The threat of being forced from the home he and his family have lived in for nearly four years is not one that worries the Rev. Brian Jacobson. He knows they will be provided for no matter what happens.
“God has wired me in a way that I am simply not prone to anxiety or worry,” said Jacobson, pastor at First Presbyterian Church in Oostburg, Wis. “I have not lost sleep over this. I trust the Lord will provide for and protect my family. This congregation has so faithfully cared for me and my family, following through on every promise made to us. I have no real concern that we won’t be provided for again even if there are bumps in the road.”
Jacobson has been threatened by Milwaukee Presbytery with possible eviction proceedings if he, his wife Courtney and son Theo are not out of the church manse by Aug. 1. Jacobson and his family have occupied the church-owned home since arriving in Oostburg in August 2010.
However, Jacobson and the FPO congregation are embroiled in a civil suit with the presbytery regarding ownership of the property.
The 260-member congregation voted June 15 to disaffiliate from the Presbyterian Church (USA), seek admission to ECO: A Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians and give the session authority to take steps to secure FPO’s legal rights to the church property.
All that came on the heels of Milwaukee Presbytery’s rejection of an offer of $100,000 from FPO to retain its property and a May 27 affirmative vote by presbyters to dismiss the church to ECO for a payment of $500,000 to hold on to property the congregation argues belongs to it anyway.
The day after the vote to disaffiliate, FPO filed a civil suit against the presbytery to bring clarity to the issue of property ownership. Shortly thereafter, a letter dated June 16 from Milwaukee Presbytery Stated Clerk Willem Houts was sent to Jacobson informing him that his pastoral relationship with the church was dissolved effective June 16.
In addition, the letter from Houts indicated that Jacobson’s salary and pension with the Board of Pensions (BOP) were terminated as of June 16, also emphasizing the possibility of eviction.
“You are also instructed to vacate the manse and all the church property by August 1, 2014. Failure to do so may result in eviction proceedings,” Houts wrote.
The letter continued, “Please know that you, Courtney, and Theo remain in my prayers as we navigate this hard situation. I still consider you a brother in Christ.”
Jacobson responding by renouncing jurisdiction of the PCUSA, and he and the FPO congregation continue to worship at the church as the civil suit makes its way through the court process.
“We are moving forward as an ECO congregation with an ECO pastor on its own property,” he said. “We will continue moving forward with that in mind until such time the legal system affirms it or decides otherwise.”
Because the manse is tied to the rest of the church property, Jacobson believes his occupancy of the manse will be protected until the civil suit comes to an end. While there has been no timetable for that process, it could be months before the issue is resolved.
“It is my understanding that because the manse is part of the church property, my occupancy of the manse is directly tied to the church’s ownership of the property,” he said. “Since that ultimately has to be decided, I have assumed my occupancy of the manse will resume until such time the matter is resolved. I haven’t been concerned that my home situation will be decided separate from the rest of the property matter. I personally don’t have any fear of anything happening. Any attempt to evict us would likely be postponed because of the connection to the larger property issue.”
Jacobson bases that on two factors.
“One, I trust the Lord will protect my family,” he said. “Secondly, I don’t anticipate the manse will be handled separately from the rest of the property issue. But if it is, the (FPO) session has faithfully investigated contingency plans, and this congregation has always been faithful to provide for me and my family. I trust that to be true no matter what happens. This is really a wonderful congregation.”
Jacobson noted it took little time for the presbytery to contact the Board of Pensions regarding termination of his benefits following FPO’s vote for disaffiliation, but he also pointed out that the BOP grants a 30-day extension of coverage for those pastors who renounce jurisdiction and leave the denomination, stretching his benefits to July 16. He and his family already are signed up for benefits through ECO.
“ECO has been tremendously responsive and supportive in this process, and helped facilitate a transition that means my family will not have any gap in coverage,” Jacobson added.
Craig Howard, executive presbyter of Milwaukee Presbytery, did not respond to an email from The Layman, though he indicated to the Sheboygan Press that Jacobson no longer is an employee of the PCUSA or the Presbytery of Milwaukee.
“The presbytery is going through our denomination’s judicial system to determine our next course of action regarding his unauthorized work at First Presbyterian Church, Oostburg, and his occupancy of the church’s property,” Howard wrote in an email to the publication. “We are working through our denominational court system to determine what our next steps will be.”
Oostburg congregation disaffiliates; pastor renounces jurisdiction
Milwaukee Presbytery wants $500K to let Oostburg congregation leave
Man that is a good looking photo of the Manse 🙂
most 24-hour Walmarts will let cars park there for free overnight until you can make other arrangements. i would wait for the eviction notice, and sheriff to show up. no point in getting upset about his, right. there are plenty of us Christians who are under attack like this. i’ve been thrown out of family property, oh about half a dozen times since 2002, despite the fact that it’s all held in trust, supposedly for my benefit, and my one sibling’s benefit. Jesus always provides. every time i thought it was the worst experience i’d ever been through he somehow provided a roof overhead. there was only one night i had to sleep in my car, in a Motel 6 parking lot. please everyone pray for all the homeless and those of us being threatened with eviction.
