After the official Synod meeting of the ECO: Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians, the Dallas Gathering
continued for another two days and included The Fellowship of Presbyterians, which birthed ECO, but which is now conjoined with Presbyterians for Renewal (PFR) as the Fellowship Community.
That admixture made for awkward moments, like when Paul Detterman, who is staying in the PCUSA and shepherding the Fellowship Community, introduced the head of the Presbyterian Church (USA)’s Mission Agency, Linda Valentine. Several of her staff members were also present, hosted booths in the exhibit area, lead workshops throughout the gathering and were credited with publishing the resource on The Apostles’ Creed that was distributed – at the expense of the PCUSA’s Congregational Ministries Division – to all Gathering attendees.
Salt – in the world or in wounds?
At the closing worship service Bryan Dunagan, the new senior minister of the Highland Park Presbyterian Church, now in ECO, preached a message sending people out into the mess of the world that God so loves.
But it was hard to miss the mess that was right there in the room. Again the Fellowship Community’s Paul Detterman – in a room of 1300 people – singled out for recognition Brian Ellison, the openly partnered gay minister who heads the pro-LGBT Covenant Network of Presbyterians. Apparently Ellison had failed to arrive at the event before the closing service but he was long enough to be celebrated from the dias.
Now, for those who have paid millions of dollars and invested untold hours of prayer and grief to extricate themselves from the PCUSA, such recognitions – during what was supposed their new denomination’s big event- were brow-furrowing. For the hundred or so members of Highland Park, the host church for the event, who had volunteered throughout the event, the recognition was offensive. (To clarify, I am not suggesting that Ellison was not welcome nor deserving of the same gracious hospitality extended to everyone. The point I am seeking to make is that those who are now in ECO – and who comprised the majority of attendees – were offended by the recognition, not Ellison’s presence.) HPPC is currently in active litigation with the PCUSA’s Grace Presbytery which wants tens of millions of dollars to “allow” HPPC to leave with its property and endowment.
All in all it was a great event for networking, connecting, fellowship and missional equipping. But at the level of the optics there was a political naivete that must be overcome for ECO and/or the Fellowship Community to genuinely prosper.