Judge Wesley Ward of the Harris County District a Court issued a Temporary Injunction on behalf of FPC Houston, blocking the Presbytery of New Covenant from taking any action against the church property. The injunction came after a two day hearing at which the court heard testimony and examined documents that persuaded the court that the church had met its burden of proof in demonstrating that there was a substantial likelihood that no valid trust attached to its property and that, absent an injunction, the church and its associated school would face an imminent threat of irreparable injury by a presbytery or synod- appointed administrative commission. Testimony included the Louisville Papers and the Synod of the Sun’s takeover of the neighboring presbytery in the New Orleans Carrollton case.
In related rulings, the judge denied filings by the Presbytery of New Covenant related to jurisdiction and a request that the case be dismissed.
I wish I could be excited about this, but Highland Park had a temporary injunction, too, and ended up paying a $7.8 million exit ransom to Grace Presbytery.
The end of the trust clause will come only after PCUSA has extracted all the money it can get from its congregations and has reached its ultimate fate of becoming a small, almost completely liberal denomination, or of being subsumed into another shrinking and liberal denomination through merger.
Well at least it’s something positive, after all the “mutual forbearance” violations the pcusa has commited against churches. I hope 1st Pres. walks away without paying a dime!
The difference is First Pres. has no reason to drop the case since their whole point in filing it was to determine who owns the property. Getting out of the denomination with the property through a settlement is not even on the table.
BTW, has anybody heard or knows what the status is of the churches in California, St. Andrews in Newport Beach etc, had agreed to the terms set out by the presbytery but was challenged by this group called kindred spirits, I looked at the presbytery website, but I found nothing.
Thanks David, I will retain some hope then.
I found on HPPC website the “stay” votes totaled 170. Those votes represent the 11% that is the basis of the $7.8MM. Others have stated that only a few of those 170 have actually left HPPC. If all of this information is correct (and even if their votes were only meant to be symbolic in nature)…EACH “stay” vote has cost that congregation $45,882.35. Sober lesson for all to remember when faced with future votes. More “yes” votes would have reduced the percentage represented by the 170. Even if a matter seems like a done deal there are consequences to symbolic statements and to passive disengagement.
It’s certainly not going to look very good for Highland Park if they end up paying $7.8 million to their presbytery and First Pres. Houston gets clear title to its property for nothing. Maybe Highland Park wasn’t served very well by whoever was advising them.
Fpc and Hppc have the same lawyers
That comment made no sense whatsoever. FPC’s lawyers are HPPC’s lawyers. The lawyers telling FPC to continue fighting are the ones who told HPPC to settle.
James, they’re promising not to leave. Are you calling that a lie on FPC’s part?
Here’s an idea out of left field. Rather than paying lawyers and ringing up other court related fees. Walk way, drop the keys off at the Presbytery office and do some good, like ministry. You will recover and thrive. Hint: The remaining PUCSA entity will fail within 4 years, the Presbytery can monitize what they wish, it will not save them and they will die none the less, as their denomination.
In other words, FPC is spending a nice chunk of congregation money on a lawsuit when they are facing no immediate actions from the presbytery.
But instead, one brother takes another to court—and this in front of unbelievers!
The very fact that you have lawsuits among you means you have been completely defeated already. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated?
You’re kidding, right? They weren’t promising not to leave, they were saying that this legal action was not attempting to leave.
they’re obviously planning to leave the presbytery; they need clear title to do so without paying 10% of the $120M the property is worth.
If they win the suit and then turn around and leave, their promise to honor the discernment process and stay was a lie. Sorry M W, no hair splitting excuses are acceptable.
This strategy takes seriously the PCUSA claim of the trust relationship. It allows them the full responsibility which comes from essentially being the landlord: shouldering whatever mortgage remains, paying the utilities, keeping up the grounds and otherwise insuring the abandoned property doesn’t become a nuisance.
Peter, it isn’t about ministry on either side. For both sides, it is about control of money and expensive property. God is just an excuse for both sides.
Scott has been calling FPC Houston liars on this website for months, claiming that once FPC gets clear title to its property it will leave the PC(USA) despite its claims that its property action is not part of a secret plan to leave. There’s no question that FPC Houston will leave the at some point in the future because the PC(USA) will continue its inexorable drift to the far left wing of Presbyterianism, not because of some nefarious plot. FPC’s future will track the Highland Park precedent. In the 1990’s 55% of those voting at Highland Park voted to leave but that fell short of the presbytery’s threshold for departure. Since then the PC(USA) has continued its leftward drift and Highland Park voted again this year to leave by an overwhelming majority. The same thing will eventually happen at FPC Houston at which point given Scott’s obsession with this issue he’ll still be calling FPC Houston liars.
