Presbyterians Making Changes

While the Episcopal and United Methodist churches have struggled over homosexuality, another mainline Protestant denomination - the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) - has been relatively quiet. But that’s changing.
Since 2001, Presbyterians have been awaiting recommendations from a special task force on “Peace, Unity and Purity,” charged with seeking a way to overcome severe disagreements on gay relationships and other issues. Now that task force is close to completing its work, with the group preparing its final report at meetings in Dallas next month and Chicago in August.

Some aren’t even waiting to read the fine print: 85 conservative congregations sent delegates to a convocation in Edina, Minn., that concluded last weekend.

There, representatives endorsed platforms that laid out essential doctrines and “ethical imperatives,” including the Bible as infallible, salvation through Jesus Christ alone, the necessity of world evangelism and rejection of gay sex and abortion.

The group - which calls itself the New Wineskins Initiative - also proposed a radically reorganized, mission-minded denomination to halt decades of decline in the Presbyterian church, which has a current membership of 2.4 million. The Rev. Tom Edwards of Wichita, Kan., who organized the Edina meeting, said Presbyterianism is too top-heavy and must “start serving the local congregation and stop being a structure that exists for the local congregation to serve the national bureaucracy.”

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