A current example is from the Presbytery of North Carolina. They are proposing restrictive processes designed to go far beyond the Book of Order in terms of limiting a congregation’s ability to be dismissed. The extraordinary limitations include
- Requiring a 75% vote of presbytery commissioners.
- Requiring at least half of the congregational members voting.
- Limiting transfer to a particular denomination approved by the PCUSA Stated Clerk.
- Altering the way in which congregational meetings are called and run.
- Referring the results to a judicial commission on the request of any member.
All the above doesn’t even address the issue of property. Once the dismissal is approved, then a new, similar process is proposed to make a decision regarding the congregation’s property. The Layman Online says,
“If the vote is yes, the presbytery would consider whether to dismiss the congregation with “all or some of its property.” A presbytery task force appointed by the chairs of the Coordinating Council, the Committee on Ministry and the general presbyter would make a recommendation about the property.”My sense is that this proposal is designed to slow down the dismissal process to a glacial pace, giving the presbytery time (and “official” standing) to redirect the process as they see fit. In such a context a congregation would not just find it extremely difficult to discuss dismissal, but most congregations would rapidly dwindle under such manipulative force.
The truth is that “dismissal” doesn’t really exist in the PCUSA. The denomination will put a strangle-hold on the “true church,” however small, however unhealthy, while the rest of the members dismiss themselves as they go out the door for the last time.
Churches considering leaving the PCUSA are going to have to work fast, in light of the ever-tightening control the denomination is seeking to impose. The PCUSA completely controls every element in a deeply one-sided process.
The New Wineskins strategy team yesterday published their interim report for congregations considering leaving. They obviously sense the urgency and suggest the following:
- “… immediately retain legal counsel to evaluate the property issues that are specific to your individual church and to protect your trustees, elders, pastors and other church officers from potential litigation.”
- “… discuss with your attorney preparation for suit against governing bodies that attempt to implement the Louisville Papers … Your preparations should include petitions for temporary restraining orders that may be necessary in the event Presbytery attempts to take your church by force. While it is incomprehensible to us that a presbytery would employ such tactics, some have already done so. Ironically, during the same time the Stated Clerk of the PCUSA has called for a period of discernment.”
- “… local church officers (elders and trustees) may well have a fiduciary duty to the congregation/corporation” to protect the church’s property. “You should also protect your church officers through the purchase of insurance and/or making indemnification as Louisville may well sue the individuals personally (e.g., the ‘Louisville papers’). Consult your counsel and your insurance agent for the ‘hows and whys.’“
I am constantly surprised by the number of pastors and elders who have never read this, ignorant of what may be happening next in their neighborhood.
The NWAC strategy team is recommending preparation, but postponing action until the New Wineskins Convocation in February. It’s not a moment too soon to begin.
Keep praying—keep the faith,