Church property is a hot issue in the PCUSA. Few know that as well as we do at the Kirk. The denomination (from its national legal gameplan) insists that presbyteries must retain property—or get a significant settlement—to further the mission of the PCUSA.
Is that why the Pines Presbytery allowed one of its churches to sell its building to an Islamic society to become a mosque? An article in today’s Layman Online details the merger of two churches and the sale of one of the church’s property.
It wasn’t as if there were no other qualified buyers. There was one organization that wanted the church in order to reach out to the homeless and poor through a Christian outreach center. The other wanted to create a Christian worship and evangelism center.
The pastors involved argue that this sale will improve dialogue with Moslems—it will be a great learning experience. The only problem is that none of it will be Christian teaching that is learned. The pastors aren’t even thinking about evangelizing the Muslims, believing that they are each “children of Abraham” and worship the same God we do. They’re ready to learn Arabic so that they can learn the Koran.
It simply isn’t mission. The real reason for this sale was money. The Islamic Society offered more cash than the Christians. To me, this is a metaphor of the property issue at hand for PCUSA churches, like ours, that leave the denomination. It’s not really about mission, it’s about money.
I’m not opposed to Islamic Societies building mosques. It’s the context that bothers me—they didn’t need Christian church property to meet in.* Having traveled extensively in the Middle East, I’m painfully aware of the thousands of ancient churches converted to mosques and it pains me to think of the same thing happening here. Islam is not interested in cooperating with Christian ministry; they are bent on overcoming other religions and placing them into dhimmitude (official second-class status). Most of the churches they now occupy in the Middle East and Turkey weren't purchased, either. They were taken at the point of a sword.
As more and more Presbyterian churches die and the property empties out (or as the denomination confiscates property from vital, dissenting congregations), the more this kind of issue will arise. What the PCUSA and all mainline denominations need is Christian evangelism to fill the buildings, not extra cash to support a dying denomination.
Keep praying—keep the faith,
* A related incident occurred in Tulsa not long after 9/11 when the University of Tulsa (ostensibly a Presbyterian institution) built a brand new mosque on its property.
CORRECTION: One of my elders pointed out that the University of Tulsa simply provided the land. They did not provide the funds for building the mosque.
Photo by Gary Miller from the November 2006 issue (Vol. 39, No. 5) of The Layman. Reprinted with the permission of the Presbyterian Lay Committee.