First Presbyterian Church (Houston) members try to move past their differences after crucial vote

houstonBy Florian Martin

A day after the First Presbyterian Church of Houston voted to stay in its denomination, congregants gathered for a noon-hour prayer service to start their reconciliation. A majority of members, including the church leadership, had hoped for a different outcome.

It had been a long, sometimes emotional process for the church. About a year ago, First Presbyterian started discussing the possibility of breaking with its denomination, Presbyterian Church USA, or PCUSA. That discussion came to an end Sunday when congregants voted to stay with the larger body.

The day after, about 200 church members came together for prayer and to start the reconciliation process.

Senior Pastor Jim Birchfield, along with the rest of church leadership, was in favor of leaving Presbyterian Church USA and joining the more conservative denomination ECO, A Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians.

“I was surprised and to be truthful. I was disappointed. But from the beginning we have said that we would trust that God would reveal himself to us through this process and through the congregational vote and he has done so. So we’ll trust in that same God that we trusted in in the beginning of the process. So, the people have spoken and we will go forward.”

The people may have spoken but the truth is just under 65 percent of those who voted wanted the church to join the evangelical denomination. The required two-thirds majority was 36 votes short.



Comments 3

  • It is not really accurate to say that “…the First Presbyterian Church voted to stay within its denomination….” In actuality, a large majority (about 65%) voted to leave (much larger percentage than is required to elect a president of the United States, for example). However, due to the arbitrary rules of the larger judicatory body (the presbytery), this majority did not reach a sufficient level to cause the presbytery to release them from the denomination. It would therefore be more accurate to say that the congregation fell short of reaching the threshold for departure (set by the powers that be), rather than that the congregation voted to stay, unless with a straight face you can say that 35% outweighs 65% in determining the will of the people.

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