By Sarah M. Wojcik, The Morning Call. (Pennsylvania)
The Lehigh Presbytery has determined that there is not sufficient support within the congregation of the largest Presbyterian church in the Lehigh Valley to justify its break from the most visible national branch of the denomination.
But that doesn’t necessarily spell an end to the efforts by members of First Presbyterian Church of Bethlehem to leave the Presbyterian Church (USA) in favor of the Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians, or ECO.
In a straw poll administered by a Susquehanna Polling and Research, the church’s congregation fell short of the required two-thirds of support to move the dismissal process forward, according to an email distributed by the Lehigh Presbytery.
The poll of 1,308 of the church’s 2,600 members found 57 percent in favor of leaving the Presbyterian Church (USA) and 43 percent in favor of staying, the email said.
With that poll and a survey conducted last year for First Presbyterian that showed 61 percent favoring breaking away, the Lehigh Presbytery said it considered the discernment process ended.
Instead, the Lehigh Presbytery’s email called for “reconciliation through continued and constructive dialogue.”
The Bethlehem church cannot yet leave the pcusa which is a way is a good move by the Presbytery of Lehigh, and why???? Most Presbyterian churches are Presbyterian in name only seeking to please the world minus studying the Bible and Westminster Confession of Faith excluding Expository preaching. What is the difference between the the PCUSA and other Presbyterian denominations? The suggestion of the PCUA of finding other churches of those seeking to split is sound and right. Might as well since so many like to play church, find those churches that be to their l iking.
Three cheers for Lehigh Presbytery!
The witness of this church needs to be kept within the PC(USA).
First Presbyterian Church in Reading should sit up and take notice. The witness of that church needs to be kept within the PC(USA)as well.
God be praised!
“He said the presbytery will help find churches for anyone who believes remaining at the First Presbyterian Church of Bethlehem is “unconscionable.”
Oh I’m sure the presbytery would love the 57% to leave and find new churches, as long as they leave the door keys and bank account numbers.
And while they’re at it the 57% should not pay one more cent to this church or the presbytery and let the 43% pick up the tab, oh no that’s right revisionist don’t tithe, hope this church has a good endowment!!
What does it say about the denomination that it is considered a victory when more than half but fewer than two-thirds of a congregation wish to remain in affiliation?
Todd, just to be clear: more than half but fewer than two-thirds wish to depart the denomination. Fewer than half wish to stay with the PCUSA.
To what end does the witness of Bethlehem First and Reading First “need to be kept within the PC(USA)”? If, over the past fifty or more years, the witness of these and numerous other large Evangelical congregations has been unable to turn the PC(USA) away from its self-destructive path of worldly accommodation, what makes you think that their continued witness now would be able to effect such a change? And for that matter, what sort of witness to the unbelieving world does their continued affiliation with a denomination whose doctrine and ethics are radically conformed to the ways of this lost and sin-sick world give? Should not these churches rather align with a denomination that will better equip them to provide the witness to Jesus Christ that this world needs, rather than spend any more time in a spiritually barren mission field like the PC(USA), where there is no fruit of repentance?
Good, because the presbytery never paid one dime for FPC’s property, this is more about the presbytery losing a cash cow church, than their concern for minority that wants to stay, who without the church’s endowment could not afford it anyway.
Rev. Jeffrey N. Leininger “needs to be kept within the PC(USA).”
So I guess by either force or financial blackmail, of course these days the louisville sluggers are pulling out all the stops!
Ok, I get it.
The “witness of the church” should have been kept within the Roman Catholic Church by John Calvin and Martin Luther.
Yep. That makes a lot of sense.
Perhaps the witness has already left the PCUSA and these brave souls are following it, as did Calvin and Luther?
I pray that they will continue their quest to witness in truth and love as there is little of either remaining in PCUSA. Our church had to fight its way out a few years ago and did so, with our property and are prospering as we bear witness to God’s love for the world in Jesus Christ.
57% to 43% From what I have seen most of the pusa churches that have left the denomination have had over 90% in agreement in leaving. The Presbytery is probably right in having this congregation stay. Some of the 57% will need to leave and in the long run my guess is they will be very happy they did.
I never fail to under estimate the hubris, if not arrogance of all things PCUSA, the Presbytery and its officials. As if the 57,60% of said church need the permission of their theological “betters” to exercise their rights to freedom of faith, worship, assembly and association. As if they who already have concluded the PCUSA is either apostate, pagan or both will seek healing and reconciliation to an entity they already have concluded is ill-lead, un-faithful at best. Reconciliation to who and to whom? To the PCUSA and its general incompetence if not abject secularism with a dash of antisemitism for good measure.
