Changes ahead for Menlo Park Presbyterian Church

menloparkBy Sandy Brundage

One hundred and forty years ago, the Menlo Park Presbyterian Church first took shape in a small building on Santa Cruz Avenue. Now, MPPC is looking for a new home — both spiritually and physically. Make that homes, plural.

You probably either know someone or someone who knows someone who attends MPPC: The church, a cornerstone of the city’s community, has about 3,400 members and a couple thousand more people who attend weekly services at a campus in Menlo Park, Mountain View or San Mateo.

Now the church wants to add five more Bay Area campuses, an expansion that involves changing parent organizations, or denominations. Some members are questioning whether it’s not just a question of property rights, but also theological conflicts over gay clergy and same-sex marriage that are influencing the switch.

On March 2 the entire congregation will vote on whether to leave the denomination the church has belonged to since 1987 — Presbyterian Church (USA) — for ECO: A Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians, a much smaller, newer organization launched in 2012.

According to the church’s leadership, it comes down to four factors: identity, in terms of adherence to Scripture; and mission as well as governance, which relate to the process of growth in local communities. The fourth factor, property, involves who owns church real estate. Currently, that belongs to PCUSA. But in ECO, the churches hold the titles.