The U.S. Presbyterian Church's membership is declining due to the church's redefinition of marriage and its stance on homosexual clergy members. Many members decided to leave when the church started to allow for practicing homosexuals to be ordained as ministers. Exiting congregants believed that the act was defiant.
The Evangelical Covenant Order of Presbyterians was established in 2012 as an alternative denomination to the traditional Presbyterian Church. These theologically conservative Presbyterians did not agree with the act of lifting the ban on noncelibate gay and lesbian clergy, starting the ECO in protest. Exiting congregants believed this was an act of defiance of what scripture clearly forbid. The new ordination standards were said to be in direct opposition with the denomination's stance on human sexuality.
A mass exodus of members leaving the church in favor of the newer, conservative denomination caused membership numbers to plummet for the traditional church. The controversy separated thousands of churches, with members in disagreement with the decision deciding to leave rather than stick out the theological firestorm. An attempt to restore the church by devoting more funds to local missions and outreach to the community has assisted in engaging potential new members of the dying church.