Two West Coast churches are part of ECO: A Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians after being dismissed from the Presbyterian Church (USA) by their respective presbyteries.
Malibu Presbyterian Church (MPC) was dismissed during the March 8, 2014, meeting of Santa Barbara Presbytery (SBP), while Sherwood Presbyterian Church – now known as Cedar Creek Church (CCC) – was dismissed by Cascades Presbytery at a Nov. 9, 2013, meeting.
Malibu was the fourth church to leave the PCUSA from Santa Barbara Presbytery to join ECO this year, following the February dismissals of Eastminster Presbyterian Church (now known as Orchard Community Church), Morro Bay Presbyterian Church and Santa Ynez Valley Presbyterian Church.
Orcutt Presbyterian Church (OPC) and First Presbyterian Church of Templeton also were dismissed by Santa Barbara Presbytery in April.
With the departures of Trinity Presbyterian Church and Community Presbyterian Church late last year, eight congregations have left Santa Barbara Presbytery in the last eight months.
Cedar Creek is one of five churches from Oregon now aligned with ECO, joining Community Presbyterian in Sandy, Gateway Presbyterian in The Dalles, Westminster Presbyterian and The Crux (a church plant) in Medford.
Nearly seven years ago, Malibu Presbyterian Church’s facility was wiped out by a massive wildfire that spread rampantly throughout southern California. But the congregation rebuilt, gathering in its new sanctuary on Jan. 27, 2013. Construction of a new administrative building is under way and plans for a new fellowship building are in the works. Less than 16 months after moving into the new sanctuary, members find themselves part of a new denomination.
The session of the 270-member church, started in 1948 and located on the coast in Los Angeles County, voted 13-0 on April 30, 2013, to request dismissal and notified the presbytery of its intent the same day. Notification of ECO as the preferred denominational affiliation took place in September 2013.
At the initial congregational meeting held Oct. 3, 2013, members of MPC voted 173-12 (one abstention) to seek dismissal. During a second meeting, the congregation voted 147-1 to request dismissal from the PCUSA and affiliation with ECO, accepting terms negotiated by the Presbytery Response Team (PRT) and Malibu’s session.
Those terms included a payment of $52,506.30 to the presbytery over a period of five years as well as $15,000 to the SBP Front Porch college ministry, also payable over a five-year timeframe, and the transfer of $81,000 in PCUSA designated funds to the presbytery.
The settlement also includes a 10-year reversionary clause that allows to presbytery to retain the Malibu property if the congregation moves to a non-Reformed denomination within 10 years of dismissal. After that 10-year period, Malibu has full ownership of the property. The reversionary clause does have a $250,000 buyout stipulation that reduces such a payment by 20 percent every two years.
According to dismissal documents on the SBP web site, four issues were paramount to MPC’s decision to seek dismissal:
- the growing divergence between MPC and PCUSA on who Jesus is and what He means;
- the growing and irreconcilable divergence between MPC and PCUSA on the authority of Scripture;
- the growing and irreconcilable divergence between MPC and PCUSA;
- the desire to be in a new Presbyterian organization where MPC’s energy is not continuously focused on dealing with the divergence of views regarding the meaning of Reformed faith but instead working in partnership in a positive endeavor to carry out the mission that God has ordained for His church in the Malibu community and beyond.
Pastor Greg Hughes also indicated a desire to be dismissed to ECO, and that dismissal should be processed within 90 days of the congregation’s dismissal.
A relatively new congregation, Cedar Creek formed in 2004 as Sherwood Presbyterian Church, and is located in the northwest region of Oregon in Washington County under the direction of founding pastor Len Tang.
The session of Cedar Creek (Sherwood at the time) began discussing the growing theological divergence between the church and the PCUSA more than two years ago and formed a Denominational Task Force in April 2012 to determine whether to remain part of the PCUSA or seek affiliation with another Presbyterian denomination.
Three months later, the Task Force recommended dismissal, a measure unanimously supported by the session. The congregation voted by a 90-percent margin in October 2012 to seek dismissal, and the Task Force suggested ECO as the affiliation. The session voted to approve the move in January 2013.
A narrative found in dismissal documents on the Cascades Presbytery web site indicated rationale for the congregation’s dismissal from the PCUSA.
It read, “So after two years of reflection and research, our session and congregation feel that remaining in the PCUSA is no longer the most effective way for us to fulfill our mission. The amount of time, focus and emotional energy that we have expended over these past two years on denominational issues rather than on furthering Christ’s Kingdom is itself an indication that our church and the PCUSA are no longer a good fit. Rather, our theological and missional calling seems to mesh well with ECO. As a young church, our leaders and congregation are energized by the opportunity to assist ECO, which is itself a denomination plant, in identifying and assessing church planters so that ECO might become a church-planting movement.”
Sherwood agreed to make a payment of $15,000 to Cascades Presbytery as a token of its connection to the presbytery and its gratitude of support provided by member churches, and to turn over its church records. Additionally, the church removed all indications of affiliation with the PCUSA and changed its named to Cedar Creek Church.
The presbytery relinquished all claims to the property and granted the dismissal of the congregation and Tang to ECO effective Nov. 15, 2013.
the growing divergence between MPC and PCUSA on who Jesus is and what He means;
“15 He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am?
16 And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.
20 Then charged he his disciples that they should tell no man that he was Jesus the Christ.”
the growing and irreconcilable divergence between MPC and PCUSA on the authority of Scripture
2 Timothy 3:16: “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable.”
the growing and irreconcilable divergence between MPC and PCUSA;
2 Timothy 3:16: “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness”
the desire to be in a new Presbyterian organization where MPC’s energy is not continuously focused on dealing with the divergence of views regarding the meaning of Reformed faith but instead working in partnership in a positive endeavor to carry out the mission that God has ordained for His church in the Malibu community and beyond.
Acts 6:2: “Then the twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto them, and said, It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables.”
(“serve tables” – explain the Reformed confessions contained on “tables.” See Exodus 32:16: “And the tables were the work of God, and the writing was the writing of God, graven upon the tables.”