(RNS) — Commissioners from the Presbyterian Church in America approved a motion to leave the National Association of Evangelicals on Wednesday (June 22) at the PCA General Assembly in Birmingham, Alabama.
It is the third time in the last decade that the theologically conservative Presbyterian denomination has considered a move to leave the association, an umbrella organization of 40 evangelical Christian denominations.
The decision comes at a time when the NAE is led by a pastor in a PCA congregation. Walter Kim, who took over the association in 2020, is a resident teacher at Trinity Presbyterian Church in Charlottesville, Virginia.
The National Association of Evangelicals does not comment on denominational decisions, a spokesperson told Religion News Service.
At issue, according to the proposal submitted by the Pee Dee Presbytery in South Carolina and approved by a majority of 1059 to 681, is the promotional work of the NAE.
The NAE “has frequently meddled in civil affairs,” according to the overture. He points to a 2011 statement by the association intended to spark discussion about how climate change affects vulnerable populations, the organization’s earlier efforts to support immigration reform, and its change of heart on the death penalty in 2015, which had previously supported.
The proposal specifically names the Fairness for All Act authored by the National Association of Evangelicals and the Council on Christian Colleges and Universities. The law requires federally recognized protections for sexual orientation and gender identity along with strong religious exemptions.
“Advocating for a political commitment regarding sexual orientation, gender identity and religious freedom” goes beyond the Westminster Confession of Faith, according to the overture. The confession, which was written in the 1600s for the Church of England and later adopted by the Presbyterian Church in America, says that “synods and councils ought not to treat or conclude anything but the ecclesiastical; and they must not meddle in civil affairs that concern the community.”
The overture also argues: “Many prominent conservative and evangelical thinkers and leaders have denounced that this compromise does not lead to ‘justice’ for all who uphold biblical teaching on sexuality and marriage, but instead attempts to guarantee religious freedom for some. organizations and institutions while potentially undermining the prepolitical religious freedoms of all Americans codified in the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.”
Commissioners who spoke in favor of leaving the National Association of Evangelicals said they were unsure what benefit the denomination received from their membership in the organization. They argued that the denomination did not need the association to speak for its members when the General Assembly is the voice of the denomination.
Roy Taylor, a former declared secretary of the Presbyterian Church in America, told the General Assembly that he planned to protest his decision to leave the NAE.
Taylor advocated that the denomination remain part of the association, urging the commissioners to show the same unity as George Whitefield and John Wesley, two prominent ministers in the Church of England during the Great Awakening. Although the two had different beliefs on some theological issues, he said, Whitefield regarded Wesley “as a brother in Christ” and stipulated in his will that Wesley preach at his funeral.
“I am a George Whitefield Calvinist. I hope you are too,” Taylor said.
Source: Religion News Service