Charlotte presbytery: energetic and hopeful amidst 17 congregational dismissals

Presbyterian Church USA leader to visit Trinity

Heath Rada to speak at Trinity Presbyterian on Feb. 14

Presbytery of Charlotte includes 106 churches




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GAPJC dismisses case about constitutionality of marriage redefinition

breakingnews3The General Assembly Permanent Judicial Commission (GAPJC) of the Presbyterian Church (USA) said “… Under the Book of Order, the GAPJC does not act as the final arbiter of the Constitution in Presbyterian polity. This commission’s role is restricted and it has no jurisdiction to directly declare an action of the GA unconstitutional.”

So, although “Prior to the GA, the ACC advised in writing that Item 10-03 was “contrary to the clear statement of W-4.9000,” and during the GA on the floor, during recorded testimony, the ACC offered a diametrically opposed opinion, the GAPJC has refused to hold either the ACC accountable. 

If the GAPJC is not a position to hold the General Assembly accountable for acting within the bounds of the PCUSA constitution, then who is?

Here’s the ruling: 0217-CherokeePbyetalvACC- CaseDismissed will offer further analysis in the coming days.


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Cultivating a healthy presbytery

By the staff at

healthyThere comes a time when every church needs revival — when congregations that started with a burst of energy reach a plateau — calcified in habits, schedules, expectations, and ministry; churches that will continue to decline without a strong dose of revitalization.

In recent years it’s dawned on several PCA pastors that what’s true of the local church is also true of the regional church — the presbytery. Three pastors in particular — Jason Dorsey, Ray Cortese, and Bruce O’Neil — have seen such decay firsthand, and decided to do something about it. At the 2014 General Assembly, these men shared much of what they had learned; they talked about warning signs, the purpose of presbytery, participation, and the attitudes of those who are there.

Recently Larry Hoop, editor of Reasoning Together, spoke to these men, hoping to learn more about what it takes to cultivate a thriving presbytery.

Warning Signs

It begins with the tone of the meeting. “If presbytery meetings seem lifeless, contentious, or purposeless, it’s time to think about revitalization,” says Ray Cortese. Ask men to define why they’re meeting. Or after the meeting, ask them if they accomplished their goals. If they give you that befuddled look, the presbytery needs to be invigorated. More to the point, if the meeting fails to advance the mission Christ gave the church, then, he says, we need to rethink what we’re  doing.


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Regarding ruling elders: Presbyterian councils

pcusaBy Alison Janke

How many Presbyterians does it take to change a light bulb?  It takes a council, in stated meeting, to determine if a new light bulb is in the ministry plan of the council, if there is funding for a new light bulb, and if persons can be called who will faithfully carry out this mission.

One of the hallmarks of presbyterian belief and governance is that we don’t place much decision-making authority with individuals, who are prone to “idolatry and tyranny.” (F-2.05) Instead, decisions about the mission, ministry, and governance of the Presbyterian Church are made by ordered groups of people gathered in “councils.”  These councils, from most local (governs a congregation) to most inclusive (governs the whole denomination), are called session, presbytery, synod, and General Assembly. (F-3.0203)

The session is the most local council.  Each congregation is led and governed by its session which is responsible for the congregation’s worship, programs, property, finances, and membership.  The session is composed of persons elected by the congregation – ruling elders and installed pastors. (G-3.0201)

Read more at 


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Breaking the legs off the proverbial Presbyterian stool

Clark Cowden

Rev. Clark Cowden

Presbyterianism has historically been described as a system of faith and practice that stands on a “three-legged stool” of theology, worship and polity. To lose one of the legs means all will ultimately fall.  We have watched with grief as the theological and worship practices of the Presbyterian Church (USA) have been undermined and degraded over the years. However, there were many who held out hope that the third leg, governance, which includes ecclesiastical discipline, might yet hold. That leg is now broken.


Two cases on two coasts


In the case of the Decision Presbytery of Southern New England v. John Merz a self-identified partnered gay man was not disciplined by the Permanent Judicial Commission even though his violation of the Biblical and constitutional (Book of Confessions and Book of Order) standards of marriage were stipulated to by both sides.


On the other coast is the case of Clark Cowden, an ordained PCUSA minister with a litany of service to the local church and higher governing bodies, who found himself as the subject of an 18-month synod investigation and the now vindicated survivor of a four-day ecclesiastical trial that ultimately proved a failed attempt to defrock him.


Taking aim at a Presbyterian poster-boy


Cowden is the executive presbyter of San Diego Presbytery, former presbytery executive of San Joaquin, member of the Presbyterian Mission Agency Board, former member of the PMAB executive committee and former chair of the General Assembly Mission Council’s leadership committee. He is nationally known as a good listener, creative thinker, compassionate conservative whose personal theology aligns with evangelicalism.


As the executive of a well-known conservative presbytery, one might expect Cowden to be an expert in church dismissals. Presbyteries like his have “lost” many churches during the turbulent realignment that has been taking place over the past half dozen years. But to this point San Diego has only had one church leave the denomination.  By all accounts, Cowden has done a good job working to keep churches “in.” So why did some want him “out?”




Two years ago a couple of disgruntled presbyters wanted to see him ousted from office and stripped of his ordination. When asked what he had done to offend them, Cowden said, “it was all very political. I pushed the presbytery to be more missional, embracing change and doing things differently.  For people who like things the way they were in the ’50s that was too much. Also, for really detailed oriented people I’m too much of a big idea, generalist. I was also not a person they could control.”


Out of control synod


But if control was the hope of those who initiated disciplinary charges against their EP, things got completely out of control when the case was transferred to the synod where more people had reason not to like Cowden.


Do you remember the Mid Council Commission? Do you remember the idea of having porous presbyteries, non-geographic presbyteries and other creative ideas proposed to the 2012 General Assembly? Well, Cowden and San Diego Presbytery led the way on non-geographic creative thinking.


Cowden acknowledges those creative options were explored with the hope of keeping churches in the denomination and discovering a way of being a presbytery that is defined by theological orthodoxy, missional creativity and relational health rather than an outdated notion of only geography. However, other presbyteries saw it as a strategic attempt to “steal” their strongest churches. That loathing had been simmering and the allegations made by traditionalists in his own presbytery gave fellow presbyters in the Synod of Southern California and Hawaii the opportunity to go after him.


In April 2012, allegations were filed against Cowden and he in turn filed a request for vindication. The accusation against Cowden alleged misconduct related to synod and General Assembly grants for a 2008 presbytery new church development project known as Trinity Life. In February 2012, the presbytery voted in its consent agenda to suspend the presbytery’s relationship with Trinity Life, thus prompting the allegations.


Based on advice from the Office of the General Assembly, the Presbytery Council voted to refer the allegations to the synod, and the Synod Council accepted them in May of 2012, even though the PCUSA’s Rules of Discipline do not allow referrals to happen that way.  The synod in turn formed an Investigative Committee to determine if there was sufficient reason to file charges for a disciplinary offense.


According to both Tim Beal and Bob Davis, minister members of San Diego Presbytery who were both attorneys before they were pastors, that should have been the end of it. Nothing in the allegations rose to the level of discipline. These are the kinds of things that presbyteries routinely deal with at the Human Resources level. These are the kinds of things that are covered by: “let’s do it differently next time.”


The concerns should have been raised with the presbytery’s personnel committee not the PJC. In fact, they were raised with the presbytery’s personnel committee.  But, when their investigation did not result in any serious consequences for Cowden, a group of accusers decided to file disciplinary allegations.


The investigation should have never been pursued. Charges should have never been brought. A trial should have never been held. But that is not how this story goes.


The Synod Investigative Committee conducted an intensive eight-month inquiry into Cowden’s personal and professional conduct.  In February 2013 they filed 12 charges against him.


Cowden was accused of submitting applications to synod and General Assembly without necessary authorization by the presbytery; making those applications under false pretenses; causing the presbytery to breach commitments to the synod and General Assembly for those grants, violating the Manual of the Presbytery regarding oversight of the project, and making false or disingenuous statements with the intent to mislead the Investigative Committee.


As is directed in the Book of Order, members of the Investigative Committee formed the Prosecuting Committee in the disciplinary case. They announced that they were seeking the highest level of censure: removal from ordained ministry. They also communicated that they would not settle for anything less.


That “off with his head” demand makes no sense. There was no accusation of moral failing. There was no accusation of financial malfeasance. And yet, the synod prosecuting committee would accept nothing less than an end to Cowden’s service in the PCUSA as an ordained leader.


Not guilty, on all counts


Following three pre-trial conferences, a trial was held Aug. 16-19, 2013, before the Synod Permanent Judicial Commission (PJC). The PJC was composed of seven members that came from presbyteries in the Synod of Southern California & Hawaii other than San Diego. In order to find the accused guilty, five of the seven members must vote guilty. There is a vote taken on each count.


The case included 12 charges alleging 120 specific violations of the Constitution or Scriptures.


  • Two charges and their specifications were dismissed in Pre-Trial Conferences as not even constituting offenses.
  • Three and one half charges were dismissed and barred by the statute of limitations. These charges dealt with the Synod Grant application. Even though these were dismissed, virtually the same facts were adjudicated in the remaining charges regarding the General Assembly grant.
  • In charges 11 and 12, the PJC ruled Cowden not guilty at the conclusion of the prosecution’s case for lack of evidence, even before the defense presented its case. The vote for a failure to present a prima facie case was 4-3.
  • In the remaining 4 ½ charges, the PJC voted not guilty 0-7 on all of the main charges.  They voted not guilty 1-6 on one subpoint, and 2-5 on a couple of subpoints (dealing with financial oversight).


Discipline as restoration or humiliation?


It would seem that somewhere along the way the Investigating Committee got caught up in its own frenzied pursuit of Cowden. They were so determined to pronounce him guilty that they were not interested in any outcome other than his removal from ordained office and his personal humiliation along the way.


For what offense?


Cowden feels as if he himself became an offense to the PCUSA institutional preservationists.  That thought is offensive to consider. It unmasks the intolerance of a system that cannot abide the continuing presence of people who lead change in evangelical and missional directions.


And yet, on the other coast, the court refused to hear the relevant evidence in a case where the accused is living in clear violation of Biblical and constitutional standards for marriage. Which also unmasks the brokenness of a system that will abide the continuing presence of people who lead change in progressive directions.


The stress on the ecclesiastical discipline portion of the church governance leg has simply become too great.  Three synonymous words come to mind: fractured, broken, failed. By any definition, it is a system whose integrity has been compromised on both coasts with examples of cases on two extremes.


Both of the accused carry on as before. Vindicated? Maybe. Restored? Hardly.


For whom the bell tolls


After all was said and done the synod billed the Presbytery of San Diego for all the costs related to investigating, prosecuting and trying its executive. The cost of Cowden’s defense was $42,000. The presbytery’s insurance policy paid the first $20,000, and then the presbytery voted to pay the remainder of the costs. The presbytery’s bill from the synod is nearly $105,000.  So those who were concerned about the potential use of presbytery monies for something other than new church development got precisely the opposite of what they were seeking.


But who pays the other toll?  How do you account for the human toll paid by Cowden and his family?  How do you account for the distraction this caused for an entire presbytery?  Who will pay for the time lost, the energy wasted and the missional opportunities missed?


The bell is tolling, but for whom?

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Pittsburgh Presbytery gives nod to 3 departing churches, welcomes new one

By Peter Smith / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The Pittsburgh Presbytery on Saturday acquiesced to the departure of three area Allegheny County congregations to a more conservative denomination after reaching settlements in which the churches will keep their properties and make parting financial payments to the presbytery.

