Shenango Presbytery bids farewell to five congregations

Five more congregations have been dismissed from the Presbyterian Church (USA) during meetings of Shenango Presbytery.

Irwin Presbyterian Church in Stoneboro, Pa., Tower Presbyterian Church in Grove City, Pa., and Westfield Presbyterian Church of New Castle, Pa., all were dismissed to affiliate with ECO: A Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians during the April 22 presbytery meeting.

At the June 24 presbytery meeting, Plain Grove Church in Slippery Rock, Pa., and the Presbyterian Church of West Middlesex were granted their exits to align with ECO.

The departures increase the number of churches that have left Shenango Presbytery to at least 17 in the last two years. Eleven of them have been dismissed to align with ECO.

Presbytery officials did not respond to an email from The Layman regarding the dismissals.


IrwinIrwin Presbyterian Church

Located in Mercer County (western Pennsylvania) east of Youngstown, Ohio, the 53-member congregation started its dismissal process about just after the passage of Amendment 10A in 2011, which allowed for the ordination of homosexuals as deacons, elders and pastors.

“That’s what really got things started and led to some serious talk,” said Charles Crane, stated supply pastor at Irwin since 2010. “That really was the precipitating event for us.”

Crane said the decision to align with ECO was made because its theology seemed to be a better fit for most of the Irwin congregants and a broader set of confessions as well as an openness to women in positions of leadership. Plus, there was an opportunity to get in on the ground floor of an up and coming organization still in its formative stages.

“We felt shackled by the PCUSA, not so much by theology but by the way they wanted to do things,” Crane said. “We have much more freedom to do things now, more autonomy. We have felt so much more energy and sense of liberation. We’re glad to be part of ECO, and we’re looking forward to the future.”

While making the move to leave the PCUSA and join ECO was the faithful thing to do, Crane said it did not come without sadness over departing a presbytery the congregation had been part of for so long.

“If it has just been us and the presbytery maybe we could have stayed,” he said. “Shenango is probably one of the more conservative presbyteries and has been good for us. We did feel at home there, but forces beyond our control forced us to split up. They were very good to us. We all just wanted mutual consideration as we went our separate ways.”

Crane indicated that Irwin made a financial gift to the presbytery upon its departure.

“This was something we felt we had to do. We’re not happy it came to this point, and it’s certainly not something we rejoice over,” Crane said. “But maybe this was God’s way of saying it’s time to do something new. Instead of fighting (denominational) battles we can spread the Gospel and be the church we’re called to be.”


towerTower Presbyterian Church

Located north of Pittsburg in Mercer County, the 270-member congregation shared many of the same denominational concerns that others have expressed in seeking to leave the PCUSA.

Aligning with ECO was attractive because of the missional focus of the new denomination was the emphasis on practices that led to strong church to church and pastor to pastor relationships, Tower Interim Pastor Jim Leuenberger wrote in an email to The Layman.

Shenango’s gracious dismissal policy requires no payment for churches to leave with property, though they are asked to consider continuing per capita and missional support for a period of time after departing. Leuenberger indicated that Tower will continue per-capita payments and missional support for at least two years and perhaps longer.

“The hardest thing about this decision for Tower Church was leaving Shenango Presbytery, which is an excellent presbytery,” wrote Leuenberger, who intends to remain in the PCUSA due to his strong and long-standing connection with the presbytery. “Shenango has consistently confessed and acted out of solid evangelical convictions and commitments, was blessed with extremely strong leadership from the Rev. Dr. David Dawson, our recently retired executive, who has done an excellent job of forming its ordained leaders (both lay and clergy), and has a very strong history and commitment to global mission.”


westfieldWestfield Presbyterian Church

The congregation of nearly 400 members formed in 1803 is located in Lawrence County, about 50 miles northwest of Pittsburgh. Church officials did not return phone calls from The Layman seeking additional information about the dismissal.


