A Sacramento, Calif., congregation voted Sunday to leave the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), months after the denomination removed its ban on openly gay clergy.
Fremont Presbyterian Church members approved a measure to seek dismissal from the PC(USA), 427 to 164, according to The Sacramento Bee. The church plans to join the smaller and more conservative Evangelical Presbyterian Church.
It was in May of this year when a majority of the PC(USA)'s 173 presbyteries chose to do away with the denomination's requirement for clergy to live “in fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman, or chastity in singleness.”
This cleared the way for openly gay and lesbian persons to serve as clergy.
With the ban lifted, the PC(USA) ordained its first openly gay minister, Scott Anderson, in Madison, Wis., earlier this month.
Over the past few months, Presbyterians discontent with the new clergy standard – which makes no mention of sexual orientation – have been reconsidering their ties with the denomination, whose membership has declined for decades and now totals just over 2 million.
Fremont Church's senior pastor, Donald H. Baird, has grieved the change and sees it as an abandonment of Scripture.
"With the passage of this change ... we have now become one of the denominations that have effectively removed any distinction between truth and falsehood, God’s Truth and common culture, by permitting in ordained leadership what Scripture and our confessions call sin," Baird wrote in an open letter in May.
"By this vote, the denomination has chosen not only to break with its 500 year old Reformed heritage, but to also break from its unity with the larger global body of Christ."
Responding to claims that Fremont's theology and ministry is "narrowing," the church said it believes the PC(USA) "has lost its focus on the historical core Reformed theology and is making decisions that have caused it to stray from that foundational theology."
Associate Pastor for Congregational Care and Mission Dr. Dan Willson mentioned in a sermon earlier this month that in today's culture, it is a crime not to be tolerant.
"When we talk about tolerance, we have got to be very clear, we have to be very careful what is it we're being tolerant of? Because depending on the object, tolerance can be a prime Christian virtue or it can be absolutely demonic," Willson told the congregation.
The associate pastor called on the Fremont members to have the courage to stand apart and to confront "that which is wrong" for the sake of Jesus' reputation and for the integrity of the faith.
Dozens of congregations have left the PC(USA) over the past few years over its liberal direction on scriptural authority and homosexuality. Some discontent Presbyterians are even considering forming a new Reformed body, which was discussed during a meeting in Minneapolis. The meeting was organized by the Fellowship of Presbyterians in August.