It’s such a shame that the Milwaukee presbytery appears to be one of the small minority of presbyteries which treat departing churches in mean-spirited, vindictive ways. I assume your session and congregation are well advised by competent attorneys who have explained that the outcome of the legal dispute on your church’s property will hang on trust law in the state of Wisconsin. If Wisconsin is a “hierarchical deference” state, the presbytery will likely get title to your church’s property because the court will rule that the PC(USA) trust clause prevails. If Wisconsin is a “neutral principles” state, the court will look to the same evidence it considers in any case involving two parties claiming ownership of the same property – insurance policies, property deeds, construction contracts, etc. – in which case your congregation will likely prevail. The 50 states are almost equally divided between those two legal principles so PC(USA) congregations have been winning some cases while losing others.
Whatever the outcome, you and your congregation can enjoy Spirit-filled confidence that from a Kingdom perspective, the presbytery is a loser. If the presbytery loses in court, they forced the two parties to waste tens of thousands of dollars of the Lord’s money on legal fees which otherwise would have been spent on mission which supposedly they claim they’re committed to. If the presbytery is awarded the property, they will suffer the humiliation of wasting more of the Lord’s money on insurance, utilities and maintenance on an empty building or worse, the cost of subsidizing a tiny, successor congregation. So FPC Oostburg is in a win-win situation while the un-Christlike behavior of the presbytery puts them in a lose-lose situation!!
Stay strong Brian. The pagan apostates who persecute the faithful will know their day in a court from which there is no appeal.
Lovely family….Praying for them…
Again and again, I see the PCUSA proving that it is all about MONEY, not the Kingdom of God. The denomination has revealed itself to be rampant with corporate sin. Although I have sadly departed the PCUSA, I still retain a continuing deep affection for a once vibrant, mission minded denomination.
Much like Israel (Judah), they have denied the Christ of their own Scriptures. John Buckingham MD MPH MBS , M.Missions.
The PCUSA just keeps shooting themselves in the foot, the problem is that we are running out of feet.
Mr. Howard and the people of Milwaukee Presbytery clearly have no shame. They would put a man, his wife and child on the street rather than show forbearance and Christian love. Wow. This certainly proves that the dollar is far more the issue here than the fellowship of the church universal. It also exposes them for the cowards that they are, hiding behind “process.” I am ashamed of this denomination to the depths of my soul.
There’s no one who hates the denomination more than I! They moved us from church to church, state to state, manse to manse. We dug in the back yard for dog bones for dinner. It was so cold in the house – Dad jacked down the thermostat! – we had to sit outside to keep warm in the winter. So I believed in the Layman – every word. The family best friend – F. Russell Esty – established it, and he paid my salary – $2 plus $3 tip – to haul around his tournament bag on the golf course. Ten days of those big summer bucks got me through the year in Havertown. But now the denomination’s right. It says (1 Kings 22:17): “And he said, I saw all Israel scattered upon the hills, as sheep that have not a shepherd: and the LORD said, These have no master: let them return every man to his house in peace” and (Mark 6:34): “And Jesus, when he came out, saw much people, and was moved with compassion toward them, because they were as sheep not having a shepherd: and he began to teach them many things.” Faced with declining membership and increasing reluctance to pay per capita, Gradye Parsons reached out to the Jewish brethren for help. Divest in HP, Motorola and Caterpillar – he thought – and the clueless Israelites will flock to the church. And indeed, the companies are bankrupt, they’ve removed their guidance systems from the planes, and the Jewish forces are moving on the ground to Gaza. There they will be met by Presbyterian clergymen in the garb of Hamas militants offering them the gospel of the Confession of 1967. It’s a plan, Gradye!
This all makes me very sad. If the Presbyterian Church USA wishes to rewrite Scriptures, than I will have no part of it. I have been a faithful giver, elder and worker in the Presbyterian Church for 38 but I will be forced to make a decision and that will be to leave the Presbyterian Church that will only worship what is politically correct. My prayers go out to Pastor Jacobson. I know that the congregation you have been serving will provide for your needs.
Andrew, Do you need help?
Re-write Scripture? No they’re not. Theology is not directed solely by a belief in the authority/inerrancy of Scripture. Whether personal or corporate, theology is derived from an emphasis or de-emphasis of Scripture according to presumptions of God’s priorities. And not surprisingly, those presumptions are inextricably linked to human emotions, desires, and political leanings.