By Allan Turner, Houston Chronicle (Texas)
Citing its parent denomination’s “egregious” decisions to wed same-sex couples and to divest from companies doing business in Israel, members of Houston’s Memorial Drive Presbyterian Church overwhelmingly voted to consider seceding from the Presbyterian Church (USA) and allying with another, more conservative, branch of their faith.
Congregants of the 3,500-member church, one of the 10 largest allied with the 2 million-member Presbyterian Church (USA), Sunday voted 839-277 to initiate a period of “discernment” to consider its options. Memorial Drive Presbyterian, which this year marks its 60th anniversary, is the second Houston church of its denomination to consider breaking away from its national parent. Last year, members of First Presbyterian Church defeated by 36 votes an effort to leave Presbyterian Church USA and join the smaller, conservative Presbyterian Church of America.
Such issues, especially those dealing with the ordination of homosexuals and the performing of same-sex weddings, have loomed large in religious governing assemblies. Among mainstream Protestant denominations, the Evangelical Church of America, Episcopal Church and United Church of Christ have moved to accept gays as clergy and church leaders. The United Methodist Church, the nation’s largest mainstream Protestant denomination, continues to wrangle with the issues.
In June 2014, the governing body of Presbyterian Church USA voted to allow its clergy to perform same-sex weddings in states in which they are legal and to divest its holdings in three companies doing business with Israel. Church leaders said the companies, Caterpillar, Hewlett-Packard and Motorola Solutions, profited from Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territory. The denomination owned about $21 million of the companies’ stocks. In 2011, the church reversed previous policy to provide for the ordination of openly homosexual ministers, elders and deacons.
Memorial Drive Presbyterian Church also raised concern about the possibility that the national church, at the urging of environmental activists concerned about climate change, also might divest from fossil fuel companies. A vote on the issue may occur at next year’s Presbyterian General Assembly.
“The Denominational Task Force has informed the MDPC congregation of the proposed changes to the PC(USA)’s Gracious Dismissal and Reconciliation Procedures which may go into effect in March of 2015. In brief, the proposed changes would substantially increase the fees required to leave the denomination, and would also require the congregation to agree to the presbytery’s claim on the MDPC property at Blalock and Memorial.”
So it looks like the courts spooked the presbytery, so if the churches get to leave they have to sign off on the trust clause, that’s probably the only thing they can do to tie the hands of the rest of the churches that want to go through the dismissal process. WOW the presbytery is not even hiding about they want, all they want is the money, there’s no shame in them at all. And it’s all being directed by louisville
Last Friday, A Texas Judge ruled that First Presbyterian Church in Houston owned their property, not the denomination. The evidence was enough that the judge didn’t even allow it to go to trial. The presbytery still has the right to appeal.
This has big implications for MDPC as well as any other Texas Church considering leaving the denomination.
Have not seen any news about that. Can you provide a link?
It is on the FPC Houston Website:
For accuracy, First Presbyterian Church was not trying to leave for the PCA denomination, they were trying to join the ECO Presbyterian denomination. ECO is more conservative than PCUSA but less conservative than PCA.
Now knowing about the First Pres Houston ruling I can see why the presbytery is acting the way it is, given the state supreme ct ruled for the episcopal breakaway diocese, I would be shocked if the presbytery appeals this. This ruling is also good news for Wildwood Pres in Houston as well as many others in Texas that broke off as well.
Given the greed of louisville however there no telling what hell will come down on others wanting to leave, but this ruling should at least end the discussions on who owns what in Texas!
The Achilles heal of those people and organizations obsessed, consumed by money and power, Enron, Worldcom, the PCUSA is hubris and addiction. When addicted to money as the sole rational for life and meaning, you are subject to the law of diminishing returns, you need more of the drug, the fix (money) to get the same high, or in the case of the PCUSA, the smug satisfaction of power. And like Enron, sooner or later the lies, deceit and straight out greed will get the better of you. You are consumed by your own limitless urge for the same sense or desire that can never be fully satisfied.
The PCUSA wins some cases, loses other, sometimes they get money, sometimes not from these situations. But as any addict or addictive behaviors will lead to either death or rebirth, my money is on the former. It is only a matter of time.
I give FPC a year before its promise to honor the congregation’s vote and stay in the PCUSA is shown to be a lie.
David, Thanks. Do not see any way the Presbytery will not appeal. Same with the ECUSA and the SC Ruling. Eventually a case will end up being heard by the Supreme Court which will clarify (hopefully) the matter. Sooner rather than later.
The church is composed of people not property. Ownership of the “Big Tent” will be meaningless if the tent is an empty one.
The “judge” is extremely conservative, even by Harris County standards. He also accepted campaign donations from counsel for FPC and knows many of their attorneys and witnesses. Honestly, he should have recused himself. Presbytery will definitely appeal.
While ECO purports to be less conservative than PCA, the truth is that there are NO women ECO ministers in either Texas or Florida. Actions speak louder than words.
The Presbytery will definitely appeal.
The vast majority of the ECO church staff are women (http://eco-pres.org/leadership/)
I notice you pick out two states to try and make your case (faulty as it might be), when in fact Highland Park has a female pastor on staff, and of course other ECO churchs around the country have female pastors.
So now your tactic will be to impugn the integrity of the judge? How about you provide some data to support your claims? What were the total campaign contributions to the judge for his last election and how much did the attorney for FPC donate personally? Its all available in the public record.
The reason ECO was even started was because PCA and EPC were too conservative for many Churches who considered leaving PCUSA. I have worshiped at Grace, MDPC, and First Presbyterian and don’t think any of them have an issue with female pastors, or with women teaching or being in positions of leadership. If you think they do, then I am not sure you are very familiar with those Churches.
Anne just follow the path of the episcopal church, it’s working so well for them
All they can do is impugn the judge, because they have no case, it’s hard work trying to take something that doesn’t to you.
yep and what is even more hilarious is that the lawyer for the Presbytery – his law firm endorsed the judge for re-election!!!
Now the judge is biased and toooooo conservative!!!!
…..and of course in a five minute investigation I found women pastors at the first two ECO churches I investigated in Florida.
So Anne you basically just throw anything out there as “truth” if it will help you with your argument.
The session of Memorial Drive Presbyterian Church should not put the cart before the horse.
We have examples of how it should be done from the First Presbyterian Church of Baton Rouge and the First Presbyterian Church of Houston and how it should not be done from the Highland Park Presbyterian Church of Dallas.
They should secure ownership of their property by court order before making a decision to go into period of discernment.
Church sessions should be aware that the Presbyterian Church (USA) only has nine commandments in its Bible. The one that says “thou shalt not covet your neighbor’s house” (Exodus 20:17) apparently got left out.