The most important business this morning is voting on the creation of two new presbyteries. Both through the planting of new churches and the reception of dozens of congregations from the PCUSA, the EPC has grown dramatically in the last five years. When I came to it, the denomination had about 180 churches; today we are at just over 300 and looking at the real possibility of one hundred or more coming in over the next couple of years.
We’ve already created one new presbytery in the last year (Rivers and Lakes in the upper Midwest, carved out of Mid-America Presbytery, which came into being last November). The proposal is for two new ones:
1) Split the Presbytery of the West, which currently spreads across the western third of the country. A new Pacific Presbytery would be created that would include California, Oregon, Washington, Alaska, Hawaii, Nevada, and a portion of Idaho.
2) A new Allegheny Presbytery would be created out of the Presbyteries of the East, Midwest, and Mid-Atlantic, and would include western New York state, western Pennsylvania, western Maryland, and portions of West Virginia and eastern Ohio.
This isn’t just about moving furniture, but about enhancing local mission and welcoming new congregations the best way we can. More changes will undoubtedly be made in the next couple of years.
As expected, the changes have been warmly welcomed and approved. I’ll be back with more this afternoon.
UPDATE: Didn’t have time yesterday afternoon to get to this, but one other significant action was taken on day two. By Assembly action (rather than constitutional change), the period for reception of churches from other denominations transitionally was extended to December 31, 2013. Originally, the deadline for that was June 2012, at the end of next year’s GA.
This does not mean the transitional presbytery will continue. It will cease to exist next June as scheduled. Instead, if there are churches that wish to enter the EPC transitionally, they will do so through the geographical presbytery wherever they are located.
The primary reason for extending this period is the recognition that with the passage of Amendment 10-A and nFOG in the PCUSA, there are likely to be a lot of congregations that desire to leave the latter for the EPC. Because of the variety of responses by PCUSA presbyteries, ranging from the gracious to the ferocious, there may be congregations that need to make the move too quickly for us to do our due diligence in the reception process. The extension will allow us to respond to those kinds of situations by providing a safe haven as the process proceeds.