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Presbyterian Scholars Conference: What Happens When Mainliners Sit at Table with Split P’s?

(By Chuck Wiggins, The Presbyterian Outlook). “I often wonder what kind of shape the Presbyterian Church would be in today if the Orthodox Presbyterians, the PCA, the Evangelical Presbyterian Church and ECO had not departed,” mused Joseph D. Small, former Presbyterian Church (USA.) Theology & Worship director.

Those particularly thought provoking words came during the recent Presbyterian Scholars Conference held October 18-19 at Wheaton College in Illinois.

A glimpse of that musing was evident as 30 scholars from various streams of the Presbyterian enterprise gathered to offer papers and exchange remarks on “the future of American Presbyterianism.”

From my perspective, the spirit and the tenor of the conference with scholars from the PC(USA), OPC, EPC, and ECO under one roof during both the lectures and at table during meals was — how shall I say it — downright genial.

Headlining a list of outstanding scholars besides Small, included Bradley Longfield of University of Dubuque Theological Seminary; OPC historian extraordinaire and Hillsdale College professor Darryl Hart; and George Marsden, distinguished professor from Notre Dame University and arguably the premier historian of American church history.

Perhaps the highlight of the conference was the celebration of the 25th anniversary of the publication of Longfield’s groundbreaking work, “The Presbyterian Controversy: Fundamentalists, Modernists & Moderates.” Longfield’s award-winning book has been widely regarded by Presbyterians of all theological stripes as an even-handed analysis of the fundamentalist-modernist controversies of the 1920s and 1930s and their aftermath. (In my opinion, previous historical narratives by mainline P’s have largely tended to dismiss departing conservatives as simplistic cranks; while the “split P’s” have approached their forbears uncritically with a kind of surreal, hagiographic reverence.)

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PMA Committee Discusses De La Rosa’s Contract, Meeting in Puerto Rico and Amending Open Meeting Policy

(By Leslie Scanlon, The Presbyterian Outlook). The executive committee of the Presbyterian Mission Agency Board is recommending that the full board renew Tony De La Rosa’s contract as interim executive director of the Presbyterian Mission Agency.

Tony De La Rosa, PMAB

Tony De La Rosa

The executive committee took that action in the closed portion of a conference call meeting on Nov. 17, and announced its vote after the meeting had adjourned. The recommendation is that the board renew the contract “under the terms of the current agreement.”

De La Rosa, a lawyer and ruling elder, started work in December 2015 – with the board choosing him to fill the interim role after former executive director Linda Valentine resigned in July 2015.

Here’s more of what was discussed during the meeting:

March meeting in Puerto Rico

Both the Presbyterian Mission Agency Board and the Committee on the Office of the General Assembly will meet in San Juan, Puerto Rico, in March 2017 – a decision made to express support for Presbyterian churches and mission work there, and because hotel space was not available in Louisville when those groups plan to meet.

De La Rosa told the executive committee that “our goal is not to have us continually meet in a hotel the entire time we are there,” but to visit local Presbyterian Church (USA) congregations and ministry sites.

The executive committee will meet March 21 and the full board March 22-24.

If board members can either stay longer or arrive earlier and preach in local churches, “that would be a welcome and wonderful way to connect with Presbyterians who sometimes feel distant from national leadership,” De La Rosa said, and to “extend a word of grace in preaching the Word of God.”

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Trump Receives Standing Ovation from Churchgoers at PCUSA Church

(By Kevin Sheehan, The New York Post). Worshippers at a New Jersey church cheered Donald Trump on Sunday, telling the president-elect to “follow his heart.”

Trump arrived at Lamington Presbyterian Church in Bedminster Township for services at 10 a.m. and left to enthusiastic applause at 11:15 a.m.

The church is just two miles from The Donald’s Trump National Golf Club Bedminster, where the president-elect was set to interview cabinet candidates.

Congregant Jim Tiesi, 66, shook Trump’s hand and told him the nation has his back.

“I just told him that I hope he understands the country supports him and not to be distracted by the noise,” said Tiesei, likely one of the 47 percent voters who backed Trump. “He told me, `Thank you.’

