San Diego Presbytery voted in favor of a recommendation by the Task Force working with the FPC-Honolulu session to authorize waiving the timeline for a congregational vote to seek dismissal. The presbytery authorized the waiver during its meeting on May 20.
The decision of the presbytery allows the vote to be bumped up by more than seven weeks. With the waiver approved, FPC-Honolulu has scheduled a vote regarding dismissal to ECO: A Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians for June 8 at 9:30 a.m.
A quorum of 25 percent of the members on the active role (1,200) still will be required for the vote to take place, and three quarters of the members present must vote in favor of dismissal to ECO for the measure to pass.
Church officials have declined to make any public statements about the dismissal process until it has run its course.
San Diego Executive Presbyter Clark Cowden said there was some hesitation when such action was discussed by the presbytery’s Executive Committee in April, but it was given the OK when brought before the full presbytery.
“It seemed like a reasonable request to me,” Cowden said. “I think people have trust in the members of the Task Force who have been working on this process. (Task Force members) think (the Honolulu session and congregation) have done what they need to do and know what they want to do. There’s nothing to be gained by waiting.”
Seeking the waiver
In its rationale for seeking a waiver to the dismissal timeline, FPC-Honolulu’s Discernment Team noted that various Authoritative Interpretations could make it increasingly difficult for churches to go through a discernment process and seek dismissal from the PCUSA. There is an added concern that possible moratoriums or changes to current dismissal policies proposed at the 221st General Assembly June 14-21 in Detroit, Mich., could pose problems for leaving.
The church also wants to avoid the appearance that its congregational vote is merely a reaction to a measure acted on or discussed at the GA.
Setting the process in motion
The FPC-Honolulu session notified San Diego Presbytery on Nov. 27, 2013, that it wanted to begin discussions under the Covenants and Gracious Dismissal Policy (CGDP), adopted in November 2013. Two weeks later a Task Force to work with the church was put in place.
The beginning of the process was delayed because Honolulu is a great distance away from the presbytery headquarters on the mainland in California, the request was received heading into the Advent season, and it took time to coordinate plane trips to the island for Task Force members.
The first meeting between the Task Force and the session took place Jan. 30, 2014, providing the anchor point for the schedule of events required under the CGDP.
Following town hall meetings at the church in early April, the next step in the process would be the congregational vote, scheduled to take place no less than six months after the first meeting of the Task Force and session according to the CGDP. That meant the vote would be no earlier than July 30.
However, the Task Force determined that all issues for discussion between it and the session had been resolved, the requested date for dismissal was more than six months after the session’s request to begin the gracious dismissal process, and delays for another couple of months would prove to be enervating rather than energizing to the ministry of the church and the discernment process.
“There really was nothing accomplished by sitting around and waiting another couple of months on their vote,” Cowden said. “The Task Force has finished its work and didn’t feel there was anything left to do. That’s why they brought back a recommendation that we honor this request and move the vote up sooner than our policy stated.”
According to a report from the Task Force, the sides have agreed on a figure of $316,323 that FPC-Honolulu would pay to retain its property, with the possibility that the congregation could pay that sum over a period of five years.
Cowden noted that the agreement reached between the parties is an anticipated price at this point and could be changed by the presbytery when it meets to vote on dismissing the congregation if FPC-Honolulu’s vote in June is approved.
Assuming the congregational vote is affirmative for FPC-Honolulu’s departure to ECO, the vote by the San Diego Presbytery for dismissal of the church from the PCUSA is expected to take place at the Sept. 16 meeting.