By Linda Leicht, the Springfield News-Leader.
As many mainline Christian denominations are experiencing dissension and decline due to theological and social issues, First Presbyterian Church of Branson and the John Calvin Presbytery are determined to demonstrate how Christians can disagree with grace.
First Presbyterian is one of six congregations in the presbytery, which includes southwest Missouri and a small slice of southeast Kansas, that have left or are in the process of leaving the Presbyterian Church USA. That will leave 48 congregations in the presbytery.
Citing differences over scriptural authority, as well as an acceptance of homosexuality, an estimated 100,000 members are expected to leave the denomination this year alone, according to reports by The Layman, a conservative Presbyterian publication. Annual membership losses in excess of 75,000 were reported for 2013-15.
The six congregations leaving the John Calvin Presbytery represent more than 2,000 members, with about 235 of them attending First Presbyterian in Branson. Only one of those congregations, First and Calvary in Springfield, has brought litigation against the presbytery. The other five churches have gone through a process of discernment with the presbytery called the Gracious Separation Policy.