On Sunday, Seattle First Presbyterian church members voted to split from its liberal-leaning denomination, the Presbyterian Church (USA). In doing so, the 125-member congregation formed a corporation that now claims full control of its assets, according to documents distributed Tuesday night at a meeting of the Seattle Presbytery, the denomination’s regional authority.
The church, founded in 1869, sits on a $20 million piece of property that stretches from Seventh to Eighth avenues along Spring Street. Also in contention, according to recently resigned church elder Neal Lampi and other sources, is $8.5 million reaped from selling a parking lot the church owned next to nearby Town Hall.
The Seattle Presbytery maintains churches cannot unilaterally disaffiliate but must go through a months-long separation process that includes negotiation over assets. What’s more, it holds that church property is held in trust for the denomination.
On Tuesday, the presbytery voted to establish an “administrative commission” to investigate the actions by Seattle First Presbyterian, Scott Lumsden, head of the regional body confirmed. He declined further comment.
According to the documents distributed, the commission will delve not only into the church’s unorthodox move to separate but allegations of irregular proceedings, secrecy, intimidation of dissenters and its consideration of transferring funds to its spinoff corporation or its attorneys.