Nearly two years of following the guidelines for gracious dismissal paid off for an Iowa congregation.
First Presbyterian Church of Aplington was dismissed from the PCUSA during an April 30 meeting of the Presbytery of North Central Iowa to join the Evangelical Presbyterian Church (EPC).
Located in northeastern Iowa near Waterloo, the church of 253 members under the care of Pastor Michael McLain was organized in the early 1900s. A more liberal stance taken by the national denomination led church leaders to recommend seeking dismissal from the PCUSA.
“The church (PCUSA) is going more and more liberal,” said Leland A. Meyer, a church member who was active in the process after the Aplington session voted 5-1 to seek dismissal. “It’s just gotten so liberal through the years.”
The PCUSA’s decision to ordain homosexuals (the 2011 passage of Amendment 10A) was the “straw the broke the camel’s back” for the congregation, Meyer pointed out, also referencing the denomination’s drift from the authority of Scripture and complacency with those in the church stating that there are other ways to salvation than through Jesus Christ as other reasons given for seeking dismissal.
“That’s not what the Bible says,” Meyer said. “We take the Bible pretty literally, and we’ll quarrel when people start trying to dilute its authority. The PCUSA does not take a stand on moral issues anymore. Our people were just tired of it and said enough is enough.”
More than 90 percent of those casting ballots in the congregational vote were in favor of departing the PCUSA for affiliation with EPC.
“Some thought we should just walk away, but that could have split the congregation,” Meyer observed. “We had to go by the protocol. It was discouraging at times, but the way we did it kept us from losing a lot of members. I think this was the proper way to do it.”
The settlement negotiated between the presbytery and Aplington’s session led to a total payment of $93,302 by the congregation. The figure was reached by taking the appraised value of the property into consideration along with two years of per-capita payments.
The per-capita total came to $8,602. The remaining $84,700 will be split evenly to support the presbytery camp at Lake Okoboji and disaster relief trips funded by the North Central Iowa Presbytery. Congregants have participated in activities at the camp and with such relief efforts.
Meyer indicated that the approval of the bulk of the money being used for missions made the terms more agreeable to Aplington’s membership, which pledged more than the total amount needed for the settlement within two weeks of the vote.
If a $93K ransom payment is what it takes for Aplington church to leave, then it is worth it. But it shouldn’t really be that consoling to members that the money is going to causes they support, because their payment just frees up other funds held by presbytery to be used for purposes the Aplington church wouldn’t approve of.
A LARGE part of the 93K paid to the Presbytery was money given to Applington by the GENERAL ASSEMBLY not the Presbytery. Further it was money that had been given to Applington MANY years ago.
As a member of the Presbytery receiving the 93K – who voted against it – I am convinced there was nothing “graceous” in the action of the Presbytery. It NEVER was their money and they did not deserve to have it. Yes indeed it was “ransom”! “they will know we are Christians by our love……….”???