In at least two Presbyterian Church (USA) presbyteries open letters are circulating asking that no more churches be dismissed from the PCUSA.
The Layman Online has copies of open letters sent to churches in both Cascades and Los Ranchos presbyteries.
The Cascades letter, written by First Presbyterian Church, Cottage Grove, Ore., wishes the presbytery would respond to churches requesting to be dismissed from the PCUSA by saying “if you must leave, either make a fair offer to purchase the property or simply leave the keys in the mailbox on your way out.”
The Los Ranchos letter, written by several pastors in the presbytery, states that “we feel conscience bound to object to the further dismissal of church property.”
“I call this ‘the doors are closing and will not reopen’ strategy,” said Carmen Fowler LaBerge, president of the Presbyterian Lay Committee. “People have been asking ‘how long’ they had to get out, I think these letters suggest that some have waited too long.”
LaBerge went on to clarify, “I am not advocating that anyone nor any congregation leave the PCUSA. I am making an observation about the climate in which departures and dismissals are taking place. That climate has been growing increasing hostile and less gracious since 2007 when we really began to see large numbers of congregations begin to seek realignment from the PCUSA to other denominations in the Presbyterian and Reformed family of denominations.”
Cascades Presbytery open letter
The letter to Cascades Presbytery opens by expressing the session’s deep concern for the direction of the presbytery, and then speaks of the congregations who have “expressed their disagreements with policies adopted by the elected members of our presbytery and by the elected commissioners to General Assembly. They express their disagreements by asking to withdraw their membership from the PCUSA and to affiliate with other denominations that claim to be part of Reformed Tradition. These congregations invariably ask the presbytery to let them depart and to take all of the church’s property with them.”
All of it happens, according to the letter, through the presbytery’s use of a “policy misnamed ‘Gracious Dismissal.’”
“By framing the policy in such terms, those who advocate this approach to handling conflict continue to mystify the issue by suggesting that opponents of such schismatic efforts are somehow less gracious than those who support them,” the letter states.
The letter alleges that there is “reason to believe that there is a group of maverick pastors, inevitably schooled in non-Presbyterian seminaries, who are behind the orchestration of these efforts. They then recruit some elders who take the lead in the separation process so the pastors don’t have to take any personal responsibility for their actions.”
The letter suggests that it would have been better if the presbytery leaders had responded to dismissal requests “with a clear word when they had a chance to say no. For example: ‘we are sorry you are unhappy. But we believe we are all better together. Please reconsider. But if you don’t, please know that our church constitution has a trust clause that forbids any part of the church, including its congregations, from taking property that is held in trust for the whole denomination. Both our Book of Order and the recent unanimous ruling of the Oregon Supreme Court forbid the actions that dissident churches are requesting.”
Los Ranchos Presbytery open letter
Tom Cramer, leader for vision and mission for Los Ranchos Presbytery emailed an open letter written by several of the presbytery’s teaching elders (pastors) to members of the joint solution teams and presbytery commissioners.
In Los Ranchos, it is a joint solution team (JST) that works with the churches wishing to leave the denomination.
Cramer, who added his name to the letter once it was written, wrote in the email that “Because the Joint Solution Teams are engaged in ongoing conversations regarding dismissal, the letter is being distributed now so that they may have this information as soon as possible in their process.” He also wrote that the open letter was “is solely intended to inform the Joint Solution Teams and Presbytery Commissioners of the signers’ concerns. It does not in any way alter the property policy and procedures that our presbytery approved on November 20, 2014, or the openness with which we will debate these convictions in due time.”
The open letter was written by Jerry Tankersley, Kirk Winslow, Craig Williams and Mike Regele, said Cramer. “I believe the letter speaks for itself and arises out of a deep concern for the future of our presbytery.”
No more PCUSA dismissals
Noting that three of the presbytery’s congregations have joint solution teams working with them and that several other congregations are nearing that point, the writers of the Los Ranchos open letter say that they are “compelled to articulate our conviction that Los Ranchos must assert its constitutional claim of holding property in trust for the mission of Christ through the PCUSA.”
The writers say they understand that “faithfulness to conscience” has demanded a formal separation from the denomination for some churches, and to honor that, the presbytery has dismissed several congregations – “including our two largest, regional churches” – to other Presbyterian denominations.
“We believe those who are conscience-bound to part from the PCUSA now have fine congregations within the boundaries of Los Ranchos where they may find fellowship, worship, and serve.”
Since that provision has been made, the letter states, “we are committed to our constitutional obligation to hold property in trust for our presbytery’s mission. Therefore, all remaining resources must now be dedicated to these ends. … To release conscience-bound members of congregations with existing properties held in trust for benefit of the PCUSA (G-4.0203) from our bounds would irreversibly diminish the Presbytery of Los Ranchos’ capacity to accomplish the mission to which we are called. Essential to that mission is the witness to the culture and each other that we practice our ordination vows to promote the ‘peace, unity and purity of the Church’ (W-4.4003). To continue to fracture the Presbytery through dismissal with property would damage our witness and mission.”
The letter ends by stating “We feel conscience bound to object to the further dismissal of church property. We offer this letter now so as to allow our reasoning to be considered as early on as possible in the JST process. Seeking to honor Christ to the best of our abilities, we are committed to this continuing mission through Los Ranchos Presbytery.”
Wow…that’s not saying much about their abilities.
