This is the first part of a 5-part essay on why I will not be (and you should not be either) joining the Evangelical Presbyterian Church any time soon.
1) Local Option is Still Local Option
One of the main issues driving congregations to seek dismissal from the PC(U.S.A.) is that they conclude that the PUP Report will move the denial of GLBT ordination (and other controversial issues which may or may not crop up) from a mandatory church-wide ordinance to a rule that can be “scrupled” at the presbytery level. Allowing presumably for Presbyteries to have “local option” on GLBT ordination. I have included an example of the critique of Recommendation #5 and a defense of Recommendation #5. (These links are not necessarily the only critiques/defenses but to give one who does not understand the arguments a basic primer.)
The main fear, that I feel is justified, is that Presbyteries that favor GLBT ordination will have candidates for ministry effectively “scruple” G-6.0106b and therefore not have them subject to the code of conduct that the Church as a whole has voted to be required of those seeking ordination and those who are currently ordained. Effectively Recommendation #5 enables the personal conduct of Pastors and other ordained persons to be at the discretion of the ordaining body, which is the Presbytery in the case of Ministers of the Word and sacrament. While this was true before the PUP Report, according to then and current Church law, what this particular ruling means is that an individual now has the power to deny any national ordinance over and against anything that they find “binds their conscience”, thereby giving the individual power over the collective wisdom of the Book of Order when it comes to ordination. This power goes against the basic premise of the Presbyterian form of government that seeks unity in Doctrine and matters of discipline. I believe we fail to be a connectional body at all if we make things as pivotal as ministerial ordination a local option or a “non-essential”.
What does this all have to do with the PC(USA) and the EPC? Simply the EPC’s Book of Order claims that Women’s ordination is to be a “non-essential” belief and thus is left up to individual Presbyteries as to whether or not to ordain women, effectively making women’s ordination a “local option”. The major problem I see is that the churches that are seeking dismissal nearly always cite the aforementioned encroaching “local option” as being one of their main reasons for asking to be excused from their current denominational allegiance. So the question begs to be asked, “If you hold ministerial ordination to be an essential that requires church-wide subscription while in the PC(USA) why do you seek dismissal to a denomination that sees ordination to be a non-essential?”