The Presbyterian Church in America decided to leave the National Association of Evangelicals during its annual meeting on Wednesday, finally ending its 49-year-old relationship with the latter.

Religion News Service reported this was the third time since the association was established in 1973 that the Presbyterian Church in America voted on the matter. But Christianity Today said the two prior motions failed to get a winning vote among commissioners until now.

An Overture Upholds The Beliefs Of The Presbyterian Church In America

The Presbyterian Church in America's 60% to 40% majority vote of 1,059 to 681 approved the Overture from the Pee Dee Presbytery to "withdraw from the National Association of Evangelicals" due to issues on stewardship, immigration, civil justice, a changed position on the death penalty and for advocating a "political compromise" on gender identity, religious freedom, and sexual orientation. The overture also cited the dissenting political opinion of its members on the said issues as another reason for the withdrawal.

The overture noted that NAE's political compromise has previously been denounced by many prominent and evangelical teachers for it did not uphold biblical truths on marriage and sexuality but only guarantees religious freedom of some institutions and organizations "while potentially undermining the pre-political religious freedoms of all Americans codified in the 1st Amendment of the U.S. Constitution."

More importantly, the overture reminded that the church's "sole function" is "to proclaim, to administer, and to enforce the law of Christ revealed in the Scriptures," which is distinct from the "civil commonwealth." It highlighted that only in "extraordinary cases" should synods and councils conclude in civil affairs "for the satisfaction of conscience."

"The Presbyterian Church in America, as a denomination, has no need of the benefits of membership in the NAE, especially of having a voice in Washington championing political concerns that would not even be permitted as a subject of discussion before its councils, let alone be adopted as positions," the Overture stressed.

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A Church Against Political Meddling

Historically, many churches have already left the mainland Presbyterian Church (USA) due to its sudden Left-leaning stand on several issues, especially on same-sex attraction, over the last seven years. Hundreds of churches have opted to join other denominations in 2015 when PCUSA allowed the ordination of individuals with same-sex attraction and redefined marriage in its constitution to include same-sex unions.

One of the churches that departed from PCUSA is the Presbyterian Church in America, being the more conservative type. The NAE's political position has prompted several commissioners to once and for all cut ties with them since, as per PCA Pastor David Coffin in an interview with Christianity Today, it does not align with the church.

"It's not because my politics are different from the NAE, but it's because the PCA doesn't believe in general that the church has any proper role in strictly political questions," Coffin said.

Coffin, who is one of the long-time advocates of leaving NAE, reasoned that the PCA generally avoided specific political advocacy citing the church's adherence to the Westminster Confession of Faith, which particularly states church councils should not "intermeddle with civil affairs." Coffin also admits Walter Kim's two-year leadership of the NAE "a little awkward."

Kim is a member of the PCA, a member of the board of Christianity Today, and a teacher-in-residence of Charlottesville, Virginia's Trinity Presbyterian Church. Kim, who maintains a Conservative Congregational Christian Conference ministerial credential, was ordained a pastor by PCA to serve as NAE's head in 2020.

Meanwhile, Meanwhile, former PCA clerk and former NAE Chairman of the Board Roy Taylor filed a protest against the withdrawal. This was sided by PCA Committee of Commissioners for Interchurch Relations Chair Ken McHeard who argued that historic ties to NAE led "the most reformed influence, perspective, and leadership to our nation's evangelical movement for the last two decades."

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