ARP History in the South
In Scotland and in Ireland there were members of the Associate Church (Seceders) and there were members of the Reformed Church (Covenanters). These separate groups came as colonists. In both groups there were “Burghers” and “Antiburghers” depending whether or not they believed that a church member could take the oath of office to become a Burgher (town councilman) if that oath had a religious clause in it.
Two hundred and twenty-two years ago, the first of either group arrived in this area as reported by Rev. Robert Lathan, D.D. in his book History of the Associate Reformed Synod of the South, page 269.
“In 1776, a considerable portion of an Anti-Burgher congregation came to America. They settled in what is now Newberry county, South Carolina. In 1770, they were joined by their pastor, Reverend John Renwick, and another portion of the congregation. In this region of the country Mr. Renwick continued to labor until the 20th of August, 1775, when he died. The societies to which Mr. Renwick principally ministered, were those out of which grew the churches Cannon’s Creek, Head Spring and Prosperity.”
These congregations were loosely connected with the Associate Presbytery of Pennsylvania.
On November 1, 1782, the Associate Presbytery of Pennsylvania, the Associate Presbytery of New York and the only Presbytery of the other group (Covenanters) the Reformed Presbytery, untied in Philadelphia to form the ASSOCIATE REFORMED CHURCH OF AMERICA.
By 1790 there were enough congregations in the south to form a presbytery and on February 24, 1790 the PRESBYTERY OF THE CAROLINAS AND GEORGIA was organized within the Associate Reformed Church of America. Dr. Lathan reported this organization on page 286.
“The name of the Associate Reformed congregations, at the time of the organization of the PRESBYTERY OF THE CAROLINAS AND GEORGIA will, no doubt, be a matter of interest to the members of the Associate Reformed Church; at any rate they should be preserved as a memento of the past. For this reason they are here inserted.
In North Carolina there were fourteen, viz.: Hawfields, Eno, Goshen, Fourth Creek (now Statesville), Coddle Creek, New Hope, Gilead, Prosperity, Rock Springs, New Sterling, New Perth, Sardis, Providence and Waxhow.
In South Carolina there were twenty-two, viz,: Ebenezer (in York county), Steel Creek (now Blackstock), Neely’s Creek, Ebvenezer (in Fairfeld county), Rocky Creek (now Hopewell), Rocky Creek Meeting House (now Union), Ebenezer (now New Hope), Indian Creek (now King’s Creek), Cannon’s Creek, Prosperity, Cedar Creek (now Cedar Springs), Long Cane, Little Run (now Little River in Abbeville county), Rocky Springs (in Abbeville county), Generostee, Duet’s Corner (now Due West Corner), Diamond Hill, Crystal Spring, Rocky Spring (in Abbeville county), Little River (in Laurens county), Warrior’s Creek (in Laurens county), and city Charleston.
In Georgia there were eight, viz: Queensborough, Back Head, Big Creek, Joppa, Popular Springs, Twenty-Six-Mile Creek, Eighteen-Mile Creek, and Rayburn’s Creek. In all, forty-three.”
With additional growth, the one southern presbytery was divided into two presbyteries, with the Broad River being the separation line. However, for some unknown reason, the four congregations in Newberry County were mistakenly counted in the wrong presbytery as Lathan records, page 291.
“In October, 1800, the Presbytery of the Carolinas and Georgia was divided into two presbyteries, Broad River being made the dividing line. All that portion of the original presbytery on the east of Broad River was called “First Presbytery of the Carolinas and Georgia,” and all west of the same river received the name, ‘Second Presbytery of the Carolinas and Georgia.’ ”
For several reasons, some of which are remembered and others forgotten, and none of which were of any great importance, this division of the presbytery was not agreeable to some of the members, and for a number of years the dividing line was practically ignored. The congregations of Cannon’s Creek, King’s Creek and Prosperity were, until 1824, regarded as in the First Presbytery; while Sardis, Providence and Waxhaw were in the Second Presbytery. In 1805, these congregations, which at that time formed the pastoral charge of Rev. Isaac Grier, were by the Synod of the Carolinas, at the request of Mr. Grier, transferred from the Second to the First Presbytery.
At the meeting of the Synod of Cedar Spring, in November, 1825, the following motion was passed, viz: “ ‘That the united congregations of King’s Creek, Cannon’s Creek, Prosperity and Head Spring, which, heretofore, have been connected with the First Presbytery, be transferred to the Second Presbytery.’ ”
In the meantime, the First Presbytery and the Second Presbytery became the ASSOCIATE REFORMED SYNOD OF THE CAROLINAS within the Associate Reformed Church of America. The organization was accomplished at the Old Brick Church in Fairfield County, SC. At that time there were only seven ministers and probably less than two thousands members.
Next, the biggest step of all was taken. Because of separation not only by distance but also by ideology from the larger portion of the denomination in the northern states, the southern Associate Reformed Synod of the Carolinas withdrew to form its own denomination. Lathan, page 313.
“On the 1st of April, 1822, the Synod of the Carolinas met at King’s Creek, Newberry county, S.C. All the ministers, except Mr. McKnight, were present, and a ruling elder from all the pastoral charges except those of Rev. Messrs. Eleazer Harris and Joseph Lowry. On the first day, ‘It was moved by Messrs. John T. Pressley and Joseph Lowry, that inquiry be made of the members whether they judge that the interests of the Redeemers’ Kingdom in this quarter of the country call for a separation according to the answer given by General Synod to our petition on that subject. The members were unanimous in the opinion that the present state of the Church justified such a measure. It was, therefore, moved by Messrs. Hemphill and Rogers, that the Synod act on the permission of General Synod, and agreeably thereto resolve ourselves into an INDEPENDENT CO-ORDINATE Synod.’ ”
To this resolution there was not a dissenting vote. So far as anything to the contrary appears, the members were all of one mind.
Immediately after the adoption of the resolution by which the Synod of the Carolina was erected into an Independent and Coordinate Synod, the following motion by Revs, John Hemphill and William Blackstock was unanimously adopted:
Resolved, That this Synod be hereafter known by the name of the Associate Reformed Synod of the South; adhering to the constitution and standards of the Associate Reformed Church, in that sense, in which they were received when adopted at Greencastle, in the year 1799, and uniformly acted upon until the year 1811.”
Since 1822 the First and Second Presbyteries have existed as an independent denomination. They established Erskine Seminary in 1837 and Erskine College in 1839.
In 1935 the official name became the ASSOCIATE REFORMED PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH.
Second Presbytery – Constituted in October 1800, it was formed by the division of the Associate Reformed Presbytery of the Carolinas and Georgia. It now includes the state of Georgia and the Western South Carolina counties of Abbeville, Aiken, Allendale, Anderson, Barnwell, Edgefield, Greenville, Greenwood, Laurens, McCormick, Newberry, Oconee, Pickens, Saluda, Spartanburg, and Union.