Presbytery Demands $120,000 from 35-Member Church While Deciding How to Spend $1.5 Million Settlement


A 35-member church has agreed to pay Mission Presbytery $120,000 so that it could be dismissed from the Presbyterian Church (USA).

The First Presbyterian Church of Ingram, Texas and pastor Rev. Raymond M. Tear were dismissed to the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, after the presbytery approved the settlement agreement at its March 3-4 meeting.

According to an article in the local newspaper, church leaders said “that it has been a long process to reach this point, but now has the congregation situated to not only continue its various ministries, but to be part of a growing denomination with which the congregation’s theological views are much more compatible.”

At the meeting, the Stated Clerk reported that two other churches are participating in the presbytery’s Gracious Separation Process. Both, the 45-member First Presbyterian, San Saba, and the 180-member First Presbyterian, Corpus Christi are in the resolution phase of the dismissal process.

How to Spend $1.5 Million

At the same meeting, commissioners received a report on how the Mission Presbytery would use the $1.5 million settlement it received from First Presbyterian Church, San Antonio, which included investing $606,598 in the Texas Presbyterian Foundation for a “Better Together Fund.”

On Jan. 31, 2016, First-San Antonio voted to approve the settlement with Mission Presbytery to end a civil lawsuit between the two entities. The church had disaffiliated with the PCUSA on Nov. 1, 2015, and then in May, filed a petition in civil court asking it to declare whether the trust clause in the Presbyterian Church (USA)’s constitution was valid under Texas law and if it had any legal effect on the church’s property.

The settlement ended the lawsuit and allowed the church to retain sole use, control and ownership of its name and property.

According to the report, the total settlement agreement was $1,525,000. Of that amount, $114,802 was used to pay legal expenses, and $100,000 was used to balance the 2016 operating expenses budget.

The presbytery also made a one-time grant of $125,000 to John Knox Ranch Summer Camp, a Christian camp on the Blanco River in Wimberley, Texas, to help rebuild a dining hall destroyed by the 2015 Memorial Day floods. The grant part of the settlement agreement with First-San Antonio. The church matched the contribution for a combined gift of $250,000 to the camp.

The balance of the settlement – $1,185,198 – will be disbursed as follows:

To partner agencies:

  • $30,000 – General Assembly, Unrestricted
  • $30,000 – Synod of the Sun, Unrestricted
  • $24,000 – Austin College, Campus Ministry
  • $24,000 – Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary, Unrestricted
  • $24,000 – Mo Ranch Camp and Conference Center, Unrestricted
  • $24,000 – Pan American School, Campus Ministry
  • $24,000 – Presbyterian Children’s Homes and Services, Unrestricted
  • $24,000 – Schreiner University, Campus Ministry
  • $24,000 – Trinity University, Campus Ministry

To presbytery committees and regions:

Establish and equip congregations and sessions to carry out their missions:

  • Church Development and Evangelism, $119,000
  • General Council, $1,200
  • Each Geographic Region, $2,000 (Austin, Corpus Christi, Hill Country, San Antonio, Valley, and Victoria – totaling $12,000)
  • Nominations Committee, $1,200
  • Personnel Committee, $1,200
  • Technology Task Force, $48,000

Recruit, receive, ordain, develop and care for those called to serve in the church:

  • Committee on Ministry, $12,000
  • Committee on Preparation for Ministry, $12,000
  • Committee on Representation, $1,200
  • Education and Congregational Nurture Committee, $30,000
  • Pastoral Care Committee, $12,000

Enable mission and witness to the Gospel that congregations cannot accomplish alone:

  • John Knox Ranch, $36,000
  • Mission Outreach and Justice Committee, $36,000
  • Presbyterian Women Coordinating Team, $12,000
  • Youth Connections Committee, $12,000

Steward our resources faithfully and generously:

  • Fiscal Oversight Committee, $1,200
  • HM King Memorial Fund Trustees, $1,200
  • Stewardship Committee, $1,200
  • Trustees, $1,200

The remaining $606,598 will be invested into the Texas Presbyterian Foundation and named the “Better Together Fund.” The fund will be used to further the presbytery’s mission and will be overseen by its General Council. Presbytery committees, groups and congregations will be able to request funding from the account.

In past dismissals approved by Mission Presbytery:

  • Edna Presbyterian Church of Edna, TX, had to pay $80,108.60 to be dismissed with property to the EPC.
  • Faith Presbyterian Church in Brownsville, TX was required to give 10 percent of the proceeds of the sale of church’s property to be dismissed to the EPC
  • El Principe de Paz, in Merceds TX, Iglesia Presbiteriana Getsemani in San Benito, TX, and San Pablo in Brownsville, TX, all voted to leave the denomination and renounced jurisdiction of the PCUSA in early 2012. Mission Presbytery evicted all three from their property instructing the churches to turn in their church keys “no later than Friday, February 16, 2012.”
Paula R. Kincaid


  1. REPLY
    Sam D says

    Greedy presbytery!

