Fallout over the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s decision to allow noncelibate homosexuals to serve as clergy continues as four Ohio churches have voted to leave the denomination.
All four congregations voted overwhelmingly to leave the Miami Valley Presbytery of PC(USA), which is headquartered in Dayton, Ohio.
First Presbyterian Church of Greenville was one of the four that left, with 92.3 percent of its congregation voting to disaffiliate with PC(USA).
“We chose to leave the PC(USA) because of theological and governance issues within the PC(USA),” said John Person, pastor of Greenville, to The Christian Post.
Person said that “changes in the constitution of the PC(USA) regarding ordination and installation vows have now opened the door for actively gay and lesbian people to become ministers of word and sacrament, and leaders within the church.”
“This change is a dramatic departure from the historic traditions of the church and from biblical authority.”
For decades, conservative Presbyterians have been leaving PC(USA) over what they believe was a growing liberalization of the denomination’s theology.
In May, a majority of PC(USA)’s 173 district governing bodies (or presbyteries) voted to amend the denomination’s constitution to allow for non-celibate homosexuals to become clergy.
Backlash to the vote has involved several churches voting to split from PC(USA), either forming their own denominations or by joining pre-existing conservative Presbyterian groups.
Three of the four Ohio churches that voted to break away from PC(USA), for example, have decided to join the Evangelical Presbyterian Church.
Person offered many reasons why his congregation wants to be part of the EPC, including that “it is part of the Presbyterian family of faith.”
“[I]t believes in the authority of scripture; it holds to the ordination of women; and sees Jesus Christ as the one and only Savior of the world,” said Person.
Founded in 1981, the EPC presently has around 300 churches belonging to it. According to their website, they are “rooted deeply in the Protestant Reformation and especially the theological and pastoral work of John Calvin.”
“Our desire is that every one of our congregations will be an outpost of the Kingdom in post-Christian America with every member viewing himself or herself as a missionary on a mission.”
While the Ohio congregations withdrew from PC(USA), another conservative breakaway group, the Fellowship of Presbyterians, is preparing for a major conference in Orlando next year.
Known as the “National Covenanting Conference,” it will involve a gathering of several Presbyterian congregations who feel disaffected by PC(USA) leadership.
The Miami Valley Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) did not return comment by press time.