A multi-site church in Beaver, Pa., received the green light this week by its presbytery to leave and realign with another denomination.
The Beaver-Butler Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) agreed on Tuesday to settlement terms with First Presbyterian Church, reportedly the largest congregation in the presbytery.
First Presbyterian will retain all of its property and assets in exchange for $133,700. The local congregation now anticipates being accepted as a member into the smaller and more conservative denomination, the Evangelical Presbyterian Church.
"We praise God for His blessings and guidance through this process, and ask Him to enable us to be even more faithful in ministry, service, and maturity as we move forward as part of the EPC," the church states on its website.
The Beaver church voted unanimously in February to leave the PC(USA) and affiliate with the EPC. Over the past month the church's negotiating team was in contact with the presbytery in hopes of a smooth transition out of the denomination.
"Our elders have consistently attempted to maintain a posture of forward-thinking throughout this process, knowing that many exiting churches carry scars and back-ward ways of thinking," said Senior Pastor Jeff Arnold.
Dozens of churches have left the PC(USA), 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.
First Presbyterian Church, which was founded in 1798, recently went multi-site with the launch of "Soma" – the Greek word for body, as in "the body of Jesus Christ." The Soma Gathering takes place every Saturday at the church and beginning next month will move to the Beaver County YMCA.
The new gathering is in addition to the three services (including traditional and blended) already being held at FPC on Sundays. Soma was launched to clear some space at the main campus to allow more room for first-time guests. It was also created to provide an opportunity for members to make a deeper commitment and be active in the community, and to reach more for Jesus.
"We want people to know Jesus and to live for him, joining in the mission of bringing God's love to a wounded world in desperate need of His healing touch," the church states.