Leadership of a Texas megachurch whose congregation narrowly defeated a measure to disaffiliate from Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) expressed anger and confusion in an official letter regarding the matter.
Three Session clerks from First Presbyterian Church of Houston sent a message out Wednesday in response to a vote taken Sunday that resulted in the defeat of the disaffiliation measure.
Signed by Senior Clerk Jane Costello, Lesley Lilly, and David McCarty on behalf of the Session for First Presbyterian, the letter expressed surprise at the result of the vote.
"The results of Sunday's Congregational Meeting were a surprise to all of us. We are dealing with a whole range of emotions: grief, confusion, anger, fear, relief, and uncertainty," wrote the Session clerks.
"We were grateful to see a large number of the FPC family gathered in prayer on Monday. We need time ... time to heal and time to reflect. Most of all we need time to turn our hearts to God."
On Sunday, members of First Presbyterian Church of Houston gathered to hold a vote on a measure to end their affiliation with PCUSA. It was the culmination of a nearly yearlong process of discernment, wherein many in First Presbyterian sought to leave PCUSA due to theological differences.
Jim Birchfield, senior pastor at First Presbyterian, told The Christian Post in an earlier interview that if the voted had succeeded the estimated 3,000-member church would join the more conservative body known as the Evangelical Covenant Order of Presbyterians.
"We believe that affiliation with ECO will better allow us to fulfill our mission of 'carrying the gospel to Houston and the world'," said Birchfield before the vote took place.
On Sunday, the resolution to leave PCUSA and join ECO had to receive a two-thirds majority from those members present at First Presbyterian. Of a final vote tally of 1,681 ballots, 1,085 were in favor of the resolution and 596 were against. This meant the measure failed to get the needed 1,121 ayes by 36 votes.
"We labored for a year in love and grace seeking a decision regarding our church's denominational affiliation," stated the Session in an immediately released response to the results.
"It was inspiring and nothing short of a miracle to witness brothers and sisters in Christ 'bearing with one another' as God's holy and beloved children. Thank you for your Christ-like behavior."
In the Wednesday letter, the Session clerks stressed that "despite the outcome of this vote, we are the same church today as we were prior to the vote."
"Our pastors are faithful servants of the Lord Jesus Christ. They will continue to preach the Gospel," they wrote.
"FPC remains a Christ-centered church fully committed to the same statement of faith, the same mission statement and the same Vision 2020. We trust that God will work in each of us in the days and weeks ahead to refine us further for his greater work."