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Don Sweeting, President of RTS-Orlando:

This past weekend, a new Presbyterian denomination was formed. From January 18-20 approximately 2,100 Presbyterians gathered at the Fellowship of Presbyterians Covenanting Conference. Over 500 Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) congregations were represented (of the 10,600 congregations in that denomination). Most of those in the room covenanted to form a “new reformed body” and join the new denomination called The Evangelical Covenant Order of Presbyterians (ECO for short). This is not to say that all who attended immediately joined. While many were resolved to leave, some are still deciding, and some will stay within the PC (USA) and maintain a joint affiliation.

Read the whole thing for background, distinctives of this new denomination, and how this fits into Presbyterian history in the United States.


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20 thoughts on “A New Presbyterian Denomination Is Formed”

  1. Thank God for former members of the PCUSA who’ve taken a stand against liberalism and turned back toward orthodoxy! I wonder why they felt it was best to go at it alone when break-off denominations like the PCA and OPC would gladly support and accept new church plants.

    1. Jeffrey Brannen says:

      Justin, there are rules regarding church property and, most probably, the ordination of women to be elders and pastors. If memory serves, there is a five-year legal requirement that a church leaving the PCUSA must fulfill – for five years they may not join the PCA.

      1. Henry says:

        Justin,

        The new ECO is committed to Egalitarianism, thus they cannot join the PCA which is complementarian. That is another major reason.

        I personally share Carl Trueman’s past sentiments when he said that it appears homophobic to get round the verses that prohibit women teaching men, but yet not extend that same gesture of kindness to gays by getting round the verses that prohibit homosexuality.

        Anyone from the ECO – what is up with this? Do you hate gays?

    2. Hey, thanks for the info. I hadn’t gotten around to reading the article by Sweeting himself yet. Henry, you hit my next big question which was on women in leadership. I was really hoping it was just the PCUSA’s 5-year rule. Well, it’s unfortunate this isn’t the complete 180 I was praising in my original comment. I had another contributor of Confront Culture ask me why they didn’t merge with the EPC (they’re egalitarian). He also raised the question of whether or not this is the sin of schism. Thanks again for the help.

  2. They did not do market testing on that name. I like that!

  3. Brad says:

    May Christ be honored, whether inside the PCUSA or the ECO.

    1. Clarification Dave says:

      I think of “non-denominational” congregations as merely being a denomination of one. The second any congregation makes any decision regarding the meaning, mode and candidate for baptism, that very decision creates a “division” with other congregations. Choosing to accept any interpretation of baptism also creates a “division”. One cannot avoid the issues of “division” by creating the concept of “non-denominationalism”.

      The issues are more about attitude toward other believers, what are the core issues of fellowship in the Gospel and what should be considered secondary. The presence of “labels” of naming is a minor issue with regard to “denominations”. The actual beliefs and practices of ecclesiology are the foundations of “denomination”. And NO congregation can avoid those issues.

  4. Truth Unites... and Divides says:

    What’s the difference between ECOP and EPC?

    1. Stephen says:

      In doctrine and practice the EPC and the new group are pretty much the same, though the ECO is making a flatter less bureaucratic polity a key distinctive. The key difference is on ordination of women. Currently in the EPC female ruling elders are permitted, but female teaching elders are permitted only in certain Presbyteries. The ECO makes women in ministry a distinctive.

      As far as the property issue — that varies depending on the Presbytery. In some Presbyteries it’s virtually impossible for a conservative congregation to get out with their property. Others are less hostile. Also, the PCUSA has yet to recognize the ECO as a recognized Reformed body to which congregations could be dismissed. Because of this the EPC remains an attractive option for those looking to get out right away. Hope that helps. Grace and peace.

  5. Andy says:

    Yes I’m wondering too. Is this just a way around the 5 year rule? Seems like there was already a “mass exodux” of PCUSA churches to the EPC in recent years. Did they just wait out the 5 years, or perhaps abandoned their property, etc.?

    Justin, I believe my comment was “schism is the only sin Presbyterians will tolerate”. I was mostly joking…mostly!

  6. Dean P says:

    From what I understand about half of the churches in the EPC are charismatic or have charismatic leanings, so I am guessing that the ECOP is not charismatic and has no interest in ever being charismatic.

  7. Andy says:

    So women pastors are cool, as long as they don’t speak in tongues. Got it!

  8. John Thomson says:

    Although it seems this new denomination is a stand against liberalism, I am always sorry when a new denomination is formed. As if we haven’t enough. Why not join an existing evangelical presbyterian body?

    1. Truth Unites... and Divides says:

      “Although it seems this new denomination is a stand against liberalism”

      All too often, today’s conservative is yesterday’s liberal.

      Liberal is what Stephen in a comment above wrote: “The key difference is on ordination of women. Currently in the EPC female ruling elders are permitted, but female teaching elders are permitted only in certain Presbyteries. The ECO makes women in ministry a distinctive.”

      This new Presbyterian denomination is not conservative with regards to Women’s Ordination and the Authority of Scripture. Although I’m sure that they consider themselves conservative.

    2. Truth Unites... and Divides says:

      “Why not join an existing evangelical presbyterian body?”

      Apparently because EPC is not liberal enough about allowing women teaching elders. Per Stephen:

      “The key difference is on ordination of women. Currently in the EPC female ruling elders are permitted, but female teaching elders are permitted only in certain Presbyteries.

  9. Andy says:

    “All too often, today’s conservative is yesterday’s liberal.”

    AMEN!

  10. Looselycult says:

    “All too often, today’s conservative is yesterday’s liberal.”

    Unknown 1st century Pharisee.

  11. Chris Ashton says:

    David Robinson wrote back in 2003 that “Scotland needs another denomination like it needs a hole in the head.” Ditto America.

    As for the suggestion that the reason for a new denomination is so they can keep their buildings – I truly hope that is not the case. Everyone involved in the ECO should have left the PC(USA) years ago, but now that they are finally rectifying the situation they are still proudly hanging onto their buildings and their bank accounts?

    Perhaps they should recall what their fathers and grandfathers in the faith did at the Disruption of 1843. Churches lost buildings. Congregations lost money. Pastors lost pensions. And it was all so that “the tested genuineness of their faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—would be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

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Justin Taylor is executive vice president of book publishing and book publisher for Crossway and blogs at Between Two Worlds. You can follow him on Twitter.

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