But the presbytery also added a member Saturday, formally recognizing a start-up congregation that has been growing in Squirrel Hill since its 2008 launch.

The three departing congregations took varied procedural routes to the exit doors, but all three are leaving the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) for the Evangelical Presbyterian Church. The latter, and other conservative Presbyterian bodies, have drawn scores of congregations in recent years, several of them in southwestern Pennsylvania, amid liberal trends in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), such as a 2011 constitutional change allowing non-celibate gays and lesbians to be ordained.

Read full story here 

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All is not quiet on the western front: the changing landscape of the PCUSA in Texas

The Presbytery of New Covenant (PNC) centered in Houston, Texas is the 4th largest presbytery in the Presbyterian Church (USA) and home to several of the denomination’s largest congregations including Memorial Drive, First Houston, Grace and Windwood. Like many presbyteries, the landscape is changing as congregations seek to discern their future.

On October 20, the 2,631-member Grace Presbyterian Church voted to enter the presbytery’s discernment process joining First Presbyterian Church Houston, with 3,567 members, which has been engaged in that process since January.

In the prior 18 months, six other Houston area churches have gone through the discernment process and left the PCUSA. Three congregations have been dismissed to ECO: A Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians including Advent in Spring, First Kingwood, West Isle in Galveston. Two congregations have been dismissed to the Evangelical Presbyterian Church (EPC): Memorial in San Augustine and First Lake Jackson; and the Heritage church is now aligned with the Evangelical Covenant Church (ECC).

Additionally, Windwood Presbyterian Church has been engaged in litigation with the presbytery for several years disputing the denomination’s assertion of trust over property. The court recently requested new briefs in the case from both parties following the ruling of the Texas Supreme Court which favors neutral principles of law and is a significant factor in the changing landscape for Texas churches.

New Covenant is not the only Texas presbytery dealing with the potential departure of its largest churches. Following the Texas Supreme Court ruling, the fourth largest PCUSA church in the nation, Highland Park in Dallas, began seeking denominational realignment in the Dallas based Grace Presbytery. The court has set a March 2014 date to hear the case.

In west Texas, Palo Duro Presbytery has taken recent action against First Presbyterian Church in Amarillo in response to that congregation’s attempt to make a denominational change.

Suffice it to say, all is not quiet on the western front.



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MCC-2 receives consultation from synods

pcusaAs part of its mandate to determine the future of synods in the Presbyterian Church (USA), the Mid-Council Commission II (MCC-2) engaged in dialogue with synod leaders via conference calls during the summer.

Results of that dialogue were shared during the first of three days of meetings for the MCC-2 on Sept. 9 at the American Airlines Training and Conference Center in Dallas.

From July 5-Sept. 6, MCC-2 co-moderators Byron Wade (pastor of Davie Street Presbyterian Church of New Hope Presbytery in North Carolina) and Ariel Mink (ruling elder and vice moderator of Redwoods Presbytery in California), along with addition members of the 15-member commission communicated with synod moderators, executives and two additional synod representatives about their views on the second MCC’s charge.

That directive from the 220th General Assembly was to pick up where the first MCC left off, further discussing, refining and bringing to the 221st GA (June 14-20, 2014 in Detroit) recommendations that consider the composition and organization of mid-councils (synods and presbyteries) in ways that reinvigorate their capacity to support missional congregations and advance the ecclesial nature and character of those presbyteries, within the unity of the church.

“We’re down to the home stretch to determine what is the future of synods,” said Jill Hudson, coordinator of mid-councils for the Office of the General Assembly (OGA).

Hudson said the 219th GA (2010) established the first MCC to look at the possibility of eliminating or reducing the number of synods, presently 16 that oversee the PCUSA’s 173 presbyteries. All the recommendations made by the first MCC (primarily to eliminate all 16 synods) were voted down by the GA last summer, and a second commission was developed and charged with doing further work to explore the future of the mid-council bodies.

