UPCUSA tenses for crucial May general assembly.

A church historian has called denominational splits the “favorite sport” of Presbyterianism. If that is so, the May meeting of the United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. (UPCUSA) general assembly could determine whether the “sport” becomes even more popular or less so. It depends on how the United Presbyterians settle the serious issues facing them at the assembly.

At least 46 congregations have left the denomination since last spring and, in the aftermath of an official decision to accept a pastoral candidate considered by some conservatives to be weak on the deity of Christ, many more are threatening separation. Three reasons are consistently given when the disgruntled congregations (mostly evangelical) list their grievances:

• The UPCUSA decision to mandate ordination of women and require that women elders be elected in each church.

• The probable passage of a measure to insure the denomination’s right to the church property of a separating congregation.

• The decision of the permanent judicial commission (the denomination’s “supreme court”) not to overturn a presbytery’s acceptance of ministerial candidate Mansfield Kaseman, who, in presbyterial examination, declared Jesus is not God, “God is God.”

Evangelicals in the UPCUSA are divided on the Kaseman case; the majority agree that, at most, the permanent judicial commission’s decision was a disciplinary error. This sector is represented by Presbyterians United for Biblical Concerns and the Presbyterian Lay Committee, two evangelical renewal groups within the denomination.

Richard Lovelace, a Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary professor and prominent member of Presbyterians United for Biblical Concerns, has said the Kaseman ...

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