Presbyterian church in Tennessee votes to leave Presbyterian Church (USA)
A Presbyterian congregation in Memphis, Tenn. voted recently to depart from the Presbyterian Church (USA) to join forces with a more conservative church body to which it felt more theologically aligned.
The Advent Presbyterian Church voted 482-22 to seek dismissal from the Presbyterian Church (USA), which is the largest Presbyterian body in the country, to join the much smaller Evangelical Presbyterian Church based in Michigan, the AP said.
The PCUSA, which is based in Louisville, Kentucky, has some 11,000 denominations under its wing. By contrast, the EPC has only 300 congregations, according to the AP.
This makes Advent the first church to choose to leave the PCUSA since its General Assembly approved in 2010 a proposal permitting homosexuals to receive ordination, the AP said.
On its website, Advent said the local church formed a Study Committee in 2006 to observe and be updated on issues within its
denomination. At that time they had also begun to have structured prayer for discernment.
The website said, “This process continued until March of this year. The study and prayer of both the Committee and the Session involved both the issues and various past and potential future responses.”
Advent said on its website that it believes “joining the EPC will best allow Advent to conduct its mission to share God’s love with others as we have seen it in Jesus Christ and to reach out in ministry and mission without having to divert energy into denominational conflict.”
While stating in the website that the separation is only organizational and not spiritual, it added, “We differ in what we see as the best way for Advent to grow and develop in the Kingdom of God. Yet, Christianity is not a competitive sport–we hope and pray that the PCUSA will be successful in sharing the love of Christ, just as we will strive to do the same within the EPC.”
It is expected that Advent’s request for separation will receive approval from the Mid-South Presbytery, which will give its response in May, according to the AP.
Two other churches within the area are deliberating on leaving the PCUSA as well. They are Woodland United Presbyterian Church, which will have a congregational vote on May 1, and Grace Presbyterian in Bartlett, whose governing body will confer about this on April 19, the AP said.
Although Advent is the first church to leave the PCUSA after its 2010 vote to allow ordination of homosexuals, two other churches had already split from the PCUSA.
The Highland Heights Presbyterian Church left the PCUSA in 2008, and Faith Presbyterian Church, Germantown parted ways the following year. The EPC formed a presbytery for congregations that opt to leave PCUSA, the AP reported.
These developments are perceived as a broader repositioning that is taking place within mainstream Protestant denominations in response to divergence over matters regarding church governance, scripture interpretation and the ordination of homosexuals, the AP said.
On its website Advent noted “a number of areas in which there were differences between the beliefs and values of Advent and those held by many leaders of the PCUSA,” with regard to “biblical authority and interpretation, standards for leadership, and church government.”
Advent said on its website, “Because our respective positions rest on separate theological presuppositions, we believe this conflict is unlikely to be peacefully resolvable.”
Advent’s senior pastor, Dr. Chris Scruggs, told the AP, “We believe that joining the EPC will best allow Advent to conduct its mission to share God’s love with others as we have seen it in Jesus Christ and to reach out in ministry and mission without having to divert energy into denominational conflict.”
While noting that “Christianity is not a competitive sport,” Advent said in its website, “[W]e hope and pray that the PCUSA will be successful in sharing the love of Christ, just as we will strive to do the same within the EPC.”