Reports: Man being held following San Diego-area synagogue shootings is Orthodox Presbyterian

Orthodox denomination not affiliated with PC(USA)

by Mike Ferguson | Presbyterian News Service

LOUISVILLE — News reports indicate that John T. Earnest, the 19-year-old man who’s been charged with murder and attempted murder following Saturday’s deadly synagogue shooting in Poway near San Diego, is a member of an Escondido, Calif., congregation in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church.

The pastor there, the Rev. Zachary Keele, told USA Today the shooting, which killed one synagogue worshiper and injured three others, including the rabbi of Congregation Chabad, is “a deplorable act of wickedness.”

According to its website, the Orthodox Presbyterian Church split from one of the forebears of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) in 1936 in the aftermath of the fundamentalist-modernist controversy. The Orthodox Presbyterian Church is not affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), which last week reported about 1.35 million members in 9,161 churches.

The OPC originally called itself the Presbyterian Church of America. It now has about 30,000 members in more than 300 churches in 47 states, two Canadian provinces and Puerto Rico.

Over the last 50 years, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and its predecessor bodies have addressed gun violence through the actions of many General Assemblies. In 2008 the General Assembly recommended that churches should take seriously the pastoral implications of caring for community members who have experienced the pain of gun violence, advocate for legislation that would increase the safety and well-being of communities in relation to the presence of guns and conduct a national study on gun violence. A task force produced “Gun Violence, Gospel Values,” which was approved by the 219th General Assembly in 2010.

As of the 221st General Assembly in 2014, the PC(USA) has a policy on interreligious relations of people of all faiths. That policy calls for taking opportunities to engage in “respectful dialogue and mutual relationships with entities and persons from other religious traditions” and directs the Presbyterian Mission Agency “to advocate and work toward meeting human needs, seeking justice and reconciliation, and pursuing peace through interreligious peacemaking, disaster assistance, and solidarity efforts that attend to respectful interactions with person of different cultural and religious traditions …”

“Due to our fundamental theological differences, the PC(USA) is not affiliated with the Orthodox Presbyterian Church,” said the Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, II, Stated Clerk of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). “Our hearts break for our Jewish brothers and sisters and we ask for prayers for all those suffering after this senseless attack.”

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