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Dimmock Joins Outreach Foundation as Africa Mission Specialist

(Press Release from the Outreach Foundation.) The Outreach Foundation announced today that Frank Dimmock will join Outreach’s mission staff on January 1, 2017, as an Africa mission specialist. For thirty-five years Frank served the church in Africa as a Presbyterian Church (USA) mission co-worker, focusing on ministries of health and development. More broadly, his central interest is the welfare of children.  Since 2013, he has worked with Presbyterian World Mission as the global poverty alleviation catalyst, based in Louisville.

A native of North Carolina and graduate of North Carolina State University in pre-medicine, Frank has a master’s degree in public health and completed doctoral work in international public health and epidemiology from the Tulane University School of Public Health in New Orleans.  In 2010, he was awarded an honorary doctorate from Davidson College for his long and effective service to the church.

Outreach Foundation, Frank Dimmock

Frank Dimmock

Rob Weingartner, Outreach’s Executive Director, observed, “Frank embodies all that is best about Presbyterians serving in God’s mission. His life is centered in Christ, he is committed to sharing the Good News, he is highly-educated and a recognized mission expert.  He loves building creative mission partnerships that respect and draw upon the richness of different cultures. And he has an unshakeable confidence in the power of God’s love to transform lives and communities.”

Frank and his wife, Nancy Miller Dimmock (daughter of retired Presbyterian mission coworkers David and Polly Miller) have eight children, six of whom are adopted. In addition to engaging in ministry in their home and raising their children, Nancy co-founded and coordinated the Ministry of Hope crisis nurseries in Southern Africa, a ministry serving abandoned and neglected infants and vulnerable children.

Frank, when serving as the World Mission Africa health liaison, also supported early childhood development centers in rural Ethiopia and a safe house for at-risk adolescent girls in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Drawing upon his decades of experience and deep relationships across the continent of Africa, Frank will build the capacity of church partners in Africa as he networks the Christian Health Associations in Africa and as he shares best practices with partners and congregations working with vulnerable children and families. A new dimension of Dimmock’s ministry is trauma healing, so critical in the African context, and he will be training local facilitators in healing the wounds of trauma. His work with U.S. congregations will provide opportunities for Presbyterians to participate in the deep faith and transformational work of the church in Africa.

The Outreach Foundation is a global mission ministry focused on engaging Presbyterians and global partners in proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ. Established in 1979, Outreach works with all major Presbyterian denominations to help congregations build long-term partnerships with the global church.  For more information on The Outreach Foundation, go to www.theoutreachfoundation.org.

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PCUSA Official Spreads Divisive Post-Election Discourse

(By Peter Johnson, Juicy Ecumenism.) The newly selected Stated Clerk of the Presbyterian Church (USA), Rev. Dr. J Herbert Nelson II, recently released a statement about the presidential election entitled, “When Incivility Becomes the Norm.

Nelson characterized his missive as a “response to the violence on America’s streets after the election of Mr. Donald Trump as President–Elect of the United States of America.” One might think, upon reading this introduction, that the venerable Reverend Doctor would be making an appeal for peace and calm. After all, peaceful protests are a proud legacy of the church, while violence and riots are generally discouraged by Christians.

Unfortunately, Rev. Dr. Nelson failed to discourage the violent protests even once in his 2000+ word letter (replete with seven footnotes). Instead, he declared his hope that the protests would pave the way for a particular public policy agenda that he favors.

He concedes that “President-Elect Trump is our newly elected leader,” but also characterizes the election as undemocratic and rigged by corporate interests. He also exhorts churches to undermine a not-yet-formulated immigration policy of the President-elect by harboring deportees in their “basements.”

The only instances where Rev. Dr. Nelson explicitly mentions violence is when he links Trump to an imagined future violence: “pain, suffering, and yes, death, which will be wrought by the promised policies of the incoming administration.”

At the heart of the letter is Rev. Dr. Nelson’s vision for “coalition building and community organizing, [where] we have an opportunity to create a vision of shared prosperity, safety, dignity, and justice that is truly inclusive and compelling to a broad base.”

The irony is completely lost on the PCUSA leader that a church that fails to be compelling to its own congregants—as evidenced by the steady exodus from the denomination—is now dispensing advice on how to grow a winning constituent base in politics. The denomination is becoming a parody of itself.

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Will D.C. Presbyterian Churches Invite Donald Trump to Come Worship?

