(Photo: AP Images / Jim Mone)
The largest Colorado congregation of the Presbyterian Church (USA) has voted to leave the denomination over theological differences.
First Presbyterian Church of Colorado Springs voted Sunday morning to leave the Pueblo Presbytery of PC(USA) in large part due to the denomination's decision in 2010 to allow the ordination of non-celibate homosexuals.
Of the 1,769 congregants of the 4,000-strong church present for the vote, 1,689 members voted in favor of dismissal from PC(USA) to join the recently created Evangelical Covenant Order of Presbyterians.
Ronald D. Anderson, executive presbyter for the Pueblo Presbytery, told The Christian Post that he was not surprised by the result of the vote.
"I was not surprised at the overwhelming vote because of the earlier 'straw vote' and the extensive process the church has enacted since to address the questions of people who had unanswered questions," said Anderson.
When asked if he felt that there might be a large percentage of the members who did not vote that would have supported remaining in PC(USA), Anderson stated that he had "no indication that this was the case."
First Presbyterian is one of many PC(USA) congregations across the country that have voted to leave the mainline Protestant denomination due to the decision at the 219th General Assembly of PC(USA) to allow presbyteries to decide to ordain non-celibate homosexuals to church positions.
Amendment 10A, which amended the PC(USA) rules to allow for this, was passed by a vote of the presbyteries with 373 yeas, 323 nays, and 4 abstentions. Pueblo Presbytery voted nay.
In the months that followed, efforts organized by the Fellowship of Presbyterians, a conservative group within PC(USA), led to the creation of a new reformed church body known as the Evangelical Covenant Order of Presbyterians (ECO).
Last month, as part of the process First Presbyterian was taking for dismissal, leaders at the church asked the congregation to vote on whether or not the church should continue to consider leaving PC(USA).
In that vote, also held on a Sunday, 88 percent of the members approved the continuation of the process for dismissal. In an interview with CP not long after that vote, Alison Murray, leader of staff for First Presbyterian Church, explained that there were many reasons connected to "the decline in the PC(USA)" that prompted members to want to join ECO.
"What we are trying to do is make an adaptive change that would keep us engaged and relevant as a faith community in today's culture," said Murray.
"We don't feel that the PC(USA), the way its structured, is really supporting the local churches in their outreach Kingdom building efforts. So really that is what this is about."
"Under Presbyterian polity only the presbytery can dismiss a congregation," said Anderson, regarding what step in the dismissal process would come next.
"The congregation's request to be dismissed to ECO will come before the presbytery at its next meeting, which is June 16th."