Fellowship of Presbyterians upholds life Print
Written by Marie Bowen   

"I will honor the sanctity of human life above the claims of human freedom”

From the first strains of opening worship, life was a part of the conversation at the Fellowship of Presbyterians Gathering of 2,000+ Presbyterians in Orlando, Fl, January 18-20. Vitality of spiritual life was evident in the worship services. The text of the covenant that members are asked to sign includes a clear expression of the value of human life—a stark contrast to policies of the PCUSA. “People, people are irreplaceable in the eyes of God,” said Hope Italiano Lee in the opening worship.

She encouraged listeners to follow Nehemiah’s example as he responded to the brokenness of Israel by falling on his knees and praying with tears of repentance. John Ortberg continued the theme of renewed spiritual life as he introduced the newly named Evangelical Covenant Order of Presbyterians. ECO-P will be a place where congregations can “filter out toxins so life can thrive,” Ortberg said. ECO-P wants to nurture the spiritual life of congregations and “to build flourishing churches that make disciples of Jesus Christ.”

The intention of both the FOP (inside PCUSA) and the ECO-P (outside PCUSA) to uphold the value of human life is evident in statements made in foundational documents unveiled at the gathering.

The Fellowship Covenant

Those committing to membership in either The FOP or the ECO-P are asked to sign a covenant to which they will be held by peer groups within the covenant community.

The Fellowship Covenant is established on six basic principles, each founded on Scripture:

  • Jesus Christ is Lord (Phil 2:9-11);
  • I am not my own (I Cor. 6:19b-20);
  • The church is not my own (Acts 20:28);
  • The world is not my own (Psalm 24:1);
  • The Holy Spirit nurtures new and fruitful lives (Gal. 5:22-23);
  • I journey through this life in the company of others (Hebrews 12:1-2).

Under each heading are “I will” statements that articulate the pledge that members affirm.

Psalm 24:1 declares:

“The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it; the world, and all they who live in it.”

“I will” commitments to tithe one’s assets in an expression of gratitude to God, to be faithful stewards of God’s creation, and to care for the earth in ways that bring God glory, flow from this Scripture. Signers of the Fellowship Covenant pledge to view creation as a reminder to worship and praise the Creator. They pledge, “I will honor the sanctity of human life above the claims of human freedom.” Psalm 8:4-5 asks the question, “what is man that you are mindful of him?” Referenced in the Covenant, this passage reminds us that we are made “a little lower than the heavenly beings.” Yet, by God’s grace, we are crowned with glory and honor. The covenant states:

“I will treat others with respect, honoring the image of God in them, however broken. I will seek God’s peace and biblical reconciliation in all times and places” (I Peter 2:17).

The last “I will” in this section calls us to commit to providing for the “needs of the poor and the oppressed, the neglected and the abused, the widow and the orphan” (Isaiah 58:6-7).

The Theology Project

The Fellowship Theology Project upholds the value of living in obedience to the Word of God. To that end members are called to hold one another accountable to be guided by the Ten Commandments. Under the Sixth Commandment members hold one another accountable to:

“eradicate a spirit of anger, resentment, callousness, violence, or bitterness, and instead cultivate a spirit of gentleness, kindnesss, peace, and love; recognize and honor the image of God in every human being from conception to natural death.”
The Employee Benefits Program

The Employee Benefits Program, offered by the Evangelical Covenant Order of Presbyterians through Cigna Healthcare, “will not cover elective abortion” Cigna consultants informed those attending a workshop at the Fellowship of Presbyterians Gathering. Only when the “life of the mother is at risk” would an abortion be a covered claim. The ECO-P health plan needs no “Relief of Conscience” provision, which is good news for churches considering a move to the ECO-P. Many are offended by the use of mandatory dues to pay for abortions under the mandatory Board of Pensions Medical Plan in the PCUSA. The BOP pays all claims for legal abortion for any reason at any time during the pregnancy.