New Evangelical Presbyterian Body Unveiled

At a conference in Florida, a conservative Presbyterian group has officially given a name to the "New Reformed Body" they created.

The Fellowship of Presbyterians has decided to call the recently created reform body the "Evangelical Covenant Order of Presbyterians" or ECO for short.

"ECO is a denominational entity under the umbrella of The Fellowship of Presbyterians that is committed to growing and planting flourishing churches and nurturing leaders," reads a Fellowship statement.

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"The distinctives of ECO include an emphasis on connecting leaders in accountable relationships, peer review systems for churches, leadership training, and a flatter polity structure than the PC(USA)."

According to the Fellowship, the acronym ECO is also symbolic, for it alludes to the Greek word "oikos," which means household.

The final touches on the new Reformed body, including the name ECO, came on Thursday, Jan. 19. This was day number two of the Orlando Covenanting Conference, which brought over 2,100 Presbyterians from about 500 congregations to Florida to discuss what direction they should take regarding their theological differences with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

The Fellowship itself was created by a group of conservative Presbyterians who were opposed to the approval of Amendment 10A to the rules of ordination for the PC(USA). This amendment allowed individual presbyteries of the PC(USA) to approve the ordination of people who are involved in homosexual relationships.

"The precipitating issue driving the Fellowship of Presbyterians is their opposition to the change in ordination standards," said Landon Whitsitt, the moderator and vice-moderator of PC(USA)'s 219th General Assembly, in an earlier interview with CP.

Congregations attending the Fellowship's Conference fall under three major categories. Some congregations seek to remain in the PC(USA) but to be "an evangelical witness" to the mainline denomination, others seek joint membership with both the PC(USA) and the ECO, and still others seek to break away from the PC(USA) altogether and join the ECO.

Gradye Parsons, stated clerk for the Office of the General Assembly of the PC(USA), told CP that he held no opinion of the creation of the ECO but did hope that in the future the two bodies could coexist.

"We will relate to the ECO as guided by our Book of Order which states 'The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) at all levels seeks to manifest more visibly the unity of the body of Christ and will be open to opportunities for conversation, cooperation, and action with other ecclesiastical groups. It will seek to initiate, maintain, and strengthen relations with other Reformed and Christian entities,'" said Parsons.

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