« Alliance, Evangelical Alliance of the Reformed Churches Allies, Thomas William »

Alliance of the Reformed Churches



A voluntary organization formed in London in 1875, on the model of the Evangelical Alliance; but confined to Churches of presbyterial polity and more churchly in the character of its representation. The official name is “Alliance of the Reformed Churches Holding the Presbyterian System” and popularly the Alliance is known as the “Presbyterian Alliance.” The calling of the Council of Trent suggested to Cranmer a synod of Protestants to make a union creed, and in the spring of 1552 he wrote to Melanchthon, Bullinger, and Calvin on the subject and received favorable responses but nothing came of it. Beza in 1561 made a similar proposition, with as little results. So also in 1578 in the Scottish Second Book of Discipline and in 1709 in the collection of Scottish church laws, place is given to the idea. But it was not till 1870, when President James McCosh of Princeton College, first, and Rev. Prof. William Garden Blaikie, of Edinburgh, second, proposed that the different Presbyterian and Reformed Churches should get together in a conference, that tangible results followed. In 1873 the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland and that of the Presbyterian Church of the United States simultaneously appointed committees to correspond with other Churches on the subject. This led to the holding of a meeting in New York, Oct. 6, 1873, during the sessions of the Sixth General Conference of the Evangelical Alliance, at which a committee was appointed to bring the matter before the Presbyterian Churches through out the world and to obtain their concurrence and cooperation. This committee issued an address in which they distinctly stated that what was proposed was not that the Churches “should merge their separate existence in one large organization; but that, retaining their self-government, they should meet with the other members of the Presbyterian family to consult for the good of the Church at large, and for the glory of God.” The proposal met with such general approval that in July, 1875, a conference was held at the English Presbyterian College in London. At this meeting, which lasted four days, and where nearly one hundred delegates, representing many Churches, attended, a constitution for the proposed Alliance was prepared, from which the following are extracts:—

"1. This Alliance shall be known as The Alliance of the Reformed Churches throughout the world holding the Presbyterian system.

"2. Any Church organized on Presbyterian principles, which holds the supreme authority of the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments in matters of faith and morals, and whose creed is in harmony with the consensus of the Reformed Churches, shall be eligible for admission into the Alliance."

It was also proposed that there should be a triennial council of delegates, ministers and elders, in equal numbers, to be appointed by the different Churches in proportion to the number of their congregations; and that this council, while at liberty to consider all matters of common interest, should “not interfere with the existing creed or constitution of any Church in the Alliance, or with its internal order or external relations."

Aims and Achievements.

The Alliance which was thus proposed was one, not of individual church members, but of Reformed and Presbyterian Churches as such. Its constitution met with great favor. It furnished an opportunity for the different church organizations to come into close fraternal relations with each other while retaining their separate existence and independence. Since its formation, the Alliance has held a General Council in each of the following cities, Edinburgh (1877), Philadelphia (1881), Belfast (1884), London (1888), Toronto (1892), Glasgow (1896), Washington (1899), and Liverpool (1904), at all of which questions of doctrine, polity, Home and Foreign Missions, and other forms of Christian activity have been fully discussed, the papers read with the subsequent discussions being published in a volume of proceedings. The Alliance is the rallying-point of the Reformed and Presbyterian Churches of the world, all of these with one or two exceptions having joined its fellowship. Its membership thus embraces not only the English-speaking Churches of Great Britain and America and the historic Churches of the European Continent, but also the Churches in the colonial and other territories of Great Britain, with the newly formed Churches which are the fruit of missionary labor among non-Christian peoples. Through the Alliance the special conditions of each Church have become better known to sister Churches than they had been previously, and hence, not only by sympathy and counsel, but also by large financial aid, the Alliance has sought to assist the weaker communities.

The General Councils of the Alliance are neither mass-meetings nor conferences open to all, but consist exclusively of delegates appointed by the several Churches; yet neither are they synods or church courts, for they have no legislative authority of any kind and can only submit to all the Churches or to such as may be specially interested, any conclusions which they have reached. For administrative purposes, the Alliance has divided its Executive Commission or Business Committee into an Eastern Section located in Great Britain, and a Western Section located in the United States, but working in harmony with each other by constant intercorrespondence. As representing about thirty millions of souls, holding a common system of doctrine and adhering to a common polity and whose voluntary contributions for church purposes were reported at the Liverpool Council in 1904 as amounting in the previous year to considerably more than thirty-eight millions of dollars, the Alliance forms to-day one of the most closely united and influential organizations of Christendom.

G. D. Mathews.

Bibliography: The Proceedings and Minutes of each of the General Councils have been published—of the first by J. Thomson, of the second by J. B. Dales and R. M. Patterson, and of the third and succeeding by G. D. Mathews. Consult also the Quarterly Register of the Alliance, 1886 to date.

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