(By Julie Zauzmer, The Washington Post.) Every four or eight years, after the nation goes through the ritual of picking a president, some of Washington’s churches go through another ritual — getting a president to pick them.

When Bill and Hillary Clinton came to town in 1993, preachers from Baptist (his denomination) and Methodist (hers) churches across town picked up their phones and their pens to invite the new first couple to their pews. After hearing from at least half a dozen congregations, the Clintons picked Foundry United Methodist Church on 16th Street NW, where they became active members.

George W. Bush, like Ronald Reagan before him, opted for the convenience of St. John’s Episcopal Church, just across from the White House. Ministers from numerous denominations tried to woo the Obamas, but the first family never picked one church, instead visiting many churches over the course of their eight years in the White House.

And now it’s time to ask: Will President Trump go to church in Washington?

It may not be likely. Trump has previously been affiliated with Presbyterian churches, and he identifies as a mainline Protestant, but he is not a regular churchgoer. …

… The response from most of these churches was essentially: Trump will be very welcome, if he thinks a church like this is his cup of tea.

  • Capitol Hill Presbyterian’s Rev. Scott Wilson: “Our doors are open to everyone to worship with us and listen to the words of Jesus on love and compassion. Capitol Hill Presbyterian Church is a welcoming and inclusive church, and our doors are always open to anyone who wishes to join us in our community exploring faith, joyfully sustained by the love of God, caring about each other, and the needs of a broken world.”
  • Fifteenth Street Presbyterian’s Rev. Robert Bell: “I think Mr Trump would be welcome at any Presbyterian Church USA in the city. I know he, like everyone is, would be welcome at ours. He doesn’t seem like the type of guy that finds the gospel challenging and meaningful or likes to rub elbows with a diverse group, not all [of whom] are materially successful. But God works in mysterious ways.”
  • Georgetown Presbyterian’s Rev. Camille Cook Murray: “We have not reached out to Donald Trump. Our congregation is a politically diverse church, unified by our common faith in Jesus Christ. … Our community is open and welcome to all so yes, if Donald felt called to join our church then he would be welcome.”
  • National Presbyterian’s Rev. David Renwick: “National Presbyterian has a long legacy of serving presidents, appointed officials, and elected officials on both sides of the aisle, as well as those who serve our nation in both military and civilian capacities. This is clearly a tradition we want to honor and carry forward — and therefore we warmly welcome our president-elect to join with us in worship. … With regard to membership — membership is open to any person who knows their need of a savior, who places their trust in Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord, and who commits to be faithful in worshiping and serving God together.”
  • New York Avenue Presbyterian’s Rev. Robert Gench: “We would, of course, invite the President-Elect to worship with us.  Our logo declares that we are a ‘just-seeking and inclusive church,’ so we welcome people from varied points of view, race, and sexual orientation.”

Bell and Gench said they would probably send Trump a letter to welcome him in writing.

To read the entire Washington Post article, click here.

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Blackhawk Presbyterians for Fidelity Launched

(Press Release from BPF) “Blackhawk Presbyterians for Fidelity” (BPF) was launched on November 11, 2016 in Rockford, Illinois during a gathering of representatives from part of the remnant in the Presbyterian Church (USA) praying and laboring to be faithful to over 2,000 years of Biblical, confessional, constitutional, historical, traditional and common sense Christianity.

BPF is a para-denominational mission like many others including teaching and ruling elders maintaining credentials in the PCUSA.

It is a significant movement recognizing the inertia of a denomination increasingly and irretrievably apostate under current management and the necessity of identifying, encouraging and equipping faithful sisters and brothers for worship, work and witness.

The mission will encourage PCUSA churches, clergy, elders, and membership to remain faithfully and network with others praying and laboring to remain faithfully.

“Praying and working together to make Blackhawk Presbytery faithful again,” BPF will meet at least semi-annually with representatives of remnant churches within the bounds of Blackhawk Presbytery for worship, encouragement and equipping.

Initially, the missionary movement will concentrate on three opportunities:

  1. Identifying churches and clergy within the bounds of Blackhawk Presbytery who are remaining faithfully for encouragement and equipping to evangelize and disciple the unchurched within their reach;
  2. Pastoral, financial, educational and polity assistance to churches and clergy remaining faithfully; and
  3. Regular youth gatherings at Stronghold Camp and Retreat Center in Oregon, Illinois.

