It doesn’t matter if such “members” have moved to another part of the country or if they have joined another church. It doesn’t matter if such folk intend to attend, give, or support the Kirk in any other way. The presbytery will be satisfied just to have a body count.
In a North Carolina case, the body was 3,000 miles away. It belonged to a Presbyterian who moved from the East Coast but had not taken his name off the local church’s membership list. Nonetheless, a presbytery contacted the exile and asked him to state his opposition to the congregation’s decision to leave the PCUSA. He did. Number him now among the “true church.”The Layman accurately describes this process as a “scavenger hunt.” The article points out that the tiny minority of the Kirk membership opposed to our disaffiliation (3%) is sufficient for them to lay claim to the property, thereby casting out the 97% who are the ONLY people who comprise Kirk of the Hills today.
As the Layman editorial says, “Frankly, it’s laughable about how the denomination’s leaders define the “true church” in today’s turmoil. The disgruntled and the absent are high on the list.”
The article details what happens if a “true church” is found and, in our case, if the court agrees with the Presbytery.
- That tiny group of people gets the church property.
- Two or three people are enough to constitute a “true” church.
- If there are enough people, they struggle to minimally operate the property, keeping the “true” church alive only as long as they are.
- If there are not enough people to pay the bills, the presbytery sells the property, keeping the cash.
As bad as it would be if the Kirk lost the legal battle, it would not be the end of the world for us. The Layman article cites the case of a Presbyterian church in Findlay, Ohio, which asked for dismissal in 2002.
… the presbytery fired the pastor, conducted a night-time raid to change the locks, cleared out the pastor’s office and took over the property. Ever since, a small number of “true church” members – some recruited by the presbytery from other venues – has held services. They average about 41 a Sunday, compared to 350 to 400 before the “schismatics were turned over to Caesar,” as the denomination’s once-secret legal strategy phrases it.While this denominational process is a farce, the power of Jesus Christ is anything but. I do worry about the property issue for us since I want the property best used to the glory of Jesus Christ. We’ll continue to be the church, doing the ministry we’ve done for 45 years. If we end up having to move, we’ll do the ministry from there.
Meanwhile, there remains a “true church” in Findlay. It consists of those who voted to leave the denomination and reorganize as Gateway Evangelical Presbyterian Church. After having to meet in a kennel the first Sunday after the presbytery raid, they have nearly completed a $3.5-million building. And membership is booming where the gospel is rightly preached, the sacraments rightly administered and discipline is used to hold members and leaders accountable to Christ.
Keep praying—keep the faith,