Mexican Presbyterian Church votes to end 139-year-old relationship with PC(USA)
August 23, 2011
The National Presbyterian Church of Mexico (INPM) has voted to end its 139-year partnership in mission with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), in response to the PC(USA)’s decision earlier this year to allow the ordination of sexually active gays and lesbians.
That decision to sever the relationship came on a 116 to 22 vote of the Mexican church assembly on Aug. 19. It likely will jeopardize the continuation of the work that 11 PC(USA) mission co-workers have been doing in Mexico ―including significant work along the U.S.-Mexican border ― as well as the future of short-term congregational mission trips to Mexico and more than two-dozen partnerships that PC(USA) presbyteries and synods have established in Mexico.
The Mexican church, with close to two million members, held a special assembly Aug. 17-19 specifically to discuss the ordination of women ― voting overwhelmingly, by a margin of 158 to 14, to sustain its policy of not ordaining women.
The assembly also voted 103 to 55 not to allow any sort of grace period for presbyteries that had, on their own, already begun ordaining women. That vote means that any presbytery which has already ordained women must immediately revoke those ordinations.
Before the assembly began, however, there were rumblings of dissatisfaction with the PC(USA) and its decision earlier this year to approve Amendment 10-A, which removed from the denomination’s Book of Order a requirement that those being ordained practice fidelity if they are married or chastity if they are single.
Presbyteries and sessions now will examine candidates for ordination or installation, with the standard being that a candidate’s “manner of life should be a demonstration of the Christian gospel in the church and in the world.” The new language also states that “governing bodies shall be guided by Scripture and the confessions in applying standards to individual candidates.”
On Aug. 16, several representatives of the PC(USA) ― including Gradye Parsons, the denomination’s stated clerk, and Hunter Farrell, director of World Mission ― went to Mexico to meet with 11 leaders of the Mexican church and to discuss the Mexicans’ unhappiness and theological disagreement with the decision on 10-A.
“The discussion was frank and honest,” Farrell wrote in an e-mail following that meeting. “The disappointment of the Mexican church was expressed.”
The PC(USA) representatives asked their Mexican partners to agree to a time of discernment, in part to see how they could continue to work together in mission despite differing views over issues such as ordaining gays and lesbians, or women’s ordination.
“Despite the significant theological differences that 10-A puts between our churches, the mission context of increasing violence on our borders, the precarious situation of the poor in both nations, and our own church’s need for the INPM’s help in sharing the Gospel with Spanish-speakers in the U.S. cries out for prayerful strategizing and increased mission collaboration,” Farrell wrote after that meeting. “The truth is we need each other now more than ever.”
The PC(USA) representatives were hopeful that the Mexican Presbyterians might give the relationship more time ―but that was not to be. The Mexican delegates also voted not to re-establish any relationship with the PC(USA) until 10-A is rescinded.
“I deeply regret their decision to end a relationship that has brought blessings to both churches,” Parsons said in a statement following the vote.
“Presbyterians do mission in partnership here and around the world, so we take the voice of the Mexican church very seriously,” Farrell said in a statement. “We are grieved by their decision, but we want to emphasize that we are grateful for their witness and our history together, and will listen carefully as we engage in dialogue about where God is leading us in mission.”