We know that remedial complaints have been filed with the Synod against the presbytery of Los Ranchos in all but one dismissal case. Tracking it…
James, if they’re expecting to leave soon after winning the suit, if they win, their promise not to leave is a lie. I expect them to be gone within the year if they leave, and are counting on the PCUSA to do something they can use as an excuse. We’re not talking about another vote during the next decade.
How does a commitment to enter a discernment process imply capitulating to the other side in that discernment process? What’s the point of the Presbytery insisting on a discernment process if the outcome is known and fixed? Why not just ask the church board of elders to drop all issues and complaints, and never speak up again, if entering into a discernment process about staying vs leaving means “a promise to stay at the end of the discernment process”?
“How does a commitment to enter a discernment process imply capitulating to the other side in that discernment process?”
It’s called honoring a commitment or keeping a promise. If FPC had been 34 votes over what they needed instead of 34 votes under, and the presbytery changed their minds and said they couldn’t leave because that was too small a margin, I think people commenting here would hold the exact opposite view of honoring commitments they’re holding now and would be screaming that the presbytery were liars.
FPC elects session members for 3 year terms. How about if they leave after 3 years you can make an argument they weren’t lying, but if it is within 3 years they are actually breaking a promise?
Are you saying Scotland’s residents can never again (to eternity) hold a referendum on independence from the United Kingdom, or that they can rightfully and honorably hold another referendum after the whole voting population turns over? [assume the commitment-upon-rejection language and laws are effectively identical to the presbytery’s]
F, I’m saying that a revote decades from now isn’t proof they’re lying, but if they win the suit and bail immediately, it is. If they wait more than 3 years after the case is done, and the session has turned over, then you can make a case it wasn’t a lie.
We, and everyone reading this, know that waiting can’t happen. The PCUSA is moving to the left. If FPC doesn’t bail now, they risk their conservative members leaving the church – Grace Presbyterian is an equally big, wealthy PCUSA church that just left for ECO and a nice compatible home for FPC members who want out of the PCUSA while FPC is stuck there. Houston has conservative churches on every street corner. Anyone at FPC who wants out of the PCUSA has plenty of options.
I don’t think FPC has a 3 year window to wait. The clock is ticking.
you have no idea of what you speak. The lawsuit is being funded by members out of their own pockets, not from church funds. Those same members have also pledged to not reduce their annual tithe.
how about just maybe the facts of the HPPC and FPC cases might be different?
I know HPPC actually took a loan fro the national church at one time to purchase property where FPC is never taken a cent for property purchases.
Your unilaterally setting the “liar” bar at three years from now for FPC Houston probably means that your obsessive accusations will end up being wrong. Once FPC gets clear title to its property the whole congregation will likely be content to defect in place for a few years, remaining only a nominal part of the PC(USA) rather than putting the congregation through another tortuous “discernment” process. The PC(USA) will continue its leftward drift and the prominent, popular Presbyterian leader who spear headed the presbytery’s narrow win on the congregation’s vote is leaving the Houston area and won’t be around for the next vote in the future. So no one in the evangelical majority has any reason to leave. They can be serenely confident that it’s just a matter of time until the next vote goes their way and FPC can leave easily with no property issues to deal with. And then maybe you’ll be gracious enough to apologize to FPC for calling them liars for so long.
why would you “drop off the keys” to your assets at the presbytery office? The trust clause has been disputed since day 1 and never agreed to by FPC.
one would drop off the keys to one’s church building assets for the same reason i gave up a lucrative career, several graduate degrees worth of education, my entire social life, financial stability, to name a few. there’s a parable in the New Testament that talks about giving up everything after finding something of infinitely more value.
I know FPC’s history of lies on other subjects due to personal experience with them. I doubt their honesty now because I personally know them to be liars. You, Jim, don’t know them. I’ve dealt with them personally. I will never apologize for calling them liars because I know that to be a fact. You don’t know them; you’re just reflexively defending them because they are fellow conservatives.
Is the PCUSA hemorrhaging conservative individual members? If so, and y’all seem to believe so, I wouldn’t count on FPC’s conservative membership sticking around for, say, a gay PCUSA moderator or the like when they can individually leave w/o asking anyone’s permission.
If being able to “defect in place” is so acceptable, why are other churches and other individual members so anxious to get out of the PCUSA?
