According to presbytery documents, Bethany Korean Presbyterian Church was dismissed from the Presbyterian Church (USA) on April 20.
The congregation – comprised of 344 members – voted April 7 to be dismissed to ECO and agreed to settlement terms reached with the presbytery.
Located in Carrollton, a suburb of north Dallas, Bethany Korean sought dismissal to another Reformed body, and a Presbytery Ministry Team (PMT) was assigned to work with the congregation and its leadership.
Several meetings between the Bethany session and PMT revealed concerns that the church was losing members because of the passage of Amendment 10A, which deleted the explicit “fidelity/chastity” requirement from the constitutional ordination standard, and now allows the PCUSA to ordain gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people as deacons, elders and pastors.
Session members also indicated a feeling that the PCUSA will redefine marriage beyond the union of a man and woman in the future, which further may have an impact on the church’s ability to keep or add new members.
Despite an explanation from the PMT regarding the historic Presbyterian principle of local congregations choosing whom they will ordain and call to ministry, and a presentation of the facts of the Book of Order changes regarding 10A, Bethany’s session remained firm in its stance.
Members of the PMT attempted to find a balance between protecting the interests of Bethany Korean and Grace Presbytery, as it outlined in a report to the presbytery that gave settlement terms. That report indicated the terms would compensate “Grace Presbytery for past faithfulness and a desire to have resources to expand and support its future ministries, and Bethany Korean to avoid placing their congregation in financial peril as they move forward.”
Other factors that influenced financial negotiations between the parties were an understanding that Bethany Korean came to the PCUSA as an already functioning congregation and a comfortable estimate that there would be no minority members left interested in maintaining a congregation in the PCUSA.
According to the terms agreed to by both sides, Bethany Korean will pay $270,000 to Grace Presbytery for its financial interest in the property. A lump sum payment of $230,000 was made at the time of dismissal, with a sum of $10,000 to be paid annually for the next four years. If all conditions are met, the PMT plans to recommend at a future presbytery meeting that the payments of $10,000 be forgiven on an annual basis.
In addition to the financial compensation, Bethany Korean’s ordained staff had to provide letters of their acceptance into ECO along with a copy of the church’s formal request to join ECO and a letter of acceptance from that Reformed body. All session records of Bethany, including minutes and rolls, also had to be turned over to Grace Presbytery.
Bethany Korean is the first congregation in Grace Presbytery to be dismissed since the adoption of its Just and Gracious Dismissal Policy in September 2012.
Four dismissals from Great Rivers Presbytery
Great Rivers Presbytery in western Illinois dismissed two churches to the Evangelical Presbyterian Church (EPC) and two others to reconstitute themselves in late 2012 after working out settlement agreements with Discernment Teams that were approved by the presbytery.
First Presbyterian Church of Princeville, with a membership of 100, was dismissed after agreeing to pay $75,000, and Alexis Presbyterian Church (155 members) agreed to pay $338 semi-annually over 20 years for a total amount of $13,500.
Little Cedar Presbyterian Church and Elvaston Presbyterian Church both were dismissed to reconstitute themselves under Illinois state law. Little Cedar (96 members) was released effective Dec. 1 after paying $15,661, and Elvaston, with a membership of 103, was dismissed effective Dec. 15 after paying $9,960.
All four churches also were required to turn over church records to Great Rivers Presbytery.