An Arizona congregation seeking to honor God is celebrating its 50th anniversary after leaving the Presbyterian Church (USA).
Kingman Presbyterian Church, located in the rural northwestern region of Arizona nears its border with California and Nevada, was dismissed from the PCUSA during an April 27 meeting of the Grand Canyon Presbytery and became part of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church (EPC) as a transitional member upon final payment and completion of required paperwork.
The 91-member church, which was founded in 1963, spent about 18 months going through the dismissal process after making the request to the presbytery in September 2011, about the same time the pastor retired, leaving the congregation to navigate the journey under the leadership of its session.
Joan Johns, clerk of session for Kingman, said the move away from the PCUSA was one needed for the church.
“Ours is an older congregation, a little long in the tooth to put it one way, but we still believe in the Bible and the way it was written,” Johns said. “When it was said that all theologies are valid, that told us the Bible no longer was important. We want to belong to an organization that believes in the Bible and felt (the PCUSA’s) stance was not acceptable anymore.”
Johns added that changes in the Book of Order that took away autonomy from local churches and placed restrictions on what they could and could not do also factored prominently in the decision to depart the PCUSA.
“We had been thinking about this for quite a while,” she said. “We looked at the direction the PCUSA was going, and many members were unhappy about it. We didn’t want to make any rash decisions, and our session members were the last to come on board. We wanted to follow the Bible, and it just became more and more apparent that the PCUSA was getting farther away from that.
“It’s very sad, really. The PCUSA has a wonderful history but has taken a wrong turn and is no longer honoring God in what it is doing.”
After looking through information compiled by a committee charged with studying discernment/dismissal, an informal poll of the membership revealed that 72 of 80 who voted wanted to seek dismissal, prompting the session to initiate the process by unanimous decision.
A vote taken later in the process revealed that 67 of 80 voting members were in favor of joining the EPC.
“Our motto is ‘A Place to Call Home,’ and the way we look at this is the EPC has become our second home,” Johns said. “The essentials (of EPC) spell out that they still believe in the Bible, and we want to stay with that. It tells who God is, who Jesus Christ is and that the Bible is God’s written word. Those are things we believe as true. We wanted to go to the EPC because we believe it to be a conservative denomination that is Biblically-oriented and allows for the ordination of women in the church.”
Ordination of women, Johns said, it is important for Kingman, where about two-thirds of the congregation is comprised of females.
A Discernment Team from Grand Canyon Presbytery ascertained that Kingman’s body of believers was steadfastly committed to dismissal, and an Administrative Commission (AC) was formed in June 2012 to work with the church.
According to presbytery documents, late in 2012 the AC proposed a settlement negotiation that asked KPC to pay all costs of the AC as well as a property settlement that included either a payment of $95,000 cash or $100,000 with a carry back mortgage at a favorable interest rate.
The session balked at the proposal on the property settlement and countered with an offer of $23,000. A later meeting resulted in an offer of $75,000 by the AC with terms of a down payment and carry back that would preserve cash holdings of the congregation in response to an offer of about $50,000 by the session.
Finally, on Jan. 23, 2013, the session of KPC agreed to terms of the dismissal and to pay a cash settlement of $60,000 as well as AC costs. Church members decided to raise the money needed to fund the settlement and retain other cash reserves for repairs and a pastor’s salary. They were able to make the final payment June 13, freeing them of any additional obligations to the presbytery or PCUSA.
Johns said the Kingman congregation could not afford to pay the amount sought in the first settlement proposal, nor did it want the presbytery carrying a note on the property.
“Our congregation wanted to be free and clear. We did not want to continue a relationship in any way with the PCUSA,” she said. “It was like any negotiation process. We started at one amount and worked our way to an agreement.”
Johns said there will have to be some repairs made on the church facilities, something that had not been done the last two or three years since members had thoughts the presbytery could take control of the property. Those repairs will have to be made, and a pastor will have to be called. David Fenska currently is serving as the interim pastor for KPC.
Johns said Kingman’s membership is pleased to be out of the PCUSA and ready to begin a new chapter in the life of the church.
“We’re thrilled. It’s a tremendous relief to have that vote in April approved and then to finalize everything. Our dismissal was something we poured a lot of time, energy and money into achieving,” Johns said. “It’s sort of like a divorce – really uncomfortable and not pleasant at all. The only reason we went through this was because we felt it was the only way we could honor God, and as Christians we have to stand for Him and what He has told us to do.”
As an idea for a future article for the Layman, it would be interesting to follow up with some of these departing congregations a year or two from now to see how they’re doing. I hope they will thrive in their new denominational homes.
Instead of going through all the negotiations with PCUSA, WHY couldn’t any church establish (corporately) and over a specified period of time (i.e. 6 months) monthly transfer the memberships of those wishing to become a member of the EPC? Do likewise with the funds/investments over the same period of time. Then negotiate a purchase price of the real estate, which should be easy to do as there really is not a huge market for used church buildings and the PCUSA will not wish to own and maintain the church property. This settling for 6 figures is crazy!
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The king man congregation could not afford to pay the amount sought in the first settlement proposal,and it did it want the presbytery carrying a note on the property.
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