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 Rev. Scott Yates, 615-274-3199

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Reluctant Revolutionaries  by Rev. Scott Yates     

It is absolutely appropriate on this day, called Denominational Sunday, this day that we celebrate as the 198th anniversary of the founding of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, that we should talk about people who are powerfully compelled to do the work of God…

What we should all keep in mind is that our denomination did not just spring up from a casual gathering of ministers drinking coffee around a table in a comfortable home…

It was born in the frontier, in the dead cold of winter, in a log cabin, by men of great conviction and powerful faith. Most all of you know the story of the Founders of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church….Just in case there are some people who do not know it, I’ll recap briefly…

 In a time that was called the Great Awakening, the Holy Spirit was sweeping over the entire nation, and the place we live was considered the frontier. In Kentucky, around Bowling Green, the local ministers were being ignored by their presbytery, all the way back in the east. The Presbyterian Church wanted their ministers to have degrees from the big universities, like Edinburgh, and Glasgow, where all the great ministers were trained. They just did not know how to deal with the frontier ministers, who often had to ride long circuits to bring preaching to the pioneers….

This dispute had gone on for years, and they were put off and postponed. Some ministers decided that they had to take radical action, so they planned to form their own Presbytery, which took three ordained clergy. They only had two, so they rode, roughly 80 miles on horseback, on February 3rd, 1810, off to Dickson County, to the home of one of their own, Rev. Samuel McAdow, who had moved away just so he could escape the strife. Their plan was simple….If McAdow was with them, they’d form a Presbytery and relax the rules on licensing ministers. But just in case, they had a licentiate, Ephraim McLean, and would ordain him if they had to. There were other theological issues that they wanted to codify as well, it was a big and important move for them all…

McAdow understood the weight of the decision…and went off, and said he had to pray before he made a choice….

He returned after a while, and his face glowed. He said he would join with them. It was a cold and snowy day, but something awesome happened on February the 4th, 1810…..196 years ago, the Reverends Samuel McAdow, Finis Ewing, and an ancestor of a few people in this church, Samuel King. He was, according to most accounts, the uncle of the founder of Kingdom church, the Rev. John King.

These were heady times, and these men took a big chance, but they felt powerfully compelled to proceed on the course that God had laid out for them. They formed Cumberland Presbytery, and ordained Rev. McLean. They never planned on starting their own denomination, and tried with all their hearts to re-affiliate themselves with the Presbyterians. They were Reluctant Revolutionaries.

Within four years of the founding of this presbytery that became a denomination, the Cumberlands had sent their first missionaries to the Choctaw Nation, in northern Mississippi. To this day, although they were moved by force to Oklahoma, the Choctaw Presbytery remains a vital force within the church.

Over the nearly 200 years that have passed, the Cumberland Presbyterian Church has become one of the beacons of the Reformed Tradition in the United States. We have a large presence in South America, Asia, and have formed Cross-Cultural ministries here in the US, such as in the Sudanese communities in Omaha, Atlanta, Nashville, and other cities.

We are a denomination of predominantly small churches. We survive because we are all part of the greater whole. This is our Connectional nature. We are here through the Grace of God, not through any efforts of our own. 

Just Ordinary People, Saved by Grace, Made Clean by Christ. We're not special, just Forgiven, and Blessed!



© Copyright Columbia Presbytery & Scott Yates, 2005-2014