The process of dismissal from the Presbyterian Church (USA) came to an amicable end for Bethel Presbyterian Church when it was allowed to leave and join ECO: A Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians.
Bethel, located in Cornelius, N.C., along Lake Norman, was received by ECO effective Jan. 1, 2013.
“Our congregation voted to seek dismissal, and we were granted that dismissal (by the Charlotte Presbytery) through the gracious dismissal policy,” Bethel Pastor Bill Cain said.
Nintey-five percent of the approximately 400 votes cast by the congregation were in favor of seeking dismissal. The church has a membership of approximately 700.
Cain said the church had been in conversations with Charlotte Presbytery for about a year before its congregational vote in September 2012. Prior to that, a denominational relations committee was formed and spent three years studying the route to be taken by the church.
“It wasn’t fast,” Cain said. “It wasn’t something we really wanted to do, but it became something the congregation and leadership sensed God was leading us to do.
“We have good friends in the PCUSA, and we wish God’s blessings upon them, but the mission God has called us to is through ECO.”
That mission, Cain said, is to make an impact locally and globally for Jesus Christ and the Kingdom of God.
“We felt the PCUSA pulled away from a strong Biblical foundation,” Cain said. “It was not so much us moving as the PCUSA having left that strong Biblical theology. ECO brings a vitality in terms of its mission and evangelism that we want to be a part of.”
The pastor also said there was no ill will toward the PCUSA in regard to Bethel’s dismissal and its reasons for engaging in the process.
“We didn’t, haven’t and won’t get into finger pointing,” he said. “We acknowledge (PCUSA staff and members) as brothers and sisters in Christ. We have to be honest with who we are and focus on what God called us to be. We had a need to go a different way denominationally. There’s no room for harshness or bitterness. We want to joyfully serve the Lord.”