BPF embrace all of their ordination promises; including attending stated meetings of Blackhawk Presbytery and will participate as consciences captive to over 2,000 years of Biblical, confessional, constitutional, historical, traditional and common sense Christianity.

Co-Moderators are Jeff Barrett (Genesis Community Church, Montgomery) and Bill Ward (Westminster Presbyterian Church, Rockford).

Clerk is Jeff Borgerson (First Presbyterian Church, Harvard).

Treasurer is Doug Forsberg (First Presbyterian Church, Rochelle).

Pastor to pastors is Bob Kopp (First Presbyterian Church, Belvidere).

Churches and clergy interested in networking with BPF should contact Clerk Borgerson at berzerkerborg@aol.com

 

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J. Herbert Nelson Preaches a Vision for the PCUSA

(By Leslie Scanlon, The Presbyterian Outlook.) J. Herbert Nelson, stated clerk of the Presbyterian Church (USA), preached Nov. 2 in a Reformation Season worship service in the chapel at the denomination’s national offices in Louisville, Kentucky. The sermon was titled “Write the Vision – Reclaim the Call.”

The intent had been to live-stream the worship service for Presbyterians to watch as it took place, but technical difficulties disrupted the feed. A video of the service is now available online.

Here are some excerpts from Nelson’s sermon, drawn from the Old Testament reading of Habakkuk 1:1-4 and 2:1-4, and, from the New Testament, the 19th chapter of Luke’s Gospel, verses 1-10.

Nelson said of the PCUSA: “We are in need of another Reformation.”

When the prophet Habakkuk cried out to God, the people of Judea were facing a crisis and “people were asking ‘Where is God? Where is God?’ I believe people are asking the same question (today) at a time when (there are) threats of war, terrorism, racism, sexism, poverty in the midst of plenty, indifference towards differences, children being taught to get under the desks to avoid being killed in the classroom, the same question is being raised in the midst of our personhood being threatened, judgments on personhood being rendered by votes on the floor of the General Assembly. Come on, people. It’s time for a reformation of heart, word and deed regarding our allegiance to God, which leads to our allegiance to one another.”

“I want to suggest that lament is good. It frees us of the stuff that represents faithlessness in our lives. We get a chance to purge ourselves of all that internal anxiety. However, the danger of lament is that we can allow it to be a chorus of our everyday existence. Thus we are weighed down from any real spiritual or supernatural claims, because our soul is depleted by the continuous cry of self-pity and failure to acknowledge the power, presence and possibilities of God Almighty. I am convinced this is the core of our struggle as Presbyterians. We are still lamenting the changes in the world and the loss of the church we once knew. Still lamenting that things aren’t the way they used to be. News flash. News flash. They’re not going back. We need to prayerfully claim the promises that God has already given to us and use those as an impetus to move forward, claiming and declaring that this mystery called life is worth engaging in…By the power of the Holy Spirit simply living into the mystery, living into it with the faith that God can do anything and everything with faith.”

“We must become a praying community again. Prayer is the source of our power that overcomes lament. Our lacking of what we need in the face of God’s abundance is representative of our failure to acknowledge fully the power of God to assist us in overcoming all of our struggles. Conventional wisdom alone will not make us the church. A Book of Order alone will not make us the church. A judicial process alone will not make us a church. More money alone will not make us a church. All of these things can do something for us, but they can’t do what the Lord will do. …

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Watch the service.

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Grand Canyon Presbytery Dismisses 5 Churches to ECO

At an Oct. 1 special called meeting, the Presbytery of Grand Canyon dismissed five of its churches to ECO: A Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians.

The five churches dismissed from the Presbyterian Church (USA) represented a total of 1,372* members and paid the presbytery a total of $566,104.24 in settlement agreements. The churches include:

Grand Canyon Presbytery

Membership numbers were taken from the PCUSA’s statistical snapshots of congregations for the calendar year 2013.