Plain Grove Church

A congregation of about 200 members, Plain Grove is located in Butler County in western Pennsylvania north of Pittsburgh. The Layman received no response to calls regarding the dismissal.


Presbyterian Church of West Middlesex

The 363-member congregation is located in Mercer County near Pennsylvania’s western border with Ohio. Phone calls by The Layman seeking more details about the dismissal were not returned.


Comments 16

  • Has anyone ever considered what happens to the wealthy foundation when the lights go ou in presbyterian usa. Has this question been identified in the legal organizational contract of the pusa? To whom is it the property in this separation of the organization pusa? Who turns out the lights?

  • How sad all this is……………….I am watching my beloved Presbyterian Church sound the death knell. Have been a Presbyterian since birth……….first Pa., then OHio at present………………
    When I first tried to discuss this with my Sunday School class some years back………i was laughed out of the place………………………..
    We are in a quandry ourselves……………….hate to break up the church, but??…………………..when one can no longer stand with the beliefs and behavior of their church……………… needs to stand up!!
    Sad, sad commentary………………………………..shalom, PAR

  • West Middlesex is the church in which I grew up, and I have never seen fit to move my letter.

  • I am familiar with Shanango Presbytery, and Dave Dawson and others at PTS and the New Wilmington Missionary Conference, and praise the Lord for them and the compassionate way in which the Presbytery is treating churches that find it increasingly hard to remain in the PCUSA as it continues it slide away from the anchor of Biblical Authority. Unfortunately the example of Shanango Presbytery is rare in the PCUS denomination which seems to be becoming more and more hardened to evangelical voices within.

  • When a dog dies I wonder how long the fleas decide to hang around.? There is no doubt that the PCUSA is a dead dog. We will see how long the fleas hang around.

    • Good analogy but to say Christians are fleas can be a little too much. Glad to see that those of genuine faith are standing up and doing the right thing when it comes to leaving an apostate denomination.

  • Praise the Lord for those churches leaving the apostasy.

  • I’m thinking that the PCUSA doesn’t care these congregations are leaving. Then they won’t have to deal with people who agonize over abortion, Isreal, etc.

    • I am beginning to believe that not only does the top leadership in the PCUSA does not care but their objective is to demolish that denomination totally. Maybe they will sooner or later combine with some other apostate denomination that has tossed the Bible out the door.

      • en route to siding with the antichrist, one world religion, it’s in the Bible they don’t believe in

    • This is a very important point, Kay, often overlooked in the discussion.

      The PCUSA is driving off the dissident churches and extracting a king’s ransom (in most cases) for letting them leave with property.

      Item: The PCUSA couldn’t care less about the loss of one more church. It’s less hassle.

      Item: The PCUSA has no use for their property, often a building with little utility, in need of costly rehab, and in a bad neighborhood.

      Item: The PCUSA is extracting payment from churches that are doing the PCUSA a big favor.

      Shed no tears for these people. They’ve won. Don’t they always?

      • As we know, The PCUSA is taking unfair advantage of local congregations that are under stress & want out. Honestly don’t see how some of these Presbyterian churches that are leaving the denomination will be able to pay these debts to the PCUSA…

        • Kay,
          they won’t. there’s no way. the economy never recovered from the 2008 collapse. the next collapse is in process now. after the stock market crashes next thing to collapse is the dollar, which takes everything down with it. ashes to ashes, dust to dust. we’re being tested. and most are failing miserably. the financial obligations will become a noose around necks, forcing most to side with the antichrist. should be quick, by mid 2016 all hell will probably break loose, i watch the markets for a living. just be patient, they can’t hear you. prayer is more important than anything going on here, they’re wrapped up in their worldly concerns.

          • Guest,
            It’s as if local Presbyterian churches are dealing with a criminal enterprise as they try to leave the PCUSA. They are a group of ruthless people in Louisville.

  • And so the PCUSA continues to disintegrate.

  • Hopefully they were not violated too bad, although everyone is being awfully quiet the details…this is good presbytery, wonder if the “folks” in Louisville got a hold of them

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