PCA Minister John W. Buswell, 88, Called Home to Glory

John William Buswell, 88, son of James Oliver Buswell, Jr., was called home to glory on April 18, 2016, in Quarryville, Penn.

He was ordained to the ministry in 1951 by the Philadelphia Presbytery of the former Bible Presbyterian Church, and installed as pastor of the Bible Presbyterian Church of West Philadelphia, Penn., serving there from 1951-1954.  He accepted a call to serve as the pastor of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Trenton, N.J., and served there from 1956-63. From 1963-1974 Buswell taught at Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis, Mo., during which time he successfully completed his doctoral degree.

 

John William Buswell, 88, son of James Oliver Buswell, Jr., was called home to glory on April 18, 2016, in Quarryville, Penn. Buswell was born February 11, 1928 to Helen Spaulding and J. Oliver Buswell.

John was married to LaVon Witmer of Ft. Wayne, Ind., on August 6, 1949; they had two daughters; Elizabeth Stortz Futoran, who died March 15, 2016, and Kathleen Nielson.

Buswell was educated at Wheaton College, BA, 1949; Faith Theological Seminary, B.Div., 1952; Princeton Theological Seminary, Th.M., 1963; and St. Louis University, Ph.D., 1973.

He was ordained to the ministry in 1951 by the Philadelphia Presbytery of the former Bible Presbyterian Church, and installed as pastor of the Bible Presbyterian Church of West Philadelphia, Penn., serving there from 1951-1954.  He accepted a call to serve as the pastor of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Trenton, N.J., and served there from 1956-63. From 1963-1974 Buswell taught at Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis, Mo., during which time he successfully completed his doctoral degree.

Buswell returned to pastoral ministry first as associate pastor of the Mitchell Road Presbyterian Church in Greenville, S.C., from 1974-1980; and then from 1980-1990 he served his last and longest pastorate as senior pastor of the Seminole Presbyterian Church in Tampa, Fla.

From 1991-1999, Buswell served as the chaplain at the Quarryville Presbyterian Retirement Community in Quarryville; he was honorably retired from ministry in 1999. He remained at Quarryville until his death.

During his ministry Buswell served on the Board of Trustees of Covenant Theological Seminary from 1984-1987. He also worked on the Committee for the Mandate, the denominational magazine of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod (RPCES).

Wayne Sparkman, Director of the PCA Historical Center in St. Louis, highlighted a memorable account of one particular Synod of the Bible Presbyterian Church. Sparkman noted, “During his first pastorate in Philadelphia Buswell wrote an account of the 1954 Synod, preserved on a small slip of paper stored away at the PCA Historical Center. And but for his telling of it, the whole affair would have been lost to history, masked by the typical shorthand of modern minute-keeping.

Their Finest Hour

The Seventeenth General Synod of the Bible Presbyterian Church convened in Greenville, South Carolina on Thursday afternoon, June 3rd, 1954. The whole of the next day, Friday, was given to worship and prayer. Following devotional exercises that morning, the Rev. Francis A. Schaeffer brought a message. Then in the afternoon, the Rev. John W. Sanderson spoke and the Synod broke out for group prayer meetings. Finally, the Rev. Robert G. Rayburn brought the concluding message that evening, followed by a united prayer meeting.

So much for what you can tell from the official Minutes.  To my knowledge there were no tape recordings made as the General Synod met that year.  If we were left with the official record, we might be impressed that they spent the day in prayer and worship, but that would be about it.  But stored away among Buswell’s papers, in Box 283 there is a half sheet of onionskin paper with this typed report prepared by his son, the Rev. John Buswell, who was at that time the pastor of a church in Philadelphia:

From the Church Bulletin of the Bible Presbyterian Church of West Philadelphia

The Pastor’s Paragraph written by Rev. John W. Buswell

The Seventeenth General Synod of the Bible Presbyterian Church experienced the reality of revival in their midst. On the second day of meeting no business was allowed, and three messages were given, followed by three seasons of prayer. The morning message was concerning Reformation and Revival, the afternoon one concerning Prayer and Revival, and the evening message was on the Holy Spirit and Revival. The times of prayer were characterized first by tears of confession. Person after person got to his feet to pour out his soul in repentance before God. Then the prayers turned to praise: praise for the great and marvelous opportunity God had set before the Bible Presbyterian Church for evangelism. Then the prayers centered on the need to take advantage of that great opportunity. There settled on the Synod a great and binding hunger for greater love among God’s people; love which would unify our hearts and churches for the glory of God. Then there was a greater hunger for the compassion and love for lost souls that they might find Christ. A year passed and not enough souls had been saved by the work of the Bible Presbyterian Church. Seventeen years have passed and we stop and consider where are we going? A firm and settled conviction that the stand of the Bible Presbyterian Synod for the Word of God and the Testimony of Jesus Christ was the right one, pervaded the body of ministers; and yet there was dissatisfaction. Dissatisfaction with progress, dissatisfaction with the brightness of our testimony. We must go forward with the proper balance for the TRUTH of God and for the LOVE of God. We must maintain the purity of the Testimony and at the same time we must allow the Holy Spirit to pervade the Testimony of our church with compassion for our brethren in Christ, as well as those who are unsaved. Romans 12:5—”So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another . . .”; Philippians 2: 15, 16—”. . . in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation among whom ye shine as lights in the world, holding forth the word of life . . .”  Source

This account is particularly interesting, in that these events occurred one year prior to the division of that denomination.  In the context of what must have been building tensions and conflicts, there was this time spent before the Lord on their faces in repentance and humiliation for their sins. If God would bless with healing and restoration, this was the way to that goal. If the Lord would sift, cleanse and refine, this was the way.