By Rachel Lee, Christianity Today.
Zion Presbyterian Church, a Korean church located in Sacramento, Calif., has recently decided to leave the Presbyterian Church (USA), even if leaving the denomination means losing the church property.
The church held a congregational vote to be dismissed from the PCUSA on August 30, which resulted in 100 out of 103 active congregants (97 percent) voting in favor of being dismissed, even if they are unable to keep the church property in doing so. The main sanctuary, the English ministry’s sanctuary, and five buildings are at stake, amounting to at least $3 million in property.
The property of every PCUSA church is “held in trust” by the PCUSA “for the use and benefit of the Presbyterian Church (USA),” according to the PCUSA’s bylaws, and the Sacramento Presbytery states that “property is held in trust because it is a tool for the accomplishment of the mission of the PCUSA.” As a result, churches that seek to leave the denomination must follow their respective presbyteries’ Gracious Dismissal Policies (GDP), which outlines the process the church must go through to be dismissed, and the presbytery’s requirements for the church to maintain its property after dismissal.
In the case of Zion Presbyterian Church, which is under the authority of the Sacramento Presbytery, the congregation has the option to either lease, purchase, or lease first and later purchase the church property from the presbytery, should the GDP process continue unto completion.
However, a portion of the Sacramento Presbytery’s GDP mentions the “schism” scenario, which was only defined as “a split within the Congregation or its session between a group that wishes to be dismissed from the PCUSA and a loyalist minority of whatever size.”