Indian Hill Presbyterian Church, located in the Stanfield community east of Charlotte, was dismissed from the Presbyterian Church (USA) to align with the EPC during the July 20 meeting of the Charlotte Presbytery.
A positive separation
Indian Hill Pastor Rick Brundin, who has been with the 78-member congregation for some 16 years, said the separation between the church and presbytery was one that was very gracious in nature.
“It was totally different than most horror shows we have seen take place the last few years across the denomination,” Brundin said. “A lot of those (dismissal procedures) end up in court and are made into much bigger issues. That was not the case with us. What kept striking me from a spiritual standpoint was how both sides treated this as an ecumenical issue. They’re still our Christian friends, just like the Episcopalians, Methodists and Baptists.
“Our experience was so much more positive and gracious, done with decency and order. We did not want to leave with a bitter taste in our mouths or with name-calling on our breath. There was no controversy with the dismissal. We wanted to keep that attitude, and it was really smooth and not cantankerous.”
Brundin noted that the PCUSA has taken on more of a liberal stance, caving into culture and furthering its own agenda rather than God’s, hence the need to move forward with seeking dismissal.
“We did not want to put money into bad theology,” he said. “We understood the only thing that is relevant is Christ.”
Indian Hill began to get serious about leaving the denomination in 2011, not long after the passage of Amendment 10A, which changed ordination standards. Representatives from the church began to visit some EPC congregations and were impressed with the genuine, welcoming spirit and charisma they found associated with them.
Brundin explained that the passage of Amendment 10A was the final issue that further emphasized the need to depart a denomination that was viewed as being adrift from a theological perspective.
“The gay issue was the tipping point, but authority of Scripture and wondering if Jesus is the only way to salvation were other major factors,” he said. “We are a conservative church that believes there is a right way to do things, and this was not the right way. It’s unfathomable that the God of the universe who has created this marvelous space, who still loves us even when we mess up and made a plan to redeem us would be questioned in such a way.
“It seems absurd to pick and choose what we like and don’t like. What else do we have to go on but Scripture? The Word says what it says, and we need to let our spirits be molded by that.”
Working through the process
In October 2012, a congregational vote yielded unanimous support for leaving, just before the presbytery finalized its dismissal policy, and the EPC granted the church transitional membership a month later.
Because Charlotte’s dismissal policy was not finished at the time of Indian Hill’s first vote, Brundin said presbytery officials informed them that another vote would need to be taken. That took place in April 2013, and again the result was a unanimous showing to seek departure for the EPC.
Because more than 90 percent of those voting were in the affirmative to leave the PCUSA, Indian Hill was released with its property and no additional payment required.
Brundin pointed out that the Indian Hill congregation will continue to provide financial support to the Barium Springs Children’s Home and Grandfather Children’s Home, but noted that the church had decided it would seek another course of action if it had been asked for more money by the presbytery.
“There was no dissension,” Brundin recalled, adding that Indian Hill stopped making per-capita payments two years ago. “We emphasized that we needed to be of one mind to spare ourselves any financial hardship. “We did not want to put any more money into something we were leaving. The (PCUSA) is off course, and we did not want to fund the fuel to let it stray farther off course.”
A minimal impact
Brundin said the departure of Indian Hill, a rural church located on 17 acres of land, had a minimal impact on the presbytery.
“We’re not a multi-million dollar church,” he said. “(The presbytery) realized our church was set on leaving.”
Moving forward as part of the EPC, Brundin said church members are ready to put the dismissal process behind them as they seek to follow God’s will in ministry.
“I don’t think (the dismissal process) was a major bother, but it was an annoyance and even an embarrassment at times when we were asked about support for homosexual ordination,” Brundin said. “But we have a positive feeling that we are moving in a more Godly conservative direction, and we seek a deeper conviction and commitment. The EPC mentality is that we’re all in this together, and that’s camaraderie we haven’t had in the PCUSA.”