Western North Carolina Presbytery has dismissed another church from the Presbyterian Church (USA) with its property for a price of $600,000.
With a new name – Hendersonville Presbyterian Church – and a new denomination – the Evangelical Presbyterian Church – the congregation now stands “one the edge of Promised land,” according to Pastor Bill Campbell.
In the church’s May 2017 newsletter, Campbell compared the congregation’s experience with leaving the PCUSA to join the EPC with the Israelites’ escape from Egypt and their path to the Promised Land.
After leaving Egypt, the Israelites didn’t anticipate wandering through the Sinai wilderness. “God anticipated it for them,” wrote Campbell. “It was God’s plan to refine them like steel and to forge them into an army. The desert prepared them for the desserts of the Promised Land.”
“Our congregation voted to leave our own ‘Egypt’ on June 5, 2013. That is, we voted to be dismissed from one denomination, the PCUSA, and to affiliate with another, the Evangelical Presbyterian Church (EPC). We hoped to reach a settlement and walk into the land of promise within months. Instead, we wandered the desert of delay for almost four years, constantly searching the horizon for an oasis of hope. Through it all, the Lord guided us, provided for us, and sustained us. He was making us stronger and purer in our passion to know Him and to love one another.”
The congregation’s June 5 vote was 81 percent in favor of leaving the denomination. Of the 332 ballots cast, 270 voted to re-affiliate with the EPC, while 60 voted to stay in the PCUSA. But it wasn’t until Easter Sunday – April 16, 2017 – that the announcement was made: The settlement agreement with the presbytery had been approved.
After thanking the negotiating team, Campbell wrote:
“We are now on the edge of the Promised Land. The church officers have gone before us, to spy it out. Once they have examined the land and been examined (by an EPC commission), we will gather at the river. That is, we will have a service of reception by the EPC, held in our church this summer, likely in mid-June. In this celebration, we will cross to the other side.
“What an exciting time it is! But in all of our celebrations, let us remember to keep humble. The continued blessings of the Promised Land are conditional. We must keep our hearts right before God. It is sometime easier to trust in God when times are tough, when we know we need Him. As life becomes easier we humans often make idols of things, whether of church property, a new denomination, a particular doctrine, ourselves, or just about anything we can find on this earth. And once we do so, the very blessings of God can become to us a snare. Just as we trusted God in the lean times, let us trust God in plenty.
“As with Israel of old, we are blessed to be a blessing. We are called to reach out to our neighbors, near and far, with the abounding grace and wondrous truth of Scripture, and with a love that cannot be stopped. Think about it. The land we now call Israel, the Promised Land from long ago, is a desert that has blossomed. Out of Israel, a Savior has arisen to bring life to the world. And now the desert will bloom in our midst as we keep the Lord always before us.”
The Hendersonville settlement
To be dismissed from the PCUSA with its property, the congregation was required to pay $600,000 — $100,000 by July 1 payable to First Presbyterian Church-PCUSA, with additional payments of $50,000 to be made annually for 10 years.
First Presbyterian-PCUSA must use $75,000 of the $500,000 for missions. According to the settlement agreement, consideration should be given to continue supporting past mission recipients such as Black Mountain Home for Children, Youth and Families, Inc., and Interfaith Assistance Ministries, but the recipients will be determined solely by First Presbyterian.
The presbytery approved the settlement at its April 25 meeting, held at Montreat Conference Center. Both churches – Hendersonsville Presbyterian and First Presbyterian – also voted to approve the agreement.
Second $600,000 settlement for presbytery
On July 26, 2016, Western North Carolina Presbytery dismissed Lenoir Presbyterian Church, in Lenoir N.C. for $600,000 to ECO: A Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians. The church also changed its name from First Presbyterian to Lenoir Presbyterian. Members of the congregation who decided to remain in the PCUSA, now use the name First Presbyterian.
The church was required to pay $100,000 immediately with the remainder to be paid in equal amounts, with no interest, over a 10-year period.