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Whitworth University Ends Exclusive 123-Year Partnership with PC(USA)

School wants an 'inherently more stable' and 'potentially less ambiguous' identity.

Update (April 19): Just as Whitworth ended its exclusive denominational partnership, Davidson College in Charlotte, N.C., announced that it would re-affirm its affiliation with the PC(USA).

The decision by the Davidson trustees also upholds an existing school bylaw requiring the school president to be an "active church member" whose faith is "appropriately expressed by affiliation with the Presbyterian Church (USA) and active participation in the life of Davidson College Presbyterian Church." The requirement has prompted much debate.

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As the Presbyterian landscape becomes more and more fractured, Whitworth University has decided to end its exclusive partnership with its founding denomination: the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

Trustees at the Spokane, Wash., school recently adopted a statement on denominational relationships after a yearlong study of "the range of possible relationships between Whitworth and its covenantal partner, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)." The purpose of the review was to "examine whether that relationship should be broadened to include other expressions of Christ's Church."

Their conclusion:

Whitworth will continue in a mutual but nonexclusive partnership with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.);

The university will explore and establish other Presbyterian partnerships; and

The university will emphasize its Reformed, evangelical and ecumenical identities.

Whitworth has been affiliated with the PC(USA) for almost 125 years. However, recent surveys showed that "less than one in five Whitworth students claim Presbyterianism as their ecclesiastical home," and "just 25 percent of Whitworth's faculty and staff attend a Presbyterian church."

This trend led trustees to decide that "Whitworth's Reformed, evangelical and ecumenical identities are inherently more stable and potentially less ambiguous, and they more comprehensively inform how Whitworth carries out its mind-and-heart mission."

This will make it easier for the school to partner with PC(USA) splinter groups that have been gaining members and momentum. "Many of Whitworth's most historically supportive PC(USA) congregations are moving to the Evangelical Presbyterian Church (EPC) and the Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians (ECO)," noted the news release, "and the university desires to maintain those relationships."

The school offers an FAQ here.

CT has regularly reported on Presbyterians, among other denominations facing splits and renewal efforts.

Related Topics:Higher Education
Posted:April 17, 2013 at 9:27AM
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