Evangelicals in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) have banded together and committed themselves to hold to the biblical faith as their denomination continues to "stumble," as they put it.
With the PC(USA) losing churches and conservatives beginning to feel like they have no voice or reason to stay in the denomination, remaining evangelicals have decided to support one another with the formation of the Biblical Presbyterian Network.
"[I]t feels as if there is a sense of helplessness within the evangelical community within the PC(USA). The old strategies do not seem to be holding us together and the vision for a renewed Presbyterian Church USA seems more faded than ever," the network states.
"And yet, even our denomination fails, stumbles and so often impedes the work of God's Spirit, we acknowledge that this reality does not change our calling to be faithful where we are."
In recent years, dozens of churches have left the PC(USA), citing the denomination's liberal direction on scriptural authority and homosexuality. Most recently in 2008, the 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 proposal requires a majority approval from the PC(USA)'s 173 presbyteries.
Evangelicals in the Biblical Presbyterian Network believe the Gospel and Jesus are being lost in the 2.1 million-member denomination.
While renewal groups – which consist of orthodox believers who seek to realign their denominations back with Scripture – are plenty in the PC(USA) and other mainline denominations, those in the Biblical Presbyterian Network say their approach is different.
Rather than pursue the old strategy of "Stay/Fight/Win," the new network focuses more on uniting those who hold to the historic, biblical and confessional Reformed faith and finding strength in each other through their common commitment.
"Our denomination's chosen path need not impede our connection to one another or our calling to work for reformation according to the Word of God," said the Rev. Toby Brown, co-moderator of the network. "Stay with your brothers and sisters, trusting in our sovereign God who called you to be exactly where you are, for His good purpose."
The network recently formed its first regional network in Pennsylvania. Regional networks would provide evangelicals a way to meet regularly for prayer, worship, preaching, and sharing common concerns. Rather than take the traditional path of simply signing a document and making a public announcement about their commitment to biblical faith, evangelicals in the new network are encouraged to engage each other regularly in fellowship and in being activists in the PC(USA).
"Members can't simply join us and then be done," the network states. "This is an ongoing commitment of time and energy."
In addition to providing mutual support, those who sign on to the network are also challenged to witness to pastors, elders and congregations within the PC(USA) about the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
The PC(USA) is the largest Presbyterian denomination in the country. It experienced its steepest membership decline in 2008 with the loss of 69,381 members. The negative trend began in the mid-1960s.