Popular Christian author and leader of Menlo Park Presbyterian John Ortberg has announced that his Californian church will be leaving the PCUSA.
With 4,000 members, it is one of the largest Presbyterian churches in the country. Though the cost of leaving America's largest Presbyterian denomination will set them back almost $9 million in order to keep their building, the motion to leave the PCUSA was voted in by an overwhelming majority of 93 per cent of church members, and Menlo Park will now be associated with the more conservative Evangelical Order of Presbyterians (ECO).
In a statement released by the church, Ortberg labels the move "a major milestone, and not an ending but a beginning".
"There's a lot yet to come of what Dallas Willard called the unique life of spiritual adventure in living with God daily - entering fully into the good news that Jesus has brought, for ourselves, and for us as a church," he says.
"This has been a spiritual journey of discernment for our church. I'm grateful for the learning, praying and engagement of the whole congregation, including those who voted for a different outcome. We are committed to moving forward together in fulfilling our mission as we discern God calling us."
The move is being supported by the wider Presbyterian Church, with the Rev Jeff Hutcheson, pastor for mission and vision at the Presbytery of San Francisco, noting that the decision is "heart-wrenching", but will ultimately have a positive outcome.
"We pray and believe that Jesus is leading us ALL, both Menlo and the presbytery, into a new time, a new freedom and new dreams. It is my hope and belief that the body of Christ is being transfigured to more clearly manifest Christ's glory," he told The Layman.
To help finance the move, Ortberg is reported to be selling his home, and the separation is to come into effect in June.
The Christian Post notes that Menlo Park is just one of many churches that have left PCUSA following the 2011 decision to ordain openly gay clergy.