Church Departures: What’s Next?

Screen Shot 2014-08-25 at 12.44.29 PMAs I write this, key people are putting the finishing touches on an agreement that could lead to settlement of the seven remedial cases currently against the Presbytery. If nothing changes, the Synod Permanent Judicial Commission will meet on September 26 to receive a motion to dismiss those seven complaints.

The motion comes from an arrangement between the interested churches and the complainants. That arrangement does not require the Presbytery’s approval, but in its current form it would bring additional funds to the Presbytery. Once the Synod PJC has ruled, I will report the outcome to Presbytery in its broad strokes.

What does this mean? It means that the transfer of seven churches from the Presbytery to ECO could be complete in two or three weeks. And that has implications for pastors, church members, students preparing for ministry, and Presbytery committee members.

If you are a pastor:

If you are transferring to ECO with your congregation, my office will submit that information to the Board of Pensions so that the Board knows when your active service ends. You will keep those pension credits you have already accrued, but your medical and death/disability benefits will end. You might receive a request from the Board to fill out a form indicating a change in your service; please watch for that and respond.

If your congregation is transferring to ECO, but you are staying with the Presbytery, the validation of your current service by the Presbytery allows you to remain under active coverage by the Board of Pensions. I will notify the Board of that change. You will need to fill out a “Change of Service” form, indicating that you have moved from service in a PC(USA) church to “other validated ministry.”

If you are a church member:

If you wish to stay a member of your congregation, you will be transferred automatically to ECO with your church.

If you wish to remain a part of the PC(USA), you have two options. First, if you know that you want to become part of a particular “staying” church, you can join that church through the ordinary process of transferring membership. Talk to the new church’s pastor and/or Clerk of Session about their particular practices.

Second, if you don’t yet know what church you might join, you are able to stay a member of the PC(USA) by being transferred to the temporary membership rolls of the Presbytery. This is a special “holding tank” designed specifically to help members make the transition when their churches close or leave.

To be transferred to these temporary rolls, send a note to your current Clerk of Session and copy it to my Executive Secretary, Elvira Ortez, at the Presbytery office. You can mention in that letter if you have any special circumstances or would like help finding a new church.

If you are an Inquirer or Candidate:

If your church is transferring and you move your ordination process from PC(USA) to ECO, check with your local congregation for guidance on how to contact the Presbytery of Southern California (ECO). The PSC/ECO staff should be able to help you move from the one denomination to the other.

If your church is transferring but you want to stay in the PC(USA) process, everything under “If you are a church member” applies to you. The important additional concern is that you must get on the Presbytery’s temporary rolls before the church transfer is finalized in order to avoid any breaks in your preparation process. Please email your Clerk of Session, with cc to Elvira Ortez, as soon as possible.

If you are a member of a Presbytery committee:

 If your church is transferring and you want to transfer with your church, your committee membership will likely end upon transfer (there are a few exceptions).

If your church is transferring but you want to continue in committee service, you will likely need to stay part of the Presbytery. See “If you are a church member” for guidance.

I think that covers all the “What-Ifs” for now. Hope this is helpful.

Somewhere along the Way—


8 Responses to Church Departures: What’s Next?

  1. Pingback: Synod court dismisses complaint; 7 churches now in ECO - The Layman Online

  2. “Two other churches have requested dismissal.” Is one of them Irvine Pres.?

    Thanks for all you and other at the Presbytery offices and teams/committees, Forrest. There’s so many details to take care of.

  3. Connie Martin says:

    Question: I do not understand how the people who are making a decision to leave PC(USA) get to keep the church property. I thought that the property belonged to all of the members and to the Presbytery.

    This is like a divorce – don’t we have to split the property?

    Thank you,
    Connie Martin

    • Dan says:

      Try out this analogy. I’ll use friendly long-term dorm-mates instead of spouses so we can have more than two.

      Suppose a college freshman dorm has about 42 residents who get along very well, and who decide they’d like to live together off campus the next year and more. So they find a suitable property, perhaps an old hotel, and buy it with a mortgage. They assess themselves a per-capita monthly fee to pay the mortgage and for common amenities, such as pool service. Each roommate has his own car and personal belongings, but they are all very friendly, and agree to share rides whenever needed. At some point, the city passes an ordinance prohibiting smoking in the building. About a third of the residents reluctantly decide they can’t live in a no-smoking building and need to find a different place to live, even if they have to walk away from their friends and their share of the property, and even if they have to continue to pay per-capita expenses for some period. The remaining residents are alarmed at the long-term loss of per-capita income and fear that their monthly rates may go up, and/or services decline, so they propose confiscating the cars and other personal property of the leaving residents.

      Residents = congregations, hotel = Presbytery, pool and other shared amenities = denominational amenities such as camps, seminaries, mission boards, lobbyists, etc., cars = church buildings paid for with individual congregational funds, city ordinance change = GA constitutional changes outside the control of congregations.

  4. Rachel says:

    This is really helpful, Forrest. Thank you!!
    Rachel Hamburger

    • Karleen Monroe says:

      Rachel: I’m so sorry that you are going through this again. Keep me posted as to where you are going next. So very sad!!!

      Christ’s blessing to you in this transition.

      Karleen Monroe

  5. Don Patton says:

    At last count I had 13 seeking dismissal with only one completed. Am I dealing with brain fade or what don’t I know?

    • Forrest Claassen says:

      Don, Presbytery has voted to dismiss only ten churches so far. When I wrote this last week, seven remedial complaints were filed against the Presbytery out of the ten actions. Those complaints are in settlement talks. We hope they will resolve soon.

      Two more complaints have been filed since then, bringing the count to nine altogether. Settlement talks for those complaints have not yet begun.

      Two other churches have requested dismissal. Joint Discernment Teams are being formed.

      One “church” is technically a new church development. The “unwinding” of that NCD was referred to the Presbytery Trustees and is in process.

      I think those numbers account for your thirteen.

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