The largest predominantly African-American church in Ohio has been dismissed from the Presbyterian Church (USA) to ECO: A Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians.
New Life at Calvary in Cleveland, along with its pastors Rev. Rick Gillespie-Mobley, Rev. Toby Gillespie-Mobley and Rev. Kellie Sullivan, were dismissed by the Presbytery of the Western Reserve to ECO. Parish Associate Rev. Willy Nieves also transferred his membership.
The 299-member church voted by a 90 percent margin to join ECO.
According to information provided by the pastors, the church’s bylaws — predating the PCUSA’s trust clause which claims all church property is held in trust for the denomination –specifically stated “all the property of the church was held in trust for the congregation.”
The church and the presbytery’s Administrative Commission (AC) agreed upon the presbytery’s requests for membership records, financial documentation, session minutes, and other documents to be transferred to the presbytery. The only issue was the amount the church would be asked to pay to leave the denomination.
The presbytery AC presented an offer that was not acceptable to the church because of the amount requested and a 20-year interest in the church’s property in the event of a sale. The church presented a counter offer of two years per-capita payments and $25,000 to the presbytery. The church also agreed to give the presbytery 10 percent of its net proceeds if the building was sold within five years.
The AC rejected the church’s offer stating the property was valued at $1.9 million. Their counter offer was much larger than the church could afford. The session voted unanimously to disaffiliate from the PCUSA, knowing that Ohio law favored the church’s position because of all the church’s legal documents, including a recorded lease with the presbytery which stated the church owned the property. Presbytery had leased space in the church after the trust clause was in effect.
The stated clerk requested that instead of disaffiliating, the church should present its previous offer as a final offer to the AC. The session voted to submit the offer again. The offer was accepted by the AC. At the presbytery meeting, the moderator of the AC made it clear that they were presenting the offer to the presbytery, because their lawyer had indicated it was a good offer considering if they went to court, the presbytery may end up with nothing under Ohio law. He also stated that there was some pressure from Louisville to reach a settlement with the church.
At the presbytery meeting, there was still some opposition to the motion for dismissal under the terms of the agreement, but it passed by a majority voice vote. The opposition fell into one of two categories. The first category was that the PCUSA was big enough to include all theological persuasions and to dismiss a church was tantamount to destroying the unity of the church. The second category was that the church should be required to pay more money in the name of good stewardship of the church’s resources.
It was pointed out, if the presbytery had received the property, all it could do was sell it. Having an alive inner city church on the corner of E. 79thand Euclid Ave. in Cleveland was a much better use of church resources than replacing the church with a shopping center.
Overall the process ended amicably in part because the incoming moderator spoke in favor of the motion and asked that the presbytery give its blessings on the future ministry of New Life At Calvary. The current moderator prayed for the four pastors who were leaving, and one of them in turn prayed for the presbytery.
Pastors Rick and Toby Gillespie-Mobley said that it wasn’t “easy saying goodbye to so many colleagues we had walked with for the past 26 years.”
“The reality was, it was time for us to go in a new direction for the health of New Life At Calvary as well as for its pastors. We will miss the Presbytery of the Western Reserve. We eagerly wait what God has for us in the Presbytery of the Great Lakes in ECO,” said Gillespie-Mobley.
Read the Report of the Administrative Commission for New Life at Calvary and the Dismissal Agreement and Release.
Let me be the first to welcome you to ECO on this board!
Again this is sad. In todays rapidly changing secular world, we need to take God’s Word even more seriously. How many of our lay members could take and pass the Bible Content Exam with a score of 95% or higher?
Who’s Bible Content Exam? I’m not being snarky, I just want to know. I assume from the content that it would be ECO or the current PCUSA?
May God richly bless our brothers and sisters at New Life at Calvary church!
While sadness fills my spirit whenever the remnant in the PCUSA is weakened by another departure, the departures will increase because of the majority’s inability to understand the departures as the unpaid bills of its increasing infidelities to Jesus by the book as previously upheld by our confessions, constitution, history, traditions, and common sense. The remnant knows the lampstand has been removed from the franchise; yet it remains to salt, shine, and leavenate. Only those with two feet planted firmly in the air and living in the ozone layer of reality cannot see the handwriting on the wall for the once influential, relevant, transforming, and faithful ministry of the PCUSA.
