Editor’s note: Pastors Jeff and Ellen Schulz have released the following response to the presbytery’s allegations:
We were saddened by Seattle Presbytery’s report, and by the lawsuit filed against us and other members of the First Presbyterian Church Board of Trustees. As this is such a new development, we don’t have any substantive response to share at this point. …
We can at least say this: We are deeply disappointed in Presbytery’s attempt at a hostile takeover of our church through litigation, months after we chose to disaffiliate from the PCUSA. Presbytery’s allegations in its report and lawsuit are false, inflammatory and disturbing. We are not alone, as other churches across the country have endured similar tactics of aggression and intimidation. Like other churches, we will vigorously defend ourselves, always seeking to do so with truth and grace.
In the meantime, we will not be distracted from our purpose. We remain as fully committed as ever to fulfilling our mission of loving God, one another and our neighbors here in the heart of the city at 8th and Madison.
Jeff and Ellen
By Nina Shapiro, The Seattle Times.
The regional governing body of the Presbyterian Church (USA) is ordering two pastors to vacate a historic downtown church that sits on a $20 million property. The directive comes as a commission appointed by the Seattle Presbytery released a report finding that Seattle First Presbyterian’s pastors and other leaders engaged in a “pattern of duplicity” as they sought to unilaterally separate from the denomination.
The Feb. 16 report also alleges financial improprieties, including unauthorized payments to co-pastors Jeff and Ellen Schulz, the use of church money for the married pastors’ home and tampering with the books.
The Schulzes, in an email to The Seattle Times, called the allegations “false, inflammatory and disturbing” and characterized the presbytery’s actions as an attempted “hostile takeover.”
In a separate email to the congregation, they and other church leaders said this maneuver was aimed at taking “control of our property for their own gain.” But they asserted that the presbytery has no authority over them given a November vote by members of the congregation to break away from the denomination.