Click here for General Assembly coverage

Few churches appear ready to leave for new Presbyterian denomination


It appears that a relatively small number of congregations are ready to bolt the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) immediately to join the Evangelical Covenant Order of Presbyterians, a new denomination that the Fellowship of Presbyterians formed in January and which will begin accepting congregations as members April 1.

About 100 evangelical congregations have indicated they’re ready to leave the PC(USA) now for the ECO, said Jim Singleton, a pastor from Colorado Springs and a Fellowship leader. More, however, may join later. Many of the 2,100 Presbyterians who came to the Fellowship’s Covenanting Conference Jan. 18-20 did so to learn more about the new denomination and to discern a way forward, and are leaving the door open about what to do next.

At this conference, Fellowship leaders cast a vision of a bold new church unafraid to take risks in mission; of like-minded evangelicals committed to mutual accountability; and of taking the best of Presbyterian history and tradition and pointing it in new directions.

Along with that pull toward a flexible, creative, mission-focused church, however, there is no question that a key precipitating factor in the creation of the ECO was the PC(USA)’s decision in 2011 to allow the ordination of sexually active gays and lesbians — a move that many of the evangelicals at this conference consider to be counter to what the Bible requires.

A theology document that’s part of the ECO’s new constitution includes a section on essential tenets. And that section includes a commitment to be “faithful within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman as established by God at the creation or embracing a celibate life as established by Jesus in the new covenant.”

Some evangelicals spoke of feeling at home in the Fellowship after years of feeling marginalized in the PC(USA). “We’ve had this deep longing for belonging,” said Marnie Crumpler, a minister with Peachtree Church in Atlanta, during one of the presentations. “This is our tribe. These are our people.”