By Mark Collette, The Houston Chronicle.
Regional Presbyterian leaders voted Saturday to accept the exit of two Houston-area congregations in an ongoing schism fomented by social issues including gay marriage.
On a voice vote, the Presbytery of New Covenant, governing body for 95 Southeast Texas congregations, agreed to dismiss Memorial Drive Prebyterian Church in Houston and Missouri City’s Southminster Presbyterian, making them the 11th and 12th area churches to leave in recent years.
They will depart Presbyterian Church (USA), the largest contingent of Presbyterian churches in the country, for the more conservative ECO: A Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians.
Saturday’s Presbyterian Vote May Pave Path for Two Churches’ Exit
By Allan Turner, The Houston Chronicle. (Originally posted 7/13/16)
But when regional denomination leaders meet Saturday, they will face the next worst thing: the demands of two dissident congregations to split from the Presbyterian Church (USA) to join the newer, more conservative ECO: A Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians.
If the Presbytery of New Covenant, governing body for 95 Southeast Texas congregations, votes to “dismiss,” Memorial Drive Presbyterian Church and Missouri City’s Southminster Presbyterian Church will become the 11th and 12th area churches to leave the denomination in recent years.
Methodists have faced breakaway congregations spurred by perceived laxness in enforcement of church bans on same-sex marriage and ordination of gay clergy. Recent liberalization of Episcopal rules on same-sex matters brought rebuke from the denomination’s conservative Church of England cousins.
In Houston, dissenting Presbyterians also have complained of PCUSA’s purportedly heavy-handed, top-down management style. The liberal focus of the denomination’s social activism has left some believers uneasy.
With more than 3,700 members, the Memorial Drive congregation is PCUSA’s eighth largest. In 2014, another large Houston congregation, Grace Presbyterian, left the parent denomination for ECO. First Presbyterian debated leaving but fell 36 votes short of achieving the two-thirds congregational majority needed to depart. Smaller congregations in Houston, Galveston, Spring and Pearland also have switched.