DANVILLE -- In a split over Presbyterian Church USA's position on homosexuality, gays in the clergy and abortion, Danville's Community Presbyterian Church has seceded from its mother church.
Reflecting the national schism in the denomination over homosexuality and interpretation of the Bible, Community Presbyterian has joined the more conservative splinter Evangelical Presbyterian Church.
With about 2 million members and 10,000 congregations in the U.S. and Puerto Rico, Presbyterian Church USA is the largest Presbyterian denomination in the country. Its Bay Area governing body is the San Francisco Presbytery, which includes 78 churches.
On June 3, Community Presbyterian officially joined the more traditional evangelical church, which has about 300 churches and 115,000 members. The Evangelical Presbyterian Church does not allow the ordination of homosexuals, and is opposed to gay marriage and abortion.
"Until a year ago there was a flat prohibition against sexually active gays and lesbians serving as church officers," PCUSA spokesman Jerry Van Marter said.
"That was lifted last year after the Presbyteries voted in 2010. That hastened the departure of some churches, including Danville. Over the last five years, we've lost 20 to 30 churches each year because of growing theological disagreements."
The 1,850-member Community Presbyterian Church has been in Danville since 1876. Its first location was on Front Street where the Town
The property--- valued at about $14 million according to a recent Reuters article -- is home to the church, a preschool and the K-8 San Ramon Valley Christian Academy. Church buildings host a variety of community activities, such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Boy Scout meetings.
Community Presbyterian spokeswoman Debra Prince stressed that PCUSA's acceptance of gay and lesbian ministers, deacons and elders was only one of five reasons for the split.
The reasons are spelled out in papers on the church's website and are mainly concerned with Presbyterian Church USA moving away from traditional interpretations of the Bible. One paper discusses a disagreement with PCUSA's acceptance of abortion and the ordination of homosexuals.
"The Evangelical Presbyterian Church follows the authority of scripture," Prince said. "They do not allow the ordination of homosexuals. However, we welcome everyone in our congregation. At our church, we allow people to be part of our congregation regardless of what their religious affiliation has been. Our church welcomes anyone who is willing to know more about Christianity."
The split with PCUSA dates back to September 2010 when 96 percent of the congregation voted to secede. Since then, the departure has been worked out through the San Francisco Presbytery, which held the church's property in a trust. A decision made in a Presbyterian court this year allowed Community Presbyterian to retain its property.
"All the relationships were very amicable," said Lee Camp, a volunteer director of planning for Community Presbyterian. "We agreed to pay some money to the Presbytery to negate the effects of such a large church leaving so there wouldn't be a shock to their finances."
The church paid the Presbytery $108,640 to offset declining revenues from its departure, and it will continue to support PCUSA missionaries in the amount of $42,500 annually for five years, according to the church website.
Meanwhile, PCUSA is still working out its positions on homosexuality. In early July, its General Assembly met in Pittsburgh where in a close vote it rejected an amendment to its constitution that would have redefined marriage as between two persons, rather than between a man and a woman.
"The fact that the assembly talked about same sex marriage was too much for some folks," said Van Marter, the PCUSA spokesman.
Contact Jason Sweeney at 925-847-2123. Follow him at Twitter.com/Jason_Sweeney.
For church documents on the split, visit: