(By Tamara Wolk, The Walker County Messenger, GA). The story of First Presbyterian Church of Fort Oglethorpe comes in two parts. There’s the building itself and there’s the congregation that now owns it. Perhaps the best person to share the stories is Herman McConathy, one of the early elders of the congregation and a collector of its history.
Before First Presbyterian was called First Presbyterian, and before it was the PCA – Presbyterian Church in America – church it is today, it belonged to the denomination Presbyterian Church U.S. Its decision to become a PCA church is part of the story of how it came to inhabit the building that served as the Post Chapel when Fort Oglethorpe was a military post.
First Pres, as members often refer to their church, came into existence in 1957 as a mission church, a branch of East Ridge Presbyterian. Their very first service, a Sunday School class of 13 people, was held in the band room at Lakeview High School when it was on Cross Street. Five acres of land across the street from the high school was donated to the congregation and by January of 1958, a building had been constructed on it. They named it Lakeview Chapel.
Less than a year later, Lakeview Chapel officially became Lakeview Presbyterian Church.
McConathy became a member of the church in 1965 when his church, Mountain View Church, merged with Lakeview Presbyterian.
Over the years the church grew and went through several pastors. In 1981, a departing pastor helped church members form a steering committee whose job it would be to find a new pastor. The committee was led by McConathy and another elder, Ken Brumley.
“Through our meetings and discussions with other Christian leaders and our research,” says McConathy, “we found that our local congregation was out of step with the P.C.U.S. denomination.”
The steering committee called for a meeting of the entire church to consider withdrawing from P.C.U.S. That meeting was held in 1981. The congregation discussed the ways in which their beliefs differed from those of P.C.U.S. – things like the purpose of missions, the inerrancy of the Scriptures and the participation of non-believers in communion (the Lord’s Supper).
“Our positions on many points were far more conservative than those of P.C.U.S.,” says McConathy. “We believe in the inerrancy of the Scriptures. We believe that we should only admit believers to the Lord’s Supper.”
But breaking away did not prove so easy. The congregation submitted a request to the Presbytery of Knoxville (P.C.U.S.) to withdraw and to become part of the Tennessee Valley Presbytery (PCA). They learned that withdrawing would mean the loss of their property. They pursued their course anyway.
(photo taken from church’s Facebook page.)