REASONS FOR ACTION
First Presbyterian leaders have said the Evangelical Covenant Order, a new, rapidly growing Presbyterian denomination, fits more closely with the congregation’s theological beliefs.
In August 2011, 1,950 like-minded pastors and elders met to begin laying the foundations of a new Presbyterian denomination that would be biblically orthodox, Presbyterian/Reformed in its beliefs, evangelical in spirit and missionally minded to deliver the gospel creatively in an ever-changing culture, according to a First Presbyterian document regarding frequently asked questions.
According to the document, estimates put ECO’s membership at 1,000 or more congregations in about five years.
ECO states that all officers must “receive and adopt without hesitation” the denomination’s essential tenets. They include affirming the unique lordship of Jesus and salvation solely through him, the authority and infallibility of Scripture, the necessity for faithfulness in the covenant of marriage as traditionally defined and the value and dignity of all human life.
Church leaders have said or stated that the PCUSA no longer clearly communicates why and how Jesus matters to a world that needs to know him, citing a denomination-level rejection of the statement “Jesus is the singular saving Lord.”
They also cited a change in the PCUSA’s understanding and application of biblical authority from the historic Reformed tradition approach to one better characterized as “religious humanism.”
Originally, the Reformed tradition, declared Christ alone is the mediator between God and humankind, that Scripture alone is the only authoritative word of God and is the only rule of faith and practice in Christian life, that salvation is a gift from God, not the result of human works, that by faith alone humans are declared just by God and all work in the church is done to the glory of God alone.
Also, First Presbyterian leaders cited an apparent lack of interest in the PCUSA doing evangelism, illustrated by the denomination’s accelerating loss of membership, a broken denomination-level disciplinary system and a recent change in ordination standards that allows the possibility that persons in same-gender relationships can be considered for ordination.
The PCUSA “family struggle” over ordination standards lasted for three decades. First Presbyterian leaders said the change was not the primary reason for leaving the denomination.
Before the vote and Presbytery action, the Indian Nations Presbytery had 52 congregations attended by more than 10,000 men, women and children.
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