Is Lehigh so inane if not delusional to assume that the 60% who express no faith or confidence in either the Presbytery or PCUSA, will just sit around out of some unknown loyalty to the beloved denomination? Or that they would check their own constitutional freedoms as Americans at the front door of FPCB in order to enjoy the chains of their oppressors? I think not. But for Lehigh all is good, just drop the keys and bank account data at the door as you leave. It’s a nice job if you can find it. As I am fond of saying the Book of Order is a Constitution, not a suicide pact or cult. I would counsel all to flee your oppressors, the chains you lose will be your gain.
What is really interesting is this part of the article:
“In a straw poll administered by a Susquehanna Polling and Research, the church’s congregation fell short of the required two-thirds of support to move the dismissal process forward, according to an email distributed by the Lehigh Presbytery.
The poll of 1,308 of the church’s 2,600 members found 57 percent in favor of leaving the Presbyterian Church (USA) and 43 percent in favor of staying, the email said.”
Since when does a ‘straw’ poll become an official vote? There was no called congregational meeting, there was no verified member count, there was no official ballot.
Under Robert’s Rules of Order, such a poll is not valid for anything other then getting an idea what those who were polled were thinking at the time.
“Typical of a vengful, evangelical group.”
Well, when your Presbytery effectively says “No” based on a ‘straw poll’, not a vote at a called meeting of the congregation, what recourse do you have?
A decision made by the results of ‘straw poll’ taken by a third-party polling company is not a legal decision. There is a definite lack of process where telephone poll results become official policy.
Just because some in the political world do it, does not mean that a presbytery should.
More specific information about the discernment experience and straw poll here http://www.fpc-bethlehem.org/discernmentprocessblog/2016/6/10/important-message-from-fpc-session
Come and worship and dialogue with us?????
What they mean is SURRENDER AND CONFORM!
You are tainted in the negative
Yes, because all the other churches that have taken the Presbyteries to court have “burned to the ground”. The presbytery decided to pre-empt the discernment process by not allowing the Church to take the process to a vote, and the Church leadership is responding in the only way it thinks if can. This will cost the Church and the presbytery financial resources, but the blame probably lies equally on both parties. Just blaming the Church is very shortsighted. The Presbytery could have responded differently than the way it did.
I was on staff of my church when it went through its dismissal process. The presbytery ruled that its churches needed better than a 75% vote in favor in order to be dismissed. But my church understood that the healthiest kind of dismissal should be one that creates unity among the congregation. So the leaders worked incredibly hard to study, assess, and have individual conversations with church members before the vote in order to determine the level of commitment. In the end, the official vote was almost 92% in favor, and proved to be a positive, enlightening and unifying endeavor for the congregation. But Lehigh Presbytery’s process is interesting: it seems to be acting as though a straw poll number is as binding as an official vote, which seems strange to me. Every presbytery does it differently, but I will say that I was grateful for my presbytery’s openness to sincere exploration, mutual dialogue, and a fair process.
And Moses said to Pharaoh, “let my people go.” Was that propaganda, too?
If the treatment of that church by presbytery were between two family membersthe presbytery’s actions could properly labeled parental or spousal abuse.
Propaganda? Were this not such a tragic abuse of power, it would be laughable.
I pray that the presbytery repent and let the church go in peace.
My church went through the “discernment process” but in reality it was mostly a farce because the leadership had already made up its mind to leave. They cleaned up the roll, dropped hundreds of people, leaving only those who attended frequently (dropped charter members who probably would not have voted to leave), had a few “town hall meetings” that were in essence meetings not for dialogue but for indoctrination or criticism of the PCUSA. I went to every twonhall meeting so I can say with authority this is true. Anytime someone asked a question they were put down or criticized. The church took quick advantage of the presbytery’s “gracious dismissal policys”. This church went ECO. I am sorry I just cannot get on the ECO bandwagon, at least not yet. I still doubt its creation and true motive for ministry. It is being overtaken by large congregations leaving and then later the agendas of the core group will be taken over by the incoming influencers. It has already happened. And yet another denomination is born. Yay! add it to the list of active Presbyterian denominations. Give them 10 years and they will split.
ECO??? Some may think this is now the promised land, however, the ECO is new with really no history, and what can they offer a new church with history. The ECO will be Presbyterians in Name only, not wanting to defend the historic faith, and they will say yes, but time will tell. Will the grass be greener on the other side????
When a church leaves the PCUSA to elsewhere, what will the church do???? Matthew 28:18-20 is the instruction. IF a church does not reproduce itself, it matters not what denomination they want to be, the result is the same. Going nowhere fast, aging, and eventually will die.