By Lilly Fowler, St. Louis Post-Dispatch
The second-oldest Presbyterian church west of the Mississippi River, Bonhomme Presbyterian, is struggling to hang on to its historical roots — and its lavish Chesterfield property.
The problem stems from the church’s recent decision to break from its former denomination — the Presbyterian Church (USA).
Presbyterian Church (USA) is the largest Presbyterian denomination in the country, with about 1.8 million members. The denomination supports abortion rights. In 2011, it lifted its longtime ban on gay clergy, and its stance against same-sex marriage is under debate.
Bonhomme Presbyterian Church (Chesterfield, MO) disagrees with the denomination’s views on these and other issues.
The Rev. Tom Pfizenmaier, senior pastor of the church, calls Bonhomme a “theological outlier.”
Rather than continue to have disagreements, Bonhomme has opted to join a new, more conservative denomination: Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians, sometimes referred to as ECO, which has grown rapidly since its launch in 2012. Currently, 177 congregations and 270 pastors belong to the denomination.
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) leaders, however, argue that whatever theological direction the congregation chooses, the church property remains theirs.
“The Presbyterian church is becoming more and more hostile toward churches that are trying to leave,” Pfizenmaier said one recent afternoon in his office.