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First Presbyterian Church Moves to Leave PCUSA

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Greenville News On-Line — After years of dissension with the national denomination over the issue of homosexuality, the 3,400-member First Presbyterian Church of Greenville has taken a first step toward leaving the Presbyterian Church (USA), according to church and denomination officials.

The church’s session, or governing body, has voted to sever ties with the mainline denomination, which a year ago approved new ordination standards that could open the way for the ordination of gay clergy.

“With considerable sadness and an acute awareness of the gravity of the issues which lay before us, we unanimously voted to seek dismissal from our current denomination, the PCUSA,” a letter sent to church members by senior pastor Richard Gibbons says. “We then voted to be transferred into a new denomination, the ECO: A Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians.”

The congregation will vote on the issue May 20, the letter says.

“We have excellent relations with our Presbytery and they have been gracious and pastoral in assisting the congregation,” Gibbons said. “We are immensely grateful to them for their prayerful support and look forward to working with them in the months to come.”

To become final, the move must be approved by both the congregation and the Foothills Presbytery, which encompasses 67 Upstate churches with more than 20,000 members, said George Wilkes, executive presbyter.

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