Congregation Votes To Leave Presbyterian Denomination

88% Of First Presbyterian Congregation Votes To Move Forward With Process Of Leaving Denomination

POSTED: 05:40 AM MST Mar 04, 2012    UPDATED: 12:21 AM MDT Mar 12, 2012 

Members of First Presbyterian Church took another step toward leaving the Presbyterian Church USA Sunday.

More than 1,000 church members cast straw ballots Sunday afternoon, with 88% voting in favor of moving forward with the process of leaving the denomination and forming a brand new denomination.

Senior Pastor Jim Singleton cited disagreements with the denomination's direction, including a decision to allow homosexual clergy last year.

?We kind of fell they left us, and are not providing the value and support that we need as a congregation,? said Dick Schultz, a First Presbyterian Church member since 1995.

?We voted yes,? said Helen Willard, a member since 1971. ?We would really like to be a part of this new movement toward ECO.?

ECO, The Evangelical Covenant Order of Presbyterians is what the new denomination will be called.

?We had a great response,? said Alison Murray, First Presbyterian?s Leader of Staff. According to Murray, the votes were counted quickly and 88 percent of voters agreed.

?They would like to follow the session recommendation, which is to leave the Presbyterian Church USA and go to ECO,? said Murray.

Last year Presbyterian Church USA voted to allow homosexual clergy. Later this year, more changes could be on the way.

?The two changes that are coming this summer is a change in the definition of marriage from man and woman to two people, and a change that would allow someone to marry a same sex couple.?

However, according to Singleton, those issues are not the primary reason for the desire to separate.

?It's genuinely one piece of it,? said Singleton.

KRDO asked Singleton if the new denomination would allow homosexuals to be pastors. ?No,? said Singleton. ?It?s a lot of what we would call scriptural authority issue. And we would still say it looks like to us this issue is prescribed in scripture in a way that we would not move into it.?

?It is not about the gay issue fundamentally,? said Pastor David Freehling, Pastor of the Canon City Presbyterian Church. ?It's about all the changes that have happened in the Presbyterian Church. But, certainly, that decision a summer ago was a flame to the fuse that hurt a lot of churches.?

Freehling said he traveled to Colorado Springs Sunday to witness the process himself. He said he wanted to learn what his church would need to do if his congregation takes steps similar to First Presbyterian.

According to Murray, First Presbyterian has approximately 4,000 members. Straw ballots were cast in Sunday's vote. The official vote will take place sometime after Easter.