With the addition of the new churches, and others are seeking dismissal from the Presbyterian Church (USA) to align with the EPC, the denomination now has 444 churches and 135,000 members in 11 presbyteries across the nation.
“Obviously, we continue to have churches interested in the EPC that like what they see,” said the Rev. Dr. Jeffrey J. Jeremiah, stated clerk of the EPC Office of the General Assembly (OGA). “Our presbyteries continue doing a good job equipping, examining and securing these churches interested in joining.”
The EPC formed in 1981 from mainline Presbyterian denominations like the United Presbyterian and Presbyterian Church in the United States after leaders of the new Reformed denomination became distressed by the liberalism creeping into the denominations.
The formation of the EPC, headquartered in Livonia, Mich., created a denomination that took heed of the words of Scripture, the theology of historic confessions of the faith and the evangelical fervor of Presbyterian founders.
It started with 12 churches as part of the denomination, which touts the motto of “In Essentials, Unity; In Non-Essentials, Liberty; In All Things, Charity; Truth in Love.”
The denomination more than doubled its number of congregations in a five-year span. From 2007 to 2012, the EPC grew from 182 congregations to 364 following the addition of 61 from the 31st General Assembly in 2011 to the 32nd in 2012.
And the growth of the denominations continues on into this year with the addition of more churches that broke away from the PCUSA. Jeremiah said some planning showed the EPC’s congregational membership could reach 450 in 2013, but updated data reveals that as many as 500 could be part of the denomination by the end of the year.
“We are committed to being a denomination of Presbyterian, Reformed, evangelical and missional churches,” Jeremiah said, noting that reasons churches are leaving the PCUSA are as varied today as they were six or seven years ago. “The way we define these is attractive to churches. They have a choice in where they go.”
He noted that EPC’s polity is relational and decentralized, that the denomination adheres to a single confession that believes the Scriptures to be the inspired and infallible Word of God, that salvation is found by no other way than through Jesus Christ, and that the denomination emphasized world and local missions, seeking to plant and revitalize churches on a worldwide scale.
Following is an alphabetical list of churches that joined the EPC from January to March 2013:
- Boone Memorial Presbyterian Church (Caldwell, Idaho)
- Brazeau Presbyterian Church (Brazeau, Mo.)
- Calvin Presbyterian Church (Corvallis, Ore.)
- Center Presbyterian Church (Grove City, Pa.)
- Church in Restoration (mission church in Mecahnicsville, Va.)
- Concord Presbyterian Church (Sumter, S.C.)
- Cornerstone Church of Stapleton (Stapleton, Neb.)
- Covenant Presbyterian Church (Tallahassee, Fla.)
- Edgington Presbyterian Church (Taylor Ridge, Ill.)
- Fairview Presbyterian Church (Glenmoore, Pa.)
- First Presbyterian Church of Mora (Mora, Minn.)
- Hanover Presbyterian Church (Clinton, Pa.)
- Kirk of the Pines (mission church in Nassau, Bahamas)
- Mary’s Presbyterian Church (Tazewell, Va.)
- Mebane Presbyterian Church (Mebane, N.C.)
- Mt. Olivet Presbyterian Church (Aliquippa, Pa.)
- ONEchurch (mission church in Bogart, Ga.)
- Pierpont Presbyterian Church (Pierpont, Ohio)
- Resurrection Brooklyn Presbyterian Church (Brooklyn, N.Y.)
- Ridgecrest Presbyterian Church (Locust, N.C.)
- Rocky River Presbyterian Church (Calhoun Falls, S.C.)
- Stockton Presbyterian Church (Stockton, Ala.)
- The Antioch Movement (mission church in Ypsilanti, Mich.)
- Thompson Valley Presbyterian Church (Tazewell, Va.)
- Troy Presbyterian Church (Troy, N.C.)
- Waynesboro Mission Church (Waynesboro, Va.)
ECO also seeing growth
ECO: A Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians was formed in January 2012. Its name represents a commitment to make disciples of Jesus Christ (Evangelical); connecting leaders through grace-based relationships (Covenant); and unity around standards of life and ministry (Order).
A Reformed denomination, ECO places an emphasis on nimble governance, relational networks and autonomy for local congregations.
The list of local congregations affiliated with ECO is growing. There are 49 congregations (totaling more than 20,000 members) that have left the PCUSA to join ECO since its formation. The number of clergy and congregations already associated with ECO represents 19 states for the two presbyteries (East and West) that comprise the synod.
“We have been very pleased with the response that we have seen from congregations seeking dismissal,” said the Rev. Dana S. Allin, ECO synod executive. “Being a new denomination has its pros and cons for churches considering dismissal. Some congregations early on were concerned with the newness and viability of the denomination. We don’t hear this concern nearly as much anymore … The advantage of being new is that many congregations are excited about the vision and direction of ECO. They are excited to be with us rather than to just get away from a bad situation.”
Florida already has 10 ECO congregations, while Pennsylvania has nine. They have more congregations in the denomination than any other state.
Forty-nine other congregations have submitted applications for acceptance to ECO and are either awaiting acceptance or involved in the dismissal process from the PCUSA, and another 100 have requested applications.
The growth of ECO and interest the denomination has generated in less than 24 months has not come as a shock to Allin.
“In some ways I am not surprised,” he said. “With the first event in Minneapolis (August 2011) we saw 800 congregations present … so to see many congregations considering affiliation with us is not surprising. At the same time, it certainly takes a lot of effort and energy to go through the process to be dismissed to ECO, so I am somewhat surprised at how many congregations are willing to go though that difficult process in order to be with us.”
Allin said church renewal, leadership development and church planting are goals ECO wants to accomplish in meeting a vision to “baptize more than we bury by 2018.”
“Each congregation seeking dismissal has their own experience and context,” Allin said. “What ECO offers is both a center set theology that is living and giving, and offers the ability to have high trust among the congregations.”
He added that ECO’s relationship with the Fellowship of Presbyterians also allows the continuation of connections with evangelical colleagues who remain called to service in the PCUSA.
The PCUSA remains the largest of the Presbyterian denominations, but its membership has declined.
According to statistics from the Office of the General Assembly (OGA), total membership at the end of 2011 was 1,952,287, down from a total of 2,016,091 the previous year – a decrease of 63,804 members. The number of PCUSA congregations at the end of 2011 was 10,466, 96 fewer than 2010’s final total.
The denomination lost more than 500,000 members from 1998-2009.
The statistics cited do not reflect the number of churches and members who left the PCUSA for other denominations – namely EPC and ECO – in 2012 and the first quarter of 2013.