Memorial Drive Presbyterian Church (MDPC) in Houston has settled the lawsuit it filed in March against New Covenant Presbytery which sought to reaffirm that the church, itself, owned its property.
In the settlement agreement, MDPC agreed to pay the presbytery $825,000 in monthly installments of $13,750 for five years, and give $125,000 over five years to a shared Mission Partner.
In return, New Covenant Presbytery has “released any interest in MDPC’s property,” and stated that it will not take any disciplinary action against MDPC’s pastors, elders, staff, trustees or session.
In his April 20 announcement to the church, Senior Pastor Rev. Dr. Alf Halvorson wrote:
I am pleased to announce that we have reached, and Session has unanimously approved, a settlement agreement with the Presbytery of New Covenant and PCUSA.
As a result of the settlement, the presbytery, on behalf of itself and PCUSA, has forever released any interest in MDPC’s property. This means MDPC now and forever has clear title to its property whether we choose to stay in PCUSA or affiliate with a different Presbyterian denomination.
In return, MDPC has pledged continued financial support of the presbytery for the next five years. The terms of the settlement provide that MDPC will pay $825,000 to the presbytery over a five-year term. MDPC also has agreed to pay $125,000 to a mission partner that will be mutually agreed upon by both MDPC and the presbytery.
The financial settlement is made in recognition of the long-standing relationship MDPC has enjoyed with the presbytery and in support of a mission and outreach partner that is important to both MDPC and the presbytery. The news of this settlement comes less than six weeks after MDPC elected to file suit, and at minimum legal expense—both exceptional outcomes when viewed against the reality that litigation potentially could have played out over several years and resulted in a cloud on MDPC’s property. Our settlement also is faithful to the dollar amount the congregation voted upon in February 2015 as a possible exit fee under the 2011 Gracious Dismissal Procedure, and to the initial settlement offer we made to presbytery in February 2016. Litigation was always the last resort, but we are thankful for the result that it has allowed and for the presbytery’s supportive role in this process.
Thank you for your continued prayers during this process. As we continue in Discernment, please pray for MDPC and our commitment to be guided by God’s good and perfect will.
The 3,461-member Memorial Drive Presbyterian Church began discerning its future in the PCUSA in early 2015, when the congregation voted 839-277 to enter the presbytery’s discernment process. However, the church was searching for a new pastor at the time, and put the process on hold until a new pastor was called. In August of 2015, Halvorson became the senior pastor and during the first two months of 2016, the church leadership began meeting with representatives from the presbytery and exchanged four proposals.
Also relevant to this story is the story of First Presbyterian Church Houston