The Evangelical Presbyterian Church

Late last summer I had the distinct privilege of having as a guest in my home for a few days the Rev. Charles Rodman, pastor of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Launceston, Tasmania, Australia. Perhaps some of our readers will recall that in connection with my as yet unfinished series of editorials on “The Free Offer” I made reference to the Evangelical Presbyterian Churches and to their excellent pamphlet entitled “Universalism and the Reformed Churches: A Defense of Calvin’s Calvinism.” In this booklet they opposed the error of the “free offer.” Up to this time we had had some contact with the brethren of these churches through correspondence and through an exchange of literature. During the summer, however, Rev. Rodman had an extended leave from his congregation and traveled to Canada, to our country, and to England and Scotland. It was a real joy to have him as our guest for a few days and to have the opportunity I to become personally acquainted, to hear the rather amazing story of his denomination, to have fellowship with one another, to discuss various matters of mutual interest and concern with respect to the truth of God’s Word, and to lay some plans for future contact. In the course of the Rev. Rodman’s visit some of our local ministers also had the opportunity to make his acquaintance and to learn about the Evangelical Presbyterian Churches. I believe that they will all join me in saying that it was a genuine pleasure to become acquainted with the Rev. Rodman, and that they will agree with me that we appear to have much in common.

I spoke of the “amazing story” of the origin of the Evangelical Presbyterian Churches. Prior to the Rev. Rodman’s arrival, I had already received a cassette tape which told in detail the first part of this story. When Pastor Rodman was here, in his inimitable way—and I might add: his charming but sometimes difficult to understand Australian accent—he told us the whole story. Through the wonder of God’s grace these brethren moved from the rankest Arminianism and decisionism to a soundly Reformed position, a position in which they are in essential agreement with us also as to the crucial subjects of common grace and the free offer. I asked the Rev. Rodman while he was here whether I might tell that story in our Standard Bearer, and he gladly gave me permission to do so. Afterwards, however, I thought better of this, and decided that it would be more interesting for our readers to learn this story from the Rev. Rodman himself. I have, therefore, transcribed the tape which he had sent me, and I intend to publish this transcript in three installments, beginning in this issue. These three installments, however, will tell only the first part of this story. I hope that meanwhile either the Rev. Rodman or one of the other brethren in Tasmania will send us another tape with the conclusion of this story. I would rather have our readers get the story from them than receive it secondhand from me. However, I do not know whether that second tape will reach us in time to continue and conclude the story. For via one of the students of these churches Prof. Hanko recently learned that the Rev. Rodman suffered a heart attack, and will have to curtail his activities for some six months. We want Pastor Rodman to know that we remember him in our prayers. If it be the Lord’s will, may He restore our brother to health and to his labors in the cause of His church and covenant.

The Rev. Rodman informed me that the brethren in Tasmania were as surprised to learn about us as we were to learn about them. They thought that they were all alone in their position in respect to common grace and the free offer, and they were amazed to learn about our churches and their history and to learn, in fact, that our denomination is older than theirs and had passed through the entire common grace free offer controversy long before they had. For this reason, we were assured, the brethren in Tasmania looked to us for instruction and help. They are very interested in what we have to say, and interested in our Standard Bearer and all our other literature. In fact, when Rev. Rodman and I paid a visit to our Business Manager, the Rev. Rodman thought that he had found a veritable gold mine; and while he was in Grand Rapids he made arrangements to have a goodly amount of our publications sent to his address in Tasmania. We were also assured that representatives of our churches would be heartily welcome in Tasmania, and that there would be opportunity for conferences, lectures, and preaching. Pastor Rodman gave me his personal assurances on this score; but he assured me that though he was not speaking officially for his churches, he was certain that they would welcome us. We therefore look forward to face-to-face contact with these brethren sometime in mid-l 975, the Lord willing.

Some of our readers will recall that in an earlier issue I criticized a paragraph in the pamphlet to which I referred above. I criticized it because it appeared as though the pamphlet wanted to hold on to the idea of common grace, while it wanted to reject the error of the free offer. I suggested that this was inconsistent. While he was visiting here, the Rev. Rodman discussed this matter with me; and I believe that we see eye to eye on this matter. After Mr. Rodman’s departure, however, I received the May issue of The Evangelical Presbyterian, the quarterly magazine of these churches and I noticed that in this issue there is an editorial response to my criticism. Hence, rather than inform you about our discussion of this subject, I propose to publish that response and to make some comments about it. This, however, will have to wait until the following issue of the Standard Bearer. And now I invite you to enjoy the first installment of the Rev. Rodman’s story.