I hear from many fellow evangelicals and read in many articles and letters that a major exodus has began, which will result in many congregations leaving the Presbyterian Church USA. Most of those expressing this opinion see most of these departing congregations becoming part of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church denomination. Obviously, this is certainly true to some extent, especially with the New Wineskin congregations who are joining the EPC. And the rationale for leaving provided by some, especially Robert Gagnon, has been especially sobering and persuasive. However, I am not sure if the exodus is as large and as potent as what some are saying.
Oh sure, it is certainly noteworthy when Kirk of the Hills in Tulsa or Memorial Park in Pittsburgh recuse themeselves to the EPC, and such moves certainly gain the attention of all of us who call ourselves evangelical. But at this point, I do not see the grand exodus or realignment that I hear others talking about. No offense intended to churches like Kirk of the Hills, but no church that really carries the weight of evangelical leadership in the PCUSA has indicated that it is leaving. No such church, like Peachtree in Atlanta, Menlo Park in California, First in Colorado Springs, Bel Air in the LA area, or University Place in Seattle, has given the slightest indication that they are seriously entertaining a change of denominational affiliation. Plus, no major evangelical voice has announced his or her "exodus." We have not heard (up to this point) the names of Joe Rightmeyer, Vic Pentz, Mark Brewer, Andrew Purves, Jerry Andrews, Roberta Hestenes, Mary Holder Naegeli, Jim Berkeley, Bill Young, or even Parker Williamson mentioned in any list of those who are seeking refuge by opting out of the PCUSA.
A few weeks ago, I was in a conversation with a friend who is pastor of a PCUSA church in NW Washington state. He is part of a covenant group of pastors from throughout the USA who gather together periodically for fellowship, encouragement, education, and accountability. Out of 12 pastors in his group, three were in churches leaving the PCUSA for the EPC. A significant number --- Yes! But indications of a mass exodus starting --- I'm not so sure.
At this point, it SEEMS TO ME that most of us evangelicals are staying the course in the PCUSA, and it SEEMS TO ME that this perserverance by the evangelicals will yet yield a quite orthodox and missional future for the PCUSA. Oh yes, I think some of the more militant liberals in this ecclesiastical community smell evangelical blood and are making plans for a victory feast as we hear of a theologically conservative church here and there leaving for the EPC. But sometimes the facts do not fit what we are sensing or hearing, and the facts (at this time) overwhelmingly support the continuance and growth of a strong and vital evangelical presence in the PCUSA.
KEEP THE CELEBRATION GOING!