PCUSA to Discuss Future Identity Amid Membership Decline

Amid a continuing exodus of congregations from the national church body, the future identity of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is a key focus at an upcoming meeting.

"Communion and Conversation: Beginning a Dialogue on the Future of Middle Governing Bodies" will bring representatives from PC(USA)'s local bodies – synods and presbyteries – to discuss changes in the form of government as the denomination struggles with declining membership.

The middle governing bodies, synods and presbyteries, have mainly felt the effect of churches departing with members and financial support decreasing.

"All of our presbyteries own up to experiencing the crunch of having fewer resources to do a more complex ministry than in previous times,” the Rev. Gary Torrens, coordinator of governing body relations in the Office of the General Assembly and the GAC, said in his paper "Is There A Presbytery Crunch?" according to the Presbyterian News Service.

The Presbytery of East Tennessee recently saw congregants at a megachurch vote to leave the denomination and join the Evangelical Presbyterian Church. Signal Mountain Presbyterian Church voted 1,172-10 for the split last week over theological differences, including the infallibility of Scripture.

The vote comes after the 2006 General Assembly passed a resolution approving an "authoritative interpretation" of the church's Constitution, giving greater leeway to candidates for ordination, including homosexuals.

It could be months before the Tennessee's church vote to leave is approved, the spokesman for the area presbytery said.

Next week's meeting on the shape and function of presbyteries and synods will be the first such conversation happening on a church-wide level. Representatives from every region of the church are registered to attend.

"Communion and Conversation" opens Feb. 14 in Albuquerque, N.M.

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