Following a 24-hour congregation-wide prayer vigil and fast, the church’s session voted 33-0 to ask Shenandoah Presbytery to graciously dismiss them from the Presbyterian Church (USA) and into ECO: A Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians.
According to a letter sent to church members and posted on the church web site, “the roll call vote, including pastors, was unanimous (33 votes) with one of the two members not in attendance issuing statement for the record in favor of dismissal.”
The letter, signed by the Rev. Jon Heeringa, session moderator and Paula Thompson, clerk of session, said, “Our prayer now is that presbytery will act graciously and swiftly to endorse our request for dismissal, that our application to ECO will be accepted, that the above goals will be satisfied and the Kingdom of God advanced.”
Speaking of the anticipated next steps, the letter said the most important ones are continued prayer and fasting and continued commitment to Jesus Christ and the authority of Scripture.
After the church session notifies the presbytery of its request, a presbytery listening response team will work with the session and congregation and make a recommendation to the presbytery. The process will continue with the presbytery appointing an administrative commission to work with the church to develop an acceptable dismissal agreement. Once an agreement is reached, it will be submitted to presbytery for debate and approval.
The letter emphasized that in accordance with the presbytery’s Gracious Dismissal Policy, “there is NO congregational vote on the questions surrounding dismissal … Under this Dismissal Policy, presbytery is in sole control of any decision to dismiss a church from PCUSA.”
The question of why First Presbyterian is seeking to leave the PCUSA is answered on the church’s FAQ page:
Historically, First Presbyterian Church Harrisonburg has been traditional in its theology and beliefs including foundational truths, such as; Jesus Christ alone is the Way of salvation and the Bible alone is the Word of God and our sole authority for faith and life. Over the years, the PCUSA denomination has demonstrated a shift in beliefs inconsistent with orthodox theology.
Examples of the shift included the authority and interpretation of Scripture, difference in how Jesus Christ is viewed, and divided loyalties and diverted energies
For more information on the church’s process of discernment, visit the web site.