A Missouri congregation has voted to leave Presbyterian Church (USA) over the Mainline denomination's "theological controversies," including its growing acceptance of homosexuality.
First and Calvary Presbyterian Church, a Springfield congregation with approximately 1,700 members, voted 493 to 185 on Sunday in favor of disaffiliating with PCUSA.
The Rev. Andrew Chaney, senior pastor at First and Calvary, told The Christian Post that his congregation voted following months of consideration.
"First and Calvary Presbyterian Church voted to disaffiliate from the PCUSA because it felt that the PCUSA has drifted from its Reformed theological moorings," said Chaney.
"Political and theological controversies of the PCUSA led to a congregational survey which resulted in a majority wanting to leave the PCUSA. The leadership decided to have a formal vote on its denominational affiliation."
Over the past few years, over 200 congregations have voted to leave PCUSA in large part over the Mainline denomination's increasing acceptance of homosexuality.
With many of these departures, congregations have agreed to pay their local PCUSA regional body, or presbytery, a sum of money to retain possession of their property.
Some, however, including First and Calvary, have decided to seek legal measures to avoid such a monetary expense when seeking dismissal from PCUSA.
Even before Sunday's vote, the leadership at First and Calvary sought and were given an injunction against the Mainline denomination over ownership of the church property.
Chaney explained to CP that his congregation does not believe they are bound by the PCUSA "trust clause," which generally applies to PCUSA member congregations.
" Two Presbyterian churches joined together in 1930 to make First and Calvary. First and Calvary joined the PCUSA denomination in 1983" said Chaney. "The First and Calvary deeds mention no trust and never agreed to a trust with the PCUSA denomination."
"The church desires the court to rule that it is the rightful owner of the property and for the court to protect the church from denominational interference while the issue is resolved."
First and Calvary formerly belonged to the PCUSA Presbytery of John Calvin, which has dozens of congregations in Southeast Kansas and Southwest Missouri.
The Rev. Susan Rosenbaum, pastoral presbyter for the John Calvin Presbytery, provided CP with a letter sent before the vote was taken to the congregation regarding the injunction.
"The most recent and saddest act being the restraining order that was filed against the presbytery with no provocation or imminent threat," read the Presbytery's letter.
"This act has cost the church and the presbytery a great deal of money that was donated with the intention of mission and ministry, not civil court action."
The letter went on to state that contrary to the concerns of some at First and Calvary, the Presbytery has never "threatened to remove a congregation from its building or to tamper with its ministry, and never will do so."
Rosenbaum told CP that the Presbytery tried "encouraging them to follow the process and not leave a large number of their fellow church members without a church home."
"The session filed a restraining order that says the presbytery may not cloud the title of the property, put padlocks on the doors, change the locks, or in any way interfere with the work of the church with regard to the building," continued Rosenbaum.
There are four other congregations in the John Calvin Presbytery presently undergoing a discernment process for possibly seeking dismissal and another expected to begin the process.