Sensing fresh momentum, conservative leaders in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) say they want renewal, not revolution.

More than 800 laity, pastors, deacons, and elders gathered in late February in Atlanta for the first National Celebration of Confessing Churches. Participating churches affirm that Christ is the only way of salvation, that the Bible is infallible in its teachings, and that sexual relations are exclusively for marriage.

More than 1,200 of the denomination's 11,000 congregations have adopted such declarations and become part of a loosely knit Confessing Church Movement.

"The walls of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) have fallen down," said Paul Roberts, whose Summit Presbyterian Church in Butler, Pennsylvania, started the movement in March 2001. "What we need is a Presbyterian Church Habitat [for Humanity] project. Let's not fight. Let's not argue. Let's just rebuild the church Jesus' way."

Conservatives count as a major victory the vote by a majority of the denomination's 173 presbyteries to defeat Amendment A. That measure would have removed the "fidelity and chastity" rule for church leaders (CT, April 1, p. 25).

"Our challenge now is to begin the process of reconciliation," said a joint post-vote statement by Jack Rogers, General Assembly moderator, and Clifton Kirkpatrick, the assembly's stated clerk.

Jane Spahr, a prominent advocate of gay ordination, still wants the constitution changed. "The church's exclusionary policy betrays Christ's welcome," Spahr said. "Because of this inhospitable stand, the church risks becoming totally irrelevant."

More battles are brewing. A judicial commission of the Central Florida Presbytery ruled that the First Presbyterian Church, Sebastian, may not amend confessional statements ...

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