Members of Menlo Park Presbyterian Church in Menlo Park, Calif., voted by a 93 percent margin Sunday to leave the Presbyterian Church (USA) and join ECO: A Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians, despite a price tag of more than $8.89 million.
Approximately 64 percent of MPPC’s members participated in the March 2 vote, with 2,024 voting to leave the PCUSA and 158 voting to oppose the motion.
Speaking to the congregation following the announcement of the voting results, Senior Pastor John Ortberg said, “To everybody who voted a different way or whether the outcome of the vote is a disappointment, we — the church — want you to know we are so grateful for your participation and for your involvement.”
He continued, “For everybody who served from all the churches in the presbytery, everybody that is a part of the PCUSA, our commitment is that we want to honor the body of Christ and love every member of the body of Christ and partner with everybody in a way that transcends denomination affiliation or any human organizational barrier, lift up the oneness of the beauty of Jesus’ church.”
San Francisco Presbytery has set the price for Menlo Park to leave the PCUSA with all of its property and assets at $8.89 million.
The exit fee was set following negotiations between a team from the church and the presbytery. Updating the congregation on Jan. 26, Ortberg said that two days before, “knowing the full dollar amount, our elders and ordained staff voted unanimously to move ahead with a vote and recommend to you – our congregation – that we seek dismissal.”
He added that the church’s negotiating team wanted the congregation to know that “they are even more convinced at the end of this process than they were at the beginning that we need to seek dismissal.”
An article written by Sandy Brundage and posted on The Almanac web site, quoted Tom Conrad, chair of the presbytery team selected to deal with Menlo Park. Conrad, said that “such an overwhelming pro-dismissal vote” had not been expected.
Conrad said the presbytery team “is just happy that it is over and that the congregation has spoken its collective will.”
In the Almanac article, Conrad said that he didn’t expect the outcome to be reversed when the Presbytery of San Francisco meets next week, but suggested the issue might prove more contentious than one might think.
Ortberg ended Sunday’s service by asking the congregation to stand and read the words “We have been living with for this whole season. So with great devotion to Jesus, with great anticipation of what lies in front of us … God is really leading us somewhere. We put our stake in the ground right here: ‘Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever! Amen.’” (Eph. 3:20-21)
Tell Me This Isn’t About the Money, Oct. 22, 2013
Toddler Property Laws and the PC(USA) Trust Clause, Oct. 23, 2013