So, you ask, what is an Orthodox Presbyterian?
Many people hear the word “orthodox” and think we mean “Eastern Orthodox.” We certainly do understand the possible confusion, but our denomination doesn’t have any affiliation with eastern orthodoxy. Rather, we trace our roots back to the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century.
By “orthodox” we mean that we are a church concerned for faithful, doctrinally true Biblical teaching (the word orthodox literally means “right teaching”). Faithful Bible teaching has always been at the heart of our fellowship of churches, and it is at the heart of Christ Covenant, too.
Orthodox Presbyterian speaks to our ‘story’ within the history of Presbyterianism.
The Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC) officially formed on June 11, 1936, in Philadelphia. It was formed in the context of turmoil and soul-searching controversies within the Presbyterian Church in the USA (PCUSA) in the 1920-30s.
As theological liberalism began to manifest themselves within mainline Presbyterianism, Presbyterian minister and theologian J. Gresham Machen led the charge to preserve historic Christianity, producing tracts, books, and sermons calling for a return to theological orthodoxy (lit. “right teaching”) within Presbyterian ranks. Machen’s call for fidelity to the Reformed tradition and the historic Christian faith eventually resulted in him being deposed from office by the PCUSA.
Machen and those who had supported him, determined to form a new church that would remain faithful to the Presbyterian tradition, Reformed theology, and most importantly to Scripture.
The Orthodox Presbyterian Church is a denomination committed to the Bible as the only inspired, infallible, and inerrant Word of God. We hold to the Westminster Standards (the Westminster Confession of Faith, the Westminster Larger Catechism, and the Westminster Shorter Catechism) as faithful summaries of the Bible.
Our identity as Orthodox Presbyterians means that we are Christians in the Presbyterian tradition who are committed to following that “pattern of sound words” (cf. 2 Tim. 1:13) revealed in Scripture, without equivocation or compromise to the latest religious opinions and fads. We believe that the Word of God stands over the word of man. In that way, the ‘spirit’ of Machen lives on in the OPC, and at Christ Covenant today.