By Tiffany Stevens, The Roanoke Times.
On Sunday (2/7/14), First Presbyterian Church will change its moniker to First Evangelical Presbyterian Church after finalizing negotiations with the branch’s previous denomination, which members voted to leave in October.
The name change is part of the congregation’s formal alignment with the Evangelical Presbyterian Church. First Presbyterian is among hundreds of churches that decided to leave the mainline Presbyterian Church (USA) because of progressive policies adopted by the national Presbyterian church. Such issues include allowing pastors to conduct ceremonies for same-sex couples, ordaining gay clergy, and reproductive rights.
About 80 percent of the church’s active members who voted on Oct. 18 were in favor of leaving. The vote was accepted by the church’s governing elders and later approved by Presbytery of the Peaks.
“As yet, we aren’t certain the exact number of those who were opposed whether they will continue with the majority or seek membership elsewhere,” pastor Bob Smith said in a written statement Friday. “Over the course of our 165 years of ministry in the valley First church planted nine other congregations, six of whom remain within the PCUSA fold. So, there are several options available for those who desire to stay within the denomination.”
Negotiations for the historic church’s “gracious dismissal” went on for more than two years, according to a news release from the church. As part of the settlement, First Presbyterian will maintain control of its church building but will pay the Presbytery of the Peaks $800,000 over the next 10 years and surrender the title to the church’s manse.