Friday, May 6, 2016

Summer in the South: Theology and History

"In January 1854, [John Lafayette Girardeau] and his wife Penelope Sarah ("Sal") moved from St. John Parish and Wilton Presbyterian Church ... to Charleston to assume the work begun by John B. Adger and the session of Second Presbyterian Church. The work was designed to establish a church for and of the slaves. In 1850, citizens of Charleston built a meeting house on Anson Street for the exclusive use of the slaves. After Adger's health failed, Girardeau was handpicked by Adger and Smyth to lead the work forward. The work expanded from thirty-six black members when Girardeau arrived to over 600 at the time of the American Armageddon. He preached to over 1,500 weekly from 1859 through 1861. 

"In 1858/59 the Anson Street Mission experienced a marvelous revival and in April 1859 they moved into a new building at the prestigious and prime intersection of Meeting and Calhoun Streets. The black membership was given the privilege of naming their church (which was particularized in 1858) and they chose "Zion." Zion Presbyterian Church became famous for Girardeau's preaching — he was called "the Spurgeon of America", but it was also noteworthy for its diaconal ministry in the community, catechetical training of hundreds in the city, sewing clubs for the women, and missionary activity. The outreach and influence of Zion was of such public notoriety that Girardeau and the session were often criticized and sometimes physically threatened. For example, the catechetical training and teaching of hymns and psalms was so effective that some Charlestonians believed Girardeau was teaching the slaves to read for themselves (which was contrary to state law). 

"After the War and before Girardeau could return to Charleston, a number of freedmen of Zion Presbyterian Church beckoned Girardeau to return to "the Holy City" and resume his work with them. They desired to have their white pastor whom they knew, loved, and respected, rather than a black missionary from the North. Throughout the post-War and Reconstruction years, he arduously worked amongst both black and white in Charleston. He mightily labored within the Southern Presbyterian Church to see that the freedmen were included in the church and in 1869 he nominated seven freedmen for the office of ruling elder in Zion Presbyterian Church, preached the ordination service, and with the white members of his session laid hands on his black brothers." (from pcahistory.org)


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If this bit of obscure American history intrigues you and you would like to see where that ministry took place more than 150 years ago, you should register now for the annual Greenville Seminary Summer Theology Course and "educational vacation" historical tour, Aug. 8-12, open to both GPTS students and the public.

This summer's course again is Southern Presbyterian Theology, taught by Dr. C.N. Willborn.

The course is another opportunity for pastors to gain continuing education credits. The program also includes a fascinating tour of historic Presbyterian sites in beautiful Charleston and Columbia, S.C.

"Enjoy the beauty of South Carolina from the Up Country to the Low Country," says Dr. Willborn, recognized for his contributions to American and Southern Presbyterianism. "We will study some of the great doctrines of the Christian faith as set forth by the Southern luminaries. Consider this a vacation for those in love with truth."

Tuition for taking the course for M.Div. credit is $448 or to audit without credit it is $60. Use this link to register and pay tuition.

If you are a pastor, elder or other person involved in Christian counseling, you may wish to combine this event with the GPTS Summer Institute, the preceding week. Topic: "The Westminster Confession and Pastoral Care."

Dr. Willborn is adjunct professor of church history at GPTS and pastor of Covenant Presbyterian Church in Oak Ridge, Tenn. He serves as co-editor of The Confessional Presbyterian.

This is a unique course drawing from the contributions of international Calvinists like J. L. Girardeau, Charles Colcock Jones, B.M. Palmer, Stuart Robinson and J.H. Thornwell. Grand topics like Adoption, the Diaconate, Covenant theology, Biblical Theology and much more will be explored. In addition to the classroom lectures (which include generous Q&A times), the final two days will be on location in some of American Presbyterianism’s most historic sites, in Columbia and Charleston. In addition to Dr. Willborn, the course offers time with Dr. John R. de Witt, Mr. Graham Duncan (South Caroliniana Library Archivist), Dr. Pat Mellen (Senior Historian for Charleston Convention & Group Services), and Mr. Alphonso Brown (Gullah Tours).  

The dates and times for the course are as follows:
Monday, August 8: 1 p.m. - 5 p.m. 
Tuesday, August 9:  9 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Wednesday, August 10: 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Thursday, August 11: Tour in Columbia and Johns Island, South Carolina
Friday, August 12: Tour in Charleston, South Carolina
Details on Thursday and Friday tour available upon registration.

For more information, contact the Registrar: registrar@gpts.edu.

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