Pittsburgh Presbytery to vote on Plan Allowing Parishes To Depart Without Acrimony

Pittsburgh Presbytery is poised to vote on a plan that would allow congregations to leave the Presbyterian Church (USA) with their buildings if they first engage in an open discernment process and negotiate a settlement with the presbytery.

About 170 people attended a discussion Tuesday night in Bethany Presbyterian Church, Bridgeville. The plan will be voted on Sept. 15. Four churches asked for such a policy: Mt. Lebanon United Presbyterian Church, Lebanon Presbyterian Church in West Mifflin, Bellefield Presbyterian Church in Oakland, and Round Hill Presbyterian Church in Elizabeth Borough.

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6 comments on “Pittsburgh Presbytery to vote on Plan Allowing Parishes To Depart Without Acrimony

  1. Sherri2 says:

    This is already being done in Georgia.

  2. Jeremy Bonner says:

    The Presbyterian Church (USA) has had ample opportunity to observe the sort of collateral damage suffered by their Episcopal counterparts; this seems like a sensible compromise. Curious that it should be the Pittsburgh Presbytery.

  3. RalphM says:

    The Pittsburgh area is dotted with abandoned or re-purposed church properties. The Presbytery is much better off by allowing departing congregations to retain the properties.

  4. Jim the Puritan says:

    To be fair, the PCUSA General Assembly (not the most recent one, but the one before that), passed a resolution asking each presbytery to come up with a policy for “graceful separation” for churches that could no longer stay in PCUSA. Some presbyteries have done so, others have not, some have policies on paper but it is not clear how far they will be honored in practice. The policies passed by presbyteries generally embody some sort of procedural process of voting and discernment to be certain a substantial majority of the congregation, elders and pastors really want to leave. There generally also is a formula to make a payment to the presbytery as a “buyout” to leave the denomination, usually measured on membership numbers or per capita payments, essentially representing the supposed “value” of the PCUSA brand (putting it in a crass secular way).

    I think there is more of an understanding than in TEC that when church members gave money over the years to their churches to acquire and maintain their properties, they were giving to the local church, not some national denomination. Part of this has to do with the relative newness of PCUSA, formed out of a merger of the Northern and Southern Presbyterian churches in the 1980s. And I believe that some of the Southern churches, when they came into the merged denomination, did so on condition they had the right to leave with their property in the future. That being said, PCUSA passed its own version of the “Dennis Canon,” and can make the same arguments that TEC does that the national denomination is entitled to all the property.

  5. Jim the Puritan says:

    Glenkirk Presbyterian in Glendora, California (L.A. suburb) just voted to leave. http://glendora.patch.com/articles/glenkirk-severs-ties-with-presbyterian-church-denomination

    And First Presbyterian Church of Greenville, S.C., the largest in that state, also left this month. http://www.layman.org/news.aspx?article=30681

    So that’s another 4,600 Presbyterians gone from the denomination in the space of a couple of weeks.

  6. Sarah says:

    Jim the Puritan — “just a flesh wound” . . .

    ; > )