By Riley Yates, The Morning Call.
Members of First Presbyterian Church of Bethlehem voted overwhelmingly Sunday to break from their national denomination, underscoring a schism that has developed over Presbyterian Church (USA)’s embrace of same-sex marriage and the ordination of gay ministers.
Out of 1,048 votes, 802 members supported bolting to the more conservative Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians, a super-majority of 76.5 percent that church leaders say made clear the congregation’s wishes.
“We’re ready to get back to our most important thing, which is our ministry,” the Rev. Marnie Crumpler, pastor of First Presbyterian, said after the vote. “We’re just looking forward to moving forward as an ECO Presbyterian Church.”
But amid a bitter divorce, the results of the vote will not be accepted by the mainline denomination, said the Rev. David Duquette, an official of the Lehigh Presbytery, a regional arm of the national church.
Kind of funny that the “straw poll” showed only 57% to leave and then the actual voting showed 76.5, it does seem the presbytery has some explaining to do, but given their dishonesty at this point why would they.
FWIW … using a straw poll is not the same as an actual in person vote on preference where each person voting is verified as an Active Member on the rolls.
I know of nothing in the BoO nor in Roberts Rules that negates that requirement of ‘in person’ meetings and votes.
If 800 want to leave (plus some who weren’t present to vote), those numbers make a great new church. That would be a blessed and exciting time for them. Nothing like like the reminder that church isn’t a building.
The straw poll had 745 in favor; the corporation vote 802. The major difference was not the number of supporters, but the number of voters. Please pray that the 800 truly reach out and finally try to reconcile with the 1700 other members who did not vote to leave.
There is also nothing in the BOO or anywhere else that says a “dismissal policy” does not allow a Presbytery to step in during a schism. There is clearly a large group that wants to remain PCUSA in this congregation – the group is viable enough for the Presbytery to put aside the dismissal policy and put in effect: G-4.0207 Property of Congregation in Schism. A schism is not an orderly dismissal where the vast majority want to leave and where leaders have not focused on demonizing the PCUSA to sway members to their side.
and yet this group clings to the property and is now tearing down the entire congregation – both sides – just sad…
amen – however it appears the faction who wants to leave is adopting a scorched earth policy – if we cannot have the building, then no one will be left by the time this bitter battle is over
77% of those voting wished to leave. That is a mandate.
Respectfully disagree, often in these cases many of those who want to stay do not show up for these out of order “votes” – remember, congregations do not vote to be dismissed from their constituting body – Presbyteries establish and dismiss congregations. Also some may vote to leave if they feel pressure from leaders on “vote day” – these votes under extraordinary (court orders, etc) circumstances are not representative. In my view the polling conducted by the Presbytery made it clear to them they had enough support for the congregation to be viable staying PCUSA and it should. If you want to start an ECO church that is a viable option – but go out and do that and leave to the Presbytery to re-develop this congregation as they see fit.
Tourist, one important correction to your statement. You are assuming that all those who did not vote at all are in favor of staying. Actually only 246 voted to not leave, (or less, if there were abstentions), not 1700. Perhaps the 246 would be interested in staying with the large majority of voters, and continuing to worship as one body now in ECO. Certainly that would honor the will of the super-majority of voters!
If we are thinking of the interests of the Kingdom of God rather than that of a denominational brand name, why would it make sense for the super-majority of voting members to leave a facility that they are better suited for than the 25% minority who would be dwarfed by their buildings? Wouldn’t it be smarter to let the larger group keep the facilities and work out a financial arrangement with them to help secure a new, adequate facility for the 25% who would like to try to flourish in the PCUSA? Why not a win-win for the Kingdom rather than a win-lose for a split congregation?
Hi Mateen. The total number of voters is less than half the congregation. So, while a “super-majority” of voters voted to leave – a far larger number of members were silent. Perhaps they are happy with outcome, perhaps not. Perhaps they will leave, perhaps not. The truth is probably somewhere in the middle. I have no way to know. I pray that the 800, by their deeds and not just empty words, really work to make the church a home to the “other 1700”. I am not happy with some of the early signs, but I put my trust in god that all will work out in the end.
The total membership may not be the actual membership. Unless the church rolls are clean, likely the 800 represents a more accurate total.
As a pastor, unless the rolls are clean, the results of any vote – relocate, build, etc. – is misleading.
Your argument defies logic. To assume that all 1700 who didn’t vote wanted to remain in the PCUSA is highly unlikely. It’s up to those who voted to leave to treat those who wanted to stay with grace and love. It’s up to those who were on the losing side of the vote to accept the outcome.
All the Presbyteries I’ve been involved with and those whose actions I follow have their meeting agendas and minutes posted to their websites for all to view. Lehigh Presbytery password protects their documents. Interesting.