I am a fan of the TV show “Walking Dead”. I watch it not so much for the blood and gore, which is comic book in nature, but as a case study in human behavior in a time scarcity or absence of the rules of civilization. The key group “survives” by in essence taking what they can get, eliminating those who pose a threat, and a unity based on shared threat of terror and death.
At least finally there is clarification for all. Essential unity is to be defined by brick and mortar, circuits and HVAC. The Presbyteries so cited do not seek retention of such property for “ministry” development but for the potential cash resale/renting value of such to fill their coffers.
Again, these are not behaviors of an organization with a sense of hope, a future, or even a sense of grace. But the desperate acts of those seeking institutional survival for survival sake alone. Living off the land, wondering about, taking what it can, when it can.
I have read some comments from Presbyterians who believe that now we have gotten the approval of gay marriage (and ordination) out of the way, we have moved beyond conflict and can dwell together in unity and be about the important work of the Gospel. But covetous, fearful, and punitive letters such as these show otherwise.
Not letting congregations be dismissed will lead to further the confusion and disorder of the PCUSA. If a congregation cannot leave maybe they’ll stay and the hope of PCUSA that they leave will cause deep frustration as the “Issues” will not go away. A truly gracious dismissal process extends and strengthens the Kingdom of God.
For more than 40 years the Lay Committee has sought the destruction of the church. It has made libelous and slanderous statements about many in leadership.
Rather than being gracious and civil in discussions it has used outrageous attacks against anyone and everyone who disagrees. It is time for the Layman to exit the church and just go away.
The latest attacks include as usual advocating withholding per capita, defunding mission and other undermining advocacies. In short these actions punish the innocent and the called. It is alarming in its awful implications.
You have had ample opportunity to exit, now just go away.
An agreement is an agreement, the pcusa opened the door to churches wanting to leave with THEIR property. For presbyteries to renege on that agreement I think would a breach of agreement.
With that said, louisville keeps changing the rules, and now we have hacks from these churches who more concerned with buffering the bank accounts of the presbyteries ,oh BTW the departing churches didn’t exactly walk way without paying, especially in one presbytery, (wonder who that was) even after an agreement was made, a little ISIS group got together and blackmailed more money out them, yeah real Christian huh.
Anybody, even those of us who are not leaving could see this coming, revisionist don’t tithe, they live on dead people’s money, or in this case REAL ESTATE transactions, this is a playbook straight from ecusa, where they sell the buildings and consolidate churches. They are not mad that St Andrews in Newport Beach left, there’re mad because they couldn’t get their greedy hands on their property. This not about “expanding the mission” or “mutual forbearance”. The Los Ranchos presbytery to a point has been decent about churches leaving, and if their smart, they will continue with the churches in the pipe line now.
This is the new norm from pcusa revisionist, who talk more about now new “holy book of order” than the Holy Bible. I Iooked up the website of one these churches, I can see why there’re worried. As far as this rag tag crowd writing these letters, it’s not about the mission, it’s about job security, and the only way they can get, is to take from somebody els
This is not hard to understand, time will tell who are the truly honorable people in the pcusa.
Art, your side has been alot things,”gracious and civil in discussions” has not been one them. People vote with their money ie tithes, offerings, and per capita payments. It has not been about spreading the gospel, the the PCA,EPC ect has more people in the mission field on accident, than we do on purpose. This has about the pcusa being hijacked by the far left and using OPM, other peoples money. You’re just mad the the Layman let the cat out of the bag, and tells it like it is. I don’t agree with the Layman all the time, but God knows they have been a witness for Biblical Christianity
The PCUSA has changed its doctrine, now, to a point at which many faithful Christians may have to say, “No, that’s not my understanding of Scripture.” If, because of that change, a congregation believes that it has to leave, a right-thinking denomination ought to let it go, taking its property with it. The denomination is certainly not out anything when a church leaves, except its expectation that it could receive however much money by renting or selling that church plant. The denomination never (at least in most cases) contributed anything to buy the land, build the buildings, furnish or maintain them. It is nothing but unjust enrichment for the presbytery and denomination to retain the property, that it did not contribute to, after changing its doctrine until the congregation feels duty-bound by its beliefs to leave. Nothing is changed by chaiming, by reason of a trust clause by which the denomination claims to own the property that it never contributed to. It’s just a shame, and a manifest injustice, that some states enforce that trust clause.
This attempt by several pastors in two Presbyteries contradicts the PCUSA General Assembly Item 04-28 passed by the PCUSA General Assembly by a vote of 519 to 157 (2008). The General Assembly of the PCUSA wanted their 174 Presbyteries to create an avenue of Gracious Dismissal for congregations who felt their mission would be better expressed and served through another Reformed Denomination, more in line with their theology and understanding of the scriptures. These pastors seek to disrupt what the PCUSA General Assembly set forth. Certainly, these is a gulf developing between those who have a cultural, anthropological understanding, and approach to Christianity, those who have a Unitarian approach to Christianity, and those who are devoted to Biblical Authority and the nourishing of a personal relationship with: God the Father, the Lord Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit. The PCUSA General Assembly, in passing Item 04-28, felt it created a bad witness for the PCUSA to involve itself in litigation, so the better view for the PCUSA’s reputation, was to open the avenue of “Gracious Dismissal” at the Presbytery level, so congregations could re-affiliate with a reformed denomination more in line with their understanding of scripture. As Presbyterians were very involved in the drafting of the United States Constitution, I doubt they want a reputation of incarcerating entire congregations behind their tall fences, against the congregations will. The congregation must be given the chance to negotiate a settlement and leave with their property, see Item 04-28 (PCUSA General Assembley 2008). In the alternative, the Presbytery could refund individual members, who wish to affiliate with another Reformed Denomination, the amounts they contributed to their congregations building fund.
“James H says: An agreement is an agreement.”
Funny! Regarding agreements, you do realize that absolutely all of these sessions and teaching elders seeking dismissal have publicly promised to be “governed by the polity of the PC(USA).”
Open letters from a few individuals or not, no doubt presbyteries appropriately will continue to look carefully at individual situations, the nature and numbers of possible divides in individual congregations, the extent of misleading information from congregation leadership, the extent of presbytery involvement in establishing congregations, and so on, in determining how to respond in individual situations.
Nonetheless, surely you must realize that some appeal to “an agreement is an agreement” in this context is beyond ironic. All of the departures with all or some property and large or tiny payment are instances of the presbytery graciously allowing a congregation to circumvent “an agreement is an agreement.”
Not to mention that these are internal letters for presbyteries in Oregon and California. “Louisville” is a city in Kentucky.
In the world of global economics you see failing countries or those in risk of default imposing “currency” controls. In essence closing banks, ATMs, to prevent the flight of capital (money) from the banking system as the currency collapses and people take their assets out the country in question. You see this now with Greece and Russia, as it has been done in Venezuela and Iran as of late.
This is the PCUSA’s attempt at capital controls. Greece and Venezuela will default. The PCUSA? An act of a desperate and failing organization.
These letters are all about leaving property. The PCUSA presbytery
Leadership and national Leaders give weight to the monetary value in money, but do not value the MESSAGE that built that church. Requiring churches to stay will not
bring the results the progressives want because the “church” has a mandated message to teach Scripture. They do not know what they are asking…..as if the building is the church……a shell of the truth.
If they want conservative, evangelical members to leave…….the buildings……there will not be “church”.
James H, I follow your posts. You have integrity and I respect you.
When the Layman was created I belonged to one of the largest churches
In the denomination. At that time, the session voted to send everyone in the congregation the news paper copy of the Layman. That is how much they valued the message and information that the Layman offered
And they wanted the member to know what was happening at the GA, national and presbytery level. NOW, after local option, after forcing progressive ideas on churches as the will of the whole denomination, the members are no longer as nieve
about what is happening and MEMBERS are more informed to make decisions about staying or going.
The Layman is one avenue of information, but with the digital age
there are many voices speaking and being heard.
You blame the Layman, but the real blame for the demise of the PCUSA
belongs to the leadership of the national level and Presbytery level who have orchestrated their will on the denomination. It has always been the case that when the minority doesn’t agree they have the right to leave instead of having schism. I say LET THEM LEAVE WITH THEIR PROPERTY TO BE TRUE TO THE MESSAGE GOD HAS GIVEN THEM.
The Layman let no cat out of any bag—it just distorted and hurt those who were not involved. Just go away.
pres “Funny! Regarding agreements, you do realize that absolutely all of these sessions and teaching elders seeking dismissal have publicly promised to be “governed by the polity of the PC(USA).”
Really? Really? this is your argument to allow the financial rape of churches that never agreed to a back door trust clause, and most all of them were incorporated long before 1983. Look around, this is why ecusa is losing right and left, unless the officers of the church sign the deed to the property agreeing to “hold all property in trust” for the benefit of heretic’s, sorry I meant the pcusa yeah the pcusa, my bad, then it’s not legal in the court of law, in most States.
I have trusts, and no, my kids cant get together and vote that I “hold all property in trust” for their benefit, even though I do, because I choose too. The “polity of the PC(USA).”has been violated so many times by the far-left in the pcusa, that even Pablo Picasso could not paint a picture to descibe the confusion.
Then why are you still here, Art?
The problem is John E., as Louisville often says, the denomination is based on connectionalism. What one minister officially does, is done in the name of the entire denomination.
There are those who do not subscribe to the thinking that ‘reformed, always reforming’, leaves out ‘according to the Word of God’. There is nothing in the Word that affirms what has just been written into the Book of Order. Biblical scholars who support gay rights, have said the same thing, there is no scriptural support.
So, those congregations that affirm the authority of Scripture have a moral and ethical problem when the denomination they are affiliated with, does not hold the same belief in the authority of Scripture. Indeed, in many cases, Scripture and the second part of the Constitution are downplayed, pooh poohed, or simply ignored.
If you were a member of an association that no longer held the same belief that you do, would you want to stay? I’m assuming no, so why would you expect congregations to stay?
Why would you expect individual members to stay, because they’re leaving whether their congregations do or not.
In a GAPJC decision in 2013 (I believe), a presbytery was admonished for using a formula to determine what a congregation needed to pay in order to be dismissed with property.
That decision said it was unconstitutional to do so, and that the BOO required that each presbytery must look at each dismissal request individually, along with take into account all assets of the congregation.
So, the results, all assets are being looked at in many, if not all, presbyteries, and there are no specific formulas being used.
So following that logic and ruling …
a blanket NO is a formula too !!
Conservative Presbyterians still make up a majority of rank-and-file membership of PCUSA (though the number is dropping every year). If these conservatives were to band together, they could break the trust clause, and with it the power presbyteries hold over congregations. A nation-wide moratorium of PCUSA worship services and weekly programs, along with a withholding of all offerings, for some period — several weeks, a few months — would financially cripple most of the nine or ten thousand PCUSA churches; forcing presbyteries to assume mortgage payments, deal with pastors whose paychecks would be interrupted, etc. Such an action would quickly end the current tyranny of the liberal minority who dominate the positions of power in the denomination.
