A pair of churches leaves Carlisle Presbytery; 9th congregation departs Santa Barbara


ECOThe number of congregations released from the Presbyterian Church (USA) by the Presbytery of Carlisle grew to three with the dismissals of Lower Path Valley Presbyterian Church and Burnt Cabins Presbyterian Church.

The churches were dismissed to affiliate with ECO: A Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians during the May 27 presbytery meeting.

Lower Path Valley and Burnt Cabins comprise a yoked parish with individual sessions. Donna Ryan serves as the pastor for the two churches.

“It was a very gracious parting,” said Jim Speedy, Carlisle’s stated clerk. “Both churches were very cooperative with our commission working with them. We’re sad they are leaving but grateful for the way it happened.”

Speedy indicated that the churches were dismissed by a voice vote with “overwhelming support for departure.”

“It was very collegial, but that’s the nature of this presbytery. We’re grateful for that,” he added.

Lower Path Valley, a 92-member congregation located in the south-central Pennsylvania town of Fannettsburg, was accepted as a member of ECO in August 2013 pending its dismissal from the PCUSA.

The session notified the presbytery of its intent to seek dismissal in June 2013.

The congregation made full per-capita payments for 2014, 2015 and 2016 totaling $6,900 to receive dismissal with its property by the presbytery after voting 52-5 on April 6, 2014, to accept terms for departure to ECO.

Burnt Cabins, which has 15 members in Dublin, Pa., voted 11-0 on April 6 to accept dismissal terms after being accepted by ECO in August 2013.

Like Lower Path Valley, the session informed presbytery of the desire to enter the dismissal process in June 2013.

The congregation was dismissed with its property after agreeing to make a payment of $1,125 to satisfy per capita for 2014, 2015 and 2016.

Upper Path Valley Presbyterian Church is the other congregation dismissed by the Presbytery of Carlisle. The church left the PCUSA Sept. 24, 2013, and also joined ECO.


Cottonwood leaves Santa Barbara Presbytery

The list of churches that have left the Santa Barbara Presbytery (SBP) to align with ECO: A Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians is now at seven this year and nine in the last 11 months.

Cottonwood Community Fellowship, formerly known as Presbyterian Church of Los Alamos, was dismissed from the PCUSA during a May 17 presbytery meeting.

The session of the 21-member congregation notified the presbytery of its intent to seek dismissal on Dec. 16, 2012, and a Presbytery Response Team (PRT) was formed to work with the church.

The congregation voted 14-0 to be dismissed from the PCUSA during a Sept. 29, 2013, meeting and 13-1 on April 27, 2014, to be dismissed according to financial terms agreed to by the presbytery and session.

According to the financial terms, Cottonwood agreed to pay $3,360 in ministry share, $3,530.40 in debt share and $3,000 in administrative costs for a total of $9,890.40. However, the presbytery legally could not turn over the property to such a small congregation and offered to lease the property yearly to Cottonwood, a proposition supported by the session and agreed to by the congregation with its vote to accept terms of dismissal.

Michael Wesner, legal counsel for Santa Barbara Presbytery, said it made sense for the presbytery to remain as trustee for the property, noting that it had done its due diligence in meeting the fiduciary responsibility of the PCUSA’s trust clause while showing compassion for the congregation and its declining membership.

“We had to determine what was best for everybody,” he said. “There is a congregation of less than 20 people with less than $10,000 in operating expenses. We felt that it would be better for us as trustees to hold the property and allow (the congregation) to use it.”

The congregation has to remain part of the Reformed tradition and will pay $100 a year for 25 years with an option to extend the lease.

Other churches dismissed by Santa Barbara Presbytery include Eastminster Presbyterian Church (now known as Orchard Community Church), Morro Bay Presbyterian Church and Santa Ynez Valley Presbyterian Church in February, and Malibu Presbyterian Church was released in March. Orcutt Presbyterian Church and First Presbyterian Church of Templeton followed in April.

Trinity Presbyterian Church and Community Presbyterian Church also were dismissed by the presbytery in late 2013.