“This ‘new Reformed body’ is intended to foster a new way of being the church, just as traditional, mainline denominations rose to serve in their day,” wrote leaders of the new Evangelical Covenant Order of Presbyterians. According to RNS, Conservative Presbyterians launched a new denomination on Thursday (Jan. 19), saying that the Presbyterian Church (USA) is too consumed by internal conflicts and bureaucracy to nurture healthy congregations.
The PCUSA has been bleeding members for a long time (a half million over the last decade) and there are other conservative Presbyterian denominations (Presbyterian Church in America, the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, the Reformed Presbyterian Church, the Bible Presbyterian Church, the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church (ARP Synod), the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, the Cumberland Presbyterian Church in America, the Westminster Presbyterian Church in the United States (WPCUS), and the Reformed Presbyterian Church in the United States (RPCUS)New Covenant Presbyterian Church). Apparently none of those were suitable for the folks leaving.
I am not sure that there is much to be gained for Presbyterianism to have so many so diverse a store of choices for those who like the brand. I am not so sure that Lutheranism gains much from a mind numbing plethora of acronyms in a sea of Lutheran choices, either. It seems to me that we delight in building up and then tearing down old structures, those we deemed to have outlived their usefulness or become flawed to the point we can no longer be satisfied in them. I fully understand that there are hills on which the stand must be made against encroaching liberalism that seeks to steal the fact from the truth. I fully appreciate that there must be boundaries for a diversity that has the potential to rob any confessional identity from a group. I just wonder if it is not a symptom of our times that we find it harder and harder to agree on our confessions or on what they say and how they should be practiced. If that is the case, we have much more to lose than a headquarters and a letterhead. I would not be inclined to suggest that the Lutheran cause (or any, really) would gain from innumerable elfin denominations formed by people who have narrowed the cause of unity so that the fewest number can fit. They are more than small. They are mischievous. I am not advocating broad church but instead suggesting that renewing the old structure is a better bet than creating a new one to replicate what was lost.
In the case of Missouri, I would ask those inclined to leave for an existing microsynod or to create their own church body to give it some time. We have a young and energetic President, we have strong seminaries, we have a renewed sense of the "church" as it functions in mission and ministry... but change, real change, will not happen overnight. It is not about simply clamping down but about renewing our unity and coming to more unanimity of mind and heart as we live out what it means to be confessional Lutherans within this church body.