As more discontent Presbyterians consider joining a conservative network and possibly separating from the Presbyterian Church (USA), the dissident group is offering clarity on what it means to join.
The New Wineskins Association of Churches (NWAC) currently has nearly 200 Presbyterian churches that disagree with the theological direction of the PC(USA). And the network may see growth in the coming months as congregations consider a new proposal that provides discontent Presbyterians a way forward.
But what does it mean to be a member of the NWAC?
"[I]n a fundamental sense, the New Wineskins effort is an effort to live out a biblically-based missional and Reformed witness right now," states an explanation from the conservative group. "We will not allow the present institutional malaise and theological confusion of the present denomination to hold us back in seeking to go about the work of our ministries to which Christ has called us."
Presbyterian churches began to depart from the PC(USA) in 2001 when the General Assembly would not affirm Jesus Christ as the only way to God, as NWAC co-moderator Dan Weaver had explained. Controversy within the denomination heightened in 2006 when the General Assembly granted greater leeway to churches for homosexual ordination. Such actions have been viewed as a departure from Presbyterian tradition
The NWAC is within the PC(USA) and congregations in the conservative group are still affiliated with the large Presbyterian denomination. However, some dissident Presbyterians may soon separate or "realign" and form a separate non-geographic presbytery under the smaller Evangelical Presbyterian Church (EPC).
But the purpose of the New Wineskins is not to get evangelical congregations to the leave the PC(USA), the network explained. In addition to the realignment option, the NWAC has also put forward in a proposal February the option to continue to remain within the denomination and be a faithful witness there.
"A congregation may decide to realign with another Reformed body or it may decide to stay and work for reform within the PC(USA). Whatever choice the congregation makes, they will still be a member of the New Wineskins Association and they will have full representation and voting privileges in our delegated meetings," the NWAC stated.
And for those who decide to stay within the PC(USA), they will not be "second-class citizens" in the New Wineskins network.
Denominational affiliation is not relevant to the status or representation of any congregation that is a part of the NWAC, as all member congregations have equal voice and voting privileges, according to the conservative group.
Many Presbyterian congregations are expected to vote to remain in the PC(USA) or realign with the New Wineskins presbytery under the EPC by October, when the NWAC plans to hold its next convocation.