More than seven weeks after being dismissed, First Union Presbyterian Church finally received a form of certificate of dismissal from Presbytery of South Louisiana.
Pastor Walter Hackney indicated that the 76-member congregation located in Luling, La., received word via email July 25 that ECO: A Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians had been notified by the presbytery that First Union had been dismissed to operate under the rules and procedures of the new denomination.
The letter from the presbytery, dated July 5, 2013, was received by John Terech, moderator of ECO’s Presbytery of the East, in electronic form on July 24 with an additional letter from PSL Office Administrator Julia Miller that indicated the hard copy was sent by mail to Terech and First Union Clerk of Session Brad Thompson two weeks prior to receipt of the electronic version. Neither man received that hard copy.
“We’ve still not got a hard copy yet, but this will serve as certificate. We’ll take it,” Hackney said. “This is what we needed. It’s a good feeling to have this over.”
First Union was received by ECO shortly after the email exchange, Hackney said, severing its ties with the Presbyterian Church (USA).
The electronic version of the letter came after First Union was dismissed during a June 4 presbytery meeting after agreeing to pay $10,000 for its property. Hackney delivered the payment to the presbytery on June 11, but it took nearly two months for the church to be fully released.
The letter to Terech read, “As of this date (July 5) all business related to dismissal is concluded and First Union Presbyterian Church is free of obligation to the Presbytery of South Louisiana and released from the authority of the SAC (Standing Administrative Commission). Church officers are therefore, restored, and they and First Union Presbyterian Church may now operate under the rules and procedures of the ECO.”
The SAC working with the church assumed original jurisdiction of the session in October 2012, making the accusation that First Union elders violated the dismissal policy by taking a five-question straw poll of the congregation without the presence of SAC members in September 2012, noting that the session was out of compliance for passing two non-binding resolutions (to leave the PCUSA and be transferred to ECO).
Members of the First Union session were notified of the SAC taking original jurisdiction by email. The session has not met since Oct. 1, 2012.
“Our elders are so relieved that they can officially meet as a session again now that the occupation is over,” Hackney said. “We are finally able to have our meetings as we should.”
Hackney also requested transfer of his ordination to ECO, which has been approved and taken effect. He has been the interim pastor for First Union since December 2010 and stayed on to help the church through the denominational transition. He indicated he is considering a return to the classroom to teach high school math but is relieved the church can move forward now with its ministry efforts.
“There still will be a time of transition, but there is such a sense of relief,” Hackney said. “The last 17 or 18 months have been dominated by denominational issues. Now this church can get back to kingdom building and doing God’s work.”