(By Lisa Wangsness, The Boston Globe). Some members of the Newton Presbyterian Church thought their denomination was drifting away from fundamental tenets of their faith, such as the idea that Jesus actually rose from the dead, and that evangelism is essential. They longed for something more contemporary, more vivacious. A church with a sharper focus on mission and scripture, less on politics.
And so the congregation in January voted 107 to 26 to abandon the Presbyterian Church (USA) and join a small but growing evangelical denomination. They put a sign on the lawn to proclaim the congregation’s new name: Newton Covenant Church.
But now, the Presbyterian Church wants its church back. Its local authority, the Presbytery of Boston, has sued to regain control of the $5.6 million Vernon Street building and return it to members of the Newton congregation who want to remain Presbyterian, a minority they say represents the “true church.”
The denomination says the 11 Newton church leaders named in the lawsuit knew the January vote was unauthorized and in defiance of the denomination’s rules.
The lawsuit accuses the “breakaway faction” of removing the church sign, hijacking the church’s old website, and seizing control of the church’s bank accounts. It seeks unspecified damages. But most importantly, say the plaintiffs, who also include the remaining Presbyterian congregants, it demands the return of their church.