In 1858, 6 synods, 21 presbyteries and about 15,000 communicants withdrew and organized the United Synod. Just before the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861 these churches numbered:—
|Old School||33||171||2656||3531||292,927 (1860)|
|New School||22||104||1523||1482||134,933 (1860)|
|United Synod||4||15||113||197||10,205 (1858)|
3. Since the beginning of the Civil War.—The Southern presbyteries of the Old School Assembly withdrew in 1861, and delegates from ten southern synods (47 presbyteries) met in Augusta, Georgia, in December, and organized as the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the Confederate States of America, which included 700 ministers, 1000 churches and 75,000 communicants. Its strength was increased by the addition: in 1863 of the small Independent Presbyterian Church of South Carolina; in 1865 of the United Synod (New School), which at that time had 120 ministers, 190 churches, and 12,000 communicants; in 1867 of the presbytery of Patapsco; in 1869 of the synod of Kentucky; and in 1874 of the synod of Missouri. At the close of the Civil War this Southern Church adopted the name of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the United States.
In 1867 there was an unsuccessful attempt to combine all the Presbyterian bodies of the North. In 1869 the Old and New Schools in the North combined on the basis of the common standards; to commemorate the union a memorial fund was raised which amounted in 1871 to $7,607,492. Between 1870 and 1881 three presbyteries of the Reformed Presbyterian General Synod (New School) joined the northern General Assembly. In 1906 the greater part of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church (then having 195,770 members) united with the northern General Assembly. Although the differences between the Old School and the New School were much less in 1869 than in 1837—during the separation the New School was conservative, the Old School liberal, in tendency—there were serious dissensions in the northern church after the union. The first of these was due to the adoption by certain teachers in theological seminaries of the methods and results of the “higher criticism,” and two famous heresy cases followed. Charles Augustus Briggs, tried for heresy for his inaugural address in 1891 as professor of biblical theology at Union Seminary (in which he attacked the inerrancy of the Bible, held the composite character of the Hexateuch and of the Book of Isaiah and taught that sanctification is not complete at death), was acquitted by the presbytery of New York, but was declared guilty and was suspended from its ministry by the General Assembly ofy 1893. Henry Preserved Smith, professor of Hebrew and Old Testament exegesis in Lane Seminary, for a pamphlet published in 1891 denying the inerrancy but affirming the inspiration of the Scriptures, was suspended in 1892 by the presbytery of Cincinnati, and was unsuccessful in his appeal to the synod and to the General Assembly. Dr Briggs remained a member of the Union Seminary faculty but left the Presbyterian Church to enter the Protestant Episcopal. Dr Smith resigned his chair at Lane Seminary, and entered the Congregational ministry. In 1892-1893 there was an open break between the General Assembly and Union Seminary, which repudiated the agreement of 1870 between the seminaries and the assembly; the assembly disclaimed responsibility for the Seminary's teachings and withheld financial aid from its students. In 1896 McCormick Theological Seminary (which in 1858 as New Albany Theological Seminary had come under the control of the assembly) and Auburn Seminary refused to make the changes desired by the General Assembly; a satisfactory arrangement with McCormick was made. Lane and Auburn remained practically independent.
But although the conservative party was successful in inducing successive general assemblies to lay repeatedly stronger stress on the verbal inerrancy of Holy Scripture and to make belief in such inerrancy a requisite of teachers in theological seminaries and of candidates for the ministry, there was in other matters an increasing liberal tendency. In 1902 the General Assembly adopted a Brief Statement of the Reformed Faith, not as a legal standard but as an interpretation of the confession; it repudiated the doctrine of infant damnation, insisted on the consistency of predestination with God's universal love, and incorporated new chapters on the Holy Spirit, the love of God, and missions. The Assembly of 1906 authorized (but did not make mandatory) the use of a book of common worship; the question of a liturgy had been opened in 1855 by C. W. Baird's Entaxia; in 1864 Charles W. Shields (1825-1904), who afterwards entered the Protestant Episcopal Church, republished and urged the adoption of the Book of Common Prayer as amended by the Westminster Divines in the royal commission of 1661; and Henry Van Dyke was prominent in the latter stage of the movement for a liturgy.
