriety.
The chairmen of both Committees, as originally constituted, were absent. One, Rev. Dr. Brainerd, had been translated to that world where all the distinctions of Christian discipleship which exist on the earth are lost in the harmony of heaven. The other, Rev. Dr. Krebs, was disabled, by severe illness, from all participation in our conferences, waiting for that change to come which will unite him to the great company of Christian ministers in the kingdom of God.
All the meetings of the Committees were distinguished by a degree of courtesy and unanimity which was more than common. Composed of men of decided individuality, representing divers interests and sections, they have discussed every question-many of them of admitted delicacy and difficulty-with the utmost frankness, without one word or expression of any kind ever to be regretted by Christian brethren who felt the grave responsibilities of their position.
The result of their conferences is contained in the following document, adopted in joint Committee with remarkable unanimity.
PROPOSED TERMS OF REUNION BETWEEN THE TWO BRANCHES OF THE PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.
The Joint Committee of the two General Assemblies of the Presbyterian Church, appointed for the purpose of conferring on the desirableness and practicability of uniting these two bodies, deeply impressed with the responsibility of the work assigned us, and having earnestly sought Divine guidance and patiently devoted ourselves to the investigation of the questions involved, agree in presenting the following for the consideration, and, if they see fit, for the adoption of the two General Assemblies.
Believing that the interests of the Redeemer's kingdom would be promoted by healing our divisions; that practical union would greatly augment the efficiency of the whole Church for the accomplishment of its divinely-appointed work; that the main causes producing division have either wholly passed away or become in a great degree inoperative; and that two bodies, bearing the same name, adopting the same Constitution, and claiming the same corporate rights, cannot be justified by any but the most imperative reasons in maintaining separate and, in some respects, rival organizations; and regarding it as both just and proper that a Reunion should be effected by the two Churches as independent bodies, and on equal terms; we propose the following Terms and Recommendations, as suited to meet the demands of the case.
1. The Reunion shall be effected on the doctrinal and ecclesiastical basis of our common standards. The Confession of Faith shall continue to be sincerely received and adopted "as containing the system of doctrine taught in the Holy Scriptures;" and its fair historical sense, as it is accepted by the two bodies, in opposition to Antinomianism and Fatalism on the one hand, and to Arminianism and Pelagianism on the other, shall be regarded as the sense in which it is received and adopted; and the government and discipline of the Presbyterian Church in the United States shall continue to be approved as containing the principles and rules of our polity.
2. All the ministers and churches embraced in the two bodies shall be
admitted to the same standing in the united body which they may hold in their respective connections up to the consummation of the union; and all the churches connected with the united body, not thoroughly Presby terian in their organization, shall be advised to perfect their organization as soon as is permitted by the highest interests to be consulted; no other such churches shall be received; and such persons alone shall be chosen Commissioners to the General Assembly as are eligible according to the Constitution of the Church.
3. The boundaries of the several Presbyteries and Synods shall be adjusted by the General Assembly of the united Church.
4. The official Records of the two branches of the Church for the period of separation shall be preserved and held as making up the one history of the Church; and no rule or precedent, which does not stand approved by both the bodies, shall be of any authority until re-established in the united body.
5. The corporate rights, now held by the two General Assemblies and by their Boards and Committees, shall, as far as practicable, be consolidated and applied for their several objects as defined by law.
6. There shall be one set of Committees or Boards for Home and Foreign Missions, and the other religious enterprises of the Church, which the churches shall be encouraged to sustain, though left free to cast their contributions into other channels if they desire to do so.
7. As soon as practicable, after the union shall be effected, the General Assembly shall reconstruct and consolidate the several Permanent Committees and Boards which now belong to the two Assemblies, in such a manner as to represent, as far as possible, with impartiality, the views and wishes of the two bodies constituting the united Church.
8. When it shall be ascertained that the requisite number of Presbyteries of the two bodies have approved the terms of union, as hereinafter provided for, the two General Assemblies shall each appoint a Committee of Seven, none of them having an official relation to either the Board or the Committee of Publication, who shall constitute a joint Committee, whose duty it shall be to revise the Catalogues of the existing publications of the two Churches, and to make out a list from them of such books and tracts as shall be issued by the united Church; and any catalogue thus made out, in order to its adoption, shall be approved by at least five members of each Committee.
