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Presbyterian
leaders issue plea to keep denomination unified

Presbyterian
leaders issue plea to keep denomination unified

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The threat of churches departing from the Presbyterian Church (USA) has become so serious that leaders have issued a letter asking them to stay.

The threat of churches departing from the Presbyterian Church (USA) has become so serious that leaders have issued a letter asking them to stay.

The Presbyterian Church, like other mainline Protestant groups, has been struggling for years to reconcile members who disagree over how to interpret Scripture. At least eight churches have left since a Presbyterian General Assembly last summer, which voted to give leeway to install partnered gay clergy and allowed church officials to propose experimental phrasings for the divine Trinity in place of "Father, Son, and Holy Spirit."

The Reverend Clifton Kirkpatrick, a denominational leader, wrote in the January 29 letter that ''there's no question that the vast majority of Presbyterian churches are going to stay,'' adding, however, ''I think any exodus is too many.''

''Any church's departure is difficult and painful for the congregations involved and the wider church,'' Kirkpatrick wrote. ''Fractures within the body of Christ diminish our witness of God's grace and mercy to the world--unfortunate in these already divisive times. And, the [denomination] will miss the gifts and perspectives of these brothers and sisters in Christ.''

The New Wineskins Association of Churches, which represents Presbyterian traditionalists, is developing a breakaway strategy. Departing congregations could join the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, a theologically conservative group independent of the Louisville, Ky.-based denomination.

''In over 300 years of American Presbyterian history, we have never agreed 100% on any issue of the day. But in the end we are better together in Christ's unity,'' Kirkpatrick wrote. (AP)

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