(Photo: Menlo Park Presbyterian Church)
A newly formed conservative Presbyterian group plans to hold a conference in Dallas where about 1,200 people are expected to attend the event in August.
Formed in early 2012, the Evangelical Covenant Order of Presbyterians hope to bring together Presbyterians who are "hearing and answering God's call to a new way of being church," reads the registration page for the gathering.
Cosponsored by the theologically conservative Fellowship of Presbyterians, the national gathering is scheduled to take place at the InterContinental Hotel off Dallas Parkway August 18-20.
Speakers for the main stage will include Alan Hirsch, founding director of the Forge Mission Training Network; Jim Singleton, president of the Fellowship of Presbyterians; and Dr. Carol M. Kaminski, associate professor of Old Testament at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.
ECO was created at a conference in Florida organized by the Fellowship of Presbyterians in January 2012 to serve as a "New Reformed Body" for churches thinking of leaving the liberal mainline Presbyterian Church (USA).
The conference and the creation of ECO was prompted by the PC (USA) General Assembly vote to allow presbyteries to ordain noncelibate homosexuals.
"ECO is a denominational entity under the umbrella of The Fellowship of Presbyterians that is committed to growing and planting flourishing churches and nurturing leaders," reads a Fellowship statement.
"The distinctives of ECO include an emphasis on connecting leaders in accountable relationships, peer review systems for churches, leadership training, and a flatter polity structure than the PC(USA)."
Since its beginning, ECO has experienced immense growth, having passed the 100-member church mark by the beginning of 2014. ECO called the passing of 100 churches as members a "milestone."
"Welcome to these new ECO churches. We praise God for His faithfulness and look forward to growing together in 2014!" read a statement sent out to supporters.
Congregations that have recently sought affiliation with ECO have included the 4,000-member Highland Park Presbyterian Church of Dallas and the 3,500-plus member Menlo Park Presbyterian Church of California.
The theme for this year's national gathering will be "From Consumerism to Community," which was talked about in a promotional video on the home page of the group's website.
"We love our churches. They're where we worship. They're where we laugh. They're where we grieve. They're where we share meals. They're where we meet neighbors," stated the video in printed word. "Our churches give us a lot. But what we get isn't the full story. It's just a drop in the bucket. We can experience more. We were made for mission. Made to create something beyond ourselves."