The Presbyterian Reformed Church (PRC) is an indigenous North American denomination whose roots are in the Scottish Reformation. We endeavour, by God’s grace, to keep to the Old Paths in the New World.
The church was formed in 1965 by the union of the Free Presbyterian Church of Ontario and the Bloor Street Presbyterian Church. The Free Presbyterian Church of Ontario was made up of the descendants of the Scottish settlers who had remained out of the unions which brought into being the Presbyterian Church in Canada (PCC) and who met in various communities throughout Southwestern Ontario. The origins of the Bloor Street Church were Scots-Irish immigrants from Ulster who settled in Toronto and were unhappy with the introduction of new worship practices in the PCC. By the 1960s, subsequent immigration from Scotland and family connections had united the congregations in doctrine and worship. It was time to unite them in government. That union was facilitated by Prof. John Murray of Westminster Theological Seminary.
Murray had close ties to both congregations. Through his sending students from Westminster to supply the Canadian congregations, he introduced young men to their patterns of practice and piety. From that beginning, there grew an interest in the PRC among some people in the United States.
In the early 1960s with both pulpits vacant, calls were issued to Messrs. R. Quincy Caldwell and Gerald Hamstra. An ad hoc Presbytery comprised of Prof. John Murray, OPC, the Rev. John Macsween, Toronto Free Church of Scotland, and the Rev. Mr Hamstra (Gerald’s Father), Old Christian Reformed Church, was created to examine, ordain, and induct them. Gerald Hamstra was inducted to, or installed in, Bloor Street on one evening in January 1963, and Quincy Caldwell in Chesley the following evening.
Both congregations being settled, John Murray presented them with a draft Basis of Union. On the 17th of November 1965, that Basis of Union was ratified, and the Presbyterian Reformed Church was constituted.
Today, the PRC has congregations in Chesley, Ontario; East Greenwich, Rhode Island; Des Moines, Iowa; King, North Carolina; and Columbus and Jasper, Indiana; along with a developing work in Corbin City, New Jersey. Alongside these congregations in Canada and the United States, there is a congregation in England which we pray will be the beginning of a like-minded denomination in that country; and we have a missionary who is aiding Liberian pastors and students in their journey toward a conservative confessional Presbyterian church in that part of West Africa.
The words used in the Basis of Union to describe our public worship practice are simplicity and purity. Both words express the same general meaning. They state that our public worship practices are unmixed, that is, they conform to the Regulative Principle as set out in chapter one of the Westminster Confession of Faith in section six:
The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for His own glory, man’s salvation, faith, and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit, or traditions of men. Nevertheless we acknowledge the inward illumination of the Spirit of God to be necessary for the saving understanding of such things as are revealed in the Word: and that there are some circumstances concerning the worship of God, and government of the Church, common to human actions and societies, which are to be ordered by the light of nature and Christian prudence, according to the general rules of the Word, which are always to be observed.
If there is a distinction to be made, simplicity would include the thought that our public worship is unadorned, and purity would place the emphasis on it being unalloyed, by the traditions of men, such as the use of uninspired materials of praise, musical instruments, and the observance of holy days other that the Lord’s Day.
Simplicity marks out our communion practice. We come forward to a table, where we share from hand-to-hand bread and wine. Visitors who are communicant members in other denominations and have made themselves known to the Session are welcome to join with us around the table.
Our pulpit Bible is the Authorised (King James) Version, and we sing from the 1650 Scottish Metrical Psalter.
Simplicity and purity of public worship practice is often shortened to purity of worship. The latter form of words is open to being misunderstood. Purity of worship speaks to the way in which things are done. It says nothing about those engaged in the practices. No matter how pure the practice is, the worshiper, in this life, is not pure but needs both the aid of the Holy Spirit and the advocacy of Christ, our Great High Priest, in coming before God.
We accept the Westminster Directory for the Public Worship of God as a scriptural and suitable guide for the conduct of public worship. It is not our liturgy or form, nor does it provide definitive orders of service. Making allowance for space and time, its guidance informs our practice. It reminds us how we might keep it simple.
That the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are the Word of God written and thus the only infallible rule of faith and life is the confession of the church and the belief of every minister, elder, and deacon. Further, we understand that there is a system of truth taught in Holy Scripture. In speaking of a system of truth, rather than a system of doctrine, we are reminding ourselves that Scripture teaches both what we are to believe and what we are to do. Truth covers doctrine and ethics, faith and practice.
It is the position of the church that the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms, being founded upon and agreeable to the Word of God, set forth that system of truth. Every office-bearer not only accepts that the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms are the authoritative expression of the church’s understanding of the system of truth which the Scriptures teach, but also formally accepts them as expressing his own understanding of that system of truth. We require a strict subscription to the Westminster doctrines.
In speaking of the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms (Larger and Shorter) together, we are saying that the Westminster system of faith and practice sets forth the system of truth taught in Scripture. The Westminster system is not to be thought of as representing some generic expression of the reformed faith. It is the language of Confession of Faith complemented by that of the Catechisms to bring out the meaning of the documents. Sometimes the Catechisms supplement what is said in the Confession, particularly in the area of ethics. Other times, the Catechisms further define the Confession’s meaning by stating the doctrine in other words.
We use the text of the Westminster Confession of Faith which was approved by the Church of Scotland in 1647.
While we do not have a written Testimony, nor an archive of authoritative denominational position papers, our doctrine and practice, together with our history, have brought certain emphases to the fore. We believe that the Scriptures and the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms teach the free offer of the gospel founded on a divine imperative. We believe that the Scriptures and the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms teach an experimental religion of effectual calling, progressive sanctification, and self-examination. We believe that the Scriptures and the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms assert the freedom of the Christian from the laws and traditions of men in matters pertaining to the doctrine, worship, and government of the church, and to our righteousness before God. We believe the Scriptures and the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms teach that it is incumbent upon nations, as such, and civil rulers in their official capacity, or in the exercise of their legitimate control over civil matters, to aim at the promotion of the honour of God, the welfare of true religion, and the prosperity of the church of Christ.
The PRC is a member denomination of NAPARC and has formal ecclesiastical ties with the FRCNA and the HRC.