By Suzanne Elliott, The Observer-Reporter (Pa.)
It will be up to a Washington County judge to decide who is going to pay in the ongoing financial dispute between Peters Creek Evangelical Presbyterian Church and the Washington Presbytery of Pennsylvania.
The church formed in 2008, when the majority of the congregation of Peters Creek United Presbyterian Church voted to leave Presbyterian Church (USA) in favor of the more conservative Evangelical Presbyterian Church. In recent years, Presbyterian churches across the United States have been leaving the PCUSA, the country’s largest Presbyterian denomination, mostly because of its shift to support of gay ordination and marriage.
The two congregations – those who left for the new church and those who remained – engaged in a lengthy legal battle over the church property that ended in December 2014 when a Washington County judge ruled that the minority group of members who did not depart for the evangelical church should retain ownership. That did not, however, resolve all the financial issues.
In a hearing Wednesday in Washington County Court before Senior Judge William Nalitz, attorney Stephen Marriner, representing the Washington Presbytery, had Lindsay Aaron, a Washington certified public accountant, examine eight years’ worth of the evangelical church’s financial records and point out more than 20 purported accounting errors.
“This accounting is the worst accounting I have ever seen in my career,” Marriner said during the two-hour-plus hearing.
Peters Creek Evangelical claims the Washington Presbytery owes it $374,525 dating to 2007, an amount the Washington Presbytery disputes.
In its complaint, Peters Creek Evangelical acknowledges it occupied the Brookwood Road church property from November 2007 through its last service at the site on April 26, 2015. It says it paid all costs associated with the maintenance and upkeep of the property, and is entitled to reimbursement of $573,360, minus a $2,000 monthly rent, for a total of $374,525.