At a special congregational meeting held yesterday (1/31/16), First Presbyterian Church-San Antonio, Texas approved a financial settlement of $1,525,000 with Mission Presbytery, joining 14 other churches across the nation that have paid in excess of $1 million to leave the Presbyterian Church (USA) with their property.
The church had already left the PCUSA — voting by 87 percent on Nov. 1, 2015 to disaffiliate from the PCUSA and join ECO: A Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians, but there was still an active lawsuit in the civil courts over who owned the property.
First-San Antonio filed a petition on May 12, 2015 asking the court to declare whether the trust clause in the Presbyterian Church (USA)’s constitution was valid under Texas law and if it had any legal effect on the church’s property.
The settlement ends the lawsuit and allows the church to retain sole use, control and ownership of its name and property.
Under the terms of the settlement, the presbytery will contribute $125,000 of the $1.5 million to the John Knox Ranch Summer Camp, a Christian camp on the Blanco River in Wimberley, Texas, to help rebuild a dining hall destroyed by the 2015 Memorial Day floods. FPC will match this contribution for a combined gift of $250,000 to the camp.
“Our church is energized as we enter this new chapter in the history of First Pres,” said FPC Interim Senior Pastor Ron Scates. “We will continue our mission to make Jesus visible to inner city San Antonio, surrounding communities, and around the world.” FPC joined its new denomination, ECO: A Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians, in November of 2015.
Scates praised the positive spirit shown by both parties joining to assist the camp in their post-flood recovery efforts. “FPC and Mission Presbytery have worked together with a number of missions in the South Texas region for well over 30 years. I’ve personally led numerous confirmation and youth retreats at John Knox Ranch, so this has a special place in my heart and I’m delighted for us to help in this time of need. We see no reason these kinds of efforts cannot continue,” Scates said.
Charges still pending against Scates
While the church is now a member of ECO, Scates is still a member of the PCUSA with charges of violating his ordination vows currently pending against him.
On June 15, 2015, Mission Presbytery informed Scates of the allegations made anonymously which include:
- Scates “violated his promise to be governed by church polity,” and
- Scates “broke his promise to ‘further the peace, unity, and purity of the church.’”
Mission Presbytery appointed a committee to investigate the allegations, but to this date, nothing has been settled yet.
Scates has requested that the presbytery dismiss him to ECO, but he cannot be dismissed with the charges pending against him. Scates refuses to renounce jurisdiction.