Hunter Farrell’s prophetic words to the 2014 General Assembly in Detroit are beginning to come true, as two of the Presbyterian Church (USA)’s mission partners have broken ties with the PCUSA over the issue of same-sex marriage. Farrell is the Director of World Mission for the PCUSA.
According to the Presbyterian News Service (PNS), in July, 2015, “the Independent Presbyterian Church of Brazil (IPIB) and the Evangelical Presbyterian and Reformed Church of Peru (IEPRP) both voted to break relations with the PCUSA over the change in the definition of marriage.”
The Independent Presbyterian Church of Brazil
The PNS article quoted from a letter that the IPIB wrote to notify the PCUSA of its decision to end its partnership:
“After a debate that began in 2011, when the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of the United States introduced changes in the criteria for ordination, as well as the recent changes concerning the definition of marriage and permission for ministers to celebrate marriages between persons of the same sex, our church, that had initially decided to continue in partnership, in this last General Assembly, made the decision to interrupt the official partnership with this beloved church.
“We cannot help but express our deep gratitude to God for the life and ministry of the Presbyterian Church of the United States. As a country and as a church we have been very blessed by this church ever since the first Presbyterian missionary arrived here in 1859. … Despite this notable contribution to the expansion of God’s kingdom in the world and especially in Brazil, our church has understood that the recent decisions made by the PCUSA are against the principle of the authority of Scripture over the life and faith of the Church, as well as the confessional documents of our common Reformed heritage. Above all remains our deepest gratitude and respect to this Church and our prayers on your behalf.”
Evangelical Presbyterian and Reformed Church of Peru
In its letter to the PCUSA, the IEPRP wrote:
“The General Assembly of the IEPRP on June 26, 2007, signed a covenant of cooperation with the PCUSA, although some representatives had certain doubts. One of the points at issue was the discussion of homosexual marriage in a PCUSA presbytery. The president of the IEPRP expressed the IEPRP’s concerns with respect to the change in the PCUSA Book of Order in 2011 that allows the ordination of homosexuals to the different ministries of the Church. And on March 17, 2015, the PCUSA approved homosexual marriage. The IEPRP in its General Assembly which met June 24–26, 2015, voted unanimously not to renew the covenant between the IEPRP and the PCUSA. …
“The IEPRP gives thanks to God for these years of partnership and expresses its gratitude to the PCUSA for the diaconal support received from June 2007 to June 2015 in the form of different service projects benefitting children, young people, women and the different governing bodies of the IEPRP. It also gives thanks for the accompaniment and support of short-, medium- and long-term mission efforts and for financial support leading to the elaboration of the IEPRP’s Strategic Plan. We give thanks to God for allowing us to work with the PCUSA and to serve the Presbyterian Church in Peru.
“The IEPRP and PCUSA signed a covenant which was renewed for several periods; nevertheless, the IEPRP decided unanimously not to renew its covenant with the PCUSA and not to ratify the covenants signed by governing bodies of the IEPRP as of June 2015. The IEPRP promises to pray for the PCUSA, that the Lord Almighty guide them according to the Holy Scriptures, our only rule of faith and conduct.”
Farrell told the PNS that Presbyterian World Missions has held conversations “with church leaders from Brazil and Peru since their decisions and together we shared a hope for healing and a renewed ability to engage God’s mission together. But at this moment this is not possible, and it brings us great sadness.”
He added, “We have a deep respect for the voice of international partners, because partnership is at the core of our understanding of Christ’s mission around the world, so we have listened very carefully to these church leaders. As the church continues to be reformed and always reforming, we hope in the future that we can be reunited in partnership with these churches as we work together to build God’s kingdom.”
Prophetic words from 2014
Farrell predicted this would happen when he addressed General Assembly Committee 10 — Civil Unions and Marriage Issues, the committee which ultimately recommended that the assembly approve two different measures that would allow same-sex marriages to be performed by PCUSA pastors and in PCUSA churches. The assembly concurred with the committee’s recommendation a few days later.
In March of 2015, a majority of the denomination’s presbyteries ratified the assembly’s decision to change the definition of marriage from being between “a man and a woman” to being between “two people,” and it took effect on June 21.
In June of 2014, before it began debating the issue of same-sex marriage in the PCUSA, Farrell told Committee 10 that if the denomination’s definition of marriage is changed, he believed at least 17 of the denomination’s 54 global mission partners would break relations with the PCUSA.
Another 25 global partners told World Missions personnel that the change would cause damage to their relationship with the PCUSA, but the partner would not completely break ties with the denomination, Farrell said.
Two disagree but continue PCUSA partnership
The PNS article stated that two unnamed denominations – one in the Middle East and one in Latin America – expressed their disagreement with the PCUSA’s decision to allow same-sex marriage, but “reaffirmed their commitment to continue in relationship with the PCUSA.”
One denomination was quoted by the PNS as saying:
“Considering the historical relationship that binds our two churches together, we believe that it is possible and even necessary for us to express ourselves honestly, and in a spirit of love to our brothers and sisters in the PCUSA, by openly sharing how their decision on this matter affects us. It is a source of pain within our Church, and a source of embarrassment in the larger context of a culture that finds this decision deplorable. … We seek to preserve the historical ties between our churches, and are grateful for the long and glorious heritage of the ministry of faithful missionaries, who established the Presbyterian work here and who contribute to the building and reviving of the Church and its institutions. …”
The other denomination wrote:
“After an overture by two presbyteries to definitively break relations with the PCUSA, by majority vote of our church, we confirm the partnership agreement that we maintain with our sister church, the PCUSA. We ask that the PCUSA, based on the agreement we have signed, continue in relationship of mutual respect and collaboration, taking into account the idiosyncrasies, culture and theological principles of each church. We also ask, based on our understanding of biblical principles, that you not send mission workers that are married to people of the same gender. We will communicate to our presbyteries that it is not prudent to break relations with the PCUSA.”
This is not the first time a PCUSA mission partner has broken ties with the denomination over its stands on homosexual issues.
In 2011, the National Presbyterian Church of Mexico broke ties with the Presbyterian Church (USA) over its decision to allow the ordination of gays, lesbians, bisexual and transgender persons to the offices of pastor, elder and deacon.
At its own General Assembly meeting, the National Presbyterian Church of Mexico voted 116-22 to end its 139-year relationship with the PCUSA, and to not re-enter a relationship with the denomination rescinded its action on ordaining gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons as pastors, elders and deacons.
In a letter sent to PCUSA Stated Clerk Gradye Parsons, Pbro. Amador López Hernández said that after the Mexican denomination’s General Assembly analyzed the PCUSA’s actions, it voted to “break off relations immediately, denouncing the sin and disobedience explicit to the Word of God that tells us that we must not be partakers of the same. ‘And I heard a voice from heaven saying: Go ye forth from her, my people, for you aren’t involved in his sins …’ (Revelation 18:4).”