At least 40 evangelical Presbyterian churches are expected to join the Evangelical Presbyterian Church (EPC) next month out of the leftward-leaning Presbyterian Church USA (PCUSA), but the more conservative group of PCUSA churches continues to affirm the
At least 40 evangelical Presbyterian churches are expected to join the Evangelical Presbyterian Church (EPC) next month out of the leftward-leaning Presbyterian Church USA (PCUSA), but the more conservative group of PCUSA churches continues to affirm the ordination of women.
The latest exodus from the PCUSA comes from a renewal group composed of 153 evangelical Presbyterian churches known as the New Wineskins Association of Churches.
At its February meeting on Orlando, New Wineskins voted unanimously to ask the EPC to create a transitional, non-geographic presbytery for congregations leaving the PCUSA. The EPC will vote on the proposal during its general assembly in June.
The PCUSA has bled conservative evangelicals profusely from its ranks in recent years—including New Wineskins which began in July of 2006—with many vowing to leave in the wake of the mainline denomination’s general assembly last June. During that meeting, the PCUSA approved a task force leaving open the possibility of ordaining gays and lesbians. The assembly also approved a paper that offered "culturally correct" language such as "Mother, Child and Womb" for describing the Trinity.
But, while New Wineskins churches are seeking shelter from the PCUSA’s liberal avalanche, the association remains committed to women’s ordination, arguing that the position is "in full accord with Scripture and the Reformed tradition."
In a Q&A on the New Wineskins website, the association is unambiguous about its position on gender roles in the local church. In response to the question, "Are you compromising the affirmation of the gifts of leadership of women in ordained ministry in any way," the association replies:
"One of the most unfortunate misconceptions about our work is on the issue of women’s ordination and leadership. There is much that is being said of our effort that is simply not true. The New Wineskins’ essentials and constitution make clear that God calls women and men into all forms of ministry. The same standards of leadership development and opportunities for service apply to all ministers within the New Wineskins Association regardless of gender. We have been clear on this from our beginning and will not change our position on this issue. We believe this to be fully in accord with Scripture and the Reformed tradition. Our work with the Evangelical Presbyterian Church does not change either our theology or practice of fully affirming the gifts of women to all forms of service in all of our member congregations."
The EPC, a small denomination composed of 185 churches and around 70,000 members, leaves the ordination of women up to the individual congregation.
According to a recent Christianity Today (CT) article, the EPC includes two women who serve as pastors, with one set to retire soon. The EPC’s position is decidedly open to the ordination of women, stating:
"While some churches may ordain women and some may decline to do so, neither position is essential to the existence of the church. Since people of good faith who equally love the Lord and hold to the infallibility of Scripture differ on this issue, and since uniformity of view and practice is not essential to the existence of the visible church, the Evangelical Presbyterian Church has chosen to leave this decision to the Spirit-guided consciences of particular congregations concerning the ordination of women as elders and deacons, and to the presbyteries concerning the ordination of women as ministers."
According to the CT article, the EPC’s lack of a full and clear embrace of female ordination could be a contentious point in the proposed transition of New Wineskins congregations. At the New Wineskins meeting in February, female pastors from the PCUSA pleaded with the organization’s leadership to make sure they will have a place to serve, CT reported. At least one EPC presbytery has said it will not ordain women.
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