Fed up with what they see as a liberal slide in the Presbyterian Church (USA), the New Wineskins Association of Churches voted February 9 to initiate a significant shift in the Reformed world.
Meeting in Orlando, New Wineskins voted unanimously to ask the Evangelical Presbyterian Church (EPC) to create a transitional, non-geographic presbytery for congregations leaving the PCUSA. The arrangement would run five years. The EPC's General Assembly will vote on the proposal in June.
"I have a high level of confidence we're going to approve that," said Jeffrey Jeremiah, the EPC stated clerk.
For the EPC, a small denomination with 185 churches and about 70,000 members, this could be a significant alliance. Jeremiah said New Wineskins leaders have told him at least 40 of the association's 153 congregations will join the EPC.
Some high-profile PCUSA churches have already begun the process of departing, with plans to join the EPC. Signal Mountain Presbyterian, a 2,000-member congregation near Chattanooga, Tennessee, voted 1,172-10 on January 28 to leave the PCUSA. North Carolina flagship congregation Montreat Presbyterian Church, where Ruth Graham has long been a member, voted 311-27 on January 21 to ask for release.
"Our church has been vigilant in its effort to call our denomination to repentance," said Adam Boyd, a Montreat elder. Vigilant but unsuccessful, he admitted.
"The PCUSA is breaking up as we speak," said Ron Scates, senior pastor of Highland Park Presbyterian Church in Dallas. Last August, he said, none of the pastors of the PCUSA's biggest churches planned to leave. But at a February gathering of the same group, Scates said, six were preparing to go, and two already had voted to leave.
For some evangelicals, the PCUSA's General ...