Matthew 23 comes to mind. I also remember Carmen saying to evangelical “renewalists” at a meetng many years ago who were/remain as blind to the realities and prospects of the PCUSA as the majority that now rules that PCUSAers are sooooooo arrogant considering their decreasingly increasing small numbers. Or as a friend said to a shocked franchise executive, “Nobody in government or the ecumenical community really cares what the PCUSA says anymore. It has become a small and irrelevant island unto itself.”
One of the biggest lies liberals tell racial minorities is that they are best “stewards” and caretakers of their self-interest in that they will advocate for them for greater benefits the welfare state or other statist enterprises. The same applies to liberal theological entities in that the assumption is made by older white liberals that of course people of color will always be in agreement to their agenda, which is in essence anti-life, anti-family, anti-responsibility, pro-death.
Kudos to this church in Ohio that saw their their lies and damn lies. God bless them all.
It is interesting to me that the reasons this particular congregation requested dismissal are not specifically laid out in this article, and are only vaguely mentioned in the dismissal resolution.
Blessings to my former classmates. I hope to be joining you soon.
Sounds as if the real reason the Presbytery relented is that they and the national PCUSA leadership didn’t want the negative publicity of stealing from African Americans. Too bad they don’t have the same sensitivity for predominantly Korean congregations, or predominantly White congregations for that matter. They decry corporate greed while acting like the robber barons of old and then are surprised when members leave via the back door or by a vote.
I meant context.
I will go so far as to speculate on that. As someone married to a Kenyan-American, I think Africans and African-Americans more highly value unity, than so many white Americans, with their R1b, genetic characteristics. I have R1b on my Y chromosome and would not regard it as a flaw!
Although the reason for this church’s departure from the PCUSA are not stated in this article, it is no doubt related to the PCUSA’s departure from the Scriptures in regards to marriage. Here is what New Life Calvary lists on their website regarding the use of their building: “Requests for use of the building shall be made in writing and given to the clerk of Session. We hold the biblical conviction that a marriage can only be between a man and a woman as found in the Bible. We do not allow same sex unions/marriages/etc. to take place in or on our premises.” When the leaders of a denomination sanction sin and refuse to repent, what’s a church seeking to be faithful to do? At minimum, members need to depart — seeking more faithful bodies in Christ’s kingdom.
Thank you for your comment, Mike.
One thing that you wrote has gotten me to thinking. You wrote: “At minimum, members need to depart — seeking more faithful bodies in Christ’s kingdom.”
I wonder at what point it would be appropriate to rewrite this sentence by removing the word “more.”
For some time now, many of us have used the “more faithful” and “less faithful” phrases when talking about the PCUSA and the other Presbyterian denominations. We have done so because we acknowledge that no denomination qualifies as entirely faithful, and no denomination may be justly accused of being completely apostate. There are shades of gray from one end of the spectrum to the other.
However, there is also a point on the spectrum where “less faithful” becomes “unfaithful,” and where ecclesiastical “bodies in Christ’s kingdom” depart from and cease to have any continuing part “in Christ’s kingdom.” Can we say of a particular church, or presbytery, or denomination that is in open rebellion against the common faith and practice of historic, biblical Christianity that it is “less faithful” than others, or must we frankly acknowledge that it has moved beyond being “less faithful,” and has become “unfaithful?”
For many of us, up until just a few years ago, the “more faithful” and “less faithful” language made sense. As the PCUSA has continued it inexorable and accelerating downward slide, however, perhaps the time has come to take that one word out of your final sentence, Mike, and simply say:
At minimum, members need to depart — seeking faithful bodies in Christ’s kingdom.
That’s great Keith. I’m married to a Texan American. And I’m a Texan American too. Not sure what my chromosomal makeup is. Jesus does, although I’m not sure he cares. But right on Keith! Preach it brother!