Members of Highland Park Presbyterian Church voted overwhelmingly Sunday to disassociate with its national body to join a more conservative denomination.
With a vote of 1,337 to 170, the church decided to leave Presbyterian Church (USA), the largest Presbyterian denomination in the country. Another vote cemented the church majority’s desire to join A Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians (ECO), which was formed by former PCUSA congregations in 2012. Other churches, including First Presbyterian Church in Amarillo, have also recently made the move.
“By joining ECO, we are not walking away from our Presbyterian values; we are restoring them,” the Rev. Joe Rightmyer, interim senior pastor of Highland Park Presbyterian, said in a statement on the church’s website. “With this vote to change, we will still be in the rich stream of Presbyterian theology, and we are ready to begin working with other churches in a growing denomination that is guided by the same beliefs and tenets that direct us.”
At this point, here’s what I want to know: What exactly makes the new denomination more conservative? Conservative is such a subjective word.
Will the rest of the story provide insight into the specific theological and doctrinal issues at play?
But in general, this 630-word report (read: not a lot of space for a reporter to provide deep background) seems pretty disjointed and disorganized.
For example, the Morning News quotes a supporter of leaving the PCUSA up high:
Kent Krause, a church elder, said the debate about leaving PCUSA has been bubbling for decades.
Many members of the congregation disagree with the a la carte religious beliefs taken by the national body, he said.
“There’s disagreement to the extent that the church believes the PCUSA has adopted the universal approach that there may be lots of ways to salvation as opposed to what is the basic reformed belief that salvation through Christ is kind of the main [path],” he said.
OK. Universalism is, according to the church elder, a key issue. How do the opponents of the split respond to that claim?
The story moves from that issue into a paragraph of background on property issues related to the decision. (The Morning News does not mention this, but my GetReligion colleague Father George Conger tells me that Highland Park Presbyterian’s leaders have been talking to the breakaway Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth about how to leave. The diocese won a recent victory against the national Episcopal Church in the Texas Supreme Court. The court held ownership of church property is governed by what the deeds to the building say, not what the denominational hierarchy says. According to Conger, the Anglican wars in Texas appear to have cleared the way for conservative Presbyterians to quit the PCUSA and keep their buildings.)
But back to the real reason for the split …
Later in the story, there’s this: