The Wabash congregation and Pastor George Dakin were dismissed from the Presbyterian Church (USA) during the Sept. 17 meeting of Seattle Presbytery. That dismissal becomes official Jan. 1, 2014.
Located in Auburn, Wash., a southeastern suburb of Seattle, Wabash was founded in 1907 and has 292 members on its roll.
The reason to leave
Wabash’s venture into another denomination came about as a result of a disregard for the authority of Scripture. Dakin, who started as the designated pastor at the church in 2010 and was installed in 2012, submitted an email to The Layman that outlined the congregation’s journey to the EPC, citing that deviation from God’s Word as the primary reason to seek departure.
“Our bottom line issue was/is the venturing away from what we see as very plain orthodoxy with regard to the authority of Scripture,” Dakin wrote. “Wabash feels as if the denomination has allowed the culture to dictate to the church rather than the church speaking to the culture in a redemptive way. This was shown in the passage of the various General Assembly (GA) amendments and the actions of the Board of Pensions.”
Such amendments include 10A, passed in May 2011 to change ordination standards, allowing homosexuals to be ordained as pastors, elders and deacons and changing the fidelity/chastity requirement.
Dakin indicated that the passage of 10A led the Wabash session to immediately draft a letter to the GA expressing deep grief over the decision. In June 2011, the session established a Task Force on Biblical Authority to study the amendment and provide a recommendation for Wabash’s response to 10A as well as the general state of the PCUSA.
A series of town hall meetings to inform the congregation of what was happening led to a session motion and vote to seek dismissal from Seattle Presbytery and the PCUSA in April 2012.
After the presbytery was informed of the decision to pursue leaving the national denomination, the task force in July 2012 recommended membership in the EPC. Two months later, presbytery staff members met with the session to discuss the dismissal process.
“We settled upon the EPC in that we still desire the accountability that is afforded by a denominational structure,” Dakin wrote. “In addition, we see the elder-ruled structure as faithful to the Scriptures.”
Seattle Presbytery approved its policy on gracious separation in November 2012, and a Discernment Team attended a congregational meeting at Wabash in February 2013. At that meeting, 95 percent of the active voting members in attendance expressed their desire to leave the PCUSA.
An Administrative Commission (AC) was formed in March 2013 and started negotiating terms of dismissal with a three-member team from Wabash appointed by the session.
Under the dismissal terms, Wabash will pay $76,014. Included in that total is $1,836 in delinquent per capita, two years of per capita to the presbytery totaling $16,936 and an additional $57,242 to fulfill the PCUSA’s trust clause obligation.
Gracious departure to a new future
Dakin indicated that the dismissal process seemed to be handled in a fair manner by presbytery officials.
“We felt as if the process with Seattle Presbytery truly did embody the graciousness as announced in the policy’s title,” Dakin wrote. “While there were moments of strong feelings expressed both in the Administrative Commission meetings and in the presbytery discussion of Sept. 17, the overall tenor was one of graciousness, and for that we were very thankful.”
Dakin’s email alluded to a sense of starting over as part of a new denomination, highlighting the resolve and patience shown while allowing the process to run its course.
“There is a great sense of release in that this has been talked about for many years,” he wrote of the dismissal to the EPC. “While it’s hard to quantify it, we know we have lost members in the past due to inaction on the part of the session with regard to our membership in the PCUSA. We hope to reverse that trend as well as look forward to our belonging to the EPC. We love what we have seen at the various presbytery meetings we’ve attended, and overall (we) appreciate the emphasis on Scripture and its authority as well as the joy of serving the Lord that we’ve witnessed.”