A yearlong Presbyterian Church (USA) investigation found no evidence to support accusations that the conservative Evangelical Presbyterian Church (EPC) actively solicited PC(USA) congregations. However, the April report expressed concerns over "inappropriate interference" by the EPC's New Wineskins Presbytery, which works with disaffected PC(USA) churches.
Neither denomination will comment until the PC(USA) General Assembly meets this July in Minneapolis, where delegates will consider asking the World Alliance of Reformed Churches to create guidelines for interactions between member denominations.
"There is going to be tension between the two groups, as there is between other Presbyterian and Reformed groups in the country," said Jeff Jeremiah, stated clerk for the EPC.
A renewal group leader doubts the potential guidelines will do much to stem an exodus, which in recent years has claimed more than 100 churches from the denomination.
"I think this is an attempt by a dying denomination to corral whatever churches it has left, rather than to be reformed and change its policies," said Parker Williamson, editor emeritus of The Presbyterian Layman.
The strains between the EPC (100,000 members) and the much larger PC(USA) (2.1 million) were likely exacerbated by mid-May events: a cutback of 49 positions at PC(USA) headquarters just days after First Presbyterian of Aurora, Illinois, left the denomination and an Arizona church announced its intention to do likewise.
Some say the divide mirrors conflicts between more than 35 renewal groups and other mainline denominations.
David Runnion-Bareford, president and CEO of the Association for Church Renewal umbrella group, said some renewal groups are critical and others try to work within the ...