Highland Park Presbyterian Church (HPPC) has filed a lawsuit in Dallas County District Court seeking protection of church property and asking the court to declare that the right to control the property belongs to HPPC and not the church’s denomination, the Presbyterian Church (USA), PC(USA).
HPPC filed the lawsuit following a unanimous vote by its board of trustees. In addition to addressing the property issues, the legal action provides a time period during which the church leadership can consider its future relationship with the PC(USA).
On Tuesday, a Dallas County District Court judge granted the church a temporary restraining order for 13 days, during which time the PC(USA) is barred from taking any action relative to the HPPC property.
Grace presbytery’s response is posted on their website: http://www.gracepresbytery.org/presbytery-responds-to-hppc-civil-legal-action/
It reads: “We are shocked and sadden that Highland Park Presbyterian Church (HPPC) of Dallas has chosen to file suit, today, September 10, and request an injunction that will take us into civil court. There has been no conversation at the presbytery level to seek control of their property or establish a commission to work with the church during their period of discernment as to whether or not to seek dismissal from the Presbyterian Church (USA).”
Oppressive regimes are always shocked and saddened when people operate out of the reality of the situation. Sounds like a responsible preemptive move.
This is no doubt sending shock waves through the Grace Presbytery offices. HPPC is one of 160 congregations in Grace, but has 12% of the presbytery’s total membership. If HPPC follows through and leaves the PCUSA, Grace will be 1/8 smaller in size, in one fell swoop.
A commenter on this web site recently made light of The Layman’s stories about departing congregations, saying that they were tiny (fewer than 100 members). Well, not all of them, it seems.
Most PC(USA) congregations are small. So most that leave are small. Some are not small, so some large ones will leave. That commenter was just making political hay out of a self-evident fact. What did they think was going to happen?
Sax Gotha and Menlo Park are the next large congregations to leave….about 6000 members between them
The size of the church doesn’t matter. Each individual member is of equal value in God’s eyes.
The willingness of PCUSA leadership to ignore and twist God’s word to craft its own “golden calf” is a reminder of events noted in His word. The consequences of this Sin will have reprecussions that go far beyond what we now see. Using man’s law to punish and stand in the path of those who follow His will is a harbinger of things to come. May we all pray that the calamity which will surely come does not destroy the denomination that has been a beacon to so many. May His will prevail and may the “golden calf” find its historical and Biblical end.
As big as the prospect of Highland Park leaving is, the story is potentially even much bigger. If the Texas Supreme Court decision leads to Highland Park being able to claim its property and leave the PCUSA without paying tribute to Grace Presbytery, then other congregations in Grace – and elsewhere in the state – are sure to sit up and take notice of that fact. This is potentially ground-shaking.
Sad – yet predictable behavior.
The PCUSA is doing the right thing by upholding God’s truth for inclusion of all people in the body of Christ. We will move forward in light and truth – I pray the congregation members of HPUMC will one day do the same.
I’m curious as to what part of “God’s truth for inclusion of all people in the body of Christ” you are referring to. If you are referring to PCUSA’s elimination of the sexual purity from ordination requirements, perhaps you have been misinformed. Discussion of this issue makes anyone opposed to this change seem bigoted, prejudiced, homophobic, etc. Your comment, including the first sentence, implies you feel as such. To be clear, churches that are leaving because of this change, are NOT doing so in order to exclude anyone from the body of Christ. This is about changing a centuries-old set of requirements for ordination. Based upon the Bible when written, many churches understandably are concerned that a leadership (PCUSA) would find justification to change them. This is not controversy similar to slavery, racism, or even women ministers. Not even close. To borrow words from your last sentence in summary: HPPC will move forward in light and truth – I pray the PCUSA will one day do the same.
I agree completely with Rev. Dr. Thomas Peavy’s comments and concerns. I fear that by staying faithful to FPC that I too am worshiping the golden calf. I no longer am proud to be Presbyterian.
The HPPC says on their website that they filed the lawsuit to have time to determine God’s will.
Spoiler Alert: The HPPC will decide that it’s God’s will to… Keep hatin’ them gays
Dr prof, have you ever worshipped at HPPC? I have, in fact I’m a former member. I knew lots of people there. None of them hated “them” gays. Furthermore, they were, without exception, educated people who never used the word “them” in the grammatically incorrect way you suggest. So It seems to me you’re adding nothing to the conversation except to libel people you don’t know.
Please explain to me how it is that you deduce that since Evangelical Presbyterians believe on the testimony of Scripture that homosexual practice is sin, that they therefore must hate practicing homosexuals. Should I deduce from your comment that you believe that regarding homosexual practice as a sin is, itself, sin? And if that is, indeed, the case, following your logic, should I not also deduce that you are a hateful and spiteful individual for hating Evangelical Presbyterians for so regarding homosexual practice? “Keep hatin’ them Evangelical Presbyterians”?
Throughout my fifty-plus years in the Presbyterian Church, I have been aware that my fellow church members took pride in our Presbyterian way of making decisions through elected representatives. Major decisions not only “go up” to the national church but have to be ratified, or not, at the presbytery level. The recent change in the policy on whether gay and lesbian people may serve as teaching elders (ministers) in our church was passed and ratified in this manner. Now it seems that the respect for our system of governance was only provisional, until an emotional enough topic came along. Having lost in the decision-making process, opponents to the new policy want to leave the denomination. As to the property used by a particular church, it’s very clear in the Book of Order that such property belongs to the denomination. We have all lived by our Book of Order for years, years, decades. But when it becomes inconvenient, certain congregations decide to make “pre-emptive moves” to prevent following the Book of Order without even discussing the matter with presbytery. I find all this ill will profoundly distressing.
Janis: It does appear that there are some who aren’t happy with the decision of the church body as a whole. However, I would like to say that the two representatives from my church voted in favor of the change in ordination standards at the presbytery level without knowing the whole truth. They are both educated and capable people, who reported after the fact that there was never any mention whatsoever of gays, lesbians, sexual purity, and faithfulness in marriage. What was removed from the language wasn’t presented. Instead, they felt fooled into the vote, because they heard the words, “joyfully, lordship of Christ, gifts, etc.” I have a feeling this happened at many of the presbytery levels’ votes.
This was a wise move on the part of HPPC. As much as we hate to get the courts involved, the chances that the presbytery would have done so was high, especially if it was obvious that the congregation was serious about going elsewhere.
I pray that if HPPC does leave, that it will seek to go into a denomination that does uphold Scripture as the inerrant Word of God and not to one that has made concessions to the modern worldview. Any denomination that allows for the ordaining of women or gays in the pulpit does not adhere to the teachings of God’s Word.
Janice – Completely agree with you.
This is exactly why I like the Methodist Church, “Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors.” I’d rather focus on my relationship with Jesus and not divisiveness. Any educated person has to know there is going to be variety in theology and interpretation of scripture based on the culturally relative guidelines of the time period it was written. That doesn’t make it less true, but all disagreements do is turn non-believers away from the church when the most important thing should be accepting Chris as Savior!
“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? – Luke 6:41