EDMOND — Applause erupted in the sanctuary Sunday when members of a prominent metro-area church learned they soon would sever ties with the Presbyterian Church (USA).
With 870 members casting ballots, First Presbyterian Church of Edmond voted to leave the denomination and join with another Presbyterian group, the Evangelical Covenant Order.
The Rev. Mateen Elass, First Presbyterian-Edmond's senior pastor, said Sunday's vote was historic because it brought members together for the church's largest congregational meeting and its most significant.
“This is really a vindication for the church leaders and elders, as they were listening to God saying, ‘This is where I'm leading First Presbyterian Church of Edmond,'” Elass said.
“I had a lot of people come up to me and say, ‘Now we can have a new beginning.'”
Elass said the majority of the congregation sought to part from the denomination because of theological differences.
He said the main cause of disagreement is the congregation's perception that the church has moved away from the authority of Scripture, most notably with its 2011 decision to allow the ordination of practicing homosexuals, and, more recently, a perception that the denomination is not holding accountable those clergy who have defied the church's ban on same-gender marriage.
Elass said 815 people voted to leave the denomination, while 55 people cast votes against severing ties. He said one member abstained from voting. Elass said the church has about 1,400 members.
Indian Nations Presbytery, a regional affiliate of the main church body, had said the church needed 685 “yes” votes to disengage from the denomination.
Sunday, Aaron Carland, the presbytery's general presbyter, said the presbytery will vote Monday to accept or reject the Edmond church's vote.
An administrative commission appointed by the presbytery will present a report about the congregational meeting and vote results at that time, Carland said.