Colorado Megachurch of 4,000 Votes to Split From PCUSA

A Presbyterian Church (USA) congregation in Colorado with an estimated 4,000 members is one step closer to breaking ties with its mainline denomination.

First Presbyterian Church of Colorado Springs put its decision concerning breaking away from PC(USA) to a vote Sunday, and 88 percent of its members voted to leave the denomination.

Alison Murray, leader of staff for First Presbyterian Church, told The Christian Post that the church members voted to leave for many reasons that are connected to "the decline in the PC(USA)."

"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."

In the months leading to the congregation's vote, church leaders had discussed and planned a break with PC(USA) over issues like the mainline denomination's growing acceptance of homosexuality.

According to Murray, the weekend vote involved "asking the congregation if they were in agreement" with the dismissal proposal and if "they want to continue in the process of dismissal."

With the overwhelming support from the congregation, the church leaders intend to continue with the dismissal process and will look to join the recently created Evangelical Covenant Order (ECO), a more conservative body established by the Fellowship of Presbyterians.

"The goal of ECO is to create a structure that is more entrepreneurial," said Murray, who stated that ECO would better "support the church's work in the local community."

"[ECO] lifts up the local church and allows the local church to be connected to other local churches, and that's what ECO is about."

Ronald D. Anderson, executive presbyter for The Pueblo Presbytery, which is the PC(USA) regional body that First Presbyterian Church belongs to, told CP that the presbytery will accept whatever decision the church makes regarding whether or not to leave.

"We have a 'gracious dismissal policy' under which a church and the presbytery work together in love to maintain the ministry of Jesus Christ as found within both the church and the presbytery," said Anderson.

"This careful, deliberate and gracious policy is very unlikely to end up in a fight over property."

Murray also felt the policy Pueblo had was "a very thoughtful process."

"The Pueblo Presbytery placed a gracious dismissal policy last October 2011 and that regards every church in our presbytery who wants to be dismissed," said Murray.

Other PC(USA) churches within the Pueblo Presbytery are divided over the actions being taken by First Presbyterian of Colorado Springs. The Rev. Tom Trinidad of Faith Presbyterian Church of Colorado Springs told CP that this move was harmful to "the unity of Christ."

"When churches split, it obscures the unity we have in Christ and are called to manifest in partnership with one another, so First's decision to leave is grievous," said Trinidad.

"We believe it's better to have disagreements and diversity and stay together than to pursue same-mindedness at the expense of Christ's Body and our witness to God's Kingdom."

Rev. Rory A. Gillespie, pastor First Presbyterian Church of Lamar, told CP that not only is he supportive of First Presbyterian's efforts but that his congregation is also planning to leave.

"The ordination of sexually active gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people certainly has been the tipping point, but we are leaving because of decades-long struggles with an increasingly liberal denomination," said Gillespie.

"As a congregation we are tired of explaining to others in our community that, while we are Presbyterian, we don't always agree with the actions of the PC(USA) that get reported in the national media."

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