9. If, at any time after the union has been effected, any of the theological seminaries, under the care and control of the General Assembly, shall desire to put themselves under Synodical control, they shall be permitted to do so at the request of their Boards of Direction; and those seminaries which are independent in their organization, shall have the privilege of putting themselves under ecclesiastical control, to the end that, if practicable, a system of ecclesiastical supervision of such institutions may ultimately prevail through the entire united Church.
10. It shall be regarded as the duty of all our judicatories, ministers, and people in the united Church, to study the things which make for peace, and to guard against all needless and offensive references to the causes that have divided us; and in order to avoid the revival of past issues by the continuance of any usage in either branch of the Church, that has grown out of our former conflicts, it is earnestly recommended to the lower judicatories of the Church, that they conform their practice in relation to all such usages, as far as consistent with their convictions of duty, to the general custom of the church prior to the controversies that resulted in the separation.
11. The terms of the reunion shall be of binding force, if they shall be ratified by three-fourths of the Presbyteries connected with each branch of the Church within one year after they shall have been submitted to them for approval.
12. The terms of the reunion shall be published by direction of the General Assemblies of 1867, for the deliberate examination of both branches of the Church, and the Joint Committee shall report to the General Assemblies of 1868 any modification of them they may deem desirable, in view of any new light that may have been received during the year.
13. It is recommended that the Hon. DANIEL HAINES and the Hon. HENRY W. GREEN, LL. D., of New Jersey, DANIEL LORD, LL. D., and THEODORE W. DWIGHT, LL. D., of New York, and Hon. WILLIAM STRONG and Hon. GEORGE SHARSWOOD, LL. D., of Pennsylvania, be appointed by the General Assemblies a Committee to investigate all questions of property and of vested rights as they may stand related to the matter of reunion, and this Committee shall report to the Joint Committee as early as the first of January, 1868.
14. It is evident that, in order to adapt our ecclesiastical system to the necessities and circumstances of the united Church as a greatly enlarged and widely-extended body, some changes in the Constitution will be required. The Joint Committee, therefore, request the two General Assemblies to instruct them in regard to the preparation of an additional article on this subject, to be reported to the Assemblies of 1868. Signed by order of the Joint Committee,
EDWIN F. HATFIELD, Secretary.
New York, May 7th, 1867.
CHARLES C. BEATTY, Chairman.
Leaving their report with the General Assemblies, and the ministers and churches of our denomination throughout the land, your Committee cannot disregard the Providential auspices under which their recommendations await decision. The present is thought to be a favorable time, now that many questions of former controversy have lost their interest, for adopting a magnanimous policy, suited to the necessities of our country and the world.
The Presbyterian Church has a history of great renown. It has been intimately associated with civil and religious liberty in both hemispheres. Its republican and representative character, the parity of its clergy, the simplicity of its order, the equity of its administration, its sympathy with our institutions, its ardent patriotism in all stages of our history, its flexible adaptations to our heterogeneous population, its liberal support of schools, colleges, and seminaries designed for general education and theological culture, its firm and steadfast faith in the extension of the Redeemer's kingdom, and this by means of revealed truth and the special effusions of the Holy Spirit, in distinction from all trust in human arts and devices all unite to promise, if we are wise and faithful, a future for the Presbyterian Church in these United States greater and better than all the past. Amid all the changes which have occurred around us, we are confident that nothing true and good will ever recede or decay; and it becomes all those who love the same faith, order, and worship, abounding in love and hope, to pray that God would "count them worthy of their calling, that they may fulfill all the good pleasure of His goodness and the work of faith with power, that the name of our Lord Jesus
Christ may be glorified in them and they in him, according to the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ."
Signed by order of the Committee. CHARLES C. BEATTY, Chairman. WILLIAM ADAMS, Chairman.
New York, May 7, 1867.
1867, pp. 387-390, O. S. 1867, pp. 480-484, N. S.
23. In the respective Assemblies of 1867 action was taken upon the above report as follows, viz. :
a. 1. Resolved, That this Assembly has listened with grateful and profound satisfaction to the report of the Committee on Church Reunion. and recognizes in the unanimity of the Joint Committee the finger of God as pointing toward an early and cordial reunion of the two sister Churches now so long separated.
2. Resolved, That said Committee be continued and directed to co-operate with any similar Committee of the other branch in furtherance of this object, and to report thereon to the next General Assembly.
3. Resolved, That the Committee be empowered to fill all vacancies that may occur in their body during the coming year, whether by resignation, protracted sickness, or by death.
4. Resolved, That the necessary expenses incurred by this Committee, in the discharge of the duties assigned them, be paid from the profits on the sale of books by the Board of Publication.
