People started coming in around 5pm. The meeting was scheduled for 6:30. We had set up registration tables alphabetically and the lines became longer so, that by 5:45, there was a tail-back through the narthex of the Kirk.
Those who came early enough got to sit in “their” pews. Others had to make do. We asked people to squeeze toward the center so that we could fit more people into the sanctuary and balcony. Don’t tell the fire marshal this, since our sanctuary is “rated” for 750 people, but we packed in over 1,000. Non-members went to our Fellowship Hall where they watched through a live video feed.
I thought last Sunday was electric; nothing compared with tonight. People were talking excitedly. Those who greeted Wayne and me on the way in usually did so not only with a smile, but a “thumbs-up.” There were repeated ovations, some standing, throughout the meeting.
The voting began at 6:40, ten minutes late because our registration lines were slower than anticipated. The votes were three: first, we asked the congregation to concur with the session’s vote to disaffiliate. Second, we voted on affiliating with the Evangelical Presbyterian Church. Third, the congregation voted to affirm Wayne’s and my ordination.
Discussion was better than civil. People asked clarifying questions about denominational changes in the PCUSA. There were serious questions about the EPC, what it believes, and differences between the old denomination and the new. There were no voices in opposition.
When it came to the ordination issue, people asked if they could vote for one or the other of us (no), and whether or not we two would be a good match for the Kirk standards for pastor (apparently, yes).
The votes went as follows:
To disaffiliate from the PCUSA
To affiliate with the EPC
The vote for affirming the ordination of Wayne and me was done by acclamation, with a standing ovation. In fact, that ovation was one of several this evening, the most sustained one following our vote to disaffiliate. Another came after it was remarked that we were moving ahead to do what the Lord required, whether or not we retained our property. We informed the congregation that we will not go quietly in this respect, but it was not the deciding issue for us.
What I feel after all this is a bit of exhaustion, a deepened sense of love for my congregation (and from it) and for our staff. I also am beginning to feel a tremendous sense of freedom.
Keep praying--keep the faith,