  2. REPLY
    Loren Golden says

    First, the Presbyterian Church (USA) creates a hostile environment toward Evangelicals, prompting them to want to leave.  Second, it puts in place a Trust Clause in its Book of Order, making it expensive for them to do so, ostensibly for them to seriously consider remaining affiliated with the same body that is actively alienating them.  It’s acting like an overbearing, abusive spouse vengefully seeking to retain the property that the spouse suing for divorce had brought into the marriage, pointing to a prenuptial agreement that the spouse suing for divorce never actually signed.
    Grace and righteousness must be held in constant tension; grace without righteousness devolves into licentiousness, and righteousness without grace devolves into legalism.  And so, the PC(USA) practices the former toward false teachers and fornicators and the latter toward Evangelical congregations who seek to separate with their property.  One should expect better of an organization that ostensibly represents the grace and righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ in the world; that it does not speaks volumes about its abysmal character.

  3. REPLY
    Larry Wood (retired, Moss Point, MS) says

    It’s another power grab by money-hungry presbyteries. What an absolute shame. How do the members of the presbytery look themselves in the mirror?

  4. REPLY
    James H says

    It’s stealing/blackmail by any other name

  5. REPLY
    Tome Walters says

    Congregations are both intimidated and risk averse when it comes to the gracious separation policy. In Texas, a neutral principles state, civil property law controls, not ecclesiastical law. A congregation should make sure its property deed clearly states the congregation owns the property and it is not held in trust for the PC(USA). Then check its articles of incorporation with the state of Texas. Then make sure any by laws make ownership clear, also. Make clear to the Presbytery that property is off the table for separation. If they disagree, ask the nearest court for a declaratory judgement the congregation owns the property and get a temporary restraining order against the Presbytery, Synod, and PC(USA). Then quietly say goodbye or negotiate from a position of strength if it chooses to plow through a hostile (non)gracious separation.

  6. REPLY
    Robert says

    It is extortion, actually. Somewhere, some smart attorney will figure out how to use RICO as it pertains to these situations. What is the difference of the local hood hitting up the merchant for protection and ‘allowing’ them to function and what we have here? A cartel is what the church hierarchy is becoming or is

  7. REPLY
    Leigh says

    Mission Presbytery was nearly bankrupt when First Pres San Antonio (FPCSA) gave them their windfall instead of continuing their lawsuit. FPCSA almost certainly would have won the lawsuit and bankrupted Mission Presbytery in the process. The Presbytery would not have had the funds to fight other churches, and the precedent would have given them pause in thinking about it. These smaller churches likely would have been able to leave PCUSA for much less. FPCSA abandoned the opportunity to help smaller churches.

    • REPLY
      Elder80 says

      Leigh, I expect the elders at FPCSA thought long and hard about that as they considered settlement vs. the possibility of losing the suit on appeal. FPC Houston seems to have gone through the same process. I’m sure they considered the unfortunate downside that the settlement would fund their nearly bankrupt former presbyteries with money to use for their legal funds to intimidate smaller churches who also would like to leave. On the other hand it is helpful to remember that both churches did not conceive of their lawsuits as punitive to the presbytery, but an opportunity to amicably resolve the question of title. (Both presbyteries responded emotionally with venom, New Covenant much less so than Mission, but that’s another post.) The question of title – the goal of the legal proceeding – has been resolved for both. Furthermore, they have shown other churches what it takes to go down that path, if they have the funds, the fortitude, and the facts supporting such a suit. What is really sad is the written policies of these presbyteries that make “Gracious Separation” or “Gracious Dismissal” anything but gracious.

  8. REPLY
    peter gregory says

    Remove all references to the Presbytery or the PCUSA in this or other similar stories, and insert a regime that would make people turn over their assets, financial, but mostly family property, to the government as a condition of their exit, or granting of a visa. You would describe perfectly the condition Jews faced in the pogroms of Czarist Russia in the 19th century, or that which befell them in Berlin in the 1930’s prior to other measures.

    If the PCUSA were a sovereign nation we would use the term terrorist state, cults of personality regimes, or authoritarian dictatorships to describe their treatment of people and its minority populations, and the State Dept would have it on the same list as Iran or North Korea. Do not be fooled by their dogmas of pluralism, diversity, multiculturalism or tolerance. They are about one thing and one thing only as any rouge regime is, survival by any means necessary. And oppression of any and all who say otherwise.

  9. REPLY
    Mark says

    If it weren’t so serious, it would be comical. To think a denomination will “allow” you to worship as you want if you give them cash for the buildings you already bought and paid for. Lol.

  10. REPLY
    Ray Dunsworth says

    That is $3400/member.

    That is not “gracious separation”, it is more like “ransom.”

  11. REPLY
    Donna C says

    I’m amazed the Bible doesn’t burn up in their hands – what has become of the PCUSA? How can they hold up their heads? Or maybe they are the kind of Sunday Christians who forgot that reading the Word is essential to how you live your life. We weep, too.

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