New York Congregation Is the First to Leave Presbyterian Church (USA) Following Vote to Approve Gay Marriage

Brighton Presbyterian Church, a small congregation located in Rochester, New York.
Brighton Presbyterian Church, a small congregation located in Rochester, New York. | (Photo: Brighton Presbyterian)

A small congregation in New York has voted unanimously to leave Presbyterian Church (USA) following the mainline denomination's recent vote to approve gay marriage.

Brighton Presbyterian Church, a 200-year-old congregation in Rochester, voted Sunday to seek dismissal from its PCUSA regional body, the Presbytery of Genesee Valley.

The vote to disaffiliate came not long after a majority of presbyteries in PCUSA approved an amendment to their Book of Order defining marriage to include same-sex couples.

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Kerry E. Luddy, spokeswoman for Brighton Presbyterian and wife of the head pastor, told The Christian Post that the decision to leave "is not a sudden decision."

"We have been prayerfully considering this for about two years, and officially began the discernment process in mid-2014," said Luddy.

"Our reason for leaving is centered on the status of biblical interpretation within the PC(USA). We believe that Scripture's meaning and intent should not be altered to fit a current culture."

Earlier this month, a majority of PCUSA presbyteries voted in favor of Amendment 14-F, which changed the definition of marriage for the denomination.

While PCUSA's Book of Order originally defined marriage as being between "a man and a woman," Amendment 14-F changed it to "two people, traditionally a man and a woman."

Support for Amendment 14-F was notable from the start, with "yes" votes from the regional bodies, or presbyteries, outnumbering "no" votes early on.

Two weeks into March, PCUSA was a mere seven votes away from Amendment 14-F succeeding, with 79 presbyteries voting "yes" and 37 voting "no."

One of the 79 "yes" votes was the Presbytery of East Tennessee, which narrowly approved the amendment with a vote of 61-56 following a meeting in Chattanoga.

"We have a lot of students who come into our campus ministry with their story being one of hurt and shame given to them by the church," said University of Tennessee campus minister Kally Elliott at the meeting.

"Our goal is to share with them the love of Jesus Christ and to let them know that they are fully loved, fully welcomed as they are, who they are."

Genesee Valley, a presbytery that includes over 60 congregations, was one of the regional bodies to vote in favor of Amendment 14-F.

The Rev. Amy Fowler, chief administrative officer for the presbytery, told CP that Brighton Presbyterian has "just completed the first phase" seeking dismissal.

"No other congregations have indicated since last Tuesday that they will request to enter the process," added Fowler.

Regarding next steps in the process, Luddy explained to CP that Brighton Presbyterian had not yet chosen another Presbyterian church to seek affiliation with, but that it would be one "that fits both our reformed theology and one that values women in leadership."

This is not the first time PCUSA has had controversy over its move toward greater acceptance of homosexuality within the church.

In 2010, the PCUSA General Assembly approved Amendment 10a, a measure allowing for presbyteries to approve ordination of noncelibate homosexuals. In response to Amendment 10a over 150 congregations voted to disaffiliate from the mainline denomination, with many forming the theologically conservative Evangelical Covenant Order of Presbyterians.

Some have speculated that a similar exodus may befall the largest Presbyterian church in the United States in response to the passage of Amendment 14-F.

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