The 30-year-old EPC, which has grown from 180 churches five years ago to 306 this year, has become a refuge for dozens of pastors and congregations that have left the more liberal PCUSA, the largest mainline Presbyterian denomination, composed of about 10,000 congregations.
A small but fast-growing Presbyterian denomination meeting this week in Memphis resolved long-standing theological and constitutional conflicts over the ordination of women that have vexed and divided evangelical Christians for decades.
A record-setting 460 delegates to the Evangelical Presbyterian Church’s 31st General Assembly voted to allow congregations to call women to ordained ministry, even if their presbytery (governing body) objects for theological or doctrinal reasons.
Such congregations would be allowed to leave the objecting presbytery (such as the Central South, which includes Memphis) and join an adjacent one that permits the ordination of women.
“It’s an eminently reasonable solution, one that reflects the love and respect we have for each other,” said Rob Liddon, the EPC’s outgoing moderator and a ruling elder at Second Presbyterian Church in Memphis, one of the EPC’s largest and most influential congregations.
The constitutional amendment, adopted this week by the General Assembly and approved by eight of nine EPC presbyteries, including Central South, also will make it a bit easier for congregations leaving the larger Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) that have ordained women on staff to join the EPC.
That includes Advent Presbyterian Church in Cordova, which voted earlier this year to leave the PCUSA and join the EPC. Because of its location, Advent would have been placed in the Central South Presbytery, but now it will be allowed to join a neighboring presbytery that supports women in ministry.
Dr. Chris Scruggs, Advent’s pastor, said the constitutional amendment is an example of the EPC’s “noble and thoughtful effort to rethink how we do church in the 21st century.”