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Pittsburgh church
leaves Presbyterians for conservative branch

Pittsburgh church
leaves Presbyterians for conservative branch

In a move emblematic of mainline Protestant divisions over sexuality, members of the largest church in the Pittsburgh Presbytery voted to leave the Presbyterian Church (USA) and join a smaller, more conservative denomination.

At a congregational meeting, 951 members of Memorial Park Presbyterian Church in McCandless Township voted to be affiliated with the Evangelical Presbyterian Church. Fifty-two percent, or 761 members, of the 1,450-member congregation needed to approve the plan.

''We are saddened that Memorial Park members and leaders have elected to separate from the Presbyterian Church,'' James Mead, pastor to Pittsburgh Presbytery, said in a statement. ''However, we believe that wrestling with such painful issues is part of God's redemptive plan for the world.''

Memorial Park church officials said last month they were concerned about the national denomination's move away from traditional doctrines concerning the Holy Trinity and the authority of the Bible, and its increasingly liberal views on gay ordination.

Memorial Park church officials have said their issue isn't with the presbytery, a regional body of churches, but the national church.

The Presbyterian Church (USA) is among several Protestant denominations embroiled in a bitter debate between conservatives and liberals over what role gays should have in their churches. The national church's highest court ruled in 2000 that Presbyterian churches may bless same-sex unions as long as they don't equate the relationships with marriage. (AP)

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