Colorado Mega-church Votes to Split from Presbyterian Church (USA) Over Homosexual Ministers, More Set to Follow
UCN: A vote Sunday by the largest Presbyterian church in Colorado Springs to split from the denomination's main governing body in the United States may just be the beginning of a growing divide.
Eight churches in the region have expressed an interest in splitting from Presbyterian Church (USA), said Ronald Anderson, executive presbyter for the region that is based in Pueblo and spans much of southern Colorado. Those eight churches account for almost a fourth of the total churches in the Presbytery of Pueblo and make up more than half of the region's total members.
On Sunday afternoon, 88 percent of First Presbyterian Church members voted in an informal poll to split with the mainline Presbyterian church and join a newly created, and more conservative, group called the Evangelical Covenant Order of Presbyterians. The vote was the culmination of several months of work by church leaders who sought to distance themselves from the main governing body after it voted in May that congregations could appoint openly gay ministers.
To officially make the split, church leaders and the Presbytery of Pueblo still have to negotiate terms and the congregation has to make an official vote, presumably in late-April.
Rev. Tom Trinidad, pastor at Faith Presbyterian church, 1529 N. Circle Drive, said his congregation is not considering a split and is sad that other churches want to leave.
"I like having people at the table to have different opinions," he said. "If the conservative churches all leave then we lose their input and we lose our accountability to them."
He said he doesn't know how his church representatives voted on the issue of allowing openly gay clergy, but assumes that most of them approved of the idea. That makes his church a minority in the region. Most in the region voted against it, Anderson said, but they were out-voted by other regions.
Tiny Mountain View Church, 2520 Arlington Drive, is considering a split. Rev. Jeff Baxter said the decision to allow openly gay ministers was a sign of just how far apart theologically his conservative church has become from Presbyterian Church (USA).
"I just don't' think we can honestly say it wasn't a factor. It's a whole pattern of watching the denomination we all love becoming more and more irrelevant of the culture around us."
He's been a minister for Presbyterian Church (USA) for almost 30 years.
"There's a sadness that you feel like when you come to a place where you try to part as friends but the parting is none the less there."