A church in Colorado Springs, Colo., that has 4,000 members and was established in 1872 will informally vote Sunday to decide whether the congregation should leave their denomination, the Presbyterian Church (USA), over same-sex marriage.
First Presbyterian Church in Colorado Springs will vote Sunday afternoon and later may seek to join the conservative Evangelical Covenant Order of Presbyterians (ECO), launched by conservative Presbyterians in January over the denomination's vote last year to lift its longtime ban on gay clergy, The Gazette reported.
After PC(USA) removed the constitutional requirement for clergy to live "in fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman, or chastity in singleness" last May, dozens of congregations left the denomination. Covenant Presbyterian Church of Ligonier, Pa., parted ways late last year. In Ohio, four churches that were once part of the Miami Valley Presbytery also voted overwhelmingly to leave PC(USA). Churches in Washington, Wisconsin and California have also voted to cut ties.
As PC(USA) leaders are now expected to vote on whether to allow ministers to officiate at same-sex weddings, many more congregations may follow suit in response to the denomination's liberal direction on scriptural authority and homosexuality.
The outcome of Sunday's non-technical vote at First Presbyterian will determine if an official vote will be held later. A delegation from the regional Pueblo Presbytery, which oversees First Presbyterian and 25 other churches, will be at the meeting Sunday.
First Presbyterian adheres to a Reformed and Evangelical approach to Scripture, according to its website. "This is reflected several ways including the way we submit to the Authority of Scripture as well as the way we interpret Scripture," it says. "For a variety of reasons, the PC(USA) is moving to a more liberal, rational interpretation that allows for individual interpretation and interpretation that reflects current culture. A Reformed Evangelical approach, while looking at context, looks to the Bible and the consistency in the Bible on particular topics for answers to current questions. This different approach to Scripture is causing tension around topics such as the definition of marriage, the person of Christ, our understanding of the extent of Salvation, and others."
More than 2,000 Presbyterians from 765 churches witnessed the launch of ECO in Orlando, Fla.
The ECO's website encourages congregations considering leaving PC(USA) to have careful and prayerful deliberations. It carries a checklist for congregations wishing to join ECO. "Dismissal is a serious and potentially costly action. Dismissal will cost you time, resources, and relationships," it warns, adding that the leadership of the congregation must be united, fully engaged, knowledgeable, prepared and fully informed before taking the decision.