Presbytery of the James (POJ) approved the dismissals of Christ Presbyterian Church (CPC) and Third Presbyterian Church (TPC) during its Oct. 19, 2013, stated meeting.
According to presbytery documents, both churches reached terms with the POJ and will be joining ECO: A Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians.
The dismissals of Christ and Third up the total of churches that have left Presbytery of the James to four this year. Six congregations entered into the dismissal process with the presbytery late in 2011.
A large faction of New Hanover Presbyterian Church in Mechanicsville broke away and formed the Church in Restoration in February after an Administrative Commission (AC) dissolved the session and assumed original jurisdiction. The new congregation is part of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church (EPC).
St. Giles Presbyterian Church was dismissed to join ECO in June after paying $250,000.
Two other churches – Spotsylvania Presbyterian Church in Fredericksburg and Crestwood with campuses in Richmond and Midlothian – are working with Administrative Commissions to finalize their dismissals to the EPC and ECO, respectively.
Presbytery officials did not respond to an email from The Layman regarding the dismissals.
Christ Presbyterian Church
The 65-member congregation of Christ Presbyterian Church, overwhelmingly voted in favor of dismissal to ECO at a pair of congregational meetings after an Administrative Commission (AC) began working with the church in November 2012.
The first vote on Feb. 17, 2013, yielded a 54-1 result, and the second meeting on Sept. 22 was 59-0 to accept the following terms of dismissal, indicated in the AC report to the presbytery:
- CPC made a cash payment of $35,000 to the presbytery within 60 days of approval of the dismissal. A quitclaim deed to the property was to be provided upon receipt of the payment and fulfillment of additional agreement terms.
- There are provisions in the agreement that give financial compensation (on a descending scale after varying periods of time) to the POJ if all or any portion of the property is sold and/or leased.
- Original copies of church records also will be turned over to POJ within 30 days of the dismissal date.
- CPC also will revise its name to be Christ Presbyterian Church, ECO, a selection made by the congregation.
- The credentials of Kevin Germer, pastor of the church, also will be transferred to ECO.
Church officials did not respond to phone calls or emails from The Layman about the dismissal.
Third Presbyterian Church
A congregation of more than 1,100 members, TPC began meeting with a Listening Team (LT) in February 2012 that became the Administrative Commission in June that year.
TPC operates two worship sites – the main campus on Forest Avenue in Richmond and the other known as Third Presbyterian Church at Pump Road.
The first congregational vote was taken Sept. 30, 2012, and resulted in a vote of 619-13 in favor leaving the PCUSA for ECO, letting the AC know there no longer was a viable congregation loyal to the national denomination. Presbytery documents show that only two people requested assistance finding a new church home when letters were sent to members in May 2013.
A second congregational meeting on May 5, 2013, to OK dismissal terms resulted in a 518-3 margin in favor of acceptance to negotiations between the TPC session and the AC.
However, a letter to members from the TPC Dismissal Committee indicated the need for an Oct. 6 congregational meeting to give approval to some modifications in the terms of dismissal.
The congregation was asked to approve a $370,000 loan from the Third Presbyterian Endowment Corporation to the church to make the entire settlement payment of $370,000 to POJ within 30 days of the vote to affirm dismissal. The original settlement called for a payment of $100,000 by TPC in the first year, followed by payments of $30,000 for the next nine years. The POJ will provide a quitclaim deed to the property at the closing.
In addition to the payment, TPC also will become Third Church within one year of approval of the dismissal agreement. It may change its name in the future but cannot use Third Presbyterian Church.
Original copies of church records also will be turned over to POJ within 30 days of the dismissal date, and Third Church will pay costs incurred by the presbytery for the dismissal process.
Pastor Steve Hartman and additional clergy staff seeking transfer to ECO were given approval as part of the dismissal terms.
Church officials declined to discuss the dismissal, citing an agreement with the presbytery not to speak with the media while the closing process takes place.