Christ Presbyterian Church

According to the settlement agreement, the 468-member church agreed to pay the presbytery $173,964 to be dismissed. Those costs included:

  • $3,000 – Appraisal cost
  • $1,000 – Cost for commission operations (approx.)
  • $1,500 – Cost for copying all of church documents for historical records – all records concerning membership records, session minutes, lists of officers/pastors, all legal transactions, etc. (approx.)
  • $1,000 – Cost for transfer property ownership to Christ Presbyterian Church (Est)
  • $16,116 – Per capita for 2016
  • $17,008 – Per-capita reimbursement for 3 forgiven years (1990’s)
  • $30,000 – Reimbursement of funds previously given to help call a pastor
  • $104,340 – The value of the PCUSA’s portion of the property valuation based on the equity value of the property (10 percent, A biblical tithe), which may be paid in yearly payments for five years in the amount of $20,868 each year.

Since 2010, both the session and members of Christ Presbyterian began showing more concern about the theological positions of the PCUSA, and according to the settlement agreement, “worked to gain greater understanding of those views and how they fit with those held at Christ Church.”

In 2015, the church held town hall meetings, then took a straw poll which indicated that 94 percent of the congregation agreed with the decision to seek dismissal from the denomination. An Administrative Commission from the presbytery then began working with the church, first meeting with the pastor and session, both individually and together. The following concerns were expressed by both:

  • Failure of the church to specify the Essential Tenets of the faith
  • The redefinition of marriage and the Authoritative Interpretation to allow same-sex marriage ceremonies in PCUSA
  • Vagueness about the authority of Scripture and its importance in its theology
  • Issues related to the divinity of Christ and to the GA refusal to acknowledge the “singular saving Lordship of Jesus Christ.”
  • GA decisions to replace the fidelity-and-chastity language of the Book of Order to allow “scruples” and in effect create “local option”
  • The issue of being fearful that in the event of the pastor’s departure/retirement, that they would not be able to find a pastor that fit the evangelical position of their congregation under the PCUSA system.

The Administrative Commission also held 11 small group meetings with church members. According to the agreement “All in all, with the meetings and a large number of surveys returned to us, we heard from over 194 members of the church concerning their dismissal. From those, we learned that 186 want to leave and 8 want to stay or are undecided.”

Community Presbyterian Church

The 275-member Community Presbyterian Church must pay the presbytery a one-time payment of $60,000 to be dismissed from the PCUSA to ECO. Those costs include:

  • $3,500 – Cost of the property appraisal by Valbridge Property Advisors/ MJN Enterprises, Inc.
  • $1,278.37 – Administrative Commission expenses to date, including cost of mailings to CPC members and worshiping visitors in connection with the request by the session to be dismissed from the PCUSA.
  • $750 – Cost of copying records for the presbytery, Community Presbyterian Church and the PCUSA as required.
  • $1,000 – Estimated cost of property title transfer to Community Presbyterian Church upon final settlement of dismissal.
  • $53,471.63 – Final consideration to the Presbytery of the Grand Canyon for property

The church’s session sent a letter to the presbytery on Oct. 15, 2015 asking to be dismissed from the PCUSA.  According to the settlement agreement, the decision was “based on the theological drift between the progressive adherents of the PCUSA and the Bible-based traditional believers. They felt that the PCUSA has ‘…. left us in many areas where there was agreement in the 1983 merger of the UPC and the PCUSA.’ The session listed the following areas that they believe are not in alignment with the current PCUSA denomination teachings: The authority of scripture; the Lordship of Jesus Christ; current support of Israel and the Jewish people; Christian ethics; what it means to be Reformed; mission; unity in the Universal Church; sanctity of marriage, and proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

On May 16-17, 2016 the presbytery’s administrative commission meet with the church staff, the session and in small group settings, members of the church. “It was the feeling of the commission that the majority of those attending these small group meetings favored dismissal from the PCUSA in order to join the ECO,” stated the agreement.

A survey on the issue of dismissal was mailed to church members. Of the 160 surveys mailed, 132 were returned, showing that 120 or 90.9 percent were in favor of being dismissed to ECO; 3 or 2.3 percent wished to remain in the PCUSA and 9 (6.8 percent) were undecided.

Negotiations began between the church and AC and the agreement stated that the final financial settlement “will allow this Christian community to have a viable, ongoing program (mission work, scholarships, and facility upkeep), while keeping expense consistent with the contributions of their membership. The proposed settlement also recognizes that since the inception of this congregation, they have been faithful in sending per-capita and denomination monies as required, even as they entered a several-year period of discernment to remain in the PCUSA.”

First Presbyterian Church

The settlement agreement between the 162-member First Presbyterian Church of Wickenburg, Ariz., and Grand Canyon Presbytery stipulates that the church pay the presbytery $70,778.24 to be dismissed to ECO. The amount can be paid in yearly installments of no less than $10,111.18 per year for seven years. Those costs include:

  • $3,500.00 – Appraisal cost from Valbridge Property Advisors/MJN Enterprises, Inc.
  • $498.24 – Cost for Commission operations/expenses including mailings to members.
  • $750.00 – Cost for copying all of church documents for historical records – all records concerning membership records, session minutes, lists of officers/pastors, all legal transactions, as required. First Presbyterian Church has reproduced those records they wish to retain for historical purposes.
  • $1,000 – Cost for transferring property ownership to First Presbyterian Church upon final settlement of dismissal.
  • $18,530 – Per Capita reimbursement for period of non-payment, adjusted to reflect actual church membership from the years 2011 (partial) and to include 2016.
  • $46,500 – Value of the property as adjusted for purposes of Gracious Dismissal settlement. This amount is 8.3 percent of the revised property valuation.

The church began its period of discernment following the 2010 General Assembly. In 2011, the church stopped paying per capita, but increased its contributions to missions, “so that giving to God would not by diminished,” according to the agreement.

The church sent a letter requesting dismissal from the PCUSA to the presbytery in Oct. 2015. An Administrative Commission was formed in Jan., 2016.

The commission met with the pastor and session, whose concerns about the PCUSA included:

  • Failure of the church to specify the Essential Tenets of the faith
  • The redefinition of marriage and the Authoritative Interpretation to allow same-sex marriage ceremonies in PCUSA
  • Vagueness about the authority of Scripture and its importance in our theology
  • Issues related to the divinity of Christ and to the GA refusal to acknowledge the “singular saving Lordship of Jesus Christ.”
  • GA decisions to replace the Fidelity and Chastity language of the Book of Order to allow “scruples” and in effect create “local option”

The Administrative Commission conducted three small group meetings with church member and conducted a survey, which showed that 95 percent of the 130 church members the AC had contact with wished to be dismissed from the PCUSA, while approximately 10-15 wanted to stay in the denomination or were undecided.

Fountain Hills Presbyterian Church

Fountain Hills’ settlement agreement requires the 267-member church to pay the presbytery a total of $247,132 to be dismissed. Of that amount, $30,726 must be paid at the time of dismissal, with the rest being paid in annual installments until the year 2021. The amount includes:

  • $177,656 – A biblical tithe of the appraised property value, reduced by the outstanding mortgage loan principal.
  • $20,000 – Mission support for Native American Ministries within the Presbytery of Grand Canyon.
  • $18,750 – Contribution to the Mission Endowment Fund of the Presbytery of Grand Canyon.
  • $22,726 – Per capita payments, including the amount due for 2016.
  • $8,000 – Estimated AC expenses, including cost for the property appraisal, records copying, etc. Actual costs at the time of dismissal shall be used for the final settlement.

The agreement stated that the concerns over the PCUSA “escalated in 2014. Congregants began to approach the session with questions like, ‘How is our Session going to respond to the actions of the 2014 General Assembly with regard to the authority of Scripture?’  The pastor and session then entered into a time of study and reflection, and initiated a series of meetings with the congregation at-large. The session formally requested to enter into a season of discernment with the Presbytery of Grand Canyon in October 2015, with a goal to seek dismissal from the PCUSA.”

During the months of March and April of 2016, the presbytery’s Administrative Commission conducted 12 small group members with church members, then conducted a mail-in survey with those not able to attend the meetings. The concerns raised included:

  • A strong desire for the PCUSA to specify essential tenets of faith for all members of the PCUSA, and dismay that the PCUSA has not done so.
  • Great concern over the Authoritative Interpretation to allow same-sex marriage in PCUSA churches in states where same-sex marriage is allowed by civil law.
  • Property ownership came up in almost every small group meeting, with significant concern over costs to transfer ownership to the Fountain Hills congregation.

