Central Presbyterian Church of Merced (CPC) is one of a growing number of churches that have been dismissed from the Presbyterian Church U.S.A. in order to join A Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians (ECO).
Oct. 27 was the first Sunday for CPC as part of ECO. A number of other Presbyterian churches in our area have also made this transition, including congregations in Delhi, Escalon, Newman, Oakhurst, Modesto and Stockton.
In November last year, the elders of CPC voted unanimously to recommend dismissal to ECO and worked in cooperation with the Stockton Presbytery (PCUSA) in that process. On June 23, at a special meeting of the congregation, more than 93 percent of CPC members present voted to endorse dismissal to ECO.
Speaking at a Stockton Presbytery meeting on Aug. 24, elder Ronda Douglas made clear that the concerns of CPC are not with the Stockton Presbytery itself. She stated, After many years of engagement with the national denomination, we believe that God is calling us now to a place where we can continue to be Presbyterian in a setting where we do not need to defend our core convictions but where we can focus our energies and resources in living out the authority of Scripture, the Lordship of Jesus Christ, and the affirmations of the Confessions of the Church as we understand them, and where the Essential Tenets of the Reformed Faith are named and adhered to. This is a matter of following what we believe to be the call of God to CPC.
The Stockton Presbytery then voted overwhelmingly to approve the dismissal of CPC and five other churches.
Leaders of CPC say they are excited about a future in ECO. They describe a better theological fit, including clarity about the lordship of Jesus Christ, the authority of the Bible, and core beliefs (called Essential Tenets). They also see ECO as a better structural fit, including less regulation, less concern about statistics, and more encouragement to connect people with Christ in new ways.
That certainly fits with CPCs understanding of who we are, not just Central Presbyterian Church but also another CPC connecting people with Christ reaching out with his love from the heart of Merced to the ends of the earth.
The author is pastor of Central Presbyterian Church of Merced.