Adventure of Faith Church (AFC), located in Kitsap County about 13 miles west of Seattle, officially will become part of ECO: A Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians on Jan. 1, 2014. The 444-member congregation found in 1980 was dismissed from the Presbyterian Church (USA) during the Sept. 17 meeting of Seattle Presbytery.
Pastor John Foreman, who has been at AFC for 25 years, explained his congregation’s journey from the PCUSA to ECO in an emailed response to The Layman.
The journey for Adventure started about five years ago in response to the General Assembly’s use of authoritative interpretations (AI’s) to circumvent what had been, to that point, the normal process of seeking constitutional amendments to change the church’s polity.
Foreman indicated that the AFC session spent time in discussion and prayer, participated in the Confessing Church Movement and New Wineskins initiative while studying alternative denominations like the Evangelical Presbyterian Church (EPC). In addition, several congregational forums were offered to address growing unrest with the trajectory of the PCUSA from theological, moral and political points of view.
“Our main concern has been the theological drift and trajectory of the PCUSA, its refusal to specify any essential tenets, or to discipline church officers who are clearly in violation of both church polity and historic understandings of the teaching of Scripture,” Foreman wrote in his email. “Our only unity comes from one’s assumption of the ownership of the other’s property. We want to be part of a movement that is united by belief – not by property.”
The church sent representatives to the first gatherings of ECO and the Fellowship of Presbyterians (FOP), and the session spent some six months weighing options of joining either ECO or the EPC.
A unanimous decision by the session to align with ECO was supported by 97 percent of some 220 voting members of the congregation in September 2012, and a letter was sent to Seattle Presbytery on Oct. 9, 2012, requesting dismissal.
Foreman’s email pointed out that the process got off to a slow start, primarily due to some personnel changes within the presbytery, but an Administrative Commission (AC) was formed to work with the session toward a gracious separation.
A settlement was reached that required AFC to pay $77,442 to the presbytery. Included in that amount is $9,612 in delinquent per capita, $19,314 in continuing per capita as an affiliate member of Seattle Presbytery and $48,516 to satisfy the PCUSA’s trust clause regarding property. Payments are to be made over a four-year period.
Additionally, the church is required to pay off all PCUSA-related loans, revise title documents, articles of incorporation and by-laws.
“It was as gracious as it could be, given the nature of process,” Foreman wrote of the dismissal. “We have chosen to become an ‘affiliate member’ church of the Seattle Presbytery, so that we can maintain some of the meaningful relationships we have developed over the decades, as well as remain close to those who remain in the presbytery and are part of the Fellowship of Presbyterians.”
Adventure awaits in ECO
AFC settled on ECO as its new denominational choice because of the encouragement found through its development of essential tenets and a willingness to require affirmation of those tenets by all church officers.
“We are deeply grateful for the commitment of ECO to ‘do something new,’” Foreman wrote. “In terms of new missional initiatives, new styles of connectional relationships and more flexibility to utilize effective modes of outreach, we feel we have much to gain from ECO and much to offer as well.”
Even though official recognition of AFC as an ECO congregation does not occur for another few weeks, excitement is brewing about the possibilities the future holds for the Washington church.
“We will not be officially in ECO until 2014, but there is great enthusiasm for the future,” Foreman wrote. “The session participated in an ECO church affinity group retreat in June. The excitement and sense of common mission and purpose with the other four churches who attended is still being talked about, and future meetings are highly anticipated.”
Maple Valley also joins ECO
Maple Valley Presbyterian Church (MVPC) also was dismissed to join ECO: A Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians during the Sept. 17 meeting of the Seattle Presbytery. The move to ECO becomes effective Jan. 1, 2014.
The church of 564 members is located southeast of Seattle in King County. Dr. David Diehl has served as the founding and senior pastor of MVPC since 1983.
According to documents on the church web site, MVPC indicates that there is a wide difference in the way the congregation reads and understands Scripture when compared to the national denomination, viewing the Bible as the infallible and authoritative final word on matters of life and faith.
Additionally, the congregation believes that Christ alone is God’s means of salvation for the world, a view also challenged by the PCUSA. The congregation also is pro-life, believing that God created human life in His image, and man has no right to take the life He has formed in the womb, contrary to the PCUSA’s pro-choice stance on abortion.
Presbytery minutes show that Maple Valley agreed to settlement terms that require a total payment of $62,022. Included in that amount is $165 in delinquent per capita, $24,543 in affiliate per capita and $37,323 to meet the PCUSA’s trust clause obligation.