Three churches were dismissed from the Presbyterian Church (USA) to join ECO: A Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians.
Carmel Presbyterian Church (CPC), First Presbyterian Church of Salinas and Morgan Hill Presbyterian Church (MHPC) were released from the PCUSA during the June 7 meeting of San Jose Presbytery.
There is a 90-day period to finalize the dismissal process for each church as well as to allow any appeals of the decision to let them depart the PCUSA, meaning the effective date of dismissal would be Sept. 5.
The dismissal policy of San Jose Presbytery, approved in April 2013 and amended in November 2013, requires that 50 percent of the active membership attend the congregational vote seeking dismissal, and 75 percent of those voting must concur before the motion is sent to the full presbytery for action.
At least seven other churches are engaged in the dismissal process with the presbytery. Those congregations are Saratoga Presbyterian (Saratoga, Calif.), Union Presbyterian (Los Altos) , First Presbyterian-Hollister, Felton Presbyterian (Felton), Christ Community (Milpitas), Mayflower Presbyterian (Pacific Grove) and Vintage Faith (Santa Cruz).
Congregational votes have been set for Saratoga, Union, FPC-Hollister and Felton, and the presbytery will consider requests for their dismissals at the September meeting.
Carmel was dismissed after agreeing to a financial settlement of $260,000 and a 10-year reversion clause that gives property back to the presbytery if the church leaves ECO, becomes independent or sells the property for any use other than a church.
The session of the 307-member church, located in Monterey County near the coast of central California, voted Jan. 21 to recommend dismissal to ECO, and the congregation voted May 4 by a 212-8 margin (96.4 percent) to do so.
CPC spent several months in 2012 discussing whether it should remain in the PCUSA, and a straw poll taken at that time revealed 90 percent of the membership in favor of departure.
The church has a discernment /dismissal page on its web site that provides information about the process.
A congregation of 2,229 members, FPC-Salinas is in Monterey County on the coast of central California.
During a congregational meeting April 13, members of the church voted 892-8 (99 percent) to accept financial terms and be dismissed to align with ECO.
The church agreed to a payment of $800,000 and a 10-year reversion clause that allows the presbytery to reclaim the property if FPC-Salinas leaves ECO, seeks to become independent or sells the property for any other use than a church.
According to information on the church web site, FPC-Salinas observes the infallible and authoritative nature of Scripture as well as the Lordship of Jesus Christ, that He died for “our sin” and rose from the grave, making Him the only way to salvation.
The 227-member congregation, located in Santa Clara County on the California coast, was dismissed by a presbytery vote of 152-23 after a congregational meeting on April 27 resulted in more than 97 percent (a 149-4 margin) of its voting membership seeking dismissal to ECO.
The church was allowed to keep its name and retain its property for a total payment of $112,500. The congregation had to pay $52,500 in a lump sum with the other $60,000 being paid over a period of five years.
There also is a 10-year reversion clause that gives the property back to San Jose Presbytery if the congregation leaves ECO, seeks to become independent or sell the property for any other use than a church.
“The process was as gracious as it could be,” said Mark Inouye, pastor of Morgan Hill. “It wasn’t perfect, but the final agreement was gracious toward both parties. While maybe it wasn’t what either side wanted, we felt like it was something we could live with.”
The process started with a session vote late in 2012 to recommend affiliation with a new Presbyterian denomination, but it was delayed for about a year because of issues with the presbytery’s gracious dismissal policy. Once a Presbytery Engagement Team (PET) was formed in June 2013, the process began to move ahead.
Inouye indicated that the establishment of clearly defined essential tenets, an opportunity to help with the formation of the denomination and the proximity of other churches that have joined the denomination after leaving the PCUSA were drawing cards for MHPC’s decision to align with ECO.
“It’s who we are,” Inouye said. “There is a sense of sorrow in leaving behind 26 years of ministry, but I think there is a sense of excitement in looking forward to what will happen. “
A denomination affiliation page showing MHPC’s process to dismissal is on the church’s web site.