The agreement stated that: “Through the Discernment process, the AC heard from 182 members of the Fountain Hills congregation – a substantial majority of the active membership. 62 percent of respondents favored dismissal from the PCUSA, while 21 percent wished to remain with the PCUSA and 18 percent stated that they were not sure on the question of dismissal. Many of the “not sure” group raised the issue of dismissal costs as at least a contributing factor in their personal decision-making process. Taken at face-value only, the statistics from the small-group process are somewhat misleading. The AC found that most members at Fountain Hills expressed a genuine love for their church family and a passionate desire to keep that family together. While 21 percent of small-group participants expressed a desire to remain with the PCUSA, it is highly likely that most, if not all, of these members will remain with the church regardless of denominational affiliation. The AC found no evidence for a viable remnant of the congregation, to continue as a PCUSA church, following dismissal of the Fountain Hills congregation.”

Horizon Presbyterian Church

The 200-member Horizon Presbyterian Church agreed to a settlement of $124,230 to be dismissed from the PCUSA and into ECO. That amount includes:

  • $1,000 – Cost for Commission operations/attorney fees
  • $1,000 – Cost for copying all of church documents for historical records – all records concerning membership records, session minutes, lists of officers/pastors, all legal transactions, etc. (approx.)
  • $1,000 – Cost for transfer property ownership to Horizon Presbyterian Church (Est)
  • $11,980 – Per capita for 2015 and 2016
  • $106,500 – This is the value of the PCUSA’s portion of the property valuation based on the equity value of the property (10 percent – A biblical tithe)

In the fall of 2015, the session asked to enter the presbytery’s discernment process. The presbytery’s AC began work in early 2016.

According to the settlement agreement, in 2012 the church’s session began having “heartfelt conversations about what they believe as a church and the various issues on which they felt the denomination was not in the same place they were. By the 2014 GA, more issues arose which pressed the session and pastor to take more active steps to determine whether it was time to leave or not. The church has struggled to decide how to move, which has caused some people to leave due to the slow pace of action or not wanting to deal with conflict about the issues. From the end of 2013 – 2015 the membership dropped from 200 to 124.”

The presbytery’s AC meet with church members on two different days and of the 43 people they met with, found that 34 wished to be dismissed from the PCUSA and nine wished to remain or were undecided.

The issues raised by the members included:

  • The PCUSA has become too involved in politics, especially decisions related to Israel and divestment from American companies;
  • Issues related to same-sex marriage and the definition of marriage
  • Feeling that the PCUSA does not have clear doctrines or beliefs that can be called essential tenets to which all can agree
  • They feel the PCUSA has left them, not the other way around.
  • Concerned about not believing in the divinity of Christ – “Christ has been dethroned.”
  • Want to be part of a church that has common goals and beliefs

 

*Membership numbers were taken from the PCUSA’s statistical snapshots of congregations for the calendar year 2013.

 

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Washington Presbyterian Separating from PCUSA for Conservative Group

(By Kip Burke, The News-Reporter (Georgia).) The congregation of Washington Presbyterian Church is about to complete a long-sought separation from a denomination that has become far more liberal than most members, and is joining like-minded Presbyterians in another denomination.

The congregation, led by Rev. Glen Kohlhagen, will bid goodbye to the old and be welcomed by the new next Sunday. “We’ll have a service of farewell Sunday, October 9, where the moderator of the Presbyterian Church (USA)’s Northeast Georgia Presbytery Dr. Helen Epps and I will share the pulpit for the farewell, followed by a pot-luck dinner. Then Sunday night we’ll have a welcome to ECO service, with Rev. Jim Lugo, from Sharon Church in Hartwell, thus making the transition,” he said.

The separation has been long in coming, Kohlhagen said. “There are 14 different Presbyterian denominations in the U.S., and the PCUSA is the biggest by far, and the one that has gone through the most recent changes to liberalize, allowing gay marriage, allowing abortion, putting down Israel, and that kind of thing, the kind of things we just can’t live with.”

The congregation will join many other Presbyterian churches in the South by joining with the ECO: a Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians,” which grew out of the dissatisfaction with the growing changes in the PCUSA. “The ECO is a relatively new denomination, only five years old, but it’s built around the old Southern Presbyterian Church of the 1970’s and earlier,” Kohlhagen said. “We ordain women, but we don’t do all this other stuff that they’ve included in the last few years.”

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