Changes ahead for Menlo Park Presbyterian Church

menloparkBy Sandy Brundage

One hundred and forty years ago, the Menlo Park Presbyterian Church first took shape in a small building on Santa Cruz Avenue. Now, MPPC is looking for a new home — both spiritually and physically. Make that homes, plural.

You probably either know someone or someone who knows someone who attends MPPC: The church, a cornerstone of the city’s community, has about 3,400 members and a couple thousand more people who attend weekly services at a campus in Menlo Park, Mountain View or San Mateo.

Now the church wants to add five more Bay Area campuses, an expansion that involves changing parent organizations, or denominations. Some members are questioning whether it’s not just a question of property rights, but also theological conflicts over gay clergy and same-sex marriage that are influencing the switch.

On March 2 the entire congregation will vote on whether to leave the denomination the church has belonged to since 1987 — Presbyterian Church (USA) — for ECO: A Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians, a much smaller, newer organization launched in 2012.

According to the church’s leadership, it comes down to four factors: identity, in terms of adherence to Scripture; and mission as well as governance, which relate to the process of growth in local communities. The fourth factor, property, involves who owns church real estate. Currently, that belongs to PCUSA. But in ECO, the churches hold the titles.



Comments 5

  • Praise God! Our vote today exceeded the minimum required for quorum, and something like 93% of the voting members voted to leave the PCUSA!

    God really had been with us on this process.

  • I wonder if there is much more going on here than mere theology. What happens when a church gets bigger than most Presbyteries? Is it getting there by cannibalizing other churches in the region, or is it bringing in members who would not otherwise be caught dead in church? Are mega churches following the corporate model a better model than the 2000 year old tradition of church governance, modeled after the Biblical descriptions of the Kingdom of God being an alternate state government, or the 400 year old tradition of representative democratic church government based on the Biblical use of the word ‘Ecclesia’? I doubt whether the corporate model of church management, based on 20th Century business school principles, is safe or proper in the long run.

    • You ask good questions. MPPC is striving to do a better job of reaching out to the larger SF Bay Area by starting smaller congregations in local communities. Will it work? We’ll see.

      But the SF Bay Area is far more unchurched than most places in the US. MPPC feels that God is leading them out into the harvest, and is doing the best job it can.

      • I am curious: Is or was MPPC’s Presbytery preventing MPPC from doing new church development in the SF Bay Area? If it was, I can see that as being good reason to leave. But if that is the case that would be very surprising to me. I imagine the goal from Presbytery would be to make those churches eventually become autonomous congregations with their own governing councils and pastors rather than remote satellites of MPPC. But even if MPPC is trying to build satellite congregations of MPPC, still I would not imagine Presbytery actually standing in the way. Were they?

        • Yes, the SF Presbyterian was in the way as far as stating other satellite churches in the Bay Area. They basically were not helpful and not willing to allow this … so there is no other option. They were and still stand in the way. That is the major thrust of this initiative.

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