What is the Presbytery of the Midwest?
The following article was taken from a book titled “The Orthodox Presbyterian Church 1936-1986” edited for the Orthodox Presbyterian Church by Charles G. Dennison. Published by the committee for the Historian of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. 7401 Old York Road, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. 1986. It provides some interesting history of the presbytery through the year of its publication.
The first meeting of the Presbytery of Wisconsin and Upper Michigan of the Presbyterian Church of America was held on July 30, 1936, in the home of the Rev. Arthur F. Perkins in Merrill, Wisconsin. Mr. Perkins had been appointed convener of the new presbytery by the Committee on Home Missions and Church Extension of the general assembly, as communicated by the Rev. Edwin H. Rian in a letter dated July 2, 1936. Also at the first meeting were the Rev. William Kielhorn and ruling elder H. W. Hillegas. Perkins was elected moderator and Hillegas stated clerk.
The Rev. John Davies, having renounced his connection with the Presbyterian Church in teh USA on July 16, 1936, was received and enrolled. Mr. Davies and his family were living in a wigwam and ministering to the Menominee Indians on the reservation at Neopit, Wisconsin. The Rev. John J. DeWaard of Cedar Grove, Wisconsin, was also received as a ministerial member of presbytery.
The Merrill Community Presbyterian Church was enrolled as the presbytery’s first congregation. It then extended a call to Mr. Perkins, stipulating a salary of $1,200 per year together with the free use of a manse, or twenty dollars a month in lieu of a manse, and four weeks’ vacation each year.
A December 10, 1936, meeting of presbytery was held at the home of the Rev. Oscar Holkeboer (Oostburg, Wisconsin), who was then installed as pastor of Bethel Presbyterian Church.
What may have been the longest installation service in the history of the OPC (or any other ecclesiastical body, for that matter) began on January 19, 1937. The first half of the installation service for Mr. DeWaard was conducted up to the point of propounding the constitutional questions; these questions, however, were deferred until after the congregational meeting in February.
The Old Stockbridge Presbyterian Church of Gresham, Wisconsin, was received June 21, 1937. On September 26 the Rev. William A. Swets and the Rev. Jacob Mellema joined the presbytery. Minutes of that September meeting report, “The treasurey was found to be empty, with a bill of $2.28 against presbytery before it.” Continuing financial difficulties plagued presbytery in its early days, as witness the minutes of February 17, 1938: “The treasurer reported that the exchequer was empty, and that a bill of $1.48 was outstanding. The debt was immediately cleared by gifts from the presbytery.”
“Resolutions Concerning Church Name” were presented at teh February 22, 1938, meeting in connection with the Pennsylvania court forbidding the new PCA the use of her name. The presbytery declared that the decision “definitely [infringed] upon the religious liberty guaranteed by our country’s constitution…The undersigned, therefore, request the Committee on Home Missions and Church Extension to make proper appeal to the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania that this iniquitous decision may be reversed.”
Finances fo the presbytery began looking up when a September 26, 1938, balance of two cents was reported.
The minutes of March 24, 1939, at a meeting in the Hawethorne Chapel, Waterloo, Iowa, first mention the use of the name Orthodox Presbyterian Church. At that meeting the First OPC of Waterloo, Iowa, was organized. The minutes of April 24, 1939, reported the oranization of the Decatur Church of Decatur, Michigan.
During its first decade the presbytery saw the addition of the following names beyond those already mentioned: Charles G. Sterling, I. D. Mishoff, Leland C. Jorgenson, William J. Agnew, E. Wybenga, Edward F. Hills, William D. Gray, Melvin Nonhof, George J. Willis, Robert E. Nicholas, Richard B. Gaffin, Jack Zandstra, Dean W. Adiar, and John Verhage. In March of 1943 the Presbytery of Wiconsin consisted of four congregations, eleven minsiters, and 446 communicant members, with a total membership of 695.
Men coming to presbytery in the next decade (1946-1955) were George W. Marston, Edmond P. Clowney, Oscar Holkeboer, Robert K. Churchill, Lawrence R. Eyres, Robert W. Eckardt, Lawrence N. Manross, Henry D. Phillips, and Robert M. Nuermberger. During this period the Evergreen Park OPC (Illinois) and Westminster Church, Westchester, Illinois, were received. Nineteen fifty-five statistics revealed six congregations, eight ministers, and a total membership of 1284, with total receipts of $69,252.58; 986 communicant members gave average of $88 each.
