By David Camp
Rusty, Steve and I recently attended the National Gathering for the Evangelical Covenant Order of Presbyterians (ECO) at First Presbyterian Church in Greenville, South Carolina. As we have reported, ECO is one of the denominations we are exploring in detail as a potential future denominational affiliation for our congregation. ECO is a very young denomination which was formed in 2012 from a group of PCUSA congregations around the country who at the time were called the Fellowship of Presbyterians. Some of the noticeable characteristics of ECO are their focus on local congregations, their Christ-centeredness, their mission to make new disciples, and their flat denominational structure. All of these characteristics, along with their newness, gave the meeting a noticeable energy and excitement.
The meeting began Tuesday, January 24. Steve attended a Pre-Conference that morning on Global Missions. We then attended the General Opening Session and subsequent Breakout Sessions. That evening there was dinner followed by a Worship Service. The service had multiple styles of music ranging from symphonic orchestra to a bluegrass band, and excellent adult Choir, youth and Children's Choirs, and congregational singing. The message was given by Rev. John Ortberg of Menlo Park Presbyterian Church in the San Francisco area and was an excellent message on "the soul" ... The feel of the service was Christ-centered, uplifting, and inspiring.
Wednesday included more General and Breakout Sessions. Breakout Session topics included Building a Flourishing Church, Mission Affinity Groups, Training a New Generation of Church leaders, determining the Confessions for the future of ECO, and several others. We also attended the business meeting for the Presbytery of the South - which is where the Church in Mississippi would be members - as well as an informational meeting for congregations considering to join ECO.
Thursday concluded with a final General Session address and a closing Worship service.
It was an excellent experience to be able to attend this gathering and quite unlike other meetings, church or otherwise, I have attended. In visiting with other church members, upon my return, who had attended Fellowship of Presbyterian meetings prior to the formations of ECO, it is my understanding that the atmosphere and feel between the meetings were very similar. This meeting was also very well structured and organized, but of course that should be expected from a gathering of 1,500 or so Presbyterians. Finally, I would like to point out that while this was a National Gathering, FPC Greenville's facilitation of the event was extremely impressive and a critical part of its success. If you are in Greenville, I would suggest you try to visit this congregation.
If you have any questions about the meeting, feel free to ask. Thank you for your prayers as we continue through this exciting time for our congregation as we explore what God has in store for our future.
The following week we had representatives of ECO's Presbytery of the South visit with the entire committee here in Greenwood. We had a very detailed and productive meeting and will continue to consider ECO. This month, we will host representatives from the Evangelical Presbyterian Church's South Central Presbytery (EPC). Representatives of the Presbyterian Church USA (PCUSA) will visit with us in March. The committee will keep you updated.
Chairman, Denominational Relations Task Force