The northern General Assembly and the Cumberland Church, which united with it in 1906, are the only Presbyterian bodies in America that have done anything tangible for Christian union in the last fifty years: the southern Assembly is much more conservative than the northern—in 1866 it suspended James Woodrow (1828-1907), professor of natural science in connexion with revealed religion, for holding evolutionary views, and it declared that Adam's body was “directly fashioned by Almighty God, without any natural animal parentage of any kind, out of matter previously created out of nothing”; and in 1897 it ordered that women were not to speak in promiscuous meetings—and its attitude toward the negro, insisting in separate church organizations for blacks and whites, makes union with the northern bodies difficult; the United Presbyterian Church in North America in 1890 refused to join the union of Presbyterian and Reformed missions in India, and its opposition to instrumental music and to the use of any songs but the psalms of the Old Testament, although this is decreasing in strength, are bars to union; the synod of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America in 1888 refused to unite with the United Presbyterian Church because the latter did not object to the secular character of the constitution of the United States; and with the general synod of the Reformed Presbyterian Church the synod could not unite in 1890 because the general synod allowed and the synod did not allow its members to “incorporate” themselves with the political system of the United States. A loose union, called the “Federal Council of the Reformed Churches in America,” was formed in 1894 by the churches mentioned (excepting the Southern Assembly) and the Dutch and German Reformed churches.
More or less closely connected with the Northern Church are the theological seminaries at Princeton, Auburn, Pittsburg (formerly Allegheny—the Western Seminary), Cincinnati (Lane), New York (Union) and Chicago (McCormick), already named, and San Francisco Seminary (1871) since 1892 at San Anselmo, Cal., a theological seminary (1891) at Omaha, Nebraska, a German theological seminary (1869) at Bloomfield, New Jersey, the German Presbyterian Theological School of the North-west (1852) at Dubuque, Iowa, and the Presbyterian Theological Seminary of Kentucky, which is under the control and supervision of the northern and southern churches. Seminaries of the Southern Church are the Union Theological Seminary at Richmond, Virginia, and the Columbia Theological Seminary at Columbia, South Carolina, already mentioned, the Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary (1902) at Austin, Texas, the theological department in the Southwestern Presbyterian University at Clarksville, Tennessee, and, for negroes, Stillman Institute (1877), at Tuscaloosa, Alabama. The United Presbyterian Church has two seminaries, one at Xenia, Ohio, and one at Allegheny (Pittsburg). Of the Covenanter bodies the synod of the Reformed Presbyterian Church has a theological seminary in Allegheny (Pittsburg), established in 1856, and the general synod in 1887 organized a college at Cedarville, Ohio. The Associate Reformed Synod of the South has the Erskine Theological Seminary (1837) in Due West, South Carolina.
The foreign missionary work of the General Assembly had been carried on after 1812 through the (Congregational) American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (organized in 1810) until the separation of 1837, when the Old School Assembly established its own board of foreign missions; the New School continued to work through the American board; after the union of 1869 the separate board was perpetuated and the American board transferred to it, with the contributions made to the American board by the New School churches, the missions in Africa (1833), in Syria (1822), and in Persia (1835). The Church now has, besides these missions, others in India (1834), Siam (1840), China (1846), Colombia (1856), Brazil (1859), Japan (1859), Laos (1867), Mexico (transferred in 1872 by the American and Foreign Christian Union), Chile (transferred in 1873 by the same Union; first established in 1845), Guatemala (1882), Korea (1884) and the Philippine Islands (1899). A board of home missions was organized in 1816; a board of education in 1819; a woman's board of foreign missions in 1869; a women's executive committee for home mission work (which takes particular interest in the work for the freedmen) in 1878; a board of publication in 1838 (after 1887 called the board of Publication and Sunday School Work); a board of aid for colleges
- This agreement, proposed to the General Assembly in 1870 by the directors of Princeton and of Union, gave the Assembly a veto on the election and removal of professors.