Fifteen years later, in 1970, per communicant member giving would become $217, a 247 percent increase. There were now ten churches, four chapels, thirteen ministers, and a total membership of 1846, a forty-four percent increase, or 2.9 percent average gain per year. Ministers entering presbytery from 1955 through 1970 were Francis D. Breisch, George Haney, Dewin C. Urban, Bruce Coie, Glenn T. Black, Carl J. Reitsma, Francis E. Mahaffy, Salvador M. Solis, Robert M. Nuermberger, Donald E. Stanton, D. Clair Davis, William Harllee Bordeaux, William A. Shell, Henry H. Fikkert, Donald M. Parker, Ivan J. DeMaster, James L. Bosgraf, George E. Haney, Donald J. Duff, Eugene B. Williams, and John J. Barnett.
Folowing the organization of the Menominee Chapel at Zoar, Wisconsin, in the mid-fifties, presbytery went to work on an aggressive church growth program. Bethel Church, Wheaton, was organized; the Hanover Park work was organized as a chapel; the congregation at Menominee Falls, Wisconsin, was received as a particular church, as was the Hanover Park Chapel.
In 1968 the name of the Presbytery of Wisconsin, was changed to the Presbytery of the Midwest.
The following ministers were received into the presbytery during the seventies: John F. Bettler, George W. Knight III, Leslie A. Dunn, George W. Hall, Carl J. Reitsma, Francis E. Mahaffy, Eugene P. Grille, John N. Fikkert, John R. Hilbelink, Vincent L. Crossett, Robert W. Harvey, David B. Cummings, David Allan George, Karl G. Dortzbach, Victor B. Atallah, Gordan E. Peterson, Robert W. Eckardt, John R. Wiers, Henry Buikema, Jamesl L. Bosgraf, and Cornelius Tolsma. During the same decade a work was developed at Winthrop Harbor, Illinois, and the Orthodox Presbyterian Fellowhip of Delta County, Michigan, was received as a chapel, as was the Granville Avenue Fellowship of Grand Rapids, Michigan. The Green Bay OPC was organized as a particular congregation, with a Decatur, Illinois, group being received as a chapel, as was th Griggs Street group in Grand Rapids. Trinity Chapel in Chicago came into being, and the Decatur Chapel became a particular congregation. A Kalamazoo, Michigan, group sought church status, and the Spencer Mills, Michigan, congregation–organized in 1967–divided into the Spencer Mills OPC and the Griggs Street Chapel in 1979.
Beginning witht the eighties, presbytery welcomed Dr. John P. Boyd, Robert K. Churchill, Jonathan B. Falk, Roert Evans, Robert J. Borger, Arthur O.Olson, Larry E. Wilson, Dennis W. Smith, Jr., Ronald J. Hoekstra, Abe W. Ediger, J. Anthony Blair, James F. Stewart, Jr., Calvin K. Cummings, Sr., Richard Sowder, William B. Acker, Kenneth A. Smith, and Calvin R. Malcor.
So far in this current decade Presbytery has received Westminster Presbyterian Church (Rochester, Minnesota) as a chapel, and Grace Chapel (Sheboygan, Wisconsin), and Pilgrim Presbyterian Church (Metamora, Michigan) have been received as partiuclar congregations.
The Presbytery of the Midwest has distinguished itself indeed as a “Presbytery on the Move.” From 1970 to the end of 1983 presbytery has increased by nine churches from the 1970 level of ten. The number of ministers has increased from thireen to twenty-eight, and total members from 1846 to 2837, a fifty-four percent increase, an average growth rate of 4.2 percent per year. In the same thirteen-year period, total contributions grew to $1,151,048, a 358 percent jump! With a December, 1983, communicant membership of 1,934, up sixty-seven percent over 1970’s figure, average communicant giving has leaped 274 percent to $595 per communicant member. Presbytery has come a long way from the day there was two cents in the exchequer.
The reason? For many years presbytery has been geared for growth, with a progressive minded committee on church extensionand a strong commitment to the work of reginoal home missionaries. Now each standing committee of presbytery has been commissioned by presbytery to develop a detailed five-year plan of ministry and growth. By God’s grace our next fifteen-year growth results will push the ascending line off the ledger–for Christ and his kingdom.