The primary goal of The Fellowship of Presbyterians is to create a supportive environment for congregations to thrive with a clear theological identity and the freedom to pursue their mandate to become nurturing communities of mission, worship, and witness. To do this well, we are committed to offering churches various ways of engaging with The Fellowship.
Some congregations will find it sufficient to affiliate with The Fellowship of Presbyterians, remaining in their current presbytery alignment within the PC(USA). Other congregations will flourish as they differentiate from the PC(USA), pursuing a joint relationship (Union Congregation or Union Presbytery) with both the PC(USA) and the Fellowship’s emerging new Reformed body. Still other congregations will find it necessary to separate completely from the PC(USA) into the new Reformed body, while maintaining ties and creating new ministry partnerships under the umbrella of The Fellowship of Presbyterians.
In short, the larger umbrella of The Fellowship of Presbyterians will function as an association — through which congregations can share ideas, ministry resources, and missional strategy — while the new Reformed body will operate as a denominational entity into which churches can be dismissed from the PC(USA). We are hard at work to create both of these options.
To fulfill this need for a separate entity, we recognize that the new Reformed body will need to fulfill the requirements of any “Reformed body” into which congregations can be dismissed: 1) doctrine consistent with the essentials of Reformed theology, 2) governance under a polity consistent in form and structure with the PC(USA), and 3) sufficient permanence as to offer reasonable assurance that the congregation is not being dismissed to de facto independence.
We continue, as we have from the beginning, to attempt to work with the appropriate offices and structures within the PC(USA to assure conformity with all three of these denominational criteria. At the same time, both the Fellowship of Presbyterians (an association) and the new Reformed body (a denominational entity) discern how 21st century connectional systems can contribute to the expansion of the Kingdom.
Over the next 2-4 weeks, the work of both the Polity and Theology groups will be released for review. We welcome thoughtful feedback and critique so that these documents can be strengthened toward the fulfillment of our goal for both the Fellowship and the new Reformed body.
At the Orlando Covenanting Conference we intend to ratify these documents as foundational exhibits of our intent, and invite any who are so led to continue this journey together. Some will choose to affiliate formally with The Fellowship of Presbyterians. Others will seek a Union relationship, negotiated with their presbyteries, or ask to be dismissed to the new Reformed body of congregations.
Significant changes are by nature complex, requiring ongoing adjustment and clarification as they go forward. At the same time, the possibility of a new future offers unique and significant hope to many Presbyterians who yearn for an identity in Christ, partnered with Reformed brothers and sisters around the country and around the globe for the work of the Kingdom and the glory of the Savior.