In presenting results of the conferences with 13 of the 16 synods (Living Waters, Puerto Rico and Alaska Northwest did not participate) as well as a meeting with the Synod Executive Forum in Seattle, Mink shared the views of synod leaders.

She noted that the overlying theme was that whatever recommendation the MCC-2 sends to the GA, the rationale regarding any reconfiguration needs to be based on missional priorities and objectives.

Findings also revealed the need for a bottom-up approach rather than a top-down directive, moving past a “one size fits all” solution to take into account the needs of presbyteries within the individual synods. There also was a general consensus that presbyteries and synods should be involved in a discernment process regarding the evolution of synods.


The findings showed that larger synods would lead to expanded networks but could eliminate a connectional/relational identity. There also could be hardships for those representatives in remote locations if the geographic boundaries are greatly enlarged.


Other concerns brought up in the conferences were the possibility of losing racial/ethnic groups (Native American, African-American, Korean, Hispanic) , the relational nature of the synod, an increased cost for travel and time if the footprint is enlarged, the need to add staff and redistribution of giving.

Expansion of the synod boundaries also was questioned. Would they be split geographically east and west, north and south, etc.? Would population, political affiliation or diversity of ethnic/racial communities factor into the boundaries?

The Rev. Jason Ko of Los Ranchos Presbytery, said he sensed some anger and frustration from the timing of such a decision regarding the future of synods with a number of churches leaving the PCUSA now to align with other denominations like ECO: A Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians.

“What I heard loud and clear was anger and frustration,” Ko said. “They seemed to be asking, ‘Why are we looking at this now when we don’t know what the denomination will look like in a year.'”

When asked about the impact of churches leaving the PCUSA and the effect on presbyteries, Mink said only “three or four” synods expressed concern about that issue.

Mink went on to report that the consultations indicated that synod leaders are of the mind that the losses of their mid-council body would far outweigh the benefits. She noted a loss of connectionalism/relationalism; stresses on staffing; the costs of travel; and the complexity of assets and potential redistribution as concerns expressed from the synod level.

On the positive side, increased networking opportunities were mentioned along with a greater ability to share best practices and lessons learned, along with an expanded reliance on technology.

Wade said he detected a feeling of openness on the part of synod leaders to at least explore options for the future.

“What I heard was if we had our druthers, we’d rather stay as we are, but we know the GA won’t explore that so we’re open to at least discuss it,” he said. “But if we do it (make changes to the current structure), (the MCC) will have to have a pretty good rationale for why it is being done.”

Jane Smith, a ruling elder from Riverside Presbytery in California, said the question of a synod’s purpose still needed to be addressed.

“What I perceive is that we have a question of what is the purpose of a synod, other than things outlined in the Book of Order,” she said. “I sort of feel, that beyond various administrative requirements, we haven’t defined the goal of synods.”

Smith added that the feedback received was strictly from the point of view of synod representatives and did not consider input from presbyteries or local congregations.

“We’re asking (synods) to assess themselves about whether this downsizing should take place,” Smith said. “While it is important to listen to their concerns, we have to understand this is from the synod’s point of view. We don’t have presbyteries or local congregations weighing in.”

The Rev. Eileen Lindner, pastor of the Presbyterian Church at Tenafly, N.Y., of Palisades Presbytery, chimed in, “We asked the fox how things are at the hen house so we should not be surprised at their responses.”

The Rev. Liza Hendricks, general presbyter for Western Reserve Presbytery, viewed the future of synods as one that may prove to be difficult to cope with once a final recommendation is submitted to the GA by the MCC-2.

“How hard it must be to think about loss, which this is largely about,” Hendricks opined. “It’s a matter of giving up or losing something rather than what they might gain. It’s difficult to look at what might be on the other side of change.”

Mink said she was appreciative that so many of the synods were willing to engage in communication regarding their futures.

