Central Presbyterian Church, Athens, Ga., Elders Ousted After Scheduling Secession Vote

Administrative Commission of the Northeast Georgia Presbytery (PCUSA) recently dissolved the session of Central Presbyterian Church in Athens, Ga.

The Central Presbyterian session scheduled a Jan. 24 vote on whether the church should secede from the Presbyterian Church in the USA, the mainline Presbyterian denomination in the United States, and affiliate with a more conservative branch of Presbyterianism. But the Administrative Commission of the Northeast Georgia Presbytery dissolved the Central session this week and will train and install a new session.

 

Members of Athens’ Central Presbyterian church dissatisfied with recent shifts in the denomination’s theology are welcome to join another denomination — but they will have to leave Central Presbyterian, a regional church governing body has told rebellious members of the congregation.

The Central Presbyterian “session” — a group similar to what in some denominations might be called a board of deacons, or council of elders — scheduled a Jan. 24 vote on whether the church should secede from the Presbyterian Church in the USA, the mainline Presbyterian denomination in the United States, and affiliate with a more conservative branch of Presbyterianism.

But the Administrative Commission of the Northeast Georgia Presbytery dissolved the Central session this week and will train and install a new session.

That Jan. 24 vote can go forward, the commission said in an email to church members Friday.

But Central Presbyterian will remain in the Presbyterian Church in the USA, the letter said.

“The AC has met with the session, with the congregation, and with former members of Central Presbyterian Church, prayed more, reviewed all the materials submitted to us and to the Presbytery office, and we have come to the conclusion and will report to the Presbytery that Central Presbyterian Church will remain a congregation with the Presbyterian Church (USA),” according to the email.

The presbytery officials’ statement comes on the heels of a meeting earlier this week between the Central session and the Administrative Commission of the Northeast Georgia Presbytery in which the session refused to pledge allegiance to the denomination.

Central Presbyterian members have for months been going through a period of “discernment,” discussions about whether to leave the mainline Presbyterian Church, riven in recent years over such issues as same-sex marriage, who may or may not be ordained, and fundamental theological questions such as the path to salvation.

Many of Central’s roughly 300 active members feel the mainline denomination has moved away from traditional Presbyterian beliefs and want to affiliate with a more conservative branch, the fast-growing A Covenant of Evangelical Presbyterians, or ECO Presbyterian, formed four years ago in 2012, said church treasurer Jeffrey Dorfman.

Dorfman and others believe a large majority at Central want to leave the Presbyterian Church in the USA denomination.

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