First-Houston remained in the PCUSA, but according to an Oct. 13 letter sent to church members, “in the minds of the significant majority of those voting, the vote left us in the worst possible position: nearly two-thirds of our church wanting to leave the PCUSA but being prevented from doing so by an inability to comply with a PCUSA-mandated process.”
First Presbyterian Church in Houston, Texas will vote for a second time on seeking dismissal from the Presbyterian Church (USA) on Nov. 1.
If the motion – “that First Presbyterian Church of Houston shall request dismissal from the PCUSA and affiliate with ECO: A Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians” – is approved by a majority of the congregation, the session will ask the Presbytery of New Covenant to dismiss it at its Nov. 19th meeting.
The congregation’s first vote to leave the denomination in February of 2014 failed — by 31 votes — to meet the required supermajority approval needed for dismissal.
First-Houston remained in the PCUSA, but according to an Oct. 13 letter sent to church members, “in the minds of the significant majority of those voting, the vote left us in the worst possible position: nearly two-thirds of our church wanting to leave the PCUSA but being prevented from doing so by an inability to comply with a PCUSA-mandated process. That process, which caused so much divisiveness within our congregation three years ago, was later determined by the PCUSA to violate its own constitution and has since been abandoned.”
While current PCUSA policy states that the church session has the “exclusive authority” to request dismissal from the PCUSA, the session at First-Houston is seeking input from church membership.
According to the session’s letter, before the congregational vote is held:
- A time for prayer and worship has been scheduled for tomorrow, Oct. 19, and Oct. 26;
- An online survey is being conducted asking for input on the dismissal issue and other issues. The survey will also be available at the church for those without Internet access on Oct. 23. Results of the survey will be available Oct. 27.
- A Q&A will be held Oct. 23 with representatives of ECO;
- And resources from the 2012-2014 discernment process have been made available on the church web site.
The letter also included a summary of the “reasons why we believe that the denominational affiliation issue should be addressed now.” They include:
- “The current direction of the PCUSA, particularly its theological drift and its focus on political activism and legislative and lobbying efforts at the expense of evangelism and mission work, is fundamentally out of sync with FPC’s Mission Statement and the objectives of Vision 2020.
- “The relationship of FPC’s session and current pastors (and presumably future pastors) with the PCUSA is often unproductive, unhealthy and highly politicized. The session devotes considerable time and attention to issues created by positions taken by the PCUSA and working to avoid criticism of FPC and its pastors by the PCUSA. For the last five years, denominational issues have often dominated session agendas.