“It was a very valuable exercise; it was helpful to talk with the synods,” she said. “They need to see that we are not just a rubber stamp commission, that we are truly invested in listening and understanding. Their opinions do matter and are heard.”

The MCC-2 will continue meeting in Dallas through Wednesday. A final meeting is scheduled for Jan. 13-15, 2014, in Dallas, with the commission’s final report due to the GA by Feb. 14, 2014.


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The splitting branch of the Presbyterian vine produces some sour grapes

exit closedThe angst is palpable in the June 27 letter from Gradye Parsons, stated clerk of the Presbyterian Church (USA), to Jeffrey Jeremiah, stated clerk of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church. At issue is the EPC’s reception of congregations that have disaffiliated from the PCUSA.  Parsons asserts that the EPC can only receive a congregation that has been formally dismissed by its PCUSA presbytery of membership.

Any other exit route is barred, Parsons says.  “A Presbyterian congregation, as I am sure you are aware, cannot dismiss, dissolve, disaffiliate, or transfer itself by its own action. Any vote taken by a PCUSA congregation or session in no way removes the congregation from the jurisdiction of the PCUSA. Neither the congregation nor the session has the authority to make the congregation ‘independent’ as the congregation or the EPC may suggest. We do not recognize the action so the congregation and/or the EPC as releasing a PCUSA congregation from the requirements and obligations of our Book of Order.  If the EPC takes action to receive a non-dismissed PCUSA congregation, such action is not recognized by us as a dismissal and the presbytery of membership will continue to fulfill its responsibility through its related processes, ecclesial and/or secular, through to completion.”

Parsons’ final sentence in the paragraph is an open threat of ecclesiastical and civil lawsuits.  But cause for greater alarm is the revelation that the PCUSA’s highest official is negating the guaranteed right of free association under the Constitution of The United States of America.

Parson acknowledges that presbyteries have the constitutional mandate to have policies in place to effect gracious dismissals of PCUSA congregations to other Reformed bodies. However, the majority of PCUSA presbyteries do not have such a policy. Others have such unwieldy policies as to make dismissal virtually impossible.

He says, “The congregation’s presbytery of membership has the responsibility to coordinate, guide, encourage, support and, resource the work of its congregations for the most effective witness to the broader community. If a session or congregation expresses a desire to be dismissed from the PC(USA), the presbytery, in light of its mission, has the responsibility to counsel and consult with the session and congregation, and to ultimately determine whether a congregation should be dismissed to another denomination.”

That statement begs the question what legitimate mission does the presbytery have beyond its congregations? Does not the presbytery exist to support the witness of Christ through its constituent congregations? Or, in fact, do the congregations exist to support the higher governing bodies of the denominational structure, including the presbytery? Has the traditional inverted triangular Presbyterian icon of representative governance been officially inverted?

There is a related issue that is not addressed in the letter: The regular transfer of clergy from one denomination to another. A pastor is called to serve a local congregation, but he or she is a member of the presbytery. In the case where the congregation wants to leave the PCUSA the pastor is understandably caught between competing loyalties. In most cases where the congregation votes to disaffiliate the pastor must renounce the jurisdiction of the PCUSA or face ecclesiastical charges for having allowed such schism to foment under his/her watch. Remember Heidi Johnson?

Some pragmatists out there are going to ask, “How many churches are we really talking about? How many churches have taken the disaffiliation route to the EPC?”  The answer from recent history is 25 but the forward looking question is as presbyteries close the dismissal door is the disaffiliation option preserved by U.S. Constitutional right?

The effect of Parson’s letter may be much broader than churches actively seeking to depart the PCUSA for the EPC. The letter is not only copied to all the executive presbyters and presbytery stated clerks in the PCUSA it is also copied to the two highest ranking officials in the World Communion of Reformed Churches. The WCRC is the only international ecumenical body whose membership includes both the affected denominations: PCUSA and EPC.  If Parsons can raise concerns about the EPC with the WCRC that may also affect the current provisional membership of the ECO: A Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians. Why? Because the EPC is one of the two WCRC “sponsors” of the ECO for membership.

