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Defiant Church Battles Presbyterian Denomination Over 'Divinity of Christ' and 'Authority of the Holy Bible' in Heated Property Dispute

"Without ‘theological conviction,’ what do we have?"

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The ongoing battle over same-sex marriage and other theological disputes continues to cause contentious splits between mainline denominations and individual congregations that feel they can no longer align with transforming doctrinal views.

In the latest face-off, First and Calvary Presbyterian Church in Springfield, Missouri, voted earlier this month to separate from Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), after the house of worship had already secured a restraining order to keep the denomination's local governing body from intervening in its affairs, the Springfield News-Leader reported.

The vote — which came in at 493 to 185 among a congregation of 1,700 — was held just months after Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) changed the definition of marriage to include gay couples.

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First and Calvary Presbyterian Church Pastor Andrew Chaney told the outlet, though, that the vote to leave was held due to the denomination's "changing attitudes on the divinity of Christ, the authority of the Holy Bible, and the trend of higher governing bodies to increasingly use institutional power to exert control over local churches."

As TheBlaze previously reported, other churches have also had qualms over these issues, with Menlo Park Presbyterian Church in Menlo Park, California, agreeing to pay millions to separate from the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) denomination back in 2014.

The document published by Menlo Park cited a 2011 survey of pastors in the denomination who were asked for their level of agreement with the following statement: “Only followers of Jesus Christ can be saved.” While 41 percent said they agreed or strong agreed with the statement, 45 percent said they disagreed or strongly disagreed — something Menlo Park leaders lamented.

As for Chaney and First and Calvary Presbyterian Church, it was the salvation issue that the pastor said drove the church to seek an exit, with worries that Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is abandoning the belief in a sole conviction in Christ — the core of Christian doctrine.

"Without ‘theological conviction,’ what do we have?" Chaney told the Springfield News-Leader of new language in a denominational statement that he felt was too vague. "This statement can lead to the position that we don’t have to have personal faith in Jesus Christ in order to be a Christ-follower, which heads down the path of universalism."

First and Calvary Presbyterian Church and John Calvin Presbytery, the local governing body associated with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), are currently locked in a legal battle over who owns the church's property. Rather than pay millions like other churches have, Chaney and his church believe that they are not bound by the typical denominational property rules, due to a complex history.

"Two Presbyterian churches joined together in 1930 to make First and Calvary. First and Calvary joined the PCUSA denomination in 1983. The First and Calvary deeds mention no trust and never agreed to a trust with the PCUSA denomination," the pastor told the Christian Post."The church desires the court to rule that it is the rightful owner of the property and for the court to protect the church from denominational interference while the issue is resolved."

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The vote to exit the denomination is not binding and the debate and legal battle will likely continue. The John Calvin Presbytery wrote a letter to First and Calvary Presbyterian Church on August 11, detailing its stance before the church's vote to separate.

"The congregational vote on August 16 will not be recognized by the presbytery, as this is not an issue on which the congregation votes, according to our polity, which all deacons, ruling and teaching elders have vowed to uphold," the letter read, in part.

The governing body has encouraged a discernment process through which is believes the church can come to an agreement with the denomination.

(H/T: Springfield News-Leader)


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