5. Resolved, That the Report of the Committee be published in the Appendix to the Minutes, and in our religious newspapers, and commended to the careful consideration of our whole Church, and that the Committee be directed to report to the next General Assembly any modification of the terms of reunion specified therein, which may appear desirable to the Joint Committee, in view of any further light that may have been received during the year.
6. Resolved, That the Hon. Daniel Haines, and the Hon. Henry W. Green, LL. D., of New Jersey, Daniel Lord, LL. D., and Theodore Dwight, LL. D., of New York, and the Hon. Wm. Strong, and the Hon. Geo. Sharswood, LL. D., of Pennsylvania, be appointed a Committee to inves tigate all questions of property and of vested rights as they may stand related to the matter of reunion; and that this Committee be requested to report to the Joint Committee as early as January 1, 1868; and that our share of the necessary expenses incurred by this Committee be also paid by our Board of Publication from the profits on its book-sales.
7. Resolved, That in submitting the Report of the Committee on Reunion to the consideration of the Churches and Presbyteries, the Assembly is not called upon at this time to express either approbation or disapprobation of the terms of reunion presented by the Committee in its details, but only to afford the Church a full opportunity to examine the subject in the light of all its advantages and difficulties, so that the Committee may have the benefit of any suggestions which may be offered, before making a final report for the action of the next Assembly.
On motion of Rev. P. D. Young, the Moderator was requested to appoint a member of the Reunion Committee of Fifteen to fill the virtual vacancy occasioned by the illness of the Rev. John M. Krebs, D. D. In accordance with this request, the Moderator appointed the Rev. J. E. Rockwell, D. D., of the Synod of New York.-1867, p. 362, O. S.
b. The Committee, to whom was referred the Report of the Special Committee, appointed by the last General Assembly to confer with a sim
ilar Committee on the desirableness and practicability of reuniting the bodies which they severally represent, would respectfully report:
That they have given the document committed to them a careful consideration, in view of its grave importance, and the manifold interests it involves in its relations to our own Church and the progress of the Kingdom of Christ in the earth. It presents a basis for the proposed Reunion, which, if the two Assemblies so order, is to be submitted to the deliberate examination of both Branches of the Church for one year, subject to such modifications as may appear necessary or desirable within that period. It leaves the General Assemblies of 1868 free to act with reference to these terms of Reunion, in whole or in part, as providential signs may indicate; and, if advisable, to submit them to the constitutional and final action of the Presbyteries. Ample opportunity is thus afforded for a full and deliberate consideration of the whole subject, in all its bearings, as they shall affect local interests or the well-being of the entire Church.
For this and kindred reasons, your Committee conclude it was not the intention of this body, in referring to them this proposed basis of Reunion, that its several articles should be discussed at this time and place; and yet they cannot withhold their conviction, expressed in these general terms, that results have already been reached full of promise and hope; that, whatever concessions have been made, they only indicate how near the two parts of the divided Church have approached each other; that nothing more and nothing less than Christian charity would dictate has been yielded; and that, in the adjustment of any difficulties or differences, a proper regard has been preserved for the honor and rights of the respective bodies, to which the work of their Joint Committee is now submitted. The remarkable unanimity with which these initiatory proceedings have been concluded, after a thorough and frank discussion of the basis of Union, is full of encouragement; and whatever may be the ultimate result, much has already been accomplished for the healing of our divisions, and the promotion of peace and good-will in the Presbyterian body.
Impressed with these considerations, and gratefully recognizing therein the guiding providence of God in the successive stages of this work of concord, and especially in the spirit of wisdom and love given to His servants in their several conferences, we do recommend, that this Assembly approve of the whole action of its Special Committee as declared in their Report, and that the same Committee be continued for the purposes for which it was constituted.
There is a single point on which the Joint Committee ask instructions from the two General Assemblies. It relates to the changes in representation, etc., which will be required to adapt our ecclesiastical system to the necessities and circumstances of the united Church. We would recommend, that it be left to the Joint Committee to examine carefully the whole subject, and suggest such changes in the Constitution as in their wisdom they may deem requisite.
It is further recommended, that the report of the Joint Committee be published under the authority of the General Assembly, for general distribution among our ministers and churches.
It is also recommended, that the Assembly appoint the several gentlemen designated by the Joint Committee as legal advisers, and that, in case of the inability of any one of them to serve, the Committee have power to fill his place.
It is indicative, we would believe, of the temper of this Assembly, the largest during our history of thirty years since the separation, that your