Maybe it’s all just sour grapes, but I fear it portends negatively of things to come.

August 22 update: The Stated Clerk of the EPC, Jeffrey Jeremiah, has replied to the June 27 letter from Parsons.
Read Jeremiah’s letter to Parsons.


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Grace Presbytery dismisses Korean church in Carrollton, Texas

bethanykoreanA Korean Presbyterian church in Texas was dismissed to join ECO: A Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians during a meeting of Irving-based Grace Presbytery.

According to presbytery documents, Bethany Korean Presbyterian Church was dismissed from the Presbyterian Church (USA) on April 20.

The congregation – comprised of 344 members – voted April 7 to be dismissed to ECO and agreed to settlement terms reached with the presbytery.

Located in Carrollton, a suburb of north Dallas, Bethany Korean sought dismissal to another Reformed body, and a Presbytery Ministry Team (PMT) was assigned to work with the congregation and its leadership.

Several meetings between the Bethany session and PMT revealed concerns that the church was losing members because of the passage of Amendment 10A, which deleted the explicit “fidelity/chastity” requirement from the constitutional ordination standard, and now allows the PCUSA to ordain gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people as deacons, elders and pastors.

Session members also indicated a feeling that the PCUSA will redefine marriage beyond the union of a man and woman in the future, which further may have an impact on the church’s ability to keep or add new members.

Despite an explanation from the PMT regarding the historic Presbyterian principle of local congregations choosing whom they will ordain and call to ministry, and a presentation of the facts of the Book of Order changes regarding 10A, Bethany’s session remained firm in its stance.

Members of the PMT attempted to find a balance between protecting the interests of Bethany Korean and Grace Presbytery, as it outlined in a report to the presbytery that gave settlement terms. That report indicated the terms would compensate “Grace Presbytery for past faithfulness and a desire to have resources to expand and support its future ministries, and Bethany Korean to avoid placing their congregation in financial peril as they move forward.”

Other factors that influenced financial negotiations between the parties were an understanding that Bethany Korean came to the PCUSA as an already functioning congregation and a comfortable estimate that there would be no minority members left interested in maintaining a congregation in the PCUSA.

According to the terms agreed to by both sides, Bethany Korean will pay $270,000 to Grace Presbytery for its financial interest in the property. A lump sum payment of $230,000 was made at the time of dismissal, with a sum of $10,000 to be paid annually for the next four years. If all conditions are met, the PMT plans to recommend at a future presbytery meeting that the payments of $10,000 be forgiven on an annual basis.

In addition to the financial compensation, Bethany Korean’s ordained staff had to provide letters of their acceptance into ECO along with a copy of the church’s formal request to join ECO and a letter of acceptance from that Reformed body. All session records of Bethany, including minutes and rolls, also had to be turned over to Grace Presbytery.

Bethany Korean is the first congregation in Grace Presbytery to be dismissed since the adoption of its Just and Gracious Dismissal Policy in September 2012.


Four dismissals from Great Rivers Presbytery

Great Rivers Presbytery in western Illinois dismissed two churches to the Evangelical Presbyterian Church (EPC) and two others to reconstitute themselves in late 2012 after working out settlement agreements with Discernment Teams that were approved by the presbytery.

First Presbyterian Church of Princeville, with a membership of 100, was dismissed after agreeing to pay $75,000, and Alexis Presbyterian Church (155 members) agreed to pay $338 semi-annually over 20 years for a total amount of $13,500.

Little Cedar Presbyterian Church and Elvaston Presbyterian Church both were dismissed to reconstitute themselves under Illinois state law. Little Cedar (96 members) was released effective Dec. 1 after paying $15,661, and Elvaston, with a membership of 103, was dismissed effective Dec. 15 after paying $9,960.

All four churches also were required to turn over church records to Great Rivers Presbytery.

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