Silver Lake Presbyterian Church (SLPC) officially became a member of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church (EPC) following a welcoming and ordination ceremony on May 3.
The 47-member congregation, established in 1816 and located in Susquehanna County (Brackney, Pa.) near the southern border of New York, was dismissed from the PCUSA on Nov. 16, 2013, by Lackawanna Presbytery but had to be received formally into the EPC’s Presbytery of the East.
“We’re very blessed that God has guided us and led us every step of the way,” said Rick Rosenkrans, pastor at SLPC since 2008. “We relied totally on the holy Spirit to lead us and consider if this was what we were supposed to do.”
Rosenkrans, who overcame some personal health issues during the finalization of the dismissal and transfer to the EPC, said Silver Lake’s leadership and congregation had been troubled for many years with a progression of growing issues in the PCUSA.
“The past few years it was evident the downward spiral of the PCUSA had picked up momentum,” he said. “When the denomination began to deny the authority of Scripture, it was evident the PCUSA was very ill.”
That prompted the SLPC leadership to discuss and pray in earnest about options for the congregation. When presbyteries were given the go-ahead to develop their own dismissal policies, Silver Lake anticipated Lackawanna Presbytery’s development of such guidelines, which happened in November 2011.
The session and deacons, on separate occasions, were unanimous in their discernment that God was calling Silver Lake to leave the PCUSA. At a congregational meeting in August 2012, members of SLPC agreed unanimously that the church needed to move away from the PCUSA into another Reformed body.
“The Lord put this on our hearts,” Rosenkrans said. “It was so amazing to see the hand of God throughout this entire process. We knew it was time to take a stand to glorify God. After all, it’s His church.”
Reaching terms through a cooperative spirit
The Silver Lake session approved a resolution seeking dismissal on Sept. 4, 2012. Thirteen months later, the congregation OK’d the settlement terms, paving the way for the presbytery vote, which was unanimous in granting dismissal.
The congregation was dismissed with its property after accepting terms to make a payment of $4,524 for per-capita assessment to Lackawanna Presbytery on or before Dec. 31, 2017, as well as an additional $500 as a mission contribution. Rosenkrans said the Silver Lake opted to make the payment in a lump sum and did so at the presbytery meeting in November.
Rosenkrans praised the work of the Presbytery Engagement Team (PET) that worked with the church, noting members of the team even excused themselves from SLPC’s congregational meeting regarding dismissal and returned to announce it would make such a recommendation if the membership voted in that matter.
“They recognized this was what was in the best interest of this body of believers,” he said. “The Presbytery of Lackawanna did its diligence in recognizing Jesus as the head of the church and that this move would be in the best interest of glorifying Him.”
Joining EPC, glorifying God
The EPC was chosen as the new denominational home because of its belief in the Westminster Confession, and its essentials most closely aligned with those of SLPC.
“We really felt our founding fathers in 1816 would have aligned with the EPC. The denomination is what we have always been as Presbyterians since our beginning,” Rosenkrans said.
The dismissal has lifted a burden from the collective shoulders of the Silver Lake congregation and has brought newcomers to the church.
“Throughout this process, we felt this was what God was calling us to do. As difficult as it was, even if it meant walking away from our property and all our assets to have a new beginning, we knew this was what we were supposed to do to glorify God,” Rosenkrans said. “We feel a weight has been lifted from us, and we are ready to do His work.”
He said that many people who would not join the congregation while it was affiliated with the PCUSA now want to be part of the church as a member of the EPC, noting that people in the area are “starting to populate Christ’s church.”
“As we go forward it is exciting that people in this community know we are a God-fearing, Jesus-loving, Bible-teaching church,” Rosenkrans said. “We have grown spiritually more than words can justify. Only God knows where we go from here, but we know He blesses those who bless Him. This is all about God. We did this to glorify Him, not us.”
Located in Bradford County, Pa., the Rome congregation also was dismissed at the Nov. 16, 2013, presbytery meeting to align with the ECO: A Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians.
In order to be dismissed, Rome’s congregation agreed to pay $6,254 no later than Dec. 31, 2017, as per-capita assessment as well as a mission contribution of $2,000, also by Dec. 31, 2017.
With the dismissal of Silver Lake and Rome, three congregations have been dismissed by Lackawanna Presbytery since November 2013. First Presbyterian Church of Hallstead also was dismissed in January to join ECO.