You know so much about FPC history, want to fill the class in on what FPC did that would make those who know doubt their honesty, or do you want to play ignorant and claim not to even be able to guess what lie of theirs I refer to?
quest,”one would drop off the keys to one’s church building assets for the same reason i gave up a lucrative career, several graduate degrees worth of education, my entire social life, financial stability”
parson’s, is that you?
“rather than putting the congregation through another tortuous ‘discernment’ process”
The session will just unilaterally vote FPC out of the denomination. Without the leverage of the trust clause, who is going to stop them? There will be no second discernment process.
Several comments, Scott. First, I’m no expert on Presbyterian polity but I don’t think a session can vote a church out of the PC(USA) without a concurring vote by the congregation. And I doubt that groups FPC Houston would want to join such as EPC or ECO would receive a church which didn’t have a concurring congregational vote by a substantial majority. Second, PC(USA) churches defect in place in presbyteries which treat departing churches in harsh, mean-spirited ways. I can’t count the number of Presbyterians who have told me over the years that their church would leave in a heart beat if the presbytery wouldn’t take their property. Third, since you claim to have personal experience with FPC Houston lying, the appropriate thing to do is to give readers here that information to substantiate your constant accusations.
A Session cannot unilaterally vote itself out of the denomination. It can’t vote to disaffiliate or any other such action.
If the church is set up as a corporation under Texas law (as many churches throughout the country are) it takes a vote of the corporation members (congregation) to change its bylaws and affiliation.
From the editor: Comments on The Layman Online must be directly related to the subject matter in the article and not about specific people.
There was a 20+ post discussion that followed. Layman’s house, Layman’s rules; if they wish to pull it as a violation of their rules, that’s entirely their right. IMHO, if a church has a skeleton in their closet that can’t be discussed, out of concern of hurting innocent third parties, representatives of that church can’t ethically assert their innocence and count on others who know better remaining silent out of concern for those same third parties. Again, IMHO.
Greetings & thank you for all of your good work.
The “dropping off the keys” phrase seems to result from a lack of understanding about what a “trust” would be if one is found to exist. Property interests can be split into “legal” title and “equitable” interests. There used to be 2 separate court systems to address the issues related to each category: Courts of Law and Chancery (or Equity). Now, all issues are handled by the Courts of Law. If a church owns 100% of the interest in the property, then the church holds legal title in fee simple absolute. The PCUSA attempts to assert that it can, in effect, split the title (legal title could remain in the local church) and take an equitable interest (“trust”) in the property simply by asserting the naked statement of trust in the PCUSA Book of Order. One must read the common law (cases) and the applicable state property law (common law and statutory) and trust law (common law and statutory) and discern the operative facts of each case to see that the law does not agree with the PCUSA that the PCUSA’s own naked statement of “trust” is sufficient to create in the PCUSA an equitable interest in the local church property, and certainly it is also not sufficient to create a legal interest or the “hand-over-the-keys” (fee simple absolute interest) that the PCUSA seems to want the local churches to believe and fear. We’ve seen the pile of documents and filings that the PCUSA requires to secure an interest when the PCUSA loans money to a local church, so we know they know how it is supposed to be done. It is disingenuous, at best, for the PCUSA to pretend that they do not know how a property interest should be created – when they loan money, they don’t simply rely on a naked statement of the caliber that is in the so-called trust clause, they want the votes and the signatures and the liens and the loan & title documents filed and done right to perfect the interest under state and federal laws.
Especially in light of Hope and Carrollton, it is time for the PCUSA to forthrightly and honestly discern that this is the truth. The PCUSA should not be instilling fear into local churches in order to get the local churches to buy into the “discernment” process. For local churches with a clean fact pattern (Hope without the express trust language that Hope enacted themselves), who want to leave the voluntary association that is the PCUSA, the church should simply vote and then leave.
As to PCUSA polity, if a local church does not believe in homosexual marriage, the PCUSA needs to recognize that the internal inconsistencies within the PCUSA and its documents are fully sufficient evidence of the PCUSA’s inability to justify and reconcile such a belief, no matter how hard they may try. The PCUSA must not address with honesty that there will be fallout from their decisions related to gay marriage. The natural and gracious discernable reaction is that it is time for the PCUSA to let go those local churches who need to go. The PCUSA can grow their membership by welcoming into the PCUSA all of the homosexual church-goers who will now support the PCUSA. We do not believe in homosexual marriage and we never will.
Edit toward the bottom to: “PCUSA must address with honesty” (please disregard the “not”, thank you.)