The Orthodox Presbyterian Church was established in 1936, at a time when the modernism (liberalism) of Europe had succeeded in causing great harm to the historic biblical fidelity of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. Unbelief had begun to take over the church and fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith (such as the inerrancy of the Bible and the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ) were no longer thought to be essential, even for ministers of the gospel. Princeton Theological Seminary, long a bastion of Presbyterian orthodoxy, was reorganized in 1929 with a mandate to put liberal professors on the faculty. Four Princeton professors resigned in protest and established Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia as an independent institution to continue teaching biblical Christianity.
J. Gresham Machen, a leading opponent of liberalism in those days, was one of those professors. Because of his determination to support missionaries who were actually preaching the gospel, he and several others established the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions. The General Assembly of the church condemned their actions, and Dr. Machen was found guilty by the church courts of “disloyalty” and was deposed from the ministry. In response, 34 ministers, 17 ruling elders, and 79 laymen met in Philadelphia on June 11, 1936, to constitute the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. A fuller description of the story is available online.
From that time, nearly 75 years ago, every minister, ruling elder and deacon in the OPC has taken ordination vows in which he professes to believe the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the Word of God, the only infallible rule of faith and practice. Every member who joins the OPC professes to believe that the Bible, consisting of the Old and New Testaments, is the Word of God and that its doctrine of salvation is the only true doctrine of salvation.
Thus our name–orthodox. That word refers to “straight teaching” or “straight thinking.” Everyone knows that an orthodontist is concerned about straight teeth, and the “ortho” in orthodox comes from the Greek word for “thinking.” So in an Orthodox Presbyterian church you will find straight teaching following the long-accepted pattern given in the Bible. We are a church that believes what the Bible says, and we try to put it into practice.
That conviction regarding the infallible nature of biblical truthfulness was a clear and dominant theme of the Protestant reformation of the 16th and 17th centuries, a great movement in the rebuilding of the church finding its roots in the apostolic teaching from the days of our Lord Jesus’ ministry on earth. Building upon that foundation, we call ourselves “reformed.”
Redeemer OPC in Atlanta was begun in 1966 when four families who had moved to Atlanta from the Miami, FL area came together to pray. In the spring of 1967 the prayer fellowship group organized as a chapel under the oversight of a sister OPC church in Harriman, TN. It was then that the name Redeemer was suggested. With additional families, Redeemer OPC called her first pastor, Elmer M. Dortzbach, supported by the assistance of the home missions and church extension committee of the denomination. Mr. Dortzbach and his family arrived in August 1967, and the chapel was soon organized and officially became a church.
Redeemer met in numerous locations during those early years, and after three years on the second floor of a bank building, she moved into her own building in the fall of 1973. The property at 3930 Chamblee Tucker Road had been purchased in 1969, but construction didn’t begin until 1972. By November of that year it was evident that the contractor was in trouble, and he completed only 70% of the project before abandoning the work. Work parties from the congregation were formed and labored on Saturdays and Tuesday and Thursday nights to complete the building.
Mr. Dortzbach, however, determined to complete work on a Ph.D., and he left on August 1, 1973. Thomas Champness was the first to preach in the completed building on October 14, 1973, and he was extended a call and began his service to the congregation the first week of February 1974. Through the many years of his ministry Redeemer was characterized by faithful preaching, warm concern for members and visitors, emphasis upon the importance of building strong Christian families, and a growing interest in foreign missions.
Pastor Champness remained at Redeemer for 35 years, until his retirement in June of 2009. With much affection, he was released from his ministerial call when the congregation successfully identified his successor. Scott Willet was installed as the third pastor of Redeemer OPC in August of 2009, coming to Atlanta with 22 years of pastoral experience in Indiana, North Carolina and Virginia. He resigned in March of 2015.
Our fourth and current pastor Zecharias Abraham, was installed as our pastor in May 2016. You can find his biography here.