The Machen Retreat and Conference Center is named after John Gresham Machen (1881-1937)–professor, theologian, author, churchman and leader in the organization of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church–that Born of a Virginian family, he was raised in Baltimore, MD. After graduating from Princeton Theological Seminary, he went on for his doctoral degree at Marburg, Germany. There he was exposed to the new modernistic movement of liberalism that was even then invading the United States. He served in World War I and came home to teach at Princeton Seminary during a time when everyone thought that the Great War was the “war that ended all wars.”
This was a time when the nation was infected with utopian dreams and socialistic answers to all man’’s problems. It was also a time when the Mainline Church was experiencing a complacency, redefining the Great Commission to a liberal agenda, questioning the inspiration and infallibility of the Bible, the virgin birth and substitutionary atonement of Christ, reinterpreting the resurrection of Christ and the hope of His return. A new Social Gospel had arisen in the cities and a new missionary message was proclaimed to foreign lands.
Dr. J. Gresham Machen confronted the voice of liberalism, publishing several books, such as THE VIRGIN BIRTH OF CHRIST, THE ORIGIN OF PAUL’S RELIGION, CHRISTIANITY AND LIBERALISM among others. He strongly resisted the new tolerance that his own denomination, the Presbyterian Church USA, was showing toward liberal ministers already serving in the church. When Princeton Seminary was reorganized under an agenda of doctrinal toleration, and Machen himself rejected as professor of Apologetics, he and fourteen other men organized WESTMINSTER THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY as an independent school (1929). He organized the INDEPENDENT BOARD OF FOREIGN MISSIONS, as well, to assure the church that the whole counsel of God would be protected in the men who are sent to other lands.
But Machen made many enemies for his efforts. Setting rules requiring support for all its ministries and agencies, the Presbyterian Church USA then proceeded to dissolve Machen’s Independent Board of Foreign Missions and level charges against him. J. Gresham Machen refused to bend to the church’s modernistic requirements and found himself suspended from the ministry. So it was, on the eleventh day of June, 1936, a resolution was drawn up by Machen and others who bore his burden to continue the spiritual succession of the Presbyterian Church in what would come to be called THE ORTHODOX PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH.
Six months later, on the cold day of January 1, 1937, John Gresham Machen was called out of this world to be with his Lord after contracting pneumonia during his many speaking engagements.
Machen Retreat and Conference Center bears the torch of its namesake, not only because it enjoys the oversight of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, but because it is established to provide a haven for the renewal of our faith against worldliness and unbelief. We remember J. Gresham Machen when we come to MRCC, for it is here that we may be equipped to “earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints”–in our churches, in all areas of our lives.