How The Plan Of Union
Relates to the
Heresy of Decisional Regeneration
The Plan of Union was a Congregational-Presbyterian alliance Sealed in 1801 which formally united Presbyterians and Connecticut Congregationalisms in efforts to evangelize the western frontier. Close ties that had existed among the two groups for at least thirty-five years finally culminated in this Plan designed to foster joint action rather than needless conflict in the home missionary enterprise. Specifically, it encouraged all missionaries toward mutual forbearance and a spirit of accommodation, allowed members of each persuasion in a frontier settlement to found separate or united congregations and permitted congregations to affiliate with either a presbytery or a congregational association.
In practice, the Plan contributed to the extension of evangelical faith into America's interior as missionaries, pastors and teachers made their way west under its auspices. Institutionally, the Presbyterians benefited most, due to their greater denominational consciousness and organizational assertiveness. Conversely, the New England Theology tended to dominate the doctrinal sympathies of Union churches and pastors. Ironically, both developments contributed to the ultimate demise of the Plan.
The Plan Of Union was represented by Jonathan Edwards, Jr. and Nathan Strong for the Congregationalists and one of the Presbyterian delegates was Archibald Alexander, who thought the Union accelerated the decline of orthodoxy. It would remain in place until the heresy trial of Lyman Beecher in 1837, at which time the Auburn Declaration revoked the Plan of Union.
The Plan Of Union was dissolved by Presbyterians largely because Congregationalists could preach heresy and not be censured, while Presbyterians had uniform standards and were subject to Presbyterian church discipline. The Union was seen by Presbyterians educated at Princeton Theological Seminary as preventing exclusive Presbyterian control over missionary endeavors and more importantly, allowing dangerous theological innovations from Congregationalists. This was largely a fight between Yale (Congregational American New Light Calvinist) theology and Princeton (Prebyterian Scottish Common Sense Realism) theology. When Old Schoolers gained control of the Presbyterian General Assembly in 1837 (See Auburn Declaration), they revoked the Plan of Union and even cut off four western synods which had developed from the union plan. Congregationalists eventually voided the accord at the Albany Convention of 1852 after becoming more denominationally self-conscious and realizing that Presbyterian gains had been made partially at their expense.