SACRAMENTO, Calif. - A Sacramento church has voted to split from the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) over the national denomination's decision to ordain openly gay clergy.
After months of discussion, members of Fremont Presbyterian Church voted 427 to 164 last Sunday to join the more conservative Evangelical Presbyterian Church.
"Let me make it clear that Fremont didn't leave the PCUSA, they left us," said the Rev. Donald Baird, senior pastor.
Fremont, with weekly attendance of about 1,400, is the seventh Sacramento-area church to leave the mainline Presbyterian Church over doctrinal issues in the past few years.
About 800 Fremont congregants attended the meeting about the pros and cons of what is technically known as seeking "dismissal" from the mainline Presbyterian fold. Supporters of the separation argued that their denomination had drifted away from biblical teachings with its decision to allow gay ministers.
Scott Anderson became the denomination's first openly gay minister when he was reordained last week in Wisconsin. He served as a Presbyterian minister in Sacramento for seven years before he came out to his congregation and resigned in 1990.
"This is a day of rejoicing. It frees us from the controversy that has split the church," said Clair Parsh, a member for 50 years who favored leaving the denomination.
Cindy Harris, who is preparing to become a minister herself, resisted the change and wiped away tears after the vote.
"I think God can and will call whoever he wants to call, regardless of sex or orientation," she said, wiping away tears after the vote.