An Aurora, Ill., congregation was dismissed this week from the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).
Blackhawk Presbytery voted on Tuesday to accept the dismissal request of First Presbyterian Church, which will be realigning with a smaller and more conservative denomination, the Evangelical Presbyterian Church.
"[W]e have compromised to reach this agreement; we have agreed to mutual material sacrifices; and we have acknowledged fundamental differences remain. This is, however, our best effort to act in the way of Christ putting others before ourselves, supporting Christian ministry and mission of both FPC Aurora and of the Presbytery, and seeking the reconciliation to which we are called in Christ," the presbytery said in its agreement.
Rather than resort to civil litigation, particularly over church property, the presbytery and the 800-member congregation chose to "avoid the harm" that is done when such a path is taken.
FPC went through a 13-month period of prayer, negotiations and votes to sever ties with the PC(USA). The congregation voted in April to leave and was subsequently received into the EPC.
"The Evangelical Presbyterian Church is our new home, and we are so excited to be part of that body of believers. The EPC is not a perfect church – such a thing does not exist – however, it is like a breath of spring air to be associated with a denomination where the essentials of our faith are non-negotiable," the Aurora congregation's senior pastor, Jeff Moore, said in the latest church newsletter.
"The EPC is a family where God’s truth endures and is unchangeable. A family where the Bible is the inerrant and infallible Word of God, and our rule for faith and life. A family where the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is the only hope for salvation."
Dozens of congregations across the country have withdrawn from or considered leaving the PC(USA) in recent years, citing the denomination's liberal direction on scriptural authority and homosexuality. Most recently, the 2008 General Assembly, the denomination's highest governing body, approved a proposal to delete from its constitution a requirement that clergy live in "fidelity within the covenant of marriage between and a man and a woman, or chastity in singleness." The measure, however, failed to receive the required majority approval from the denomination's 173 presbyteries.
According to the agreement between Blackhawk Presbytery and First Presbyterian Church, FPC will retain its property but has to pay a dismissal fee of $140,000.