By Jerry Andrews, The Presbyterian Outlook.
We meet separately now.
I did not want this. I had worked and prayed that it would not be so. I had valued the shared evangelical witness within the PCUSA. I thought it held promise — the promise that an evangelical witness gladly offered to and received by the PCUSA would prove salutary both to the communion and the evangelical movement within it. The witness was not received; the movement separated.
This year, for the first time, ECO: A Covenant Order of Presbyterians and the Fellowship Community, the continuing evangelical witness within the PCUSA, met separately. For nearly five years we have met as one under the banner of the Fellowship of Presbyterians, discerning a way forward both for those congregations who could no longer imagine living with integrity within the PCUSA and for those who could.
The Fellowship Community met in August. ECO, with its own constitution and the full blessing and burden of a new freedom to call it as it sees it, will gather for its national synod meeting in January 2016. Though there is reasonable hope, articulated often, of meeting together again, the simple fact is: We meet separately now.
Hope of regathering
Though some rejoice while others lament this departure of the way, none should be surprised. Many remember stories of the formation of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC) in the early part of the century. When I was in seminary, the formation of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) was still newsworthy. Shortly after I graduated, the Evangelical Presbyterian Church (EPC) was formed. My home church, one of its flagships, continues to bless my ministry in the PCUSA. My parents’ Sunday school class still lovingly prays for me nearly 50 after they first began, when I was a high school student and they were encouraging me to consider ordained ministry.
We have lived our ecclesial lives apart all these years. There is no surprise in its repetition now, neither is there any joy.
But there is hope — hope that will not disappoint. And surprisingly, it is characterized as regathering, reconnecting and recommitting. (Evangelicals love “re-” words.)