Dissident Presbyterians Consider Way Out of PC(USA)

Dissident Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) congregations were invited to join a new presbytery within the conservative Evangelical Presbyterian Church (EPC).

At a winter convocation this week, the New Wineskins Association of Churches – a network of over 120 evangelical churches discontent with the PC(USA) but not yet separate – considered the future relationship with its parent denomination and a way out possibly through a merger with the EPC.

"The Holy Spirit is drawing us toward you," said EPC Moderator Paul Heidebrecht, on Thursday, according to the Presbyterian News Service. "We are truly impressed by the mission-driven polity" of the NWAC.

The EPC, comprised of some 180 churches representing 75,000 members in the United States, invited dissident congregations to create a non-geographic presbytery named after the New Wineskins.

NWAC co-moderator Gerrit Dawson pointed to the commonalities between the two Presbyterian groups considering mergence. A NWAC strategy report made a comparison chart between the New Wineskins network and the EPC as well as the PC(USA) and the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA).

While three of the Presbyterian groups say Jesus is "God" and "The Way," the PC(USA) finds it "debatable," the report outlined. The authority of Scripture is also listed as "debatable" under the PC(USA) while both the NWAC and the EPC say it is "inspired/infallible" and the PCA, "inerrant" and "inspired/infallible."

New Wineskins churches are considering leaving the PC(USA) because of the denomination’s departure from doctrinal integrity and scriptural authority, especially around the issues of homosexuality and abortion. At the height of the controversy was the denomination's approval of an "authoritative interpretation" of the church's Constitution, which granted more leeway for the ordination of homosexuals, at the 217th General Assembly.

The PC(USA) boasts over 2.3 million members as the largest Presbyterian denomination in the United States. Theological differences and debates over the last several decades, however, have brought membership down with the exodus of congregations.

Churches part of the NWAC found two options available to them: to realign with an evangelical, Reformed body that is "more faithful to Christ" and "obedient to Scripture;" or to stay within the PC(USA) while working for the "reformation and renewal" of the body.

The NWAC strategy report indicated a new direction.

"Christ is calling us to a new thing," stated the NWAC Strategy Team in its report. "The old ways of trying to achieve reformation and renewal simply have not worked; their time is past."

And the "new thing" calls for a return back to the mission of the Church – to take the Gospel to the lost and dying world.

NWAC co-moderator Dean Weaver predicts this could be the first of a series of realignments bringing Reformed Evangelical Presbyterians back together, the Presbyterian News Service reported.

The NWAC Winter Convocation, the network's third such gathering, concluded Friday.