Highland Park Presbyterian Church (HPPC) voted unanimously Sunday (April 27) to call the Rev. Bryan H. Dunagan as the church’s next senior pastor. He will be the seventh senior pastor in the 88-year history of the church, which has approximately 4,896 members.
Dunagan will begin his call at HPPC in mid-June and start preaching regularly sometime in August.
A native Texan, Dunagan currently serves as the teaching pastor at Peachtree Presbyterian Church, a 7,000-member church in Atlanta, where he is one of the church’s two primary preaching pastors. During his nine years at Peachtree, Dunagan has emphasized preaching, teaching, outreach ministry and work with young adults and families. He also has been instrumental in growing the involvement of younger generations and increasing participation in weekly worship.
“I am honored, humbled and grateful to be extended this call to serve as your next senior pastor,” said Dunagan.
“As your new senior pastor, I look forward to helping HPPC dream God-sized dreams about the impact this congregation can have, not only in the city of Dallas, but also as part of an interwoven global church,” Dunagan wrote in a letter to the Highland Park congregation. “It is a great privilege to be given this opportunity to point people to Jesus – not only through my words, but also through my actions – as together we seek to be transformed in Christ.”
A Pastor Nominating Committee (PNC), elected by the congregation in October 2012 to oversee the search process, evaluated more than 100 candidates and networked with more than 60 contacts.
“Through God’s great sovereignty, Bryan and his wife, Ali, have quickly developed a strong love for our church community and feel a definitive call to HPPC,” said Anne Compton, co-moderator of the PNC. “We enthusiastically and unanimously believe that God is calling the Rev. Bryan Dunagan because his gifts fit the needs of our congregation.”
Several reasons were cited by the PNC as to why Rev. Dunagan is a good choice for HPPC: his leadership experience in a similar large Presbyterian church as well as his communication skills, relational emphasis, intergenerational focus and commitment to mission and outreach.
“Bryan has amazing gifts in preaching and teaching to all generations. He has a way of bringing the lost back into a relationship with the risen Christ and further maturing those who already follow Him,” said the Rev. Dr. Dana Allin, synod executive of ECO: A Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians, the denomination HPPC recently joined.
HPPC voted to disaffiliate with the Presbyterian Church (USA) in October of 2013, after watching the denomination turn “away from some of the fundamental values that have been central to our local congregation for the last 90 years. We have reached the point that the changes imposed by the PCUSA have become a distraction that hinders the mission of our church,” said the Rev. Joe Rightmyer, interim senior pastor of HPPC, in a church press release.
HPPC officially became a member of ECO: A Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians on Nov. 1, 2013.
The church is currently involved in a lawsuit against its former PCUSA presbytery – Grace. Filed by the church on Sept. 10, 2013, the church has asked the court to declare that the church owns and controls all of its property – valued at $30 million – not the PCUSA or Grace Presbytery. The court documents cite the recent ruling by the Texas Supreme Court declaring that Texas courts must follow neutral principles of law when deciding church property cases.
The date for the trial, Highland Presbyterian Church, Inc. vs. Grace Presbytery, Inc., has been scheduled for Oct. 20, 2014. It will be heard by Judge Emily Tobolowsky, of the 298th Judicial District in Dallas County, Texas.
Dunagan earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from Stanford University and a master of divinity from Regent College. He is also a candidate for a doctor of ministry from Fuller Theological Seminary. He has prior ministry experience at First Presbyterian Church in Bellingham, Wash.; La Jolla Presbyterian Church in La Jolla, Calif. and First Presbyterian Church in Houston.
Dunagan and his wife Alison Wheeler Dunagan have 8-month-old twins, Ann and Wheeler.
Founded in 1926, Highland Park Presbyterian Church’s mission is to make disciples of Jesus Christ and to make a difference in the world for the glory of God through “Core Four” practices: Worship God, grow in Christ, build community and bless the world. HPPC offers five unique types of worship services in the reformed Presbyterian tradition: a service for wholeness and communion, two traditional sanctuary services, a contemporary service, an international service with African influences and a new worship community for Mandarin-speaking Chinese. More information is available at www.hppc.org.