As the Presbyterian Church (USA) continues struggling with internal theological issues pertaining to the ordaining of gay priests and same-sex marriage, one Presbyterian Calif. church is leaving the denomination because it is not liberal enough.
The West Hollywood Presbyterian Church in Los Angeles will formally join the more liberal United Church of Christ on Saturday, and is claiming that the larger, 2-million member (PCUSA) has not done enough to accept homosexuals though it lifted its ban on the ordination of openly gay clergy last year.
The West Hollywood Presbyterian Church has had a progressive congregation with about 57 members since the 1980s, and is ready to be "set free," according to gay pastor the Rev. Dan Smith.
"It's like being released from an abusive relationship," he shared with Reuters.
The church will also be allowed to keep the property after a regional governing body called the Presbytery of the Pacific voted in favor of the church on Tuesday. According to the article, it is the first ever progressive congregation to leave under such circumstances, deemed as "gracious-dismissal."
"I'm not sad for the congregation," said the Rev. Lisa Bove, who is married to another woman, Renna Killen. "All people deserve the chance to be loved, to know that their parent church body is proud of them and celebrates their gifts.
"The United Church of Christ is proud to have us. Presbyterians are just waking up to tolerate us. We want our gifts celebrated, not just simply tolerated."
"We are finally free to be 100% who we are and be part of a denomination that loves, values, respects and actually wants us and our families. And the very next morning, Barack Obama comes out with his personal support for same gender marriage. Mr. Obama is the first sitting President of the United States to take this stance. Unbelievable!" – a statement on the West Hollywood Presbyterian Church website reads, referring to President Obama's recent endorsement of same-sex marriage.
Most other Presbyterian churches are breaking apart for opposite reasons – they are standing in protests against the formal decision by the PC(USA) to allow ministers to bless gay unions but prohibit them from performing same-sex marriages. United Church of Christ, on the other hand, not only allows gay clergy but also performs same-sex marriages.
Just last month, two Mississippi Presbyterian churches voted to join the smaller and more conservative Evangelical Presbyterian Church, continuing a trend of conservatives opposed to endorsing non-traditional positions like homosexuality in the church.
"For many years our church has struggled with the PC(USA)'s continued shift away from a biblical center," explained Matt Mitchell, pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Pascagoula. "Our members feel that biblical integrity will and should always trump social desires and therefore felt it was an appropriate time to make this move."
PC(USA) officially notes that it finds itself "without consensus on homosexuality."