Faith Presbyterian Church, located in West Lafayette, Ind., about two miles from Purdue University, was dismissed from the Presbyterian Church (USA) during the May 21 presbytery meeting to affiliate with the Evangelical Presbyterian Church (EPC) after agreeing to the settlement terms.
“I think we’re relived and ready to move on. This has been a long process for us,” Faith Pastor David Horner said of the 118-member congregation. “We look forward to life in the EPC, what God will do with us and though us.”
Horner said the congregation voted in March 2012 to disaffiliate from the PCUSA rather than engage in the gracious dismissal process put in place by the Wabash Valley Presbytery. A month later, church members voted to seek the EPC as their new denominational home.
Faith notified the presbytery of its desire to reach a severance agreement on mutually acceptable terms March 25, 2012.
“We informed the presbytery we had left,” Horner said. “The PCUSA is only geared toward dismissal. Once we left, the presbytery had to work with us.”
Horner said four meetings took place between a church negotiating team and an Administrative Commission (AC) from the presbytery. The two sides refined an agreement that both sides were OK with, and it was approved by the Faith session a week prior to the May 21 presbytery meeting.
Settlement documents released to The Layman show that Faith Presbyterian Church is required to pay presbytery and synod per-capita rates for 2012, 2013 and 2014 (reduced by payments previously made in 2012) totaling no more than $10,725.50 on or before Dec. 31, 2014.
Additionally, Faith will pay $49,476 to be used for the benefit of the Geneva Center Capital Fund. The center, located in Rochester, Ind., is owned by the presbytery.
The payments cease any claims the presbytery and PCUSA have on the Faith Presbyterian Church property.
Horner noted that Faith, started through new church development in western Indiana in 1964, had received financial support from the denomination in its formative years.
“We kind of owed the PCUSA for getting us started, though we do not acknowledge they own our property; we paid for it,” he said. “We were willing to offer something upon leaving.”
Horner said various issues during the past 20 years or so drove the Faith congregation away from the PCUSA. While the debate of same-gender union is a concern, other issues that point back to that topic took on greater prominence in the decision to disaffiliate.
“We wanted to be part of a denomination led by Scripture, Reformed in its doctrine and Presbyterian in polity. With the changes that have occurred in the (national) church, we don’t think the PCUSA is any longer any of those three,” said Horner, adding that the new Form of Government (nFOG) touts universalism that is not Reformed doctrine.
Horner addressed those reasons for leaving the PCUSA in a January 2013 letter sent to church members.
The decision to disaffiliate rather than go through the dismissal process came as a result of watching other churches that left the denomination.
“Other churches that left faced attempts of presbyteries to use Administrative Commissions (ACs) and fracture congregations to form minority groups that would be given the property,” Horner said. “A lot of things we saw happen we didn’t want to allow. Some local congregations that left lost a lot of members from the turmoil, and we wanted to keep our membership intact.
“We simply disaffiliated. From our point of view, we left. From their (the presbytery’s), they let us leave. We didn’t ask permission. “
Horner described the negotiation of settlement terms as “amicable as it could have been under the circumstances.”
“We were on different pages. We believed it was our duty to leave, and that’s what we did,” he said.
Horner said EPC is a better fit for the Faith congregation, primarily because there are so many churches from Indiana in the denomination already (14 of them now).
“There is quite a gathering of Presbyterian churches in the EPC,” he explained. “It’s a firmly established denomination and there were no ECO (A Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians) churches in this part of the world at that time. We like having essentials that are clearly stated. We just liked everything about the EPC and what it has to offer.”