Presbyterians not happy with the denomination's move last year to allow for openly gay and lesbian clergy to serve in the church have formed a new religious body, led by an Edina pastor.

The Rev. John Crosby, pastor of the 5,000-member Christ Presbyterian Church in Edina, will serve as president of the small breakaway movement to be called the Evangelical Covenant Order of Presbyterians, according to the Presbyterian News Service.

"This is an uncertain time," said Crosby, the news service reported. "We are not angry, we are determined ... we are not 'after' or 'against' them -- we all need time, space and grace. ... We want to flesh out the options and then let God lead so we have the sense that we're all working together."

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) officially began allowing the ordination of openly gay and lesbian candidates on July 10.

In May, a majority of the denomination's 173 local presbyteries voted to remove language from its constitution stating clergy must be "living in fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman or chastity in singleness."

The Twin Cities presbytery cast the deciding vote. There are at least 75,000 Presbyterians in Minnesota.

More than 2,000 Presbyterians gathered in Orlando last week "to provide support for congregations discontent with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and to officially launch the new church body," according to the Christian Post. "Attendees are weighing whether to join the ECO or remain a faithful witness in the PC(USA)."

The Presbyterian Church, based in Louisville, Ky., is among several mainline Protestant groups, including the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the United Church of Christ, that have liberalized their policies toward gay clergy in recent years.

Rose French • 612-673-4352