While area Episcopalians and Anglicans have seen their theological differences lead to lawsuits and battles over property disputes, Presbyterians have taken a different tack.
Six Presbyterian churches, including Trinity United Presbyterian in Modesto, quietly have been dismissed from the Stockton Presbytery, the denomination’s equivalent of an Episcopal diocese. The presbytery had 21 churches from Vacaville in the north to Merced in the south, and from Tracy to Columbia. The requests to leave were introduced in August and became final Oct. 23.
The departing churches include Central Presbyterian in Merced; Orestimba Presbyterian Church, Newman; Lincoln Presbyterian Church, Stockton; Delhi Community Presbyterian Church; and Escalon Presbyterian Church.
Instead of a property fight, the presbytery asked the churches to pay a fee to support ministry to individuals who did not wish to leave the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). The fees, determined by a formula based on the value of the church’s property, the number of members in each congregation and other factors, ranged from $3,600 to $65,000. In return, the presbytery signed the deeds for the properties over to the departing congregations, who recorded them under their own names and promptly joined the Evangelical Covenant Order of Presbyterians.