Covenant Presbyterian Church, started in 1963, was dismissed from the PCUSA during a Presbytery of Florida meeting in January, but it entered a lease agreement with the presbytery to continue meeting in its facilities, located on Old Bainbridge Road in Tallahassee.
Documents show that Covenant’s session informed the Presbytery of Florida by letter on April 20, 2012, of its decision to seek dismissal from the PCUSA, and an Administrative Commission (AC) was formed to work with the church.
From April 24 to Oct. 25, 2012, the AC met with the Covenant session and Pastor Rick Gernhardt about a possible reconciliation and decision to stay with the PCUSA, but Covenant’s leadership was firm in its intent and desire to be dismissed.
Before submission of the letter seeking dismissal, Covenant held a congregational meeting that returned a 64-1 margin in favor of leaving the national denomination.
From May to September 2012 Covenant went through a period of discernment and research to identify a like-minded Reformed denomination to join, finally settling on the EPC.
On Oct. 25, 2012, the AC met with Gernhardt and Covenant’s session to reach terms for dismissal. Five days later, 59 of the 72 active members of Covenant turned out for a congregational vote and were unanimous in their decision to approve the proposed agreement for dismissal to the EPC.
Upon approval of the dismissal, Covenant entered a seven-year lease with the Presbytery of Florida under the following terms:
- For the first three years of the lease, Covenant will contribute $1,000 per year to Presbytery of Florida as per capita giving in lieu of rent.
- For the first three years of the lease, Covenant will contribute $3,000 per year to Presbytery of Florida as mission giving in lieu of rent.
- For the last four years of the lease, Covenant will pay $1,000 per year to Presbytery of Florida as rent.
- In the event Covenant ceases to exist or disassociates itself from the EPC prior to expiration of the lease, Covenant will have no claim, interest or entitlement in or to the church property.
- Covenant will be responsible for all financial obligations of operating and maintaining the property throughout the term of the lease and will maintain the property in good condition throughout the term of the lease.
- With reasonable advance notice Covenant will permit inspection of the property by duly authorized agents or representatives of the Presbytery of Florida.
- Covenant will have no right to financially encumber the property during the term of the lease without the approval of the Presbytery of Florida.
When the lease expires, if all terms and conditions have been met, the presbytery will transfer the title of all church property to Covenant Presbyterian Church via quit claim deed, thus relinquishing all rights and interest in the property.
A report from the AC given during the April 30 presbytery meeting showed that the lease agreement between the parties had been executed, and Covenant had made its first payment under terms agreed to by both sides.