Menlo Park Presbyterian Church leaves the PC(USA)...

The cost John Ortberg and Menlo Park Presbyterian Church have agreed to pay in order to be dismissed from the Presbyterian Church (USA) is around $11,000,000.

Back in 1991 when our church in Wisconsin left the PC(USA), our presbytery simply confiscated everything. They recognized our congregational vote for transfer into the PCA as legitimate, they dismissed Rosedale Presbyterian Church as a church, and then they confiscated the church building, the baptismal font made by our elder's grandfather, the cemetery, the manse, the banners our children had made for Easter... They changed the locks on the doors immediately.

We made no protest.

My final sermon was on September 15, 1991. Our  text was Hebrews 10:32-34 and the sermon title was "You ...Joyfully Accepted the Confiscation of Your Property." During the sermon...

I quoted Kiekegaard:

But one thing I adjure thee, for the sake of God in heaven and all that is holy, shun the priests, shun them, those abominable men whose livelihood it is to prevent thee from so much as becoming aware of what Christianity is, and who thereby would transform thee, befuddled by galimatias [Webster “a confused and often pretentious mixture of words; Gobbledygook] and optical illusion, into what they understand by a true Christian, a paid member of the State Church, or the National Church, or whatever they prefer to call it. Shun them. But take heed to pay them willingly and promptly what money they should have. With those whom one despises, one on no account should have money differences, lest it might perhaps be said that it was to get out of paying them one avoided them. No, pay them double, in order that thy disagreement with them may be thoroughly clear: that what concerns them does not concern thee at all, namely, money; and on the contrary, that what does not concern them concerns thee infinitely, namely, Christianity.

(From “My Task,” Sept. 1, 1955 in Kierkegaard’s Attack Upon Christendom, 1854-1855, Beacon Press, Boston, p. 288.)

Losing our property was the best part of our separation from the PC(USA). Those whose love was our perfect New England white clapboard church-house listed on the National Register of Historic Places with its copper steeple and working bell in the belfry stayed with the building while those who loved Christ and His Bride departed.

If we claim to agree with Jesus that we can't serve both God and mammon, but then refuse to see that choice in any particular decision of our lives, we don't really agree with Jesus, do we?

 

 

Tim Bayly

Tim serves Clearnote Church, Bloomington, Indiana. He and Mary Lee have five children and fifteen grandchildren.

Comments

I read the comments both from the Presbytery and Menlo Park itself - is it just me, or did both statements seem to demonstrate a lot of 'spin'? From the Presbytery's "sadness and grief over Menlo's decision to leave" to John Ortberg's "This has been a spiritual journey of discernment for our church", you are left thinking that everyone is 'playing nice' when both parties are no doubt very glad to be seeing the back of each other. Especially the Presbytery, better off to the tune of $11m.

Can you comment on how this all goes down? Wouldn't it be better for the congregation to use the 11M to build somewhere else instead of paying the ransom? On another note, what happened to the church building you vacated, did another church move in and survive there?

There is no question that building-worship is what has kept thousands of churches that claim to be "orthodox" in the PCUSA. Contrast them with the Free Church of Scotland, a movement that took 1/3 of the "national church" into a new communion, leaving behind everything material. Not incidentally, 100% of the foreign missionaries left, too. When it omes to churches, which is worse, extracting blackmail or paying it?

>>Can you comment on how this all goes down? Wouldn't it be better for the congregation to use the 11M to build somewhere else instead of paying the ransom?

My guess is that the vote to leave the PC(USA) would have been much lower, and maybe even not successful, if the congregation had been forced to choose between leaving behind their building or leaving behind the denomination's apostasy. Evangelicals are willing to pay out a lot of money in order to avoid conflict and division.

>>On another note, what happened to the church building you vacated, did another church move in and survive there?

It's complicated. I served two churches, one just off the state highway out in the country and one in town eight miles away. (Although when I served them, the churches were yoked, they've since broken their yoke.)

It was the country church that was dismissed by the PC(USA). In 2012, the country church averaged sixteen and the town church twenty-five in morning worship.

Halfway between the two churches, though, is Grace Presbyterian Church, Pardeeville, Wisconsin averaging close to 200 in morning worship. Committed to the inerrancy of Scripture, subject to the Westminster Standards, governed by male church officers, and filled with children, I praise God for its continued witness and service!

Love,

It's interesting to see then numbers. It seems the net assets are valued at $17 million and thhe church is getting them in exchange for giving $9 million in cash to the Presbytery. A very useful document is at: http://www.presbyteryofsf.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/2014-03-REPORT-... . It seems the Presbytery annual tax has been about $150,000. It may be that leaving would make sense from a purely financial point of view--- if the interest rate is 4% and the church's growth rate is 2%, then that tax flow is equivalent to a lump sum cost of .15/(.04-.02 ) = 7.5 million dollars. How good a deal the church got depends on what the $17 million represents, because the value if the real estate is sold on the public market would be a lot lower than the value to the church, and the document doesn't tell us which it is.

It's good that this sort of sale happens. We can start from the premise that the PCUSA presbyters are children of Satan who happen to legally own the buildings. They have no great use for the buildings, though, and can't sell them out from under the existing congregation, so they are willing to sell them at a considerable discount. We can't expect the to release a profitable church for free, and it is better to get the buildings for cash at a good price than not to get them at all.
I wish, however, that the church had not been so gentle in the remarks quoted in the article. One can do the necessary business with God's enemies without pretending they are good and the outcome is just. And it's worth sacrificing quite q g bit of money in exchange for not agreeing to their proposed "no frank public comments" clause.

Take a look at where Menlo Park is if you wonder why they paid the ransom for a building. 3000 members, Menlo Park is landlocked in church-development-averse Bay Area. There is no way you can build a new building for that size of congregation in that city for a "mere" 11 million, sad to say.

For that matter, my former church in Plymouth, MN has only 600 members or so, but also spent that kind of money, and a church I attended in Waseca has spent a few million on an addition for their 3-500 attendees. So 11 million bucks is not that much for a facility, really.

I would agree with Ross that people are probably being diplomatic about the deal, but one dynamic in liberal denominations in the states (and I'd guess in the UK as well) is that the evangelical branches of the PCUSA, UMC, et al have little chance, earthly speaking, of overturning the hegemony of the unbelieving bishops, who are all too glad to take evangelical funds and use them for heresy. So the bishops, at least, may not be as glad to see them go as you'd think.

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