But of course such a coordinated movement will never happen. It’s nice to think about it, though.
Wrong! Gay marriage aside, the whole multi-faceted divestment issues are just as destructive to all of us as anything else. The GA teetered on anti-Semitism in their stances on Israel and you have to know that next year (Lord have mercy, it’s close) things will be worse. I guess I disagreed about all their divestment ideas on the voting chart – and no one NO ONE is talking about those issues. But, like our national conventions, it seems that only the kooks get involved while the rest of us are busy with daily life – and they make the decisions because they are the lunatic fringe who attend. First scripture, then national security, then just a kick in the collective butts of all who want to believe otherwise by threats and robbery. Why hurt so many people because they’re put out that we would dare to disagree with them? That’s what they are doing.
This letters just confirms what we already know. The General Assembly and the Presbyteries only care for themselves and not the members who make up the local church. Time to leave folks! Thera are alternatives (EPC, ECO, PCA, etc.)
But of course, those things you describe are not happening. For the most part, these are handled individually. How they are handled, whether you think it is gracious or not, depends on many factors, as described. What IS silly is to invoke some fantasy of broken agreements, when the very request being made of presbytery by the session is to BREAK an agreement, which presbytery as a rule accommodates in whole or in part. For those who incorporated before 1983, they nonetheless entered into an agreement when the PC(USA) was formed. And again, in virtually every case the presbytery does not force them to fully comply with that to which they have agreed.
The reality of what the presbytery and the denomination will be like without the evangelical voice, as well as the monetary support they receive from these churches, is now more apparent. There is a sense of disbelief and panic at what is happening and an attempt to stop the storm of churches leaving. So the gracious dismissal maybe set side which is very very sad.
“But of course, those things you describe are not happening”
People and churches are leaving the pOcusa thus, less money, and it confirms what the so called tolerant,broad minded are; the intolerant and narrow minded. Now to stop the bleeding, the organization wants to stop churches to be dismissed from the organization called the pcusa. So much for diversity and inclusive mentality. I would ask this: What about members of the pcusa? Will the members who want to leave be stopped??? They, that is the pcusa no longer have me, thank The Lord.
If these conservatives were to band together,
The marsh mellow conservative people with NO guts will not leave until driven out, otherwise, business as usual.
To conservatives, leave the churches, start your own in your homes until property can be secured for a new building. Let the pcusa properties rot as they should, synagogues of Satan which need to be abandoned to start as mentioned, new churches, house churches.
**For more than 40 years the Lay Committee has sought the destruction of the church. It has made libelous and slanderous statements about many in leadership.**
if indeed the PCUSA is either too paranoid or too stupid to double down on the property clause as a means for institutional survival some comments.
-This is not 1755. In the age of social media every move, every act of greed, every letter, every action is and will be exposed to a global audience. Where the PCUSA tends and desires to operate in the dark, shadows and behind close doors, they no longer exist. They are exposed.
-This is the United States, not Iran. We have rule of law, not a PCUSA theocracy. And in the rule of law, civil torts, the client has a case. The property clause in essence is a chapter found in a denominational policy and business manual. It does not exist in civil contract law. Nor does it negate the Bill of Rights on freedom of associations or the 2nd amendment on establishment of religion. The PCUSA is aware of this, hence their tactics on the use of fear, intimidation and threat to suppress dissent.
-Sooner or later their tactics and behaviors cross the line of simple human decency and common sense. Their continued shame in the court of public opinion is the weight they cannot run away from. Whatever money they assume they can get from departing church X or Y does not negate their longer term trend to institutional death.
-A church is people, not brick and mortar. The PCUSA can in essence become a property manager or a real estate holding company. And if that is that at the end of the day, they have lost their souls and not worthy of further commentary, and no amount of real estate will change that.
Wow, this is all so sad. As the wife of a PCUSA pastor, I just want out! Or for Jesus to come back. Really praying the door remains open for dismissal. Jesus said “in this world you will many troubles..” there you have it! Need anything more be said? Ah yes, “take heart, I have overcome the word!” Bam!
pres says ““Louisville” is a city in Kentucky.”
Yeah your’re right, and about the only relevant things coming out of “Louisville” these days is Bourbon and the Derby.
I am a former member of a PCUSA church. We went through the gracious dismissal process but were unsuccessful in achieving the super majority needed to leave with our property. Those of us who voted to leave, left. We became a mission church in the EPC and met in a local fire hall for 1-1/2 years. We are now an official congregation with our own building.
My advise to PCUSA churches wanting to leave is, just leave. Identify a place to conduct worship first. Hold a congregational meeting and vote to see who is interested in leaving. Those who vote to go should go and start a new church and leave the keys with those who elect to stay.
Using this approach there is no energy expended fighting over a building, the church plant process is spiritually invigorating and you separate from folks who are unbiblical in their beliefs so you won’t be fighting among yourselves over the homo-erotica that has swallowed up the liberal old line churches.
Our plan was to leave with our church building. God’s plan was for us to launch a biblically faithful church and bring Him glory and honor. I pray for the few remaining orthodox Christians still hanging with the PCUSA. I believe now is the time to brush the dust off your sandals and leave.
Amy, see my advise above. I feel your pain. I have been there.
That is exactly right and that is what the PCUSAS establishment counts on.
You got it right. If you believe you need to leave the church that’s up to you.
Just because you gave tithes and offerings to the PCUSA denomination doesn’t mean you have an ownership interest in the property. If the denomination paid for and holds title to the building and grounds, it is theirs, regardless of how the money to do so is raised (as long as it’s legal of course).
Stay or leave as God leads you to do, either individually or in groups, even entire congregations. Join another branch of the Presbyterian denomination, or another denomination, or a non-denominational congregation. Don’t expect the PCUSA to give up their property to support your decision.
I had a long letter written out in response to this and I figured whats the use. I have seen what I thought were mature and schooled “Christians” argue with some of the most illogical reasoning I can imagine. Instead I will just list a “few” of the FACTS, not opinions, I considered when I renounced my ordination, resigned my position as a sitting elder, and walked away.
1. Every dollar you give to PCUSA has a portion spent on providing abortions to ordained staff and their dependents. i.e.. pastors and their families.
2. Every dollar you give to PCUSA has a portion given to the Washington office for the lobbying of further abortion rights.
3. At the latest GA, publishing the essential tenants of the faith was voted down, (fact). By their own polling the PCUSA doesn’t believe in several of the commonly accepted tenants, (my opinion).
4. The “new” BOO does not allow for dissension. If you don’t agree with a higher body’s decision, you have three options: agree, submit and keep your mouth shut, or leave.
5. Every ordained person voluntarily swears an oath to uphold this Constitution. If you challenge any decision, you are violating your oath. You took this oath under God.
6. 4 & 5 is basically the same for members.
These facts and many more lead me to the question, “Who do I fear most, man or God?”
I walked two years ago and God lead me to a Bible teaching and believing Church. He is showing me new ways to continue in the mission that I “left”. He showed me who my “real” friends are. It was one of the most gut wrenching decisions I’ve ever made, mostly from the mission standpoint. As always He has provided and through it He grew me to a closer and stronger faith in him. Are you a Christain because of a nice building, rich tradition, and a known comfortable group of friends? Or are you a Christion because of your faith in God and what His Son did for you?
The “denomination” has *not* paid for most of the church buildings. And it certainly has no paid for continuing maintenance, etc in most cases. There are exceptions, to be sure, but by any standard of equity and fairness most church buildings are not really denominational property.
**My advise to PCUSA churches wanting to leave is, just leave**
Now more than ever it is out in the open — the devil wants his due!
Theology aside, the whole trust clause argument seems unfair. All of the bills to keep a church open — utilities, insurance, salaries, repairs, and so on — fall to the local church. On top of this, the local church contributes a substantial portion of its budget to the presbytery. In what sense then should the presbytery fairly claim to own a church’s property.
I am a member of the church that got the pastor from Cottage Grove (Cascades) all worked up. We sought to be dismissed on March 6th after an almost year-long process, which included conversations with Presbytery representatives about why we were no longer theologically aligned with PCUSA, stressing this had been building for decades and long before the pastor he disparages was even known to us. The complaint boils down to money, and money only. Our “property assets” totalled over $1 million, assets that included the church buldings, stani glass windows, organ, handbells, fences, office equipment, etc- all of which were purchased by the members of the congregation. The question arose, “What do we (Cascades Presbytery) want with another empty building?” Cottage Grove’s reasoning is akin to telling a woman in an abusive relationship, “If you want to leave, you must forfeit your children. If you want to keep your parental rights, you must accept the continued abuse.”
There was a time a few years back, when I would have been all over this. Now however, I read this with great sadness and pity for those who are left in the PCUSA. The Lord calls us to be in the world, not of the world. We are also told to not be like Lot’s wife and look back, lest we turn into a pillar of salt.
Good analysis. The denomination’s leadership has long been about $$$ rather than genuine ministry. Saddling that leadership with the consequences of that attitude (empty buildings with mortgages and utility bills) at least makes the point that when the remaining healthy members leave, the debt resulting from keeping a hold on property alone will eventually deprive the leadership of even the $$$ they sought.
The presbyteries may prevent churches from leaving as intact congregations, but they cannot prevent individuals and families from voting with their feet and walking out the door. Then who will pay for the upkeep (insurance, water, phone and light bills, lawn care, etc.)
The discussion is entertaining, but evangelicals “who mean business” had better come to grips with this change. Bleating like lost & wounded sheep in The Layman will not transform the new paradigm. The Layman is warning us (earnestly) that the door is closing. It’s time to pack lightly for hasty exodus. No more counting silverware and moaning over new carpets and polished wood left behind. Stop dithering and act…while there’s time.
Advice to churches wishing to leave the PCUSA. This was actually done by a local church. Borrow as much money as you possibly can , put the money aside, then ask for dismissal. The last thing the presbytery wants or can handle is a large debt. Get your dismissal, pay the loan off, and then become a real Presbyterian, one that our forefathers would be proud of..
One thing that might be able to be done, is Take out a loan against the property and let the Presbytery know that if you want the property instead of us leaving with it, here is the lien holder, and here is your payment plans. Then ask…. So can you afford it? Or do you want us to take the building with us?
Yes, it’s a little vindictive, but if they really want the property so bad, let them have it and all the debt that comes with it then.
That sounds good, but the proceeds of the loans (i.e. cash) would be property of the Church as well. The presbytery would take the buildings and the cash, and repay the debt with the cash.
Jo, I have no idea where you got the idea that in all cases the ‘denomination’ paid for the property. Just isn’t so.
Many churches were built in the early 1900’s, when the denomination was not the monolith it is today. When Presbyteries were run by a part-time staff, there were no EPs, and their budget was for paid staff and offices.
These churches can produce their deeds (which do not show any LEGAL trust connection), their mortgages (which do not show any cosigner), and their paid mortgage (which show no other lien holder).
So, who owns the building?? In many states, under the neutral principles rule of property law, its the congregation corporation as listed on the deed.
That’s really not good advice. When the session of Colonial Presbyterian Church sought the Lord’s mind on the issue of the church’s continued affiliation with the PC(USA), they discerned that the Lord was leading Colonial to do two things: get out of the PC(USA) and get out of debt (accrued through the purchase of a considerable piece of property in Johnson County, Kansas and building a second church building there). After going through a season of discernment and ultimately voting to disaffiliate (because Heartland Presbytery was unwilling to negotiate in good faith), Colonial voted to disaffiliate from the PC(USA) and reaffiliate with the EPC. And then, while Colonial was still in litigation with Heartland, the church began a massive campaign to reduce the debt, trusting that the Lord, who had led Colonial out of its former denomination, would protect the church as it sought to be faithful to His leading on the debt issue.
Trusting in a scheme of racking up debt, hoping thereby to make the property less appealing to a litigious presbytery, is not of the Lord but is, rather, of the world. The Church must always be mindful of the Lord, His ways, and His leading, and not follow after the ways of this world, as the PC(USA) does.
Tod, your experience is almost a perfect parallel to our own here in Alabama, with the exception that our first meeting place was a restaurant (with the children’s located in the bar!). Good luck and God bless!
Been there, did that. Walked to Cumberland. Love it.
This is sad for those who wish to leave, but also sad because we have allowed our property to define our loyalties, not our faithfulness to the Biblical witness. A church I was recently a part of that left for the new ECO denomination stated at the congregational meeting that they would have left 20 years before if it hadn’t been for the property. That tells us that we have a mighty decision to make: our buildings or our God.
and please note that they Cascades letter comes from a pastor who openly does NOT BELIEVE IN GOD! This is what awaits the PC(USA) if this trend is the new norm: there will be a lot of empty buildings that the PC(USA) cannot afford to keep [open]. The cry for “unity” from the PC(USA) is not a call for faithfulness to the Lord Jesus Christ.
Something you are not even considering Pres. It is totally understandable that someone could feel the entity that the “agreement” you are speaking of was made with no longer even exists….when something like a church so fundamentally changes that it no longer even wants to look to scripture for guidance, it has ceased to exist. If our government, for example, changed so drastically that it no longer allowed free speech or free religion, or guns to be owned (even if all these new laws were made by due process) then I and hopefully many others would cease to obey the laws that government makes…because it is no longer even the same government. That is a pretty good anaology of what has happened here, I think.
….that is “analogy” by the way 🙂
By their logic, Could you also say that a minority group that does not
want to leave the PCUSA should go to another PCUSA church in the area.
Very encouraging Tod. My husband and I have been discussing that very strategy… Thanks for sharing!
We did not guard the gates, we failed as watchmen.
Jude 3 Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort [you] that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.
4 For there are certain men crept in unawares , who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.
5 I will therefore put you in remembrance , though ye once knew this, how that the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed them that believed not.
6 And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day.
7 Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like * manner, giving themselves over to fornication , and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.
8 Likewise * also these [filthy] dreamers defile the flesh * *, despise dominion, and speak evil of dignities.
. . .
10 But these speak evil of those things which they know not: but what they know naturally, as brute beasts, in those things they corrupt themselves .
11 Woe unto them! for they have gone in the way of Cain, and ran greedily after the error of Balaam for reward, and perished in the gainsaying of Core.
12 These are spots in your feasts of charity, when they feast with you, feeding themselves without fear: clouds [they are] without water, carried about of winds; trees whose fruit withereth, without fruit, twice dead , plucked up by the roots ;
13 Raging waves of the sea, foaming out their own shame; wandering stars, to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever.
14 And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying , Behold , the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints,
15 To execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed , and of all their hard [speeches] which ungodly sinners have spoken against him.
16 These are murmurers, complainers, walking after their own lusts; and their mouth speaketh great swelling [words], having men’s persons in admiration because of advantage.
17 But, beloved, remember ye the words which were spoken before of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ;
18 How that they told you there should be mockers in the last time, who should walk after their own ungodly lusts.
19 These be they who separate themselves, sensual, having not the Spirit.
The true Elect need to leave, letting those who stay to pay the bills and see their churches close due to no evangelism, no message, no money, just political correctness.
It is beyond comprehension that ANYONE could be so completely messed up in their grasp of reality and what has been happening as your statement would lead one to believe, Art. You either live in some sort of alternate universe, or you are intentionally saying ridiculous things about the Lay committee. Perhaps YOU should be careful in who you judge to be “libelous”!
Our kids met in the bar area too. When it wasn’t used for kids ministry we refered to it as the “barthex”
I do no generally comment on these posts, but I must say that this is perhaps the most offensive thing I have ever seen written on the Layman website. To compare the inconvenience of a congregation over money to the reality of abuse in a home is appalling, unChristian, and beneath contempt. As a child abuse victim, I can tell you that no congregation fighting over a building or money is going through anything close to what an abuse victim goes through. Shame on you.
This happens in the educational systems. That is why universities have foundations to fund them – so that the state cannot claim their cash. So here is what you do: start an independent foundation to support the work of your church. Place church members on the board and a few trusted non- Members. Place everything from here on out in the foundation: loans, offering, real propert etc. Then leave the PCUSA. You take with you everything IN the foundation. Bada-bing! Legal and final. PCUSA cannot tell you not to create a foundation….now, go and sin no more.
Typical modern victim mentality. The simile is just hyperbole, so don’t get all worked up. It’s not the end of the world. (That last is another example of hyperbole— I don’t think it’s blasphemous).
At the end of November 2014 a group of us (including 14 of 16 active elders, 18 of 21 active deacons, and most of the staff)resigned our offices in PCUSA and left to start an ECO church plant. This only occurred after months of gut wrenching effort by leadership to find a way to be faithful followers of God’s Word as a united congregation. We proposed an innovative way to keep the community together and yet honor our differing views of obedience. That proposal was flatly rejected by Presbytery and resisted within the congregation by denominational loyalists. But God was at work . . .
The blessings that followed have been amazing. At our first worship service on December 7th we had 285 adults and children in attendance. The atmosphere was and still is electric. God has provided bountifully with a wonderful place to worship and financial means beyond our wildest expectations. My message is simply this: Follow God’s leading and He will provide. As others here have said, the church is the people not the building or the endowment.
1. I don’t believe that presbyteries really want to be saddled with vacant properties requiring maintenance and insurance.
2. The congregation has paid for the property and is entitled to it (I fully disagree with the Trust Clause).
3. The Book of Order is not valid for enforcing anything as demonstrated by recent PJC decisions regarding pastoral actions and same sex marriages and by recent GA actions to approve an AI clearly contrary to the Book of Order.
Instead of fighting with those who want to leave the PCUSA, why not undo and reverse the recent theological decisions that are driving them away. Clearly the new breed is thumbing its nose at the more conservative members.
I was in seminary when the North and the South reunited. (I have been teaching elder and now am a ruling elder.) It was an exciting time because we were convinced we would be a new church and would attract lots of new members. The mid 80s was also a time of cultural change and along with the excitement of the reunion was the excitement of addressing the needs of culture. PCUSA (leadership of PCUSA) leaned towards the needs of the new liberal culture. Secondly, I do not believe anyone gave any thought to the different philosophies and sometimes theologies that go with the North and the South issues. I have lived in both and there are great differences. In my personal opinion, we were doomed from the beginning because from the beginning, there was not the unity that we were all hoping would happen. It never did. I was excited in the 80s. I believed the hype. After all of these years, and all but a few, in Louisville, I am so saddened by the pain that has been inflicted by this reunion. There is not an easy answer as to what exactly happened, but it happened and we have not borne our differences in a Christian manner, at all. Now, the voting has contributed to the divisions, and not just two, that are happening. I am in Shenango Presbytery now where we have gracious dismissal. I have been so impressed with the love and understanding when churches choose to leave. Everyone knows that the decisions were not easy ones and full of great pain. I am now Vice-Moderator for Presbyterian Women in this presbytery and we are very inclusive of the women are no longer PCUSA. They are allowed to sit on our coordinating team with the exception of the four top positions. They are included in our activities. Some of the women’s groups whose churches are no longer part of PCUSA actually raise money for our causes. I am proud of Presbyterian Women and this presbytery for acknowledging the pain and the difficult decisions involved in choosing to leave. It is not simple. It does not have an easy solution because it is a long time coming with many causes. I believe the definition of sin is alienation and that concerns me more than anything, because as some of the comments show, we are alienating each other, and not just in one way, but many. May God have mercy on us. There is so much work to do and the distractions of the current atmosphere of PCUSA is using energy that needs to be used in the work of Christ on Earth.
This is what I have been saying for weeks! Few of the 2,000 members of my (former) church know anything about what goes on at the General Assembly or in the (marijuana) smoke-filled rooms where the decisions are made. They are clueless and most do not know what The Layman is, let alone read it. My former congregation is 99% conservative and simply goes along because it is so much easier to say nothing. Sunday after Sunday, they make their appearance, make sure they are seen, and then repair to the sanctity of their million-dollar homes. The members are detached, ambivalent, and uninformed! Oh, and did I mention that the presbytery approved the new definition of marriage? The thousands of members in my (former) church don’t even know . . .
I believe we should walk out and leave (PCUSA) with their buildings, declining attendance and offerings. They will soon wake to the fact: They can’t really afford the General Assemblies ruling.
Jesus has said “Where one or two are gathered together in my name I will be there also”.
Meet in your home till you can work something out to do better.
They can call these financial settlements anything they want. They are nothing more than extorted funds and punitive damages. The PCUSA is dumping ground of corruption and I pray for those churches currently leaving and thinking of leaving.
I have said for years that the only thing holding the PCUSA together is the property and the pensions. I peacefully seperated several years ago.
The pcusa is not a denomination, but a organization since the same has lost its way since 1929, 1967, 2010, and now 2015. The foundation was once Biblical, now sand, and will be washed away. Matthew 7.
Gary Bebop… Your comments: direct, with a sense of humor with which our Lord and Creator has endowed in us, and precise! My thought about property and “things material”: “Consider the lilies of the field…..”
March 27, 2015
Cynthia Warner Crowell
Chair of Presbytery Executive Commission
Presbytery of San Gabriel
1757 N. Lake Avenue
Pasadena, CA 91104
Via Email firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
Dear Rev. Crowell and Presbytery of San Gabriel,
Greeting in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior,
My name is Stephan Haah serving as a deacon at Good Shepherd Presbyterian Church. I am one of 745 church members who voted in favor of the secession. For the past 3 years, I have been patiently waiting for the amicable resolution by the PET and the SCC for the dismissal from PCUSA in accordance with the Gracious Dismissal Policy which was particularly established by the Presbytery of San Gabriel.
I am writing this letter to let you comprehend accurately about the current sentiment of our congregation members including me. Unlike other churches already have successfully seceded in accordance with the GDP, our church has a strong core opposition group which was about 9% when we first voted about one year ago. However, the number has dropped substantially to less than 5% that is a total of 33 members according to last week’s vote counted.
The congregation has every right to hold a meeting without your sanction. The Presbytery’s has no rights to interrupt the congregation meeting called according to its own by-laws. During the meeting held last week, Heidi Park has attempted to step up to the podium without getting the sanction from the MC which was stopped by a few members in the front rows. She must have gone cahoots with the opposition group to stir up the precise happening to report back to the Presbytery Council. Furthermore, most of our congregation are aware of who is opposing and why.
Not like to the claims by the opposition group of 33 lead by elder Yoo, our church is very peaceful and serene in the midst of the opposition group’s relentless effort to ignite a dispute. I can only say that this peace comes from God. Our members have held a prayer meeting over 3 years on every Monday evening asking for His direction and guidance on this issue. The senior pastor Ko and the Session never have intimidated or demonized any members of the opposition group, in fact, the leadership prevented anyone from abhorring the opposed, but rather preached to embrace and earnestly pray for them. These composed behaviors by the leadership and the congregation have created more frustration and aggravation to the opposition group. They are pugnacious and want to create discontent and disorder to justify and blame the leadership and specifically senior pastor Ko. The congregation is too smart to fall into this trap. I am telling you that our worship services are more spiritual edifying and transcending than ever.
I would like to emphasize current movement in our church that most of congregation members are going through some sort of spiritual awakening process of their lives. This is especially true for me and my family. We have been confronted with biblical principles and tested on obedience to the word of God. Our family has been awakening from just casual church attendees to more devout worshipers. Yes, we know that we are not with the majority of the Christians who are going along with “current waves and trends at Large” on the issues of the homosexuality, for which PCUSA and many other denominations have conceded. A fundamental truth is not decided by the majority rule but by the few faithful such as Luther. Are you stating that if the majority of the Presbytery rules that Christ’s Resurrection is not true, and then is it not?
95.2% of our congregation believes that the homosexuality is sin because the bible states so. 709 out of 745 want to leave PCUSA regardless of the hostage to the building. The issue is not with “the handcuff” that is the trustee right to the building held by the Presbytery. The real issue lies with following and obeying the word of God or not. I believe that our congregation has decided not to compromise any more. I know for fact the opposition leader elder Yoo has some intention to halt what he has started, but the opposition has taken its own course of mutation over the years and none can find the cure now. The opposition group now has crossed “the bridge of no return” and has been devising to craft a commotion to justify its causes. In spite of its endless efforts to discredit the leadership, lesser people are biting its baits but 33 and the incident prove that the group has lost its taste.
I would like to urge you not to insult and disgrace our collective intelligence by stating that “we are mischievously manipulated by the leadership to follow them and the leadership demonized and intimidated the opposing group” as you have stated in your letter. We are more intelligent and wise than stated. It’s been almost 3 years and everyone knows what’s at stake.
I sincerely request your retrieval from you’re the planned action during the week of the Lenten Season to have a conspiratorial, stage-managing a low turn-out, emergency Presbytery Council meeting to vote on the appointment of AC. This action was tabled by the full Council vote last March to be reconsidered on May council meeting. We know it will pass since PCUSA as whole already decided to take the historical turn on the issue few weeks ago. I plead to you with tears in my eye that the Presbytery of San Gabriel to honor the Will of 95.2% of the congregation of Good Shepherd Presbyterian Church.
I say with confidence that if PCUSA uses its handcuff to hold us, God will set us free. We will overcome all obstacles for the cause of God.
Soli Deo Gloria,
A Member of Congregation
Good Shepherd Presbyterian Church
The PCUSA is no longer true to God’s Word. Yes, there are other things that need our attention…but none more important than honoring the truth of God’s Word and standing up for that! The Word of God is a double edged sword! Sometimes it is painful to us sinners to have to obey it…but obey it we must! Of that I am very very sure!!!
Honestly, I think the mentality behind the letter in question is quite appropriately compared to an abusive spouse who holds all the property. “If you leave me, you leave with NOTHING!”
Amen to that Gayle. The PCUSA has seemed to have forgotten that obedience to the One True Word of God is at the core of our relationship with him. I don’t care who you are or with whom you affiliate, if you begin distorting or changing his word for whatever reason, then you become apostate.
Dear Bible-Believing Evangelicals,
We are sterile, impotent, and not financially solvent. We cannot long survive without receiving constant infusions of cash from the conservatives. As an alternative, we will happily steal from you that which you have sacrificed to build without any assistance from us whatsoever, and in many cases, in spite of us and our embarrassing blather and conduct.