Ariz. Church: Time to Move Out of PC(USA) House

A Presbyterian congregation near Phoenix, Ariz., says it's time to end family arguments and move out of the PC(USA) house.

Desert Hills Presbyterian Church recently announced its intent to sever ties with the 2.1 million-member Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) while remaining in the Reformed family as an independent church.

"I'm looking forward to ending the cyclical family arguments so I can be free to discuss other things," said senior pastor Jim Noble in the congregation's latest newsletter. "While I am committed to encouraging people to question and grow in their faith, I am not interested in rethinking and re-imagining the Christian faith. I stand with the historic and biblical Christian faith."

Desert Hills took the unique approach of commissioning The Barna Group to survey the congregation on attitudes toward the PC(USA) and their satisfaction with the church.

The survey found that 48 percent of surveyed members and attendees said the PC(USA) no longer reflects their beliefs and 30 percent said they're concerned about recent PC(USA) actions but not enough to leave Desert Hills church at this point.

Meanwhile, 23 percent said the denomination can do whatever it wants as long as Desert Hills church continues to reflect their beliefs and values.

For most Desert Hill attendees, denominational loyalty is not important. Sixty-three percent said affiliation to the PC(USA) is not too important or not important at all. Nearly a quarter said it matters some that Desert Hill is part of the PC(USA) and only 14 percent said it matters to them a great deal.

Only 1 percent said they're a PC(USA) member for life.

When asked what would cause them to consider leaving the congregation, a majority (72 percent) of surveyed attendees listed "preaching goes against my beliefs." Sixty percent said they would leave if the denomination goes against their beliefs.

The survey was conducted unannounced in February to collect an unbiased representative sample. Findings were based on 431 completed surveys, 40 percent of which were filled out by members of the church.

Desert Hills has been in a season of discernment for the last 18 months or so regarding the future of the PC(USA) and the congregation's role in it. The more than 500-member congregation has expressed discontent with the denomination with regards to its liberal direction on ordination standards, human sexuality, the authority of Scripture, the divinity of Christ, interfaith relations and social justice.

The Carefree, Ariz., church joins dozens of other congregations across the country that have withdrawn from or considered withdrawing from the PC(USA) in recent years.

The Presbytery of Grand Canyon is currently considering Desert Hills' request to disaffiliate.