Members of Fremont Presbyterian Church, the largest Presbyterian congregation in Sacramento, voted Sunday to leave the Presbyterian Church (USA) over its ordination of gay clergy.
The congregation voted 427 to 164 to “seek dismissal” from the PCUSA and join a smaller denomination called the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, The Sacramento Bee reports. “Let me make it clear that Fremont didn’t leave the PCUSA, they left us,” said the Reverend Donald Baird, senior pastor of the church, shortly before the vote.
This year a majority of the PCUSA’s regional governing bodies, known as presbyteries, ratified an amendment to the denomination’s constitution so as to allow partnered gay and lesbian clergy to serve. The amendment removed language requiring “fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman or chastity in singleness” for clergy members. This month the PCUSA ordained its first gay minister under the new policy, Scott Anderson, in Wisconsin.
About 800 people packed Fremont for its meeting on the issue, making it the largest congregational gathering in the church’s history, the Bee notes. Attendees debated the matter for about two hours.
According to the religious news site The Layman Online, several other congregations, in states including Ohio and Tennessee, have voted to leave the PCUSA this year because of the new policy on gay clergy.