ENID — The majority of members of First Presbyterian Church of Enid have decided to sever ties with the nation's largest Presbyterian denomination.
About 200 of the church's 250 members cast votes on the issue Sunday, said James Bellatti, presbyter of the Cimarron Presbytery, a regional affiliate of the Presbyterian Church (USA).
Bellatti said 131 church members voted to leave the denomination, while 69 voted to stay. The nonbinding vote was simply a tally to determine who wanted to stay and who wanted to go, he said.
Two days later, the church's senior pastor, the Rev. Roy Schneider, resigned from his post. In a letter to the congregation, Schneider referenced Amendment 10A to the denomination's constitution, which would allow persons in a same-gender relationship to be considered for ordination or installation as deacons, elders and ministers.
Bellatti said the Cimarron Presbytery has elected an administrative commission to work with the church members who want to remain affiliated with the denomination.
Bellatti said those who choose to leave the denomination may do so, but they must negotiate with the presbytery if they want to retain use of the First Presbyterian Church of Enid property. Under a trust agreement, the denomination retains the rights to the church building, property and any assets, he said.
Schneider declined to comment about his resignation but agreed to fax The
“FPC Enid is now a deeply wounded church,” Schneider wrote in the
He also wrote that his retirement will become effective at the end of the year and that his last day in the pulpit will be Dec. 18.
The denomination's governing body, the General Assembly, voted in 2010 to change the denomination's constitution to allow the ordination of openly gay and lesbian ministers and lay leaders, while giving regional church bodies the ability to decide for themselves. In May 2011, a majority of the denomination's presbyteries ratified the measure, which was required for it to go into effect.
Schneider said in the letter that the issue “is about far more than biblical sexual ethics.”
“It's about our understanding of such core issues as justice, sin, repentance, grace, love, forgiveness and biblical authority,” he wrote.
Schneider also predicted that the church will lose families because of the denominational conflict.
“It seems clear that our historic Oct. 16 vote has not prompted Cimarron Presbytery to change its position and quickly open negotiations with our two-thirds majority who cannot in good Christian conscience remain in the PC (USA),” he wrote.
Meeting set Thursday
Bellatti said the administration commission chosen by the presbytery is set to meet Thursday with the church members who want to stay affiliated with the national denomination.
Tulsa's Kirk of the Hills church left the Presbyterian Church (USA) in 2006 over a similar issue, when the denomination granted ordaining bodies greater leeway in determining individual candidates' fitness for ordination.
The Enid church is not the only Presbyterian church tackling the issue this week.
A Sacramento, Calif., church also voted Sunday to split from the Presbyterian Church (USA) over the national denomination's gay clergy policy.
After months of discussion, members of Fremont Presbyterian Church voted 427 to 164 to join the more conservative Evangelical Presbyterian Church.
“Let me make it clear that Fremont didn't leave the PC (USA), they left us,” said the Rev. Donald Baird, senior pastor.
Fremont, with weekly attendance of about 1,400, is the seventh Sacramento-area church to leave the mainline Presbyterian Church over doctrinal issues in the past few years.
CONTRIBUTING: The Associated Press