Danville's Community Presbyterian Church recently seceded from its mother church in favor of joining a more conservative organization. Amid differences in opinion on gays in the clergy and interpretation of the Bible, CPC split from Presbyterian Church USA and moved to Evangelical Presbyterian Church on June 3.
Located on West El Pintado Road, 96 percent of parishioners at the 1,850-member CPC voted to secede in September 2010. In a position statement, CPC concluded that associating with PCUSA was not the most effective path to further its mission and purpose. EPC, a community of Presbyterian churches established in 1981, is more aligned "with our theological beliefs, our mission outreach, our vision and calling to fulfill the Great Commission," it stated.
Among CPC's reasons for securing a gracious dismissal from its mother church is "creeping tolerance of theological purism," or varying interpretations of the Bible. A large percentage of PCUSA pastors have taken positions that are inconsistent with the historical tenets of Christian Faith, CDC officials allege on their website.
"Rather than complying with the Book of Order, the denomination has urged us to live together with an ever-increasing theological diversity," documents state. "There is no longer agreement within the church and its leadership about who Jesus is and what he did. The Book of Confessions has not changed so we appear, on paper, to have an orthodox faith, but the truth is that the PCUSA is functionally pluralistic."
Among its differences, the 300-church strong Evangelical Presbyterian group does not allow the ordination of homosexuals, considers the ordination of women to be "non essential" and is opposed to both gay marriage and abortion. In 2010, PCUSA officials voted to overturn similar bands on gays and lesbians serving as church officers.
The changes caused PCUSA -- which boasts nearly 2 million members and 10,000 churches -- to lose 20 to 30 churches over the past five years, according to Spokesman Jerry Van Marter. Still, in its denomination FAQ, CPC stated that succession from its mother church is meant to be a unifying action.
"We grieve that time and again a minority within the PCUSA has sought to compromise the authority of scripture and the uniqueness and Lordship of Christ. The trend we see is disturbing and turns our focus away from our primary mission of proclaiming the 'Good News' of the saving Grace of Jesus Christ," the document continued. "We are now bound only by a governance structure that promotes the celebration of diversity while failing to clearly define and enforce common essential beliefs."
Now a member of EPC, function and governance at Community Presbyterian will remain relatively unchanged. CPC paid the Presbytery $108,640 to offset declining revenues from its "gracious dismissal" and will spend $212,500 over five years to support PCUSA missionaries, according to the church website.
Established in 1876, Community Presbyterian Church was originally located on the site of Danville's town meeting hall. In 1950, it moved to the West El Pintado location and has since hosted a preschool and San Ramon Valley Christian Academy. Church officials did not return calls for comment.
There are seven EPC churches within 100 miles of Danville; San Ramon